The trouble is unnecessary

Yesterday I quoted some from E. L. Jorgenson’s comments in the January 1934 Word and Work.  Today I quote, without comment, from his “Publisher’s Page” in the December 1934 issue of that paper:

In the midst of bitter provocation and great temptation we have again sought to keep the paper clean of personalities and fit to hand to a neighbor.  Had we the Super-human power to read always and unerringly the inward hearts and motives of men we might at times debate and cut and slash and call names, condemn and judge; but in our limited, humble, human state we see no good, but only harm, to come from such a course.  It seems to use more needful that we study anew the way of true unity in Ephesians 4:1-3: lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance and love!  And that, too long content with the husks of mere controversial religion, we set ourselves to seek sincerely after that spiritual personal Christianity which is revealed in the New Testament.

If any may be tempted to point out our own frequent and evident failures on this line, the trouble is unnecessary: we know it and confess it.  And we ask for prayer that we may yet attain, and that editor and publisher may be granted all needed grace and wisdom.–E. L. J.

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When others so speak

It is not at all easy to hear unkind words from your critics, or to hear unkind things said of those you know or love.  What should you do in such situations?  I hesitate to offer any easy, pat answer.  I have no such advice, and confess my suspicion of those who advise in such a way.

However, I offer to you the closing words of E. L. Jorgenson’s “Publisher’s Paragraphs” from the January 1934 Word and Work:

…while reserving the right to deal with error, we would not want to fall into the awful (though common) mistake of negative, critical, destructive teaching as our main stock in trade.  This is an error into which those fall, almost unconsciously, who have no real constructive message from their own study–in order that they may still have somewhat to say.  May the Lord deliver us from such a style; and from all unkindness of spirit toward all.

As to any personal reflections and aspersions directed our way, such scribes are to us, in this character, as if they did not exist.  The editor of W. & W. [R. H. Boll, MIce] rarely reads their fulminations.  His message could well be: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” (Neh 6:3.)  If some have taken advantage of our policy of silence on these lines, we nourish no bitterness: in a very little while they shall answer to God.  Meanwhile, and for this new year–

“Let us pray that grace may everywhere abound, … And a Christlike spirit everywhere be found.” Amen.  E. L. J.

Were we to follow Bro. Jorgenson’s course, we would first of all search our own hearts: do we have something constructive to say?  Is our spirit unkind?  Do we nourish bitterness?

The temptation to return fire is strong, but is it Christlike?  Even when we may rightfully speak truth, do we do it defensively?  With anger?  Spitefully?

Indeed, friends, we will encounter all manner of uncouth and unkind characters, from every quarter, but as we go about our lives, privilege the soft voice of Christ amid the din of competing self-interested voices.  May we be slow to speak, slow to be angry, and when we speak–even when we are offended–let our speech be seasoned with salt, and grace, and peace.

As bro. Jorgenson indicates, R. H. Boll was too busy with what he considered a vital and constructive work to pay any attention to a noisy detractor.  So, the second question we could ask ourselves is How busy are we with kingdom business? The need remains great; in the face of the deep need about us will we allow ourselves to be distracted by some crass remark?  Will we be so easily deterred from the mission of the kingdom?

If he ever needs me, I’m sure I’ll be too willing to assist, but God has not sought my opinion or judgment.  He has reserved judgment for himself; I cannot allow myself to be consumed by presuming prerogatives which are not mine.  He has given me a mission focused on his kingdom.  E.L.J. pursues mission and leaves judgment to God.

I find bro. Boll and bro. Jorgenson so very helpful.  I never read WW without receiving a blessing.  I hope you have as well.  The quote above is from E. L. J. “Publisher’s Paragraphs”, Word and Work, January 1934, 1-2.

Between “God’s Unspeakable Gift” and “Still the War Goes On”

 

The December 20, 1917 issue of the Christian-Evangelist, a prominent Disciples national weekly, was the annual Christmas number.  Through numerous articles, editorials, short stories, artwork and poetry centered on Christmas, the journal sent its well-wishes to her readers for the season.  Included are numerous quotes and reminders about the true meaning of Christmas.  Virginia’s famous letter even makes an appearance.

Among the many interesting items in the issue are two articles which merit special attention. Coming from the pens of two widely regarded ministers, J. H. Garrison and Edgar DeWitt Jones, they speak a word to us this Christmas season.  Just as a single page separates them in the journal, the issues to which they speak are equally close in our lives today. 

