ex libris

... different cultures teach us different languages and grammars, which in turn cause us to see the world differently. Accordingly, the church as a culture teaches a language and grammar that causes Christians to see the world in a peculiar - namely a Christian - way. And the most significant place where we learn Christian language and how to use it is the liturgy.

In the liturgy we learn that certain of our inclinations and actions are to be called "sin," and that the grammatically proper thing to do with sin is to confess it. In the liturgy we learn to name God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rather than, say, Moloch. In the liturgy we learn, quite literally, how to pronounce marriage vows.

In our learning and practicing of this language from week to week, surely one of most important actors is the preacher. The preacher is the one who tells us the story of Christ and relates our lives to it. The preacher, the Christ-storyteller, has the crucial task of helping us articulate our lives - our weal and our woe - theologically, in relation to God.

Pastors in today's setting are severely tempted to substitute something else for their mother tongue or first language. Perhaps most notably in our context they are tempted to replace theological language with psychological language. Surely psychotherapeutic language has helped many people, Christians included. But it should be the church's second language, not replacing the first language of theology. Psychological culture would have us think "id," "ego" and "superego" are more concrete than "Father," "Son" and "Holy Spirit." They are not. If the gospel is true, Freudian divisions of the psyche are actually more abstract, less linked to objective referents, less fundamentally real, than the Christian designation of God as Trinity....

The difference is not that psychological grammar is inherently more practical, more "real," more concrete than theological grammar. The difference is that there is a community ready to concretize and put into practice psychological grammar, while the church has accepted the marginalization of its language; it has concretized and practiced theological grammar less and less. Preachers... can help us remember how to speak our first tongue. Worship we might say, is where those who don't get paid for it learn and do theology.


ex libris

"Grace is not a shortcut around our effort; it is the divine blessing on efforts that are undertaken in dependence and trust on God.

"Indeed, the disciplines that undergird any effort at culture making are an essential path to grace. Disciplines are private and invisible, preparing our hearts to handle the pressures of our work becoming public and visible. Disciplines are small and by themselves inconsequential (like the scales that professional musicians play every day), attracting no notice and deserving no prize, humbling us in advance of the occasions when our work will be recognized and applauded. Disciplines are difficult, revealing all too clearly our laziness and foolishness, preparing us for times when fruit seems to burst from our smallest efforts. No matter how accomplished we become, disciplines always bring us up against the limits of our ability, offering us an opportunity to reclaim our dependence on Another to complete our inadequate work.

"There may be no greater value to the disciplines than to regularly bring us to these moments of disillusionment with ourselves. Grace is for the poor in spirit, and the disciplines bring us, no matter our ascribed power or actual wealth, to keen awareness of our fundamental poverty.

"Grace is not an exemption from failure. It is, however, what makes it possible to sustain hope in the midst of failure" - Andy Crouch, Culture Making, 257, 258.

This book has been on my "To Read" list ever since it was published in 2008. I finally got around to it and I regret that it has taken me this long. Culture Making is probably one of the best and most challenging books I've read in several years. I'm tempted to just start it over again to fully digest the thoughts, questions, and calls for action presented in this work.


down but not out

There's been heaps happening over the last few weeks that I've been meaning to post about. We've been out of town for the last week without any internet access so I guess that gives me a little excuse for being behind. Regular posting will resume soon.