Friday, January 25, 2013

Rowan Williams on the Sorts of Difficulty the Creed Does and Does Not Represent

"[I]f I say I've never found the creed difficult, I think that gives the wrong impression, but it does seem to me that the kind of difficulty that it represents is not the 'Is this true or isn't this true?' or 'That sounds silly' kind of difficulty, much more 'If this is true it needs a lot of hard work to understand it'—you know, the kind of difficulty that you face when you're trying to read Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic or something like that: the idea there must be something so important here if it's so difficult to get hold of. That, on the one hand, combined, I suppose, with a rather celebratory sense of the creed which has always been very important. I don't think it's entirely accidental or irrelevant to this . . . that I learned the creed by singing it. I don't imagine I'd ever encountered the Nicene Creed before I learned to sing it to Merbecke in All Saints', Oystermouth, and that means it becomes part of the idiom of worship, and you inhabit it in that way, not any other way, which is why, when I came to look at it critically or historically, I couldn't just turn off the music or the context."

—Rowan Williams, in Rupert Shortt, Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), 56-57

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Mary Oliver

I don't think I have ever shared a poem from Mary Oliver, whose work I have skimmed and stumbled across here and there, but never spent much time with. Happily, though, a family member gave us her latest collection of poems for Christmas, so I am making my way through it now. The poem below is, I think, a gentle and wry reminder for those of us who inhabit the social spheres of academy and church, each prone in its own way to an outstripping of its proper knowledges and of the mysteries which close them in. Enjoy.

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The Man Who Has Many Answers

By Mary Oliver

The man who has many answers
is often found
in the theaters of information
where he offers, graciously,
his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.

Monday, January 7, 2013

John Webster on What Preaching Is and What the Preacher Does in Preaching

"[E]ntrusted with and responsible for the message of reconciliation, what does the preacher do? It is tempting to think of the task of preaching as one in which the preacher struggles to 'make real' the divine message by arts of application and cultural interpretation, seeking rhetorical ways of establishing continuity between the Word and the present situation. Built into that correlational model of preaching (which is by no means the preserve of the liberal Christian tradition) are two assumptions: an assumption that the Word is essentially inert or absent from the present until introduced by the act of human proclamation, and an assumption that the present is part of another economy from that of which Scripture speaks. But in acting as the ambassador of the Word, the preacher enters a situation which already lies within the economy of reconciliation, in which the Word is antecedently present and active. The church of the apostles and the church now form a single reality, held together not by precarious acts of human realization, but by the continuity of God's purpose and active presence. The preacher, therefore, faces a situation in which the Word has already addressed and continues to address the church, and does not need somehow by homiletic exertions to generate and present the Word's meaningfulness. The preacher speaks on Christ's behalf; the question of whether Christ is himself present and effectual is one which—in the realm of the resurrection and exaltation of the Son—has already been settled and which the preacher can safely leave behind.

"Preaching is commissioned human speech in which God makes his appeal. It is public reiteration of the divine Word as it articulates itself in the words of the prophets and apostles, and by it the Holy Spirit forms the church. This public reiteration both arises within and returns to contemplative attention to the Word; the church preaches because it is a reading and a hearing community."

—John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (New York: T&T Clark, 2012), 26