Saturday, March 24, 2007
A Great Season For Butler Links
Well, when you are pretending to be dead, you are going to be a rascal.
Toilet paper attacks France, but then you would not need much else.
Commitment defined. To the wrong thing, obviously, but that is serious committement. And yet, could this be even more committed?
Meanwhile, someone who simply should be committed.
If I did not, as Mark Daniels implies, it would be a bit frightening.
If I ever go to Japan, remind me to take a suitcase of food.
It's so hard to find that perfect dinner companion.
To all those that would give me a hard time about enjoying professional wrestling - it could be worse.
That's good science. Speaking of which, if you enjoy that link, you'll love this cartoon:
This safe would have eventually reached sentience. Trust me, that's a really funny joke, read this book, you'll understand.
The Amish compete with Las Vegas?!?!? Strange.
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Let's face it, comic stories are about the conflict, and it is important to have the good guys and the bad guys well balanced. If one is just too powerful in comparsion to the other, the story is just boring. But every now and then it becomes necessary to create a character just so powerful that they are near gods.
Marvel did this a lot more than DC did, but both have done it at one point or another. In some cases they have been cheap plot devices, in others primary players, and in yet others, title characters, though such are usually short lived, because the lack of competition makes stories hard to write.
I want to here begin a series on these characters, It will likely be less text, more images. Images like that below will, hopefully tell you why. One thing about omnipotents, they can look really cool.
We will continue with the speedster series in alternating weeks, but in the meantime, welcome to the world of the unimaginably large.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, omnipotents, High Evolutionary, Eternity, Rama-Tut, Spectre
Friday, March 23, 2007
To bring the mind to dwell intelligently upon God as presented in his Word will casue us to love God passionately, and this love will bring us to think of God steadily. Thus God will alwasy be before our minds.I am weary of the narrowing of the word "worship." It was centuries ago that it came to mean, essentially, "Sunday morning services." But in the last decades it has narrowed further to mean "lots of music with a smattering of corporate prayer." How easy it becomes to discard the object of worship from the rest of our lives with such narrow definitions.
In the way we enter a life of worship. To think of God as he is, one cannot but lapse into worship, and wirship is the single most powerful force in completing and sustaingin restoration int he whole person. It puts into abeyance every evil tendency in every dimension of the self. It naturally arises from thinking rightly of God on the basis of revealed truth confirmed in experience. Worship is at once the overall characteristic of the renovated thought life and the only safe place for a human being to stand.
I love the idea that Willard presents that worship arises from transformation - it is an outpouring of change, and it is life-consuming.
Language matters, and by having redefined worship as we have we enable people to attend and be done with it. Sunday morning services are vital, but they are but part of a greater picture. When we do not bear that in mind, when we do not present them as part of a greater whole, we do not call people to the more.
Emotion is so important here. It is easy to create emotion that can result from change through other means, thus we get the thrill without the reality. Like a movie that really touches you, you think you have been on a journey that you never have. You experience the emotion of the journey, wihtout the risk, and WITHOUT THE CHANGE.
We can ill-afford ministry that is like a movie, creating the impression of a faith journey without the reality of same. Someties I wonder if that is a sin?
Related Tags: worship, journey, Dallas Willard, change, emotion
I Eat Links For Breakfast
Och, mon - who knew?
Friday game play at its politically incorrect finest.
Becasue, well, it's just weird.
I've seen booze hidden in a lot of places, but no, just no.
Must have been mighty stinky.
Is it time to give up beef?
Most misleading headline of the decade - disappointing too.
I work with city official in Oxnard - I shall refrain from comment.
Yeah, but were they driving?
Calling Steve Irwin back from the dead.
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Friday Humor - Painful Edition
1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."
2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says "Dam!"
3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says "I've lost my electron." The other says "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."
5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?", they asked, as they moved off "Because," he said," I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."
7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan. " Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."
8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.
9. Mahatma Gandhi walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh man, this is so bad, it's good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.
Related Tags: joke, humor, pun, pain
Thursday, March 22, 2007
How Low Are They Willing To Sink?
You see, David makes rather extravagant claims concerning the 'Gators graduation rates. But when one turns to the listing of majors offered by that "educational institution" one finds such things as
- Golf and Sports Turf Management (Interdisciplinary Studies) [cutting grass for credit]
- Geology [rocks for jocks]
- Interior Design [I just won't go there, it's too tempting]
- Journalism ['nuff said]
- Landscape and Nursery Horticulture [gardening for credit]
- Visual Art Studies [watching TV for credit]
Ah yes, a virtual plethora of high-minded, intellectually challenging fields of study. Little wonder they can claim such graduation rates, I am certain your average chimpanzee could find a major they could complete with such choices.
But I haven't gotten to the real heart of things just yet, and that is the game of basketball itself. You see there is the game as Florida plays it, little discipline, great athletes, NBA-style showtime. This is fine for the average fan, much like a Budweiser is the biggest selling beer. But then there is the game as Butler plays it, teamwork, defense, beauty -- smart. Most people cannot appreciate such basketball, the kind that enables teams of lesser talent to beat the bigs like a bongo drum. It's a game that must be considered soberly and requires far more understanding of the intricacies of the sport than they are likely to be able to muster in a place like Florida.
