Tuesday, July 31, 2007

in a thousand faces and forms

Recently finished "The Celtic Way of Evangelism." I was challenged to the end.

Now I have plunged into N.T. Wright's Simply Christian. I have to tell you I didn't want to like this guy. . . you know, he's an Anglican Bishop and I'm not sure he dots every "i" and crosses every "t" like I think he should . . . but I can't help it.

I've only read the first 4 chapters, but so far this is very much like a modern "Mere Christianity." Great writer with that English flair. Pretty captivating and compelling.

Chapters 1-4 talk about 4 echoes of the voice of God in our experience:
our desire for justice, our yearning for spirituality, the fact that we were built for relationships, and our experience of beauty.

I happened to read the fourth chapter, "For the Beauty of the Earth" Sunday evening after preaching Psalm 19 that morning. I was so moved by the chapter that I insisted on sitting Susie down last night and reading it out loud to her. Here's a couple of paragraphs . . .

The Christian tradition has said, and indeed sung, that the glory belongs to God the creator. It is his voice we hear echoing off the crags, murmuring in the sunset. It is his power we feel in the crashing of the waves and the roar of the lion. It is his beauty we see reflected in a thousand faces and forms. And when the cynic reminds us that people fall off crags, get lost after sunset, and are drowned by waves and eaten by lions; when the cynic cautions that faces get old and lined and forms get pudgy and sick--then we Christians do not declare that it was all a mistake. We do not avail ourselves of Plato's safety latch and say that the real world is not a thing of space, time and matter but another world into which we can escape. We say the present world is the real one, and that its in bad shape but expecting to be repaired. . . . We tell the story of a God who does the two things which, some of the time at least, we know we all want and need: a God who completes what he has begun, a God who comes to the rescue of those who seem lost and enslaved in the world the way it now is.
a bit later in the chapter. . .
The present world really is a signpost to a larger beauty, a deeper truth. It really is an authentic manuscript of one part of a masterpiece. The question is, What is the whole masterpiece like, and how can we begin to hear the music in the way it was intended? The point of the story is that the masterpiece already exists--in the mind of the composer. At the moment, neither the instruments or the players are ready to perform it. But when they are, the manuscript we already have--the present world with all its beauty and puzzlement--will turn out to be truly part of it. The deficiencies in the one part we possess will be made good. The things that don't make sense at the moment will display a harmony and a perfection we hadn't dreamed of. The points at which the music seems almost perfect, lacking just one small thing, will be completed. That is the promise held out in the story. . . . the beauty of this world will be enfolded into the beauty of God --and not just the beauty of God himself, but the beauty which, because God is the creator par excellence, he will create with the present world is rescued, healed, restored, and completed.
Any thoughts? Who else has read N.T. Wright?

5 comments:

Brianna Heldt said...

Hmmm, I think there might be another book you need to add to your sidebar of "Current Personal Reading"...

(I've actually been wanting to read this one for awhile now.)

Pastor Tim Theule said...

Simply Christian is in the side-panel now!

Brianna Heldt said...

Yeah, I wasn't referring to that one...but you probably already knew that! :)

sue d. said...

The four echos of God reminded me of Jer.9:24 - God delights in kindness, justice and righteousness in all the earth - of course, it's so incomplete at this point - but Wright's comments help me reconcile that fact - thanks for a great excerpt!

Matt said...

I just started Simply Christian and I enjoy and can relate to the echoes for justice and beauty that you mentioned. In Obadiah last week and the prophets in general the cry for justice for Israel's enemies matches our cry for justice today.