Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Road Less Travelled

I recently stumbled across this picture. It is a picture of my dad. It is a great picture (I am not sure if the white Fifth Avenue perfects it or ruins it). For some reason the image as whole speaks deeply to my identity. A day later I came across this quote,

Road: a strip of ground over which one walks. A highway differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A highway has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the two points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop.
Before roads disappeared from the landscape, they had disappeared from the human soul: man had stopped wanting to walk, to walk on his own feet and enjoy it. What's more, he no longer saw his own life as a road but as a highway: a line that led from one point to another. Time became a mere obstacle to life, an obstacle that had to be overcome by ever greater speed.
Road and highway; these are also two different concepts of beauty.
In the world of highways, a beautiful landscape means: an island of beauty connected by a long line with other islands of beauty.
In the world of roads and paths, beauty is continuous and constantly changing; it tell us at every moment: "Stop!"

This picture offers testimony to the road and more importantly to sacredness of space. It pulls me in through and past my father. The horizon absorbs me (and everything else) unflinchingly into its endless space and yet it still offers itself pouring back over the gaze.


Lebold Lecture

For those who may be interested I posted a copy of Jack Suderman's lecture that commented on below.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Still Grimm

I am not sure where we developed the notion of a "fairy-tale" ending. I imagine Disney may have had a hand in it. In any event I am captivated by reading the Grimm's Fairy Tales. I am never sure what the ending will be. I recently read The Strange Musician. In this story a talented musician who entered the forest and ran out of things to think about. He decided to find himself a companion (the Grimm's tales are often about companions as opposed to [or in addition to] love interests). He began play so that it echoed through the trees. First a wolf approached him but he did not want to be friends with the wolf and so he tricked the wolf and trapped him in a tree. Then a fox and later a rabbit come along and offer to join the young man but he tricks them all. At this point I am wondering if the young man will be the 'bad guy' for the way he treated these animals. And it looked like this would be the case when the animals freed themselves and hunted down the young man. Then the musician came across a poor wood-cutter and said, "At last comes the right companion . . . I was seeking a human and no wild beast." The musician played and soothed the heart of the man. Just then the animals came and prepared to attack the musician. The wood-cutter raised his ax in defense of the young man and scarred them away. Thinking that now the two would be friends the story ends, "The musician, however, played once more for the man out of gratitude, and then went onwards."


I still want the "moral of the story" and sometimes the tales offer one specifically but more often they just end. Good for them.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Holy Writ

"For me writing has always felt like praying. . . . You feel that you are with someone." From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (thanks Blade). And I would add that writing when entered into well leaves the writer with nothing but thanksgiving . . . with praise.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Lebold Dinner II

There was a small discussion group that met after the Lebold dinner to discuss the issued raised during the lecture. Refreshingly, the main theme was cultivating leaders with a strong sense of identity but also of imagination. Jack steered clear of proposing plans and strategies to get the church back on track. There was also not a sense of entrenching any artificial notion of what being "Mennonite" is. Rather he talked about fighting the "colonization of imagination" that results in being passively formed by your culture. In response Jack challenged us to believe, to truly believe that we are the primary vehicle for God's work of redemption and that God's Kingdom is actually among us. To wed our church strategies to any else would compromise the task of the church.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Lebold Dinner

Last night I attended a fund raising dinner a Conrad Grebel University College. The speaker was Jack Suderman, General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada. He spoke on identity and leadership formation. One of the more intriguing moments in his speech was his experience in the 1980s of being part of a small group to have a personal meeting with Fidel Castro. Here are some of the excerpts,

We talked about a lot of things. He asked us what we had seen in Cuba and what our impressions were. He talked about his passion to provide health services to Cubans, and make sure that education was freely available to all. He talked about providing shelter for the homeless and more equality for the poor. He talked about the achievements of the revolution and compared conditions to the pre-revolution Batista times. And we indicated that we had seen fruit of these efforts, and that we were there to learn more. And he began to talk about the church, and about the Christian faith. He said that Christians are good and spiritual people, and he joked that we were surely concerned about getting to heaven. And he said: “You know, I think I should get to heaven too. From what you’ve seen about how we have helped the poor, do you think there’s room for me in heaven?”

And he held up a copy of a brand new biography of him that had just come out that week. And he pointed to page 29, and he said: “This biographer says here that the Cuban revolution was inspired by Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto. You know, that’s wrong. It was not inspired by Marx. The Cuban revolution was inspired by a carpenter from Nazareth who went up on a mountain to teach. And it was inspired by the sermon from that mountain.”
And he talked to us about his education in the Jesuit schools. And about how excited he was to learn about Jesus and his teachings, something he never had heard in church. And he asked his teachers how come he could never hear this in the Latin mass; and why they were not told what Jesus taught and how he lived. And he talked about how badly he wanted to know this Jesus better, and how excited he was about what little that was available to him. And then he made a statement that continues to be seared into my memory. Shaking his finger in his characteristic way, he said: “Remember that the Cuban revolution was in 1959; three years before the beginning of Vatican II. If the Catholic Church in Cuba in 1959 would have been like the Catholic Church in Nicaragua in 1980, there never would have been a Cuban revolution of the kind we know. But the church wasn’t doing what it was designed for, and so someone had to.”

Suderman continues that his sadness is seeing how the church failed to engage such zealous enthusiasm and wonders how it is that we can be doing the same without the institutional restrictions of something like pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

Suderman challenged us to pursue ecclesial identity and stir up imagination which believes that perhaps God's Kingdom is among us.

It was good night.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Some New Lit

I have added a few recent sermons on IndieLit. Here is a recent book review I wrote for Canadian Mennonite


A Grimm Tale

I recieved a Chapters gift certificate and returned from the store with Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. And another book that his been in the back-burner of my mind for some time now. Browsing through the cultural studies section I came across the title The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (with commentary by Joseph Campbell) and knew I found what I was looking for. The first tale in the book was the Frog King. I had some familiarity with the story and was waiting for the moment when the princess would kiss the frog and turn him back into a prince.

In the story the frog helps recover the princess's favourite toy, a golden ball. The frog does it on condition the the princess will bring him back with her. After the frog retreives the ball the princess backs out on her deal and goes back to her castle. The frog eventually finds his way to the castle and the king makes the princess take him in. The frog keeps demanding more and more from the princess until he asks that he can share the bed with the princess. The frog says, "I am tired and I want to sleep as well as you, lift me up [into your bed] or I will tell your father." And the story follows,

At this she was terribly angry, and took him up and threw him with all her might against the wall. "Now will you be quiet odious frog?"

At this the frog turns into a prince and they get married.