You see, Butler is so regarded in the world of college basketball that the coach that preceeded the current coach, one Thad Motta, is currently coaching at Ohio State, one of the other #1 seeds in this tournament. Just another notch for the Bulldogs to put in their belt a bit later in the show.
The time approaches for the reality check. Soon the talk will be over and the score will speak for itself. Somehow I think it will say "Who let the Dogs out?"
Related Tags: Sports, Basketball, College Basketball, NCAA Basketball, Sweet Sixteen, NCAA Tournament, March Madness, University of Florida, Florida Gators, Gator Basketball, Butler University
Why We Need Religion
This story from LiveScience says two really important things about that broader view.
The Internet and other modern communications bring atrocities such as killings in Darfur, Sudan into homes and office cubicles. But knowledge of these events fails to motivate most to take action, said Paul Slovic, a University of Oregon researcher.Religion is a motivator in society for people to pay attention to the bigger picture, at least it should be. Religion when well done takes the strong emotional reaction we naturally have to the immediate and becomes the still, small voice urging us to look at the bigger picture.
People typically react very strongly to one death but their emotions fade as the number of victims increase, Slovic reported here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"We go all out to save a single identified victim, be it a person or an animal, but as the numbers increase, we level off," Slovic said. "We don't feel any different to say 88 people dying than we do to 87. This is a disturbing model, because it means that lives are not equal, and that as problems become bigger we become insensitive to the prospect of additional deaths."
Human insensitivity to large-scale human suffering has been observed in the past century with genocides in Armenia, the Ukraine, Nazi Germany and Rwanda, among others.
This fact should be a filter through which we can judge good and bad religions. Good relgion will move humanity in that compassionate direction. Bad religion is often responsible for it. Secularists focus almost solely on bad religion, never realizing that without good religion they would be as, or more, insensitive to the genocide and other horrors we so easily ignore. Bad religion is not a reason to discard all religion, it is, rather, a reason to work all that much harder to pursue good religion. Without some force to move us off the dime, we will be stuck.
But this also does not bode well for the current personally focused trends within American Christianity. If our faith is just about us, we feed this tendency in our sinful natures instead of fight against it. We risk slipping, in fact may already have slipped, into greater moral neutrality, if not all the way to "bad" religion.
At best relgion begins with the personal, by virtue of our improvement we can in turn improve what is around us. But we have to work to do so, and our churches have to call us to do so.
One final comment - it is fascinating to me that this science story talks about human insensitivity to large scale death and all the while ignores it in forms like abortion, when the evidence is overwheleming that for those personally exposed to abortion, the emotional impact is overwhelming.
Related Tags: religion, genocide, faith, personal, societal
Illuminated Scripture - Artist's Choice
Come On Bennet, Put The Link In Me
Hopefully from himself.
For my reading list.
What a minute - animal curelty charges?!?!?! - Don't you think there might need to be some child endangerment charges given those conditions?
You know how boys like to build models and then blow them up with firecrackers? It is not a destructive impulse - it's preparation for being an engineer.
There is a rhubarb rhubarb in the EU.
God help me, I'll take a dozen please.
Who gets the bigger piece?
I'll hold out for the toilet seat.
Key phrase: the lucrative gimmick toilet paper roll space - we have waaaay to much money in the world.
It also may make them very happy.
Obviously written by a feminist.
No doubt at Wrigley Field.
Because somewhere, some engineer has an idea to make ANYTHING more efficient.
Related Tags: Down Syndrome, Al Gore, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The idea that enough positive feedback will enable success is based on an extremely flawed concept - that everyone is capable of performing well in school. Guess what? - we're not all so capable. In the immortal words of Dirty Harry, "A man's got to know his limitations." The best thing I have ever read on the topic is Charles Murray's series in OpinionJournal -- One -- Two -- Three.
Seems to me, a similar message is true for the gospel, and it is one the church is forgetting as much as the educational system, likely for the same pop psychological reasons. It is true in the church on two levels. On the first level, we do not talk about sin enough, we do church like a self-improvement program. "Everyone is capable of being a good Christian," when, in fact NO ONE is capable of being a good Christian. That is the entire point.
But we also do it on another level, and that is leadership, whether pastoral, lay staff, or elders and other ruling offices, we take people with willingness instead of capability. We are all differently abled - too sound far more "pop" than I like. Scripture makes this quite clear.
We have two burdens as a church, really. The first is to keep those without the capability from entering leadership. This we have ceased to do out of sheer necessity, not to mention a lack of desire to hurt people. There simply does not appear to be enough abled people to fill what we perceive as the needs.
But secondly, we need to raise up those obviously abled. Which creates a whole other set of problems, for often we bring the abled along too quickly, before they are sufficiently mature on a personal level, then they get hurt, as does the church by the ensuing scandal.
It's become an ugly cycle. We need to break it somehow. The only logical way I can see to do so right now is to get by with less. Lower needs and expectations so only good and able people are doing what good and able people are needed for, mostly importantly making more good and abled people. It may take a couple of generations, but eventually order will be restored.
Related Tags: self-esteem, ability, leadership
Remember When I Said I Would Link You Last?
So close, and yet so far. Better gay and in worship, than gay and godless, but....
Oh it's not possible that morality is somehow transcendant - it just evolved. BTW, if it is a product of evolution, how come humans so often trangress it? You would think we would have to be moral creatures because our genetic material would mandate it.
