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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday Drive: O Come, All Ye Faithful

The Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

The Epistle for the day, I John 4:7-16 (NIV):
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

As performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge:


Frank said...

Merry Christmas, Russ. I wonder, How is it that you have "kept the faith" while I have not? We seem to think alike in so many ways. Perhaps the Episcopal church is just more forgiving.

Russ Manley said...

Which reminds me of the time I saw a broadcast of Robin Williams (an Episcopalian, btw) performing in London. In the midst of his zany praises of things English, he said, "The Anglican Church is like Catholic Lite - all the ritual, only half the guilt."

However, I haven’t attended church in over ten years now, for various reasons too dull and tedious to go into on this blog. I call myself an Episcopalian-on-hold; I haven’t stopped believing, exactly, but the formal idea of church is no longer important to me (though sometimes I do miss the beauty of the liturgy and the comfort of the Sacrament).

So to answer your question, I’m not sure whether I am "keeping the faith" in the sense that you meant. But if the question does apply to me in any possible sense, the answer is like that of Simon Peter: "Lord, whom shall we go to?"

After many trials, tragedies, losses, reverses, and unanswered prayers, what faith I have left is as thin as a single silken thread; but to let go of that would mean despair, in the full theological sense - and that I am not able to bear now. It may be that what you call “keeping the faith” is simply a man alone in mid-ocean, beyond all sight of shore or ships, who clings tenaciously to a piece of flotsam simply because – there is nothing else to cling to. But as long as he holds on, there is yet some kind of hope, however slight it may seem.

Then too there is something in what my blog friend June just posted today at Wounded Bird (see sidebar at right) - quoting from Brideshead Revisited, a conversation between the atheist Charles and the Catholic Sebastian:

Charles: "But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea."

Sebastian: "But I do. That’s how I believe.".

This is not a rational argument, but a poetical one. "Poetry doesn't change anything," as W. H. Auden declared late in life, but to those of us who can relate to it, poetry (like some pop music) does beautify the world a bit, and lift our thoughts above the horrors and tumults of the daily news. There’s something worthwhile in that: a refuge in the mind, at least, from the brutal realities of life.

The Epistle for the day that I quoted in this post does that much, if nothing else. And I do want to believe in the Something Else beyond the lovely words - I can't prove it though, so I just ponder it in my heart, and that's enough. It has to be. We walk by faith and not by sight – through the valley and the shadows, and all the dark and lonely streets of modern life.

We believe what we need to believe, and that's all I can really say about faith. The important part is the bit about "love one another" and that's really all that matters, isn't it? That is THE entirety of the Christian program in just three words, no? Even if we are so aged or poor or debilitated that all we can do is offer a cup of water to someone, just to be kind, regardless of need or merit - because love is not what you say, but what you do. And that’s all I know.

What I've said here is just a short, stumbling reply to a question which has no particular answer, but I hope it makes some kind of sense to you. Merry Christmas, Frank, and God bless.

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