It’s All About Hope

Denise Levertov was born in the UK as the daughter of an American mother and a father who was a Hasidic Jew from Germany. Her father became an Anglican priest and Levertov herself eventually became a Christian as well.

She went on to teach at Stanford and it was while she was there in the late 70’s that I discovered her work. She now is among my favorites. I was reminded of her poem on the Incarnation after reading the paper yesterday. I think you’ll find that the poem speaks of the hope that is available in the face of the crushing craziness that we can perpetrate.  Here’s what happened in the news that started me thinking:

Each week notices are published by Human Services about adoption intentions. Mothers who are putting up their children must alert potential fathers about the plans to adopt out their children.  On July 21, 2010 a little girl was born.  The mother listed three potential fathers and then suggested that there we possibly more men who could claim paternity.

What had the young mother named this little girl?

“CHASTITY”

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

Space and Time

Thanks again to Dan Clendenin for introducing me to an unfamiliar poet.

 

The British poet U.A. Fanthorpe (b. 1929) was the first woman nominated as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. I love how her poem BC:AD captures the unremarkable circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, and of how kairos invades chronos. All time and history, says Fanthorpe, are now marked by the before and after of the baby Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the moment when Before Turned into After, and the future’s Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

 

This was the moment when nothing Happened. Only dull peace Sprawled boringly over the earth.

 

This was the moment when even energetic Romans Could find nothing better to do Than counting heads in remote provinces.

 

And this was the moment When a few farm workers and three Members of an obscure Persian sect Walked haphazard by starlight straight Into the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mimesis Element

In classical rhetoric, narration was often presented by the voice of an all-knowing griot.   The narrator would not only convey the action but would also explain the feelings and inward thoughts of the characters. This vehicle was known as diegesis and was about telling the story.  In contrast, mimesis was the presentation method that practiced showing the story. By imitation and re-presentation, poetics could mimic the timeless elements of truth and beauty.

Within the contemporary discourse between Christian leaders, there seems to be similar divide when characterizing the Good News.  Traditionalists have insisted that the Gospel is essentially a proclamation. God has a plan and that plan, found in the Bible, is the story of God reclaiming a lost and fallen world.  As such, the Incarnation is the diagetic evidence which shows the Bible to be true.   We, as devout Christians, live out our response of faith by proclaiming through word and deed the essential message that; “It’s about God and His Plan.” Or to put it in Rick Warren’s antiphonal phraseology, “it’s not about YOU!”

Interestingly the emergence movement has found a comity with Christian liberals in staking a claim for a mimetic emphasis in the gospel. As such, the covenant is an invitation to a modus vivendi, a way to live authentically  in a post-modern world.   Jesus is the mimetic exemplar for those who saw Pharasaical Judaism as an empty, impossibly dogmatic burden. Many younger Christians have balked at the dogmatic “precept upon precept” recipe that makes its way through fundamental church experience. Emergent leaders such as Rob Bell would argue that an adherence to Christian discipleship without the concomitant existential journey leaves faith as empty and shallow as Pharasaism. For he and others, faith walking is acknowledging the universal condition we all share. Clearly, Rob Bell would say that it is “about you!”

The consequence of this polarization is most markedly evident in the response to culture. Proclamationists will insist that we as Christians are to act counter to culture, while emergent Christians will emphasize living in a parallel culture. The debate will go on with many pointing to the bounded truth of Scripture and while others will emphasize the unbounded love shown by God.

Regardless of one’s ilk, hopefully, there will continue to be believers who have visions that are similar to the one found in Acts 16. There Paul envisions the needs of the Macedonian people and responds by traveling to Phillipi.  While sitting on a riverbank near the city, Paul introduces  Lydia to the prospect of worshipping God. Violating every cultural and religious more of the time, Paul spoke to this woman like few men would and then backs it up by going and communing with her family.

In my opinion, the potency of the story is not found in the radical behavior of Paul nearly so much as the compelling strength of the vision. Whether the emphasis is placed upon the personal nature of the vision or the Sovereign signature of the directive, the outcome is the same.  Real people were touched and given new hope.  A radical alterity is forever introduced to Greek culture and peoples. Hope was offered and experienced by all strata of social hierarchy and essentially Christianity re-oriented personal and communal experience within the Roman empire.

I’m praying today for young men, women and elders alike to have radical visions that free them personally and which also unifies them corporately with an intimate God and real, hurting people.