Saturday, November 27, 2010

Homily 17: Faith, Fear, and Following (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Jesus said unto them, 'Follow me, and I will...." Matthew 4:19

Faith is a trial because everything in life seems geared against it. From society and civilization to our own eyes and mind, there is always a penumbra of voices doubting and decrying our step into the dark. Even good and noble things like common-sense can rise up against you, with words sweet like honey and deep like thunder. The persuasion is almost unbearable, but despair, not peace, can only follow such concession; the vision was too sweet and the calling too heart-rending, and parting with it is bitter sorrow. Anything resembling peace in that exchange is merely apathetic surrender to your doubts. It is a difficult and perilous thing to follow by faith.

"Jesus said..., 'I will....'" This is all that we will receive: a promise. A promise from God that this thing, this crazy, hair-brained thing will be accomplished. He does not say how, nor does He explain all that it will entail. He simply says, "The thing will be done, and I will do it." Faith is trusting the promise and nothing else: not plans, people, interpretations, or experiences, but the promises of God in Christ.

Faith is (at the very least) an openness to being credulous about the incredible. God's promises are incredible mainly because they are simple. "You see that ridiculously impossible thing?" He says, "All of the hopes and dreams and burdens that I have laid on your heart? Follow me, and I will accomplish them." There is only one possibility for happiness, only one hope to have the glory and adventure that the human heart thirsts for: follow God--into the wilderness, into the dark, and believe that He will.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Into the Meat-Grinder: Or, On Christ-likeness and Seeing Reality (a lecture by an orthodox rebel)

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil." Matthew 4:1

The Christ-like life is never a matter of anemic safety. It is a head-on collision with the darkness, often in dry and desolate places. The red-cross of Christ is not to be borne by the fainthearted or apathetic. No naivete or cynicism is allowed, because no naivete or cynicism would survive. One's mind, heart, and senses must be attuned to the reality of Evil and the presence of God. Lose one of those two truths and you will fall away from Christ-likeness into ignorance or despair.

"...led up by the Spirit into the wilderness...." God is not interested in placating our preference for limited liabilities and safe investments. If we are being conformed into the image of Christ, then we are cast into the meat-grinder daily. This is a fact that the Enemy does not want you to understand or consider. Everyday guided by God is a step across the divine adventure, and every step contains perils of enormous spiritual significance. The Enemy would take advantage, however, of our one true handicap (i.e., our literal blindness to the spiritual) and convince us that life is a mere traipsing and traversing from one doldrum to the next. Read the word of God; it makes no such claim: We who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake (II Cor. 4:8-11).

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homily 16: "...we all go into the dark..." (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"...I fear my lord the king...." Daniel 1:10

We must not abide the doctrines of any false and foolish religion that tries to claim the unreality of either fear or its object. There are many frightful and beastly barricades set across the whole of life, and the fear they inspire is usually well deserved. The difference is in this: it is not about believing that your fears (or fearful things) don't exist; it is about believing that God does exist. The instant that we focus (for whatever reason) on the fears and/or their objects rather than on God, we have gone awry. Even if we are attempting to comfort our fellow man, simply denying the reality of their terrors within or the terrors without is a silly solution. It is the equivalent of telling them that the dark will go away if they simply close their eyes.

We do mankind a great disservice if we deny their fears and/or fearful things for the simple reason that denying the dark does nothing to get rid of it. Only light does that, and the good news of the Christian religion is that the light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness is powerless before it (John 1:5). Obviously, the only proper thing to do for those who are afraid of the very real dark is to point them to the very real light.

The servant of Nebuchadnezzar was genuinely afraid of a very real danger, and what did Daniel say to assuage him? Not, "Doubt your fears," but rather, "Prove thy servants," i.e., test the matter. Come and see the faithfulness of the almighty God (Num. 11:23, 23:19, & Mal. 3:10). This is not, nor is it ever, about blind faith. It is about seeing with your own eyes God work in the real world, about realizing the reality of God in the practical minutia of life. It does us no good to anyone (including ourselves) to deny the reality of fear and fearful things. The only good lies in claiming the reality of God and being strong in the real power of His real might.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

Cormac McCarthy's take on Relativism (midwestern common sense vs. muddle-headed pretentiousness)

The following is from the opening of section five from No Country for Old Men.

We come here from Georgia. Our family did. Horse and wagon. I pretty much know that for a fact. I know they's a lost of things in a family history that just plain aint so. Any family. The stories gets passed on and the truth gets passed over. As the sayin goes. Which I reckon some would take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I dont believe that. I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that's what it is. It's the thing you're talkin about. I've heard it compared to the rock--maybe in the bible--and I wouldnt disagree with that. But it'll be here even when the rock is gone. I'm sure they's people would disagree with that. Quite a few, in fact. But I never could find out what any of them did believe.

Tragedy as Necessary for Beauty (as explained by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is an excerpt from Oswald Chambers' book Baffled to Fight Better (pp. 11 & 16). Here Chambers talks about the reality of despair in human existence, a truth that G.K. Chesterton called the "pagan sadness". All life outside of God is fundamentally tragic, and the wisest of the lost have known this to be true. It is that truth that makes the truth of the Gospel so powerful, so compelling, and so beautiful. If we lose the truth of tragedy, then the Gospel loses all strength and beauty. This is a fact in sermons, stories, or songs.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

Facing facts as they are produces despair; not frenzy, but real downright despair, and God never blames someone for despair. Anyone who thinks must be pessimistic; thinking can never produce optimism. The wisest man who ever lived said that "he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." The basis of things is not reasonable but wild and tragic, and to face things as they are brings one to the ordeal of despair. Ibsen presents this ordeal; there is no defiance in his presentation. He knows that there is no such thing as forgiveness in nature, and that every sin has a Nemesis following it. His summing up of life is that of quiet despair because he knows nothing of the revelation of God by Jesus Christ. [...]

When we get to despair, we know that all our thinking will never get us out; we will only get out by the sheer creative effort of God. Consequently, we are in the right attitude to receive from God that which we cannot gain for ourselves. [...]

Optimism is either a matter of accepted revelation or of temperament. To think unimpeded and remain optimistic is not possible. Let a person face facts as they really are and pessimism is the only possible conclusion. If there is no tragedy at the back of human life, no gap between God and man, then the redemption of Jesus Christ is "much ado about nothing."

Job is seeing things exactly as they are. A healthy-minded individual bases his life on actual conditions, but let him be hit by bereavement, and when he has got beyond the noisy bit and blasphemous bit, he will find, as Job found, that despair is the basis of human life unless a man accepts a revelation from God and enters into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.