Jones’ Christmas meditation is from 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.”  There Paul roots the grace of giving in the prior grace of God.  We give because God has first given to us and his gift is grace upon grace.  Indeed, God’s gift is so marvelous, so wonderful, so gracious, that words fail to capture it or fully describe it.  God’s gift to us in Jesus, Jones says, is “the unutterably great boon of the heavenly Father to his children.” He concludes, “Hang the wreaths, twine the mistletoe, light the candles, give the gifts; but above all and best of all, remember Bethlehem and God’s Gift in that manger-cradle.”

Turn the page and you will see “The Editor’s Easy Chair”, a weekly column contributed by the journal’s Editor-Emeritus, J. H. Garrison.  Among the short notices in his columns are a few paragraphs, one of which opens with “Still the war goes on.  Armies advance and retreat.  Charge is met by countercharge, and the death list grows rapidly.”  Garrison further states that “the putting away of all hindrances to union so that the church may present a united front to its enemies, and the incarnation in our daily lives of the principles which Jesus Christ teaches as essential to the well-being of mankind is so difficult that nothing but a united church working in close cooperation with God can ever accomplish it.”

Jones and Garrison found themselves in the thin space between God’s unspeakable gift and still the war goes on.  In that thin space they called upon the church to embody the life of Christ in their lives.  In the face of war they called upon the church to make known to the world the Prince of Peace.  In the face of alienation and hostility they yet call upon us to make real the truth of Christmas: that God has come near…that God is with us.

This Christmas season we find ourselves in similar thin spaces.  Pressed between the gospel and the situation of our climate, our cities, our international situation, what are we to do?  Given the good news of God in Christ on the one hand, and the world in which find ourselves on the other, where do we go from here?  Two saints from our past have left us a word we should hear.  We know what we are to do and we know the values and truths we are to embody to our world.

 

McGarvey Ice

Director of Public Services

Disciples of Christ Historical Society

Nashville, TN

www.discipleshistory.org

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This came out Wednesday from Disciples News Service as the latest installment of our Moments in Disciples History Series.  For a short piece I did on Jacob Kenoly, click here. To sign up for DNS emails, click hereI have also added this essay to my Written Word page.

 

Catching Up and Walking On

This weekend the Ice family will be making strides against breast cancer in fabulous downtown Nashville.  Laura’s folks are coming in for the weekend and my mother will also be walking, so its a whole-family affair.  Laura has assembled another “Jean Team” to walk in memory of her beloved colleague from Una Church’s Mothers Day Out program.  Our group of about 15 will join several thousand for what looks to be a nice sunny stroll from the Titans stadium, through downtown and back across the river.  Today its cold and rainy, but tomorrow looks better.  Let’s hope what is true for the weather holds true for the fight against breast cancer.

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Our evenings have been occupied with house cleaning, laundry and the ever-present homework.  My study is coming along nicely and should be clutter free by late tonight.  Darby helped me decorate it for Halloween. I’ll try to post pictures of her handiwork tonight.

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Needless to say, between household chores and prep for my teaching on Sundays, Uncle Dave has been neglected.  But we’ll see what next week holds. 

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Yesterday I was blessed to visit with the staff at World Christian Broadcasting in Franklin.  I spoke at their staff devotional and toured their facility.  They are fine people who do a good work worthy of your support.  We have supported them financially and urge you to do the same.  I’ll upload my comments to the Spoken Word page shortly.

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I have notes for last week’s class on Acts 27, but they are not yet typed. I think the approach I settled on is a fairly good way to approach narrative for spiritual transformation.  Though a travel narrative like Acts 27 poses a challenge for lectio divina I’m satisfied with the direction I took.   I’m continuing with Acts 28 Sunday and brining it (the book, the series and one of Acts’ larger theological points) to a close.

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I preach from manuscripts but teach from handwritten notes.  Always.  For me, I’ve found the discipline of crafting a sermon (or a devotional or some other kind of speech) works best when the process results in a full manuscript.  I simply preach better (in my estimation at least) from a manuscript.  But for class settings, the time and attention devoted to writing notes by hand rewards me with the ability to teach from memory with only an occasional reference to the notes.  I can’t explain why I benefit in different ways from each approach, but somehow I do.  Also, the dynamic of presenting a sermon lends itself to manscripts (I”m not a hand-waver or a stage-walker).  But the dynamic of a class-setting (again, for me) is much improved when I avoid the podium like the plague.