Generally school dress codes are wise, but as always, bureacrats can get carried away.
This thief will be easy to find. They'll weigh half a ton by the time they are done.
If only this had been around when my sister was that age. We could have used the money!
Some teachers might deserve it.
Oh go ahead, tickle a rat. Who pays for ths research and why?
Kruse links to Witherington who has a broken link to this
For 50 points, in the next to last clip, who is more tasteless?
Isn't this how Ghostbusters II started?
I wanna be the first guy to pee off it! That's marking territory!
Been there - there are none.
There is a gay joke in here somewhere, but I'll try and remain above the fray.
Related Tags: Pentecost, homosexuality, morality, evolution, church, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Should One Make Fun Of The Pathelogically Delusional?
Besides, some of us have jobs and whole other blogs - important blogs - with big national media exposure to concern ourselves with - proofreading is for the assistant I don't have.
And then he cites Wikipedia as somehow authoritative when it comes to academics?
There is his claim that Hinkle Fieldhouse never played home to a national champion team. Why, Butler won the national championship in 1924 and 1929 (was Florida even a state then?) the later being the year the fieldhouse opened, so guess again Bulldog bait.
But what matters history you say? Motivation. At this level it is the intangibles that win games and Butler has that in spades.
You would think a preacher might recognize the Biblical parallels here, but then when you are clearly in the Philistine army, you cannot recognize that David's sling is gonna smote your big boy, big time.
The Reverend Wayne does cite all that research Florida does, but what does it matter when the team will go NBA after their sophomore year, never seeing anything remotely resembling a degree. You see at Butler we have actual student-athletes.
And then there is the State of Florida -- you know, if we cut it off from the rest of the nation, Social Security would be solvent for the next 10 generations? It's a swamp land where old people go to sweat. I am actually amazed they can find a student body in that place. It's probably also worth pointing out that Indiana was on the winning side of the Civil War, as many Floridians no doubt remember from personal experience.
I should stop now...I don't want to damage David too much, I'll leave that up to the final score.
Related Tags: Jollyblogger, basketball, Butler, Florida
Jesus as teacher is a co-traveler on a shared journey...
OK, so there are some theological problems with how this is stated, the point remains very strong. Yes, Christ gave pendantic sermons, but the leaders He rasied up, the apostles, He journeyed with. The next point naturally follows:
Education is relational not merely informational.
More on this in a moment, but the building of leaders involves much more than merely imparting information. Like genuine faith, learnng leadership is transformational.
Jesus defines success not in corporate terms (buildings, budgets, and butts), but rather how their transforming power as "salt" made a difference, and the "light" they mediate exposes human futility and illuminates the divine presence.
This takes me back to the Dallas Willard quote about genuine Christiasn being viewed as a hinderance to the church. It strikes me that Christ was crucified because He was a "hinderance" to the religious officials of the day.
Christian leadership is probably something very different than mere organizational leadership.
Jesus creates an atmosphere for change and reorientation.
And so we arrive at the crux of the matter. There are really two kinds of leadership. The first kind is very good at cranking the wheels, corrdinating the activity and getting things done. This is the kind of leadership that "sees the parade and gets in front of it."
That was certainly not the kind of leader Jesus was. He knew the parade was heading off a cliff, and he wanted to pull it in a very different direction.
The first kind of leadership can be learned. You can buy books, attend institutions, take classes. But that later kind, the kind that Jesus was, well, that takes soemthing extraordinary. It takes real, personal transformation and it takes a willingness to risk being viewed as a hinderance. The first kind of leadership will result in apparent "success." The later will lead to a lifetime of frustration, but it will be frustration experienced in the arms of a loving Lord.
Related Tags: leaders, training, Jesus, hinderance, risk
You Guys Eat Too Many Red Links
So's the "sunscreen" on my head.
Was it really necessary to know this?
Life imitates Monty Python. Here's the video:
This will make me very nervous the next time someone reaches for their briefcase in a meeting.
Cool guys, now here's a challenge - find a date!
And while we are discussing geeks - I think movies are better if they are, you know, movies. I mean did you see "Doom"?
Yeah, but try to fence it.
I see said the blind man...
You know, if a guy stole my truck wearing nothing but underwear, I might let him have it. I mean it would have to be reupholstered....
Related Tags: joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Monday, March 19, 2007
How Easily They Forget!
It is difficult to know where to start with someone so dense. You may remember the climactic game from the finest sports movie ever produced - Hoosiers? That game was filmed in Hinkle Fiedlhouse where the Butler Bulldogs hold court each year for all home games. For decades the largest indoor sports arena in the nation (Though then dubbed "Butler Fieldhouse") there is no place that can claim more history in the great game of basketball.
But then how can you expect anyone from an educational institution of such repute to know much about history, or even cinema for that matter?
But here is the real reason I think Jollyblogger could be so forgetful.
Florida beat Butler 69-68 in overtime in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament at Winston-Salem, N.C., on Mike Miller's buzzer-beating leaner in the lane. Florida, which trailed by seven points with four minutes left in regulation, went on to the national championship game at the RCA Dome.That's right dear reader, Butler announced it's return to national prominence in 2000 (they've been in the tournament 4 years since and once in the Sweet Sixteen) by quite nearly removing the then #1 ranked 'Gators from the tournament in the first round. I'm not at all surprized David would want to forget that little fact.
