Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teach Us To Pray

From Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book, pp. 106-107.

Luther, in his preface to the German Psalter (1528) wrote, "If you want to see the holy Christian Church painted in glowing colors and in a form which is really alive, and if you want this to be done in a miniature, you must get hold of the Psalter, and there you will have in your possession a fine, clear, pure mirror which till show you what Christianity really is; yea, you will find yourself in it and the true gnothi seauton ["know thyself"], and God himself and all his creatures too."

If the Psalms are our primary text for prayer, our answering speech to the word of God, then Jesus, the Word made flesh, is our primary teacher. Jesus is the divine/human personal center for a life of prayer. Jesus prays for us -- "he always lives to make intercession for [us]" (Heb. 7:25). The verb is in the present tense. This is the most important thing to know about prayer, not that we should pray or how we should pray, but that Jesus is right now praying for us (see also Heb. 4:16 and John 17). . . .

Prayer is shaped by Jesus, in whose name we pray. Our knowledge, our needs, our feelings are taken seriously, but they are not foundational. God, revealed in the Scriptures that we read and meditate upon and in Jesus whom we address, gives both form and content to our prayers. In prayer we are most ourselves; it is the one act in which we can, must, be totally ourselves. But it is also the act in which we move beyond ourselves.

In that "move beyond" we come to be formed and defined not by the sum total of our experiences but by the Father, Son, and Spirit to whom and by whom we pray.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Keeping a Standing Army

John Ruskin, On Art and Life, (Penguin Books, Great Ideas, p. 95-96)

"The argument brought forward for the maintenance of a standing army usually refers only to expediency in the case of unexpected war, whereas, one of the chief reasons for the maintenance on an army is the advantage of the military system as a method of education.

"The most fiery and headstrong, who are often also the most gifted and generous of your youths, have always a tendency both in the lower and upper classes to offer themselves for your soldiers: others, weak and unserviceable in the civil capacity, are tempted or entrapped into the army in a fortunate hour for them: out of this fiery or uncouth material, it is only soldier's discipline which can bring the full value and power.

"Even at present, by mere force of order and authority, the army is the salvation of myriads; and men who, under other circumstances, would have sunk into lethargy or dissipation, are redeemed into noble life by a service which at once summons and directs their energies.

"How much more than this, military education is capable of doing, you will find only when you make it education indeed. We have no excuse for leaving our private soldiers at their present level of ignorance and want of refinement, for we shall invariably find that, both among officers and men, the gentlest and best informed are the bravest; still less have we excuse for diminishing our army, either in the present state of political events, or, as I believe, in any other conjunction of them that for many a year will be possible in this world."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the Transfiguration of our Lord

Do we assume that the Transfiguration of Christ was for the benefit of Peter, James and John (cf. 1 Peter 1)?

But what if it was rather for the benefit of Moses and Elijah?

And why do all of our Transfiguration hymns emphasize vision, seeing and light when the emphasis of the text is: LISTEN to Him?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Caution: Brondos Hymnwriting

Today I "wasted" some time having a go at composing some verse, but clearly committing the error of appending inferior lines and marring the works of such a great wordsmith as G.K. Chesterton. What I have done, as evidenced below, is probably akin to painting a daisy wreath on the head of the Mona Lisa. But I have done it -- after becoming enamored of Chesterton's depictions in first two stanzas, but then being disappointed in his third because he says too little of Christ and His Means.

So, taking the chance that my efforts would be met with either approval or disdain, I send you Chesterton's first two stanzas followed by my own recent creations (which are still likely to be edited further by me):


O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not Thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
For sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.


Thy two-edged sword dividing
What double-minded men,
With scoffing and deriding,
Vainly obscured, do then
Recall midst glorious psalter
That Thou to us drew near --
Upon Thine earth and altar
A Sacrifice so dear.

In truth and peace provide us
What we by grace have heard;
At font and altar hide us
In Christ and in His Word;
And thus delivered, grant us
In faith and hope and love,
To thrive where Thou dost plant us
With thoughts of heav'n above.