Christ defines the church as “where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.” The church is a continuing event that is
being accomplished in history and through people. Her viability relates to
her authentic witness to the presence of her Lord; her maturation depends
on her responses to the Lord’s correction, direction, and call to serve
needy men.


Tiny Worlds // Submarine

…why is it that only so few come to realize [these deep spiritual things]?
There are two simple reasons for that. First, we are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror. We know that those times when we have to be alone are often the most comfortless and fruitless of times for us. But we are not only afraid of ourselves and of self-discovery, we are much more afraid of God – that he may disturb us and discover who we really are, that he may take us with him into his solitude and deal with us according to his will. We are afraid of such lonely, awful encounters with God, and we avoid them, so that he may not suddenly come too near to us. It would be too dreadful to have to face God directly, to have to answer to him. Our smiles would have to disappear; for once something would have to be taken seriously, and we are not used to that. This anxiety is a mark of our times; we live in fear that we may suddenly find ourselves before the Eternal.
That is one reason. The other is that we are too indolent in our religious life. Perhaps we once made a start, but how soon we went to sleep again. We say we are not in the mood, and since religion is a matter of mood, we must wait until it overtakes us. And then we wait and wait for years, perhaps to the end of our lives until we once again are in the mood for religion. There is a great deception behind all of this. We may regard religion as a matter of moods if we wish, but God is not determined by our moods; one does not wait until overtaken by a feeling to encounter him. The person who waits upon moods is impoverished. If the painter only wanted to paint when in the mood for it, he would not get very far. In religion, as in art and science, along with the times of high excitement, there are times of sober work and practice. We must practice our communication with God, otherwise we will not find the right tone, the right word, the right language, when God surprises us with his presence. We must learn the language of God, carefully learn it, work hard at it, so that we will be able to speak to him. Prayer must be practiced. It is a fatal error to confuse religion with sentimentality. Religion is work which a human being can do. How miserable to be content with saying, “I am not religiously inclined,” when there is a God who wants to have us as his own. It is simply an evasion. Certainly, it will be harder for one person than for another, but we may be sure that no one can advance without work. This is why even our silence before God takes practice and work; it takes daily fortitude to expose ourselves to God’s Word and to allow ourselves to be judged by it; it requires daily renewal as we rejoice in the love of God.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1986. Meditating On The Word. Pages 60-61.


BILL WATTERSON ‘A cartoonist’s advice’

Within the long and sad story of Israel, the story of Israel’s God is not simply, as you might think from some Christian language, the story of a distant God who wants to save people from sin and death and is trying various ways of doing so (most of which seem unfruitful). For far too long now Christians have told the story of Jesus as if it hooked up not with the story of Israel, but simply with the story of human sin as in Genesis 3, skipping over the story of Israel altogether. From that point of view, the story of Israel looks like a failed first attempt on God’s part to sort out his world. “Here,” he says, “you can be my people. I’ll rescue you from slavery and give you my law!” But then the people find they can’t keep the law and the story goes from bad to worse. Eventually, God gives up the attempt to make people (specifically, Israel) “better” by having them keep his law and decides on a different strategy, a “Plan B.” This involves sending his son to die and declaring that now the only thing people need to do is to believe in him and his saving death; they won’t have to keep that silly old law after all. This is a gross caricature of the actual biblical story, but it is certainly not a gross caricature of what many Christians have been taught, either explicitly or by implication.
N. T. Wright, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels (pp. 84-85).
Given the prominence of the way of Caiaphas, Jesus needed to make sure that his own followers did not misunderstand what was involved in following him. Following Jesus is not a path to privilege. It is not a way to get what you want. It is not the inside track to a higher standard of living. In both Judaism and the church there have always been a lot of people who expect everything to turn out wonderfully when they commit themselves to God’s ways, worship faithfully, study their Bibles, witness to their friends, and give generously. But it is following Caiaphas that gets you that kind of life, not following Jesus. Jesus makes that explicit when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross…” (Matt. 16:24).
Eugene H. Peterson
The fact is that men and women have no love or taste for The Holy - they want a God who serves them on their terms, not a God they can serve on his terms.
Eugene Peterson