So David, Who's Butler? Just the team breathing down your neck and about to kick your behind.
Related Tags: Butler, Florida, basketball, history, Hoosiers, NCAA, tournament
The Response To Soul-Weariness
Consider the want ad the post supposes to find a Spiritual Director:
SWM (Soul Weary Minister) seeks SMF (Spiritually Mature Friend) to help my inner person access God’s riches and experience triumph in my soul. I like long prayer walks in the park, guided sabbatical retreats, and reciting the daily offices. My turn offs are elder board meetings, church budgets, and Mrs. Clark’s mystery casserole. Please respond quickly, my soul needs urgent care.Hey! I got news for you "Soul Weary Minister" - how do you think the rest of us feel. If you're a preaching pastor at least you must have an important part of your schedule to be buried in the Word deply each week. Us soul-weary elders have to carve time out of schedules as, or more busy, than yours.
It would seem to be, though my own experience in professional ministry brought me to the opposite realization, that if we are doing God's work on a full time basis, heck even a part-time or heaven forbid volunteer basis, we should be "soul-filled," not "soul-weary." If we are about God's business, I cannot help but believe that God will empower us.
Nope the state of affairs represented by this post says two things to me. First, if pastoral ministry leaves one soul-weary, perhaps the church is not about God's business. Secondly, if pastoral ministry leaves you soul-weary, perhaps you are not doing it right, and maybe not even called to it.
Perhaps my personal testimony will make my point best. I was indeed soul-weary while in professional ministry. The demands of feeding the organizational beast seemed at deep odds with the actual callng I felt. Soul-weary turned into soul-shattering as I left. Most of that is just too personal for this forum, but it was indeed an unpleasant situation. It took many years to reassemble a life, and one that is now, most definitely soul-filled.
Of course, I have periods of tiredness like we all do, but I truly feel I live the abundant life promised by Christ. I work like a dog, rushing from professional obligations to ministry ones, and things in between like blogging. But most of the time, I find the all that activity invigorating and Godly. By unharnessing myself from the shackles of the organization, and landing myself professionally in a situation where I am in complete control of my time, I am able to focus on meaningful and important ministry. I am also able to work in concert with others around me who may be gifted in such a fashion that what they consider important and meanginful is quite different than myself. Together, God seems to us us to accomplish the miraculous. Most of it quiet, most of it not making headlines or drawing numbers, but it is changing lives, that go on to change other lives.
My reaction to soul-weary pastors may not be what they are looking for. I think they need to re-examine themselves, their call, and their minstry. If you're soul-weary, you're not doing it right.
Related Tags: pastors, soul-weary, soul-filled, ministry, organization
I Had To Link Him Go
There is a fundamental deceit at the heart of the debate this week, according to Mr O'Leary. "It is a lie that taxing flights will make any difference to polar bears or icebergs, it is just another way of stealing things from hard-pressed consumers. It's like parking tickets and congestion charging."Rick Moore has finally found the explanation for my utter revulsion at the global warming movement. But then Rick has always loved good sarcasm.
Welcome to the interplanetary nanny solar system.
Joe Carter has a heck of a point.
Well, it was all Yoko's fault.
Good Morning, welcome to England.
Well, it was a really big cat.
Related Tags: global warming, hypocrisy, joke, humor, waisecrack, sarcasm
Sunday, March 18, 2007
BLOG WAR ERUPTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Related Tags: Jollyblogger, college basketball, NCAA tournament, Butler University, Bulldogs, Florida, Gators
And Then It Linked On Me....
...that I am equally proud to call Joe Carter a friend.
...that this could be one of the more useful devices ever invented.
...that after watching this:
This story makes no sense at all.
...that this may be a lucrative licensing deal, but a lousy superhero. It's been tried.
...that I need some of these.
...that George Lucas has enough money to buy off the United States Postal Service.
...that this may have been an alien spacecraft which would explain northern California.
...that golf can be arcane.
...that this could sell a lot of air freshener.
...that this lady should tidy up more often.
...that this woman is raising food for these guys.
Related Tags: Butler basketball, Joe Carter, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sermons and Lessons
CHRYSOSTOM (that is, “Of the Golden Mouth”) was a title given to John, Archbishop of Constantinople. He was born of a patrician family at Antioch about 347, and owed much to the early Christian training of his Christian mother, Anthusa. He studied under Libanius, and for a time practiced law, but was converted and baptized in 368. He made a profound study of the Scriptures, the whole of which, it is said, he learned to repeat by heart.
Like Basil and Gregory he began his religious life as a hermit in the desert. After six years he returned to Antioch, where he gained reputation as the greatst preacher in the Eastern Church. Raised to the metropolitan See of Contantinople in 397, his fulminations against the corruptions of the court caused him to be banished, after a stormy ministry of six years. He was recalled in response to popular clamor, but removed again, and shortly after died, in He was a great exegete, and showed a spirit of intellectual liberty which anticipated modern criticism. Sermons to the number of one thousand have been attributed to him.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not. - I Thess. 4:13.
We have occupied four days in explaining to you the parable of Lazarus, bringing out the treasure that we found in a body covered with sores; a treasure, not of gold and silver and precious stones, but of wisdom and fortitude, of patience and endurance. For as in regard to visible treasures, while the surface of the ground shows only thorns and briers, and rough earth, yet, let a person dig deep into it, abundant wealth discovers itself; so it has proved in respect to Lazarus. Outwardly, wounds; but underneath these, unspeakable wealth; a body pining away, but a spirit noble and wakeful. We have also seen an illustration of that remark of the apostle’s - in proportion as the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed.
