Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Post-Christmas, Epiphany Miscellany

It's been a while. During that while there's been such a rich diet of reading and music since Christmas. For example:

Being Seeker-Friendly
The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom by Alan Kreider (Wipf & Stock, 1999). It was recommended by our national indigenous bishop, Mark McDonald at our 2009 clergy retreat. Finally got to it. An interesting look at conversion and evangelism in the early church. They thought and taught extensively about how believers should live and how their churches’ common life should be ordered, but they had no “decades of evangelism.” Nor did churches grow because their worship was attractive. From the second century onward, nonbelievers were barred from the Christian assemblies. Too risky to have them there. Christian worship was designed to enable Christians to worship God. It was not designed to attract non-Christians; it was not “seeker-sensitive,” seekers were not allowed in. Hmmm.

Arcade Fire
And there I was, a (then) 63 year old, tooling around town to the sound of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. A bunch of multi-instrumentalist twenty-somethings with a unique voice and sound who have got under my skin. Refreshingly un-salacious in an over-sexualized industry. Rhythm and energy. I was happy to see they were upset winners of the best album Grammy.

My favourite lines:
You never trust a millionaire quoting the Sermon on the Mount.
Our heads are just houses, without enough windows.
I don't know why I feel so drawn to the music. Youthful. Wall of sound. Insistent. Plaintive.

The Solace of Fierce Landscapes:
Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, Belden C Lane (Oxford University Press, 1998). Good thoughts on liturgy from a Presbyterian!
The liturgy is hard work, a matter of constant repetition, seemingly dull and boring. But the desert teachers have always said that if you give yourself to the recurrent ordinariness of prayer, if you don't fight it—letting all your scattered, anxious thoughts pull you this way and that—your mind will gradually be taken down into the heart. Distractions can be released. The ceaseless regularity of the liturgy works on those distractions with a stubborn indifference, so that the mind is silenced and the heart made able to love. p227
Fires of Faith:
Catholic England Under Mary Tudor, Eamon Duffy (Yale University Press, 2009). Wherein I found these gems: during worship churchwardens were to see that there was
no ryngynge of belles, playinge of children, cryenge or making lowed noyse, rydynge of horses, or otherwise. p19
The belles continue via celle phone these days. Bit short in the horse rydynge, however.

Revenge by Litany 
Duffy refers to a petition from the Edwardine litany—a blacklash to the excesses of Mary's Catholic reign:
From the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, good Lord deliver us. 
We have our own detestable enormities from which to be delivered nowadays.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Reading Life Together: a Discussion of Christian Fellowship (Harper & Row, 1954) tr John W Doberstein with our deanery clergy group. This:
If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ. p29
One has to listen to a martyr.