Monday, February 29, 2016

Time and God's Eternity

I'm working on an academic article on time and eternity. I'm particularly gripped by the question of whether God's eternity implies that God is timeless. My answer to date is, No, in some way, God has to have movement and progression in order for there to be speech and music in heaven. Moreover, God's Incarnation in Christ requires that God has touched the temporal sphere and inhabits it. At least, that's a thesis (or maybe two) I'm pursuing.

Since this piece will surely will not see the light of day for several months, it seemed good simply to lay out two key quotations.

First from Wolfhart Pannenberg in first volume of his Systematic Theology:
“The thought of eternity that is not simply opposed to time but positively related to it, embracing it in its totality, offers a paradigmatic illustration and actualization of the true Infinite which is not just opposed to the finite but embraces the antithesis”
And, particularly on the question of how the Incarnation helps us interpret God's temporality (or not), Thomas Oden, who summarized the relation between time and eternity through the pattern of the Incarnation, was particularly helpful: 
“The decisive Christian analogy concerning time is that between the eternal indwelling in time and the incarnation. Brilliantly, the classical exegetes taught that the creation of time is analogous to the incarnation in this way: The Father inhabits time, just as the Son inhabits human flesh” (from the Living God, citing Hilary, Nemesius).
I draw then this provisional conclusion: The eternal God embraces temporality. God is not timeless or atemporal, but is also not defined by earthly time. Indeed God, in many senses, transcends time... which, I suppose means, that God doesn't stay some timeless Deity, up in the sky, but truly interacts with you and me. And that I take to be central to the Gospel.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Invitation to Lent

“You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy.” - John Calvin
If you’re not familiar with Lent, it comes from the word “to lengthen”—in other words, during these weeks the days begin to lengthen with the coming light of spring. The period of Lent is
 40 days of fasting before the celebration of Easter. Traditionally, Christians have fasted—given up certain foods or other things— during Lent as a sign of repentance, faith, and preparation for Easter. Lent does not include Sundays because in the history of the Christian church, those are “feast" days, in which we celebrated the Resurrection, and not “fast” days. In total, there are 46 days during this season (not including Easter), but we fast for 40 of those.
As the community of Christians worldwide, we now enter into the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, particularly the call to repentance. 
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.”
Joel 2:12-13
A few years ago, when I looked back over my life, I realized that I couldn’t go forward simply by pressing on faster—instead I needed “to turn around” and slow down. This insight from C. S. Lewis spoke to me,
"We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man."
Progress is the result of “turning around” around fast, as long as we realize that “turning around” is the root meaning of repentance and that in Lent, we fast (give up certain pleasures or necessities)
in order to slow down and get on the right track. 
Why it’s called Ash Wednesday? Because ashes are a sign that we are making a U turn, that we are repenting. As a sign of repentance, the Bible speaks of using ashes. Consider these two verses:
Joel 2:12-13 says, “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” 
In Matthew 11:20-21, Jesus calls two towns in Galilee to repent in sackcloth and ashes: 
“Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.’”
So, Ash Wednesday—whether we literally use ashes or not— initiates a time of repenting or seeking to turn our life around in the places we are heading away from God. That way we we turn back to God, at the center of our life.

What do I need to repent from? God, search me and help me to find out.

Friday, February 05, 2016

In Memoriam, Earth, Wind & Fire

As I take in the death of Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire (EWF), I think of the music that plays just about daily on my iPhone (and thus throughout my house).

It was the music that Laura and I fell in love to 35 years ago. It’s the music that my parents Tom and Ruth—also now gone— grooved to. “Sun Goddess,” “Let’s Groove,” and “Shining Star” among many others provided the atmosphere for many a Cootsona party. It’s the music that helps me find the groove when I’ve lost it and offers me a vision of what it means to play as a band.

I love the way they brought African music, jazz and so many other influences to pop. As a drummer/percussionist, I was amazed that, the entire band embodied the rhythm. They lived the groove. Every instrument—whether bass, sax, drum kit, or keyboard contributed to what we call in the business a truly “righteous” rhythm. They were also positively positive. It’s hard to have a bad day when you listen to EWF and hear, “When you feel down and out, sing a song—it’ll make you dance.”

As White himself put it"We live in a negative society. Most people can't see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine."

Perhaps my favorite song is off a somewhat obscure recording on “Greatest Hits Live” where they play “Reasons." Ah so many great things… Verdine White (Maurice’s brother) playing flawless bass… Philip Bailey’s falceto, flawless and gossamer… the amazing sax solo by Scott Mayo in which—and this is my big point—Maurice and Philip are cheering him on the whole time. Ego gave way to teamwork.

EWF played as a band. They loved the groove. They decided that light always overcomes darkness. Though Maurice is gone, their music will keep playing in this house.

P.S. These are just a few notes in remembrance. I reserve the right to add more.