It would, indeed, be proper to address you today, also, on this same parable, and to enter the lists with those heretics who censure the Old Testament, bringing accusations against the patriarchs, and whetting their tongues against God, the Creator of the universe. But to avoid wearying you and reserving this controversy for another time, let us direct the discourse to another subject; for a table with only one sort of food produces satiety, while variety provokes the appetite. That it may be so in regard to our preaching, let us now, after a long period, turn to the blest Paul; for very opportunely has a passage from the apostle been read today, and the things which are to be spoken concerning it are in harmony with those that have lately been presented. Hear, then, Paul this day proclaiming – “I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope.” The parable of Lazarus is the evangelical chord; this passage is the apostolic note. And there is concord between them; for we have, on that parable, said much concerning the resurrection and the future judgment, and our discourse now recurs to that theme; so that, though it is on apostolic ground we are now toiling, we shall here find the same treasure. For in treating the parable, our aim was to teach the hearers this lesson, that they should regard all
splendors of the present life as nothing, but should look forward in their hopes, and daily reflect on the decisions which will be hereafter pronounced, and on that fearful judg¬ment, and that Judge who can not be deceived. On these things Paul has counseled us today in the passages which have been read to us. Attend, however, to his own words - ”I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” - I Thess. 4:13, 14.
We ought here, at the outset, to inquire why, when he is speaking concerning Christ, he employs the word death; but when he is speaking of our decease he calls it sleep, and not death. For he did not say, concerning them that are dead: but what did he say? “Concerning them that are asleep.” And again - ”Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” He did not say, them that have died. Still again - ”We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that sleep.” Here, too, he did not say - them that are dead; but a third time, bringing the subject to their remembrance, for the third time called death a sleep. Concerning Christ, however, he did not speak thus; but how? “For if we believe that Jesus died.” He did not say, Jesus slept, but He died. Why now did he use the term death in reference to Christ, but in reference to us the term sleep? For it was not casually, or negligently, that he employed this expression, but he had a wise and great purpose in so doing. In speaking of Christ, he said death, so as to confirm the fact that Christ had actually suffered death; in speaking of us, he said sleep, in order to impart consolation. For where resurrection had already taken place, he mentions death with plainness; but where the resurrection is still a matter of hope, he says sleep, consoling us by this very expression, and cherishing our valuable hopes. For he who is only asleep will surely awake; and death is no more than a long sleep.
Say not a dead man hears not, nor speaks, nor sees, nor is conscious. It is just so with a sleeping person. If I may speak somewhat paradoxically, even the soul of a sleeping person is in some sort asleep; but not so the soul of a dead man; that is awake.
But, you say, a dead man experiences cor¬ruption, and becomes dust and ashes. And what then, beloved hearers ~ For this very reason we ought to rejoice. For when a man is about to rebuild an old and tottering house, he first sends out its occupants, then tears it down, and rebuilds anew a more splendid one. This occasions no grief to the occupants, but rather joy; for they do not think of the demolition which they see, but of the house which is to come, tho not yet seen. When God is about to do a similar work, he destroys our body, and removes the soul which was dwelling in it as from some house, that he may build it anew and more splendidly, and again bring the soul into it with greater glory. Let us not, therefore, regard the tearing down, but the splendor which is to succeed.
If, again, a man has a statue decayed by rust and age, and mutilated in many of its parts, he breaks it up and casts it into a furnace, and after the melting he receives it again in a more beautiful form. As then the dissolving in the furnace was not a destruction but a renewing of the statue, so the death of our bodies is not a destruction but a renovation. When, therefore, you see as in a furnace our flesh flowing away to corruption, dwell not on that sight, but wait for the recasting. And be not satisfied with the extent of this illustration, but advance in your thoughts to a still higher point; for the statuary, casting into the furnace a brazen image, does not furnish you in its place a golden and undecaying statue, but again makes a brazen one. God does not thus; but casting in a mortal body formed of clay, he returns to you a golden and immortal statue; for the earth, receiving a corruptible and decaying body gives back the same, incorruptible and undecaying. Look not, therefore, on the corpse, lying with closed eyes and speechless lips, but on the man that is risen, that has received glory unspeakable and amazing, and direct your thoughts from the present sight to the future hope.
But do you miss his society, and therefore lament and mourn? Now is it not unreasonable, that, if you should have given your daughter in marriage, and her husband should take her to a distant country and should there enjoy prosperity, you would not think the circumstance a calamity, but the intelligence of their prosperity would console the sorrow occasioned by her absence; and yet here, while it is not a man, nor a fellow servant, but the Lord Himself who has taken your relative, that you should grieve and lament?