Prayer for the Preacher

G. H. P. Showalter, from Ligon's PortraitureI notice several folks found my post reproducing Isaac Errett’s prayer before reading scripture.  Below is a similar prayer by G. H. P. Showalter (pictured to the right), editor of the Firm Foundation from 1908-1954.  He published, with Frank L. Cox, A Book of Prayers, How to Pray that Prayer May Be Answered (Austin: Firm Foundation) in 1940.  The prayer is on page 73.  By the way, when I mentioned in an earlier post about devotional literature among Churches of Christ, I failed to include this volume. 

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Prayer for the Preacher

     Our loving Father, we are grateful for that noble man, wherever he may be, who is proclaiming to the lost the gospel of the Crucified.  In this service help him to be humble, yet unafraid.  In all of his efforts, may he be actuated by the sole desire to please thee.  grant that he may give himself to prayer, to holy meditation, and to the ministry of the word to the that he may save both himself and them that hear him.  Keep his soul from sin and his name from the abuse of the vicious tongue.

     Bless his loved ones from whom he is so often separated.  Wouldst thou, O Lord, shield them from every harmful thing.

     When days are dark, give him the assurance of the love and confidence of his brethren.  May he receive that material reward that is due and be content with the same.  When betrayed by his friends, and brethren prove false, uphold him by they everlasting arm.

     When his course is finished and he lays his burden down, give him rest with thee.  Grant that he may enter into the fruit of his labor and be glad.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

more along those lines

another post about forebearance…

Yesterday I mentioned “a particular kind of fellowship…”  and by that I mean a fellowship rooted in the gracious acts of God.  When fellowship is otherwise rooted it is actually subverted into that group-think I mentioned yesterday.  It is no longer a true sharing in what we have in common (God’s grace); instead it is an execise in carving out a group with which we are comfortable and can easily control to our benefit.  This group-think manifests itself in any number of ways: along racial lines, gender lines, lingusitic lines (I wonder when a church will push for ‘English-first’), intellectual lines (PhD’s need not apply), or what have you.  However it shows itself such subverts the gospel by denying grace to all.  Grace becomes a hollow and ethereal concept not a concrete reality.  When we forgive because God in Christ has forgiven us, we declare in deed the truth of the gospel is real in our lives.  

When we root our practice of community in the prior graciousness of God, our pride recedes and we will lead with compassion.  Our arrogance should dissipate as we lead with our kindness.  We bear with each others weaknesses and forgive each other’s trespasses simply because this is how God has first acted toward us.

the deep challenge of forebearance

It’s a nice sunny day in middle Tennessee.  Warm, with an occasional breeze and the first hints of fall color…the chamber of commerce couldn’t have done better.

I’m enjoying being home after spending most of Thursday-Saturday at the castle for the Stalcup Seminar.  Laura and Sara are napping, Darby and Ella are coloring,  so I’m tackling the stack of unread mail, unread email and general clutter which rapidly accumulates if not regularly beaten into submission.  Along the way, I’ve been thinking…so I’ll pause to blog…

A recurring thought of late, and one that returns to my mind again this sunny afternoon, is how deeply disturbing…and how unrelentingly necessary…is the challenge of forbearance for any community of faith.  One such disturbing text is Colossians 3.12-13 (click here for the NRSV). 

I say disturbing because it seems to me to assume a particular kind of fellowship in community that is not often realized in our churches.  In other words, one reason I think we struggle to do what Paul has in mind is that our experience often falls so short of his assumptions about the kind of life we have in Christ.  What we have in Christ is grace and that ought to manifest itself in meekness, kindness, humility and compassion.  Instead, we attempt group-think (which is anything but kind, meek, humble or compassionate) and in this type of atmosphere you don’t bear with, you marginalize, gossip-about, or otherwise mistreat.  Denying grace, we attempt to have fullness in ourselves rather that in Christ.  This false fullness may manifest itself in any number of specifics but the ultimate result is a community founded not on the values of the gospel but in some other shallow substitute.  

This text disturbs us because it calls us to deal with others in a gracious way when we would much prefer to disregard them, or worse, dissassociate from them.  We prefer communities of people just like us, when the gospel calls all people and disciplines them to embody grace to each other just as they recevied grace from God.  We’d rather ‘fix’ them than love them, rather resent them than be kind to them.  Denying that we have any room to grow, all the expectation is on the other person.  Bear with gets replaced by shape up.  In practicalities, this denies grace to people and puts the onus on them to get themselves straightened out before the community will love them.  Such may be comfortable, but such is not the gospel.

Forbearance is deeply challening because it reflects the values of the gospel: grace, forgivess, kindness, humility and meekness.  Would that Paul’s vision for the church would be our reality, to God’s glory and for the sake of the watching world.

…now, back to that clutter…

grace and peace.