Showing items filed under “The Rt. Rev. George Sumner”

Let Go and Let God

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The dialogue between the religions is in part about what they share - the love commandment, the experience of wonder, etc.  But it is also how they differ over what they share!  Muslims and Christians differ over their shared vision of the kingdom of God. Buddhists and Christians differ over their shared interest in contemplation. It is like the English and Americans divided by a shared language according to Churchill. 

An example of this is letting go. It is the very heart of the spiritual life - and it is hard! But what do we mean by it?  We recognize there are things we need to hold on to tightly - our conscience, our sense of our self, our awareness of God's presence in the world. We may have a rule of life we try to hold on to as a guide.  What then are we to let go of? Surely our desire to control our lives or those of others, or our regret and resentment. 

But why should we let go? In the midst of what account of the world as a stage are we endeavoring to let go?  A Buddhist letting go is consonant with their belief that the self is an illusion and that a pervasive awareness of emptiness as life's goal. And for a Christian? We let go because the risen Jesus is already Lord of my life, and because we seek of God the humility of a disciple. Letting go has ultimately to do with a rehearsal of dying, which in turn has to do with hope and new life. We let go because life is found in the wake of the great letting go of the dying Jesus, and so is conformed to the divine life. 

Let go and let God- this saying of AA is half aware of its Christian roots. We need to be fully so that we can see the Gospel dimension in this hope shared with our secular neighbors. 

Peace

+GRS

What is "Creation" Really

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     I am in a reading group beginning to work through the Lutheran theologian David Yeago’s excellent, and as yet unpublished systematic theology,  and have just completed the chapter on “Creation.” We know what that is, right?  It’s what we get in touch with on a weekend in the Colorado mountains, what we need to protect from pollution, in other words, what we share a commitment to with those of other religions and none at all. And in a sense this is true - and care for creation is important.  But in a sense it isn’t, and it is the latter that I want to reflect briefly on.

     So what is it, really, that your post-Christian or secular neighbor really believes? It’s a question in which we have more than passing interest, since it matters, among other things, for the endeavor of evangelism.  A few months back I went to the memorial service of a friend, and listened to the speakers, mostly non-Christian at this point, speak to the group, and most were what I would call “functional pantheists.”  We don’t know what’s out there, but we can grasp something of it, and see a whisp of our departed friend, in a beautiful rainbow or the midnight sky.  Now the Bible does appreciate these (Psalm 8:1), but it most emphatically denies that God is really a dimension or power or feeling within the created world itself.  Secondly, we can imagine “the deist.” He or she acknowledges that something made all this in its glory, but now we are on our own.  This notion that our wills and our freedom are in direct conflict with God’s, that we are playing on the same plane and comparable actors, is profoundly contrary to what Christians mean by “the Creator,” who is prior, and transcendent, and yet more free, and intimately involved, in a way that the deist cannot come to grips with.

   This notion of having to get on with it ourselves leads to the third character, what I would call “the voluntarist.”  In the place of providence and the order of the universe, which are for theology part of creation,  he or she believes that we can and must decide what story we shall live by, or else that there are only power and forces. Creation becomes nihilism, willfulness, and creation becomes nature which lies entirely in our hands.  The Bible has a word for the place that is all our will and none of God’s. 

       The fourth character, whose view does not yet rise to what Christians mean by “creation,” is the one for which we can have the most sympathy, and the one perhaps closest to the faith.  Let us call him or her “the Jobean.”  Nature though beautiful is also “red in tooth and claw.”  History often seems like anything but providence. How long Lord?  The complaint against God and the question about the relation of His order to evil is a real question, a mystery, which is to say that it is not patent of an easy or formulaic answer. But this does not mean that our faith does not have a compelling answer, one in which creation leads to history which leads to goal, all three drawn into one in Jesus Christ. 

      Creation - at first it seems like the ground on which all stand most readily together before other dividing issues intervene. But it is also the home of these four familiar neighbors, all of whom resist, and need, and await, the Gospel.

Peace

+GRS

 

 

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