And how is it possible, you ask, not to grieve, since I am only a man? Nor do I say that you should not grieve: I do not condemn dejection, but the intensity of it. To be dejected is natural; but to be overcome by dejection is madness, and folly, and unmanly weakness. You may grieve and weep; but give not way to despondency, nor indulge in complaints. Give thanks to God, who has taken your friend, that you have the opportunity of honoring the departed one, and of dismissing him with becoming obsequies. If you sink under depression, you withhold honor from the departed, you displease God who has taken him, and you injure yourself; but if you are grateful, you pay respect to him, you glorify God, and you benefit yourself. Weep, as wept your Master over Lazarus, observing the just limits of sorrow, which it is not proper to pass. Thus also said Paul – “I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not as others who have no hope. Grieve,” says he; “but not as the Greek, who has no hope of a resurrection, who despairs of a future life.”
Believe me, I am ashamed and blush to see unbecoming groups of women pass along the mart, tearing their hair, cutting their arms and cheeks - and all this under the eyes of the Greeks. For what will they not say? What will they not declare concerning us? Are these the men who reason about a resurrection? Indeed! How poorly their actions agree with their opinions! In words, they reason about a resurrection: but they act just like those who do not acknowledge a resurrection. If they fully believed in a resurrection, they would not act thus; if they had really persuaded themselves that a deceased friend had departed to a better state, they would not thus mourn. These things, and more than these, the unbelievers say when they hear those lamentations. Let us then be ashamed, and be more moderate, and not occasion so much harm to ourselves and to those who are looking on us.
For on what account, tell me, do you thus weep for one departed? Because he was a bad man? You ought on that very account to be thankful, since the occasions of wicked¬ness are now cut off. Because he was good and kind? If so, you ought to rejoice; since he has been soon removed, before wickedness had corrupted him, and he has gone away to a world where he stands even secure, and there is no reason even to mistrust a change. Because he was a youth? For that, too, praise Him that has taken him, because he has speedily called him to a better lot. Because he was an aged man? On this account, also, give thanks and glorify Him that has taken him. Be ashamed of your behavior at a burial. The singing of psalms, the prayers, the assembling of the (spiritual) fathers and brethren - all this is not that you may weep, and lament, and afflict yourselves, but that you may render thanks to Him who has taken the departed. For as when men are called to some high office, multitudes with praises on their lips assemble to escort them at their departure to their stations, so do all with abundant praise join to send forward, as to greater honor, those of the pious who have departed. Death is rest, a deliverance from the exhausting labors and cares of this world. When, then, thou seest a relative departing, yield not to despondency; give thyself to reflection; examine thy conscience; cherish the thought that after a little while this end awaits thee also. Be more considerate; let another‘s death excite thee to salutary fear; shake off all indolence; examine your past deeds; quit your sins, and commence a happy change.
We differ from unbelievers in our estimate of things. The unbeliever surveys the heavens and worships them, because he thinks them a divinity; he looks to the earth and makes himself a servant to it, and longs for the things of sense. But not so with us. We survey the heavens and admire him that made them; for we do not believe them to be a god, but a work of God. I look on the whole creation, and am led by it to the Creator. He looks on wealth, and longs for it with earnest desire; I look on wealth, and contemn it. He sees poverty, and laments; I see poverty, and rejoice. I see things in one light; he in another. Just so in regard to death. lie sees a corpse, and thinks of it as a corpse; I see a corpse, and behold sleep rather than death. And as in regard to books, both learned persons and unlearned see them with the same eyes, but not with the same understanding - for to the unlearned the mere shapes of letters appear, while the learned discover the sense that lies within those letters - so in respect to affairs in general, we all see what takes place with the same eyes, but not with the same understanding and judgment. Since, therefore, in all other things we differ from them, shall we agree with them in our sentiments respecting death?
Consider to whom the departed has gone, and take comfort. He has gone where Paul is, and Peter, and the whole company of the saints. Consider how he shall arise, with what glory and splendor. Consider that by mourning and lamenting thou canst not alter the event which has occurred, and thou wilt in the end injure thyself. Consider whom you imitate by so doing, and shun this com¬panionship in sin. For whom do you imitate and emulate? The unbelieving, those who have no hope; as Paul has said – “That ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.” And observe how carefully he expresses himself; for he does not say, those who have not the hope of a resurrection, but simply, Those who have no hope. He that has no hope of a future retribution has no hope at all, nor does he know that there is a God, nor that God exercises a providential care over present occurrences, nor that divine justice looks on all things. But he that is thus ignorant and inconsiderate is more unwise than a beast, and separates his soul from all good; for he that does not expect to render an account of his deeds cuts himself loose from all virtue, and attaches himself to all vice. Considering these things, therefore, and reflecting on the folly and stupidity of the heathen, whose associates we become by our lamentations for the dead, let us avoid this conformity to them. For the apostle mentions them for this very purpose, that by considering the dishonor into which thou fallest, thou mightest recover thyself from this conformity, and return to thy proper dignity.
And not only here, but everywhere and frequently, the blest Paul does the same. For when he would dissuade from sin, he shows with whom we become associated by our sins, that, being touched by the character of the persons, thou shouldest avoid such companionship. To the Thessalonians, ac¬cordingly, he says, Let every one “possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” And again- “Walk not as the other Gentiles in the vanity of their mind.” Thus also here – “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope.”For it is not the nature of things, but our own disposition, which makes us grieve; not the death of the departed, but the weakness of those who mourn.
