According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Story of Re/Creation - "Aha, My Dear Watson, the Game's Afoot!"

Ah, the mystery of creation, unlearned in the story of Genesis, but known in our heart of hearts that there is a God who rules the deep and the heavens above with a soaring majesty that only He alone holds, and has, as Sovereign of creation, Ruler of mankind, righteous Lord of life and love.... Who dwells in the mystery of creation and furthest reaches of man's heart. Who comes on the wings of the wakening dawn and in the black still of the heavenly night. When all about shouts for attention soon lost upon the heats of the day and the cold of unfeeling mankind busied with the tasks of life's harshest demands unfailing in misery's blight.

Just what do we know of this dear Sovereign who calls Himself Yahweh (YHWH) unspoken in name by His ancient people Israel worshipped as their Protector/Keeper from a world of woe that earlier Jewish generations discovered all too true in their subservient bondage from Egypt's brick fields to Assyria horrific holds, from the Philistines foul servitudes to Babylon's exilic lands, when not keeping faith to their eternal Suzerainty-Lord who cut covenant with them under Abraham and Moses? Spoke blessings and curse to all who beheld this covenant cut for their protection and keep. Upheld unconditionally by the only one who could keep this covenant through the power of the Suzerainty's own sacrifice, heavenly Priest and one-day Ruler. He, who would rule not only the heavens and the earth - but one and all - through a divine wisdom mere seekers but pray to glimpse or discover. With a patient love and gracious heart full of compassion and mercy. Whose anger knows no bounds and whose holy justice must be propitiated. Just who is this God who calls himself  the great I AM refusing all heathen worship except that which subscribes to His sense of holiness and purity?

It is this same God whom all mankind wishes to know and has grasped by any number of religious instructions and institutions both man-made and divine, secular and holy, yet failing to apprehend the Divine's great mystery while pursuing this great God with equal passions of work and play, worship and prayer. "Yes, the game's afoot, my dear Watson," as all humanity lunges after the mighty works and power of this great God still unknown but speaking to our poor and trembling hearts with a majesty unbroken by our sin and hate, jealousies and despairs. Who is this God? What does He want? Where is His truth and love and beauty in a world driven by insanity and self-fulfilling psychoses and mania too disturbing to plumb except through escape, remorse or guilt?

Nay, this very God has come at a time when humanity's worlds have crashed and burned. When all around us feels like unknowing and baldest lies coming from the most learned mouths we dare hearken to yet falling short whilst beholding the wisdom of a God lying unknown at our very doorstep, bound in the darkness of our weary hearts, ignored by the work of our hands, our unseeing eyes and unhearing ears. What does He want? Nay, we know its very truth - our very selves! Who is He? Nay, none other than what our poor heart fears, the only Ruler who can rule our unruly hearts. Who rises with the dawn speaking peace on the whisper of the wind through the tender drops of rain and gentle birdsong instilling sanity within the roar of our uncertain dawns, humanity's fierce whirlwinds, and the blundering brass sound of a created world's nethering darkness, speculative fantasies and endless pursuits of the unholy - or the divine - by sundry human works and endeavor, organization, government and worship.

When all around crumbles at our feet and nothing feels right to our broken hearts. Where love is lost in selfish pleasure, cruel injustice, or maudlin pursuits lost and empty. Where Chaos is everywhere around and no less than within us in the relentless break of sound and fury making senseless the very thing that stands before us, around us, in us, and through us, within our very society's structures, and everyday worlds should we stop, look and listen. Man has not been left alone to seek mysteries unobtainable, unknowable, unfelt. Those very mysteries began at the very dawn of creation when all ancient men could but stop and hear with all the power held within the primordial breast to its undying soul and restless minds seeking for the divinity of the universe. Upheld by the only Creator who cast Himself within the hue-and-cry of lost Israel's plight in a land of lost pyramids risen to the hail of wicked Pharoahs vouchsafing their divine rulership over the land of the lost and damned. A Creator who came upon the wings of the dawn, in the freshness of the day, on the untold beauties of love and grace, speaking fey peace to our wandering hearts with a surety unlost and true. A Creator who holds within the folds of His heart those deepest truths of love found in a Savior's impassioned cross of selfless shame and unmitigated atonement through Calvary's bowed nob hill. Risen on a cross of sacrificial love-and-death for a creation lost-and-alone wandering a desert wilderness of skulls and valleys of dry bones unrisen and dead.

