Saturday, November 20, 2010

Collecting Manna: Philip Cary

My wife's cousin Lissa enthusiastically commended to me Augustine-Luther scholar Philip Cary's (her teacher at Eastern University) new book, Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do. Among said decade is the admonition, "Why 'Applying it to your Life is Boring, Or, How the Gospel is Beautiful,'" from whence I found the following passage, which she noted expresses with far greater succintitude the main point of my last post on "the Idol of Being Interesting (thanks to Lissa!):"

The alternative to "relevance" is the willingness to learn. It's like when you really start to get a new kind of music, maybe classical or jazz, that at first seemed boring and intimidating. When you begin to see the beauty and power in it, you stop asking how it's relevant to your life. Instead, you acquire a new ability to hear, new powers of perception, as you begin to understand more clearly what's really there. Learning to perceive this reality enhances your life, makes you a richer person with a deeper understanding of the world. Similarly, the Holy Spirit teaches us to understand the Gospel like a kind of divine music, not making Christ relevant to our lives, but reshaping our lives so that we perceive the beauty of Christ, which captivates our hearts.

The underlying concept here is not relevance, but beauty. If you're a preacher or a teacher, you don't need anything to make beautiful things relevant to us. They wouldn't be beautiful unless they already had the power to move our hearts, stirring us to love. And from love comes eagerness and diligence in the works of love - all the things which sermons telling us what to do can't give us. WHat gets Christians moving in the right direction is thus not advice about how to change our hearts but teaching that shows us more clearly the reality and beauty of Christ himself. The preacher's job is not making Christ relevant but helping us to see his beauty - so that we may know what is glorious, wonderful, and joyous about our Beloved.

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