We ought, therefore, to thank God not only for the resurrection, but also for the hope of it; which can comfort the afflicted soul, and bid us be of good cheer concerning the departed, for they will again rise and be with us. If we must have anguish, we should mourn and lament over those who are living in sin, not over those who have died righteously. Thus did Paul; for he says to the Corinthians—’ ‘Lest when I come to you God shall humble me among you and that I shall bewail many.” He was not speaking of those who had died, but of those who had sinned and had not repented of the lasciviousness and uncleanness which they had committed; over these it was proper to mourn. So likewise another writer admonishes, saying – “Weep over the dead, for the light has failed; and weep over the fool, for understanding has failed” (Eceles. 22:10). Weep a little for the dead; for he has gone to his rest; but the fool’s life is a greater calamity than death. And surely if one devoid of understanding is always a proper object of lamentation, much more he that is devoid of righteousness and that has fallen from hope toward God. These, then, let us bewail; for such bewailing may be useful. For often while lamenting these, we amend our own faults; but to bewail the departed is senseless and hurtful. Let us not, then, reverse the order, but be¬wail only sin; and all other things, whether poverty, or sickness, or untimely death, or calumny, or false accusation, or whatever human evil befalls us, let us resolutely bear them all. For these calamities, if we are watchful, will be the occasions of adding to our crowns.
But how is it possible, you ask, that a bereaved person, being a man, should not grieve? On the contrary, I ask, how is it that being a man he should grieve, since he is honored with reason and with hopes of future good? Who is there, you ask again, that has not been subdued by this weakness? Many, I reply, and in many places, both among us and among those who have died before us. Job, for instance; the whole circle of his children being taken away, hear what he says - “The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” A wonderful saying, even when merely heard; but if you examine it closely, your wonder will greatly increase.
For consider; Satan did not take merely half and leave half, or take the larger number and leave the rest; but he gathered all the fruit, and yet did not prevail in uprooting the tree; he covered the whole sea with waves, and yet did not overwhelm the bark; he despoiled the tower of its strength, and yet could not batter it down. Job stood firm, though assailed from every quarter; showers of arrows fell, but they did not wound him. Consider how great a thing it was, to see so many children perish. Was it not enough to pierce him to the quick that they should all be snatched away? - altogether and in one day; in the flower of life; having shown so much virtue; expiring as by a stroke of vengeance; that after so many sorrows this last should be inflicted; that the father was fond of them, and that the deceased were worthy of his affection. When a man loses vicious children, he does indeed suffer grief, but not intense grief; for the wick9dness of the departed does not allow the sorrow to be poignant. But when children are virtuous, an abiding wound is inflicted, the remembrance is indelible, the calamity is inconsolable; there is a double sting, from nature, and from the virtuous character of the departed.
That Job‘s children were virtuous, appears from the fact that their father was particularly solicitous in regard to them, and rising up offered sacrifices in their behalf, fearing lest they might have committed secret sins; and no consideration was more important in his esteem than this. Not only the virtue of the children is thus shown, but also the affectionate spirit of the father. Since, therefore, the father was so affectionate, showing not only a love for them which proceeded from nature, but that also which came from their piety, and since the departed were thus virtuous, the anguish had a threefold in¬tensity. Still further; when children are torn away separately, the suffering has some consolation; for those that are left alleviate the sorrow over the departed; but when the whole circle is gone, to what one of all his numerous children can the childless man now look?
Besides these causes of sorrow, there was a fifth stroke. What was that? That they were all snatched away at once. For if in the ease of those who die after three or five days of sickness, the women and all the relatives bewail this most of all, that the deceased was taken away from their sight speedily and suddenly, much more might he have been distrest, when thus deprived of all, not in three days, or two, or one, but in one hour! For a calamity long contemplated, even if it be hard to bear, may fall more lightly through this anticipation; but that which happens contrary to expectation and suddenly is intolerable.
Would you hear of a sixth stroke? He lost them all in the very flower of their age. You know how very overwhelming are untimely bereavements, and productive of grief on many scores. The instance we are contemplating was not only untimely, but also violent; so that here was a seventh stroke. For their father did not see them expire on a bed, but they are all overwhelmed by the falling habitation. Consider then; a man was digging in that pile of ruins, and now he drew up a stone, and now a limb of a deceased one; he saw a hand still holding a cup, and another right hand placed on the table, and the mutilated form of a body, the nose torn away, the head crusht, the eyes put out, the brain scattered, the whole frame marred, and the variety of wounds not permitting the father to recognize the beloved countenances. You suffer emotions and shed tears at merely hearing of these things: what must he have endured at the sight of them? For if we, so long after the event, can not bear to hear of this tragedy, though it was another man‘s calamity, what an adamant was he to look on these things, and contemplate them, not as another‘s, but his own afflictions! He did not give way to dejection, nor ask, “What does this mean? Is this the recompense for my kindness? Was it for this that I opened my house, that I might see it made the grave of my children? Did I for this exhibit every parental virtue, that they should endure such a death?” No such things did he speak, or even think; but steadily bore all, though bereaved of them after bestowing on them so much care. For as an accomplished statuary framing golden images adorns them with great care, so he sought properly to mold and adorn their souls. And as a husbandman assiduously waters his palm-trees, or olives, inclosing them and cultivating them in every suitable way; so he perpetually sought to en¬rich each one‘s soul, as a fruitful olive, with increasing virtue. But he saw the trees overthrown by the assault of the evil spirit, and exposed on the earth, and enduring that miserable kind of death; yet he uttered no reviling word, but rather blest God, thus giving a deadly blow to the devil.
