Saturday, April 26, 2014

A child's take on the Trinity

Several years ago our grandson came home from Sunday school with some questions on his mind. He said to his mom, our daughter, “I don’t get this stuff about the Father, the Son and Andy.”
“Who?” Kristin responded. “Who’s Andy?”
“That’s what I’m asking you,” Reilly pointed out.
Kristin tried unsuccessfully to get more clues out of Reilly, and finally succeeded later in the week when she overheard him singing one of the old hymns of the church, part of the Sunday school’s program to teach kids the basics of the Christian faith. He was singing, “In the Garden,” and the chorus of his version was, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own….”
Reilly had apparently used six-year-old logic to come up with the names of the Trinity. The Father and Son were concepts he could at least relate to, and he knew their names: God and Jesus. But Spirit is a more elusive concept for a child, so he figured that must be the one called Andy. It still didn’t make much sense.
It reminds me of the story of the Japanese gentleman who was trying to understand Christianity. He remarked to his American friend, “Honorable Father I understand; Honorable Son I understand; Honorable Bird I do not understand.”
Many of us struggle to understand Honorable Bird. The concepts of the Trinity and its most mysterious member, the Holy Spirit, don’t fit easily in the brain. And the Bible doesn’t give us clear logical definitions.
It does, however, give us images and stories, and that’s where I begin to see “with my eyes of my heart.” Images such as breath of God, wind, still small voice, flowing water, and the picture of the Spirit hovering over the dark chaos in the beginning of time, waiting for the Father to whisper, “Light”—these draw me to the third person of the Trinity more than any doctrinal statements could do. Intuitively, I begin to understand.
Reilly got part of the picture right. Children frequently do. The Holy Spirit seems to be that aspect of God that “walks with us and talks with us and tells us we are his own.”
And whatever we call him (or her), including Andy the Honorable Bird, or the Holy Ghost, the Spirit personally draws us into the presence and reality of God. Then words and labels and definitions cease to matter. Life touches Life and we walk free as a child in the winds of grace.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Poems of resurrection

John 20:1-18
Missionary, apostle to the apostles,
beloved friend of Jesus,
tears still wet on your face,
it was love that thrust
you forth, joy that gave
your feet wings, wonder
that filled your voice
with gospel. Woman of God,
pure and trembling one,
you will remember always
his voice, “Mary,” forever
calling your name, “Mary,”
causing you to run
from the garden to the city,
from Jerusalem to Bombay,
to Barcelona and Cleveland,
to Cochabamba and Kigali,
telling us all,
“I have seen the Lord!”

John 20:19-31
All doors being closed
you came and stood
among them. Even now you
defy our doors and doubts,
choose to stand
in our midst. Glory.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week poems

 “I am he” is the seismic center.
It spreads in expanding rings.
The bodies fall outward,

circle a setting sun.
Torches, lanterns, weapons,

a bloody face, arrest
and betrayals spin,

but the center holds.
Even so, night deepens.

Even so, this unbearable cold.

(John 18:1-27)
“What is truth?”

the politician asks,
not sticking

around for an answer.
The question hangs

in the air while
the man born

to be king awaits
his coronation

in silence.

(John 18:28-40)
Out of the pierced side

of the God who is dead
flow all the terrors

of all the nights
the rapes the abductions

the children lost and
the mothers mourning
sirens and sleeplessness

thunder in far off places
the confusion of the archangels

and all my tears, all my sorrows
carried in the stream

that flows from his side.

(John 19:28-42)

Monday, April 7, 2014

C.S. Lewis on the death of a friend

We attended Dorothy Thomas’ memorial service this weekend. Uncle George and Aunt Dorothy have been important to us; they served as the named guardians of our children should we die an untimely death. Now they have both died, and we feel their absence. We are reeling under the news of Stan Thornburg’s death last week. He was our contemporary, our pastor in years past, our friend, and the world is not the same without him in it.
CS Lewis’ thoughts on the death of his friend, novelist Charles Williams, help me express my own sense of loss.

Your death blows a strange bugle call, friend, and all is hard
To see plainly or record truly. The new light imposes change,
Re-adjusts all a life-landscape as it thrusts down its probe from the sky,
To create shadows, to reveal waters, to erect hills and deepen glens.
The slant alters. I can’t see the old contours. It’s a larger world
Than I once thought it. I wince, caught in the bleak air that blows on the ridge.
Is it the first sting of the great winter, the world-waning? Or the cold of spring?

A hard question and worth talking a whole night on. But with whom?
Of whom now can I ask guidance? With what friend concerning your death
Is it worth while to exchange thoughts unless—oh unless it were you?