Nay, we have a great Shepherd and burning bush. His name is Jesus. The bible tells us so. From Genesis' first opening passages we meet this God as the Creator of our souls; through its Old and New Testament passages proclaiming our need for this God against a sin that would prevail; even to its ending chapters of triumphal reign and rule in the fiery/doomed book of Revelation where ends man's nethering reign. Where tells of a heavenly Kingdom come like the Temple of God to rule with a righteous order over a world created in holiness and death relenting heavenly rule against the will of sin and death. A Temple once begun on creation's dawn in the opening chapters of Genesis and built again to the resounding trumpet of hail-and-conquer in the last of Revelation. Whose occupant is the very God that created all that once rested in creative rule but listed to immediate fracture under willful sin's grievous weight. Whose Temple all mankind was invited as co-rulers to find beauty and worship in the things of God soon lost at the behest of sin and death. Now awaiting restoration and renewal through the only thing that can restore and renew - that Day of Atonement - come through Messiah Jesus, Israel's sent Deliverer and mankind's hope. Once come in the spoils of a rude manager blessed as God's very living temple to embracing joyful hearts. This day give all, give all to the Lover of our souls, the only Redeemer that makes sense to our untempled hearts of rebellion and shame. Who heals our flesh, baths our wounds, binds solve into the scars of guilt and terrible hurts through His very blood and shame, brokenness and own deep wounds. To this living Paschal cup of blessing we lift with thanksgiving as healing drink. Breaking the bread of fellowship with like-wounded supplicants and warriors to the bread of life. He who is the wine of eternal waters. The God of life and light. Lover of our souls in a world of wickedness and death.

R.E. Slater
May 3, 2012


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Sherlock: A Character Who's More Than Elementary
Basil Rathbone (right) as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1945.
AP Basil Rathbone (right) as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce asDr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1945.

One of my favorite professors, the late Ian Watt, taught that there were four great myths of modern individualism: Faust, Don Juan, Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe. This always got me wondering which, if any, pop-culture heroes might endure in the same way. James Bond? Luke Skywalker? The Avengers? C'mon. In fact, there's only one who I feel sure will last — Sherlock Holmes.

In the 125 years since Arthur Conan Doyle created the world's greatest detective, 75 different actors have played him in the movies, and scads more on TV, not to mention the countless knockoffs like The Mentalist or Mr. Spock, who once claimed Holmes as his ancestor.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a modernized Holmes who carries a cellphone and gets his buzz from nicotine patches.
EnlargeHartswood Films/BBC for Masterpiece
Benedict Cumberbatch plays a modernized Holmes who
carries a cellphone and gets his buzz from nicotine patches.

We've had him as a teen in Young Sherlock Holmes, as a wise-cracking action star played by Robert Downey Jr., and as a retired beekeeper in Michael Chabon's terrific little novel The Final Solution, where he encounters the crime of the century — The Holocaust. Now he's been updated as a present-day Londoner in Sherlock, the British TV series that offers the best version of Holmes and Dr. Watson I've ever seen.

The obvious reason for Holmes' enduring appeal is that, while he possesses no superpowers — his parents weren't wizards, no radioactive spider bit him — his gifts are cool enough to be superhuman. Playing to our fantasies of being smarter than everyone else, Holmes performs jaw-dropping feats of perception.

Like the one in the first episode of Sherlock: Martin Freeman's Dr. Watson has known Holmes all of 90 seconds when Sherlock, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, talks about renting a flat together — and gives Watson a taste of just who, or maybe what, he's dealing with: an astute observer who picks up intimate details about Watson's personal life seemingly out of thin air. This Holmes is a bit of a showman, one who feels sure that he ought to be mythic.

He's right. Like all mythic figures, Sherlock embodies an archetypal aspect of the human psyche — in his case, the power of rational thought.

"I am a brain," he tells Watson in one story, "the rest of me is mere appendix." And as a brain he is the embodiment of the scientific mind. A relentless empiricist, he not only notices details that ordinary folks don't, but he also treats all of reality — from tobacco ashes to a dog that doesn't bark — as a collection of clues. He puts these clues together to solve baffling crimes, which can involve a pygmy murderer, a poisonous snake or a gigantic hound.

Now, lasting mythic heroes tend to emerge during periods of psychosocial tumult when old values are being threatened by new ones. Holmes came to life in 1887, during the waning years of a Victorian era in which everything from the traditional social order to the belief in God was being subverted. It's no accident that this same period produced three other literary creations who spoke to a sense of chaotic darkness bubbling beneath the surface of things: the blood-drinking Dracula, the murderously schizoid Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and, of course, Peter Pan, who refused to grow up into the complicated world of adulthood. Their mythic power still persists, but mainly as metaphors like the Peter Pan Complex, or in the welter of hip vampires roaming our pop culture.

Sherlock remains Sherlock. Of course, darkness bubbles in Holmes' world, too. If he lacks the tragic dimension of Faust — a fellow thinking machine, but one with ambitions so grand they damn him — he's not a cipher like 007 or Hercule Poirot. His monomaniacal genius borders on sociopathology. It cuts him off from humanity.

He has but one friend, Watson — his Sancho Panza and our surrogate — and but one great love, Irene Adler, whose appearance opens Season 2 of Sherlock with a bang. When he's not solving crimes, boredom and melancholy lead Holmes to the violin — or cocaine.

Yet if Holmes' desire for oblivion hints at the lonely man lurking beneath the brilliant superman, it remains less potent than his sheer joy in asserting rational control over purveyors of chaos like his archenemy, Professor Moriarty. Detective stories are about learning the truth and restoring order. That's their power. And for Holmes, that's also their fun.

Indeed, one reason why Sherlock still feels so fresh is his pleasure in the chase. Never dull nor moralistic, he embodies that part of us that's turned on by a mystery, who when he hears of a murder, feels that special tingle and cries, "Come, Watson, come. The game is afoot!"


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