Should you say that Job had many sons, but that others have frequently lost their only sons, and that his cause of sorrow was not equal to theirs, you say well; but I reply, that Job‘s cause of sorrow was not only equal, but far greater. For of what advantage was it to him that he had many children? It was a severer calamity and a more bitter grief to receive the wound in many bodies.
Still, if you wish to see another holy man having an only son, and showing the same and even greater fortitude, call to mind the patriarch Abraham, who did not indeed see Isaac die, but, what was much more painful, was himself commanded to slay him, and did not question the command, nor repine at it, nor say, “Is it for this thou hast made me a father, that thou shouldest make me the slayer of my son? Better it would have been not to give him at all, than having given him thus to take him away. And if thou choosest to take him, why dost thou command me to slay him and to pollute my right hand? Didst thou not promise me that from this son thou wouldst fill the earth with my descendants? How wilt thou give the fruits, then, if thou pluck up the root? How dost thou promise me a posterity, and yet order me to slay ray son? Who ever saw such things, or heard of the like? I am deceived; I have been deluded.” No such thing did he say, or even think; he said nothing against the command, he did not ask the reasons; but hearing the Word - ”Take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and carry him up to one of the mountains which I shall show thee,” he complied so readily as even to do more than was commanded. For he concealed the matter from his wife, and he left the servants at the foot of the Mount in ignorance of what was to be done, and as¬cended, taking only the victim. Thus not unwillingly, but with promptness, he obeyed the command. Think now what it was, to be conversing alone with his son, apart from all others, when the affections are the more fervently excited, and attachment becomes stronger; and this not for one, or two, but for several days. To obey the command speedily would have been wonderful; but not so wonderful as, while his heart was burdened and agitated for many days, to avoid indulging in human tenderness toward his son. On this account God appointed for him a more extended arena, and a longer racecourse, that thou mightest the more carefully observe his combatant. A combatant he was indeed, contending not against a man, but against the force of nature. What language can describe his fortitude? He brought for¬ward his son, bound him, placed him on the wood, seized the sacrificial knife, was just on the point of dealing the stroke. In what manner to express myself properly, I know not; he only would know, who did these things. For no language can describe how it happened that his hand did not be¬come torpid, that the strength of his nerves did not relax, that the affecting sight of his son did not overpower him.
It is proper here, too, to admire Isaac. For as the one obeyed God, so did the other obey his father; and as the one, at God ‘s bidding him to sacrifice, did not demand an account of the matter, so the other, when his father was binding him and leading him to the altar, did not say, “Why art thou doing this? “—but surrendered himself to his father’s hand. And then was to be seen a man uniting in his own person the father and the sacrificing priest; and a sacrifice offered without blood, a whole burnt offering without fire, an altar representing a type of death and the resurrection. For he both sacrificed his son and he did not sacrifice him. He did not sacrifice him with his hand, but in his pur¬pose. For God gave the command, not through desire to see the flowing of the blood, but to give you a specimen of steady purpose, to make known throughout the world this worthy man, and to instruct all in coming time that it is necessary to prefer the command of God before children and nature, before all things, and even life itself. And so Abraham descended from the Mount, bringing alive the martyr Isaac. How can we be pardoned then, tell me, or what apology can we have, if we see that noble man obeying God with so much promptness and submitting to Him in all things, and yet we murmur at His dispensations? Tell me not of grief, nor of the intol¬erable nature of your calamity; rather consider how in the midst of bitter sorrow you may yet rise superior to it. That which was commanded to Abraham was enough to stagger his reason, to throw him into per¬plexity, and to undermine his faith in the past. For who would not have then thought that the promise which had been made him of a numerous posterity was all a deception? But not so Abraham. And not less ought we to admire Job’s wisdom in calamity; and particularly, that after so much virtue, after his alms and various acts of kindness to men, and though aware of no wrong either in himself or his children, yet experiencing so much affliction, affliction so singular, such as had never happened even to the most desperately wicked, still he was not affected by it as most men would have been, nor did he regard his virtue as profitless, nor form any ill-advised opinion concerning the past.
By these two examples, then, we ought not only to admire virtue, but to emulate and imitate it. And let no one say these were wonderful men. True, they were wonderful and great men. But we are now required to have more wisdom than they, and than all who lived under the Old Testament. For “except your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom, of heaven.” Gathering wisdom, then, from all quarters, and considering what we are told concerning a resurrection and concerning these holy men, let us frequently recite it to our souls, not only when we are actually in sorrow, but also while we are free from distress. For I have now addrest you on this subject, though no one is in particular affliction, that when we shall fall into any such calamity, we may, from the remembrance of what has been said, obtain requisite consola¬tion. As soldiers, even in peace, perform warlike exercises, so that when actually called to battle and the occasion makes a demand for skill, they may avail themselves of the art which they have cultivated in peace; so let us, in time of peace, furnish ourselves with weapons and remedies, that whenever there shall burst on us a war of unreasonable passions, or grief, or pain, or any such thing, we may, well armed and secure on all sides, repel the assaults of the evil one with all skill, and wall ourselves round with right contemplations, with the declarations of God, with the examples of good men, and with every possible defense. For so shall we be able to pass the present life with happiness, and to attain to the kingdom of heaven, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
Related Tags: sermon, lesson, John Chrystosom