Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Below is an excerpt from Life Conquers Death: Meditations on the Garden, the Cross, and the Tree of Life by Rev. Dr. John Arnold. Full disclosure: it is one of the most beautifully written theological works I have read. Honestly.
I read this piece awhile ago, but it has stuck with me, popping into my memory on multiple occasions. This is most likely due to its narrative approach to Christian Scripture and through this method, he pulls out some points I had not thought of, especially in connection to consumer culture, immaturity, and patience. For that and more I am thankful.
Here are his words regarding Genesis 3:
For Adam and Eve did not fall through acquiring knowledge any more than we do. They fell through disobedience; and then they acquired knowledge before they were ready for it. The problem with Adam and Eve, as with us, is not that they were knowledgeable but that they were precocious. Their partial knowledge of haphazard and unrelated ‘facts’ outstripped their maturity; and they became clever before they became wise – as is shown by that picturesque little incident of the fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). They discovered their bodies, as every succeeding generation has done, with a mixture of delight and shame, before they had the personal maturity and the developed all-around relationship to enable them to cope with this astonishing revelation.
God had not placed the tree in the garden as a test or trick to keep knowledge from them forever. A God who would do that would be a tyrant and an irrational jealous ogre – not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God was going to add to all his mercies in creation, he was going to complete them, by giving Adam and Eve the fruit of knowledge himself, when it was ripe and they were mature, so they should not only enjoy everything in the garden and each other but also know what it was they were enjoying and who was the giver of it. The tragedy is they did not trust him enough to wait. In the morning they clutched and stuffed themselves on unripe fruit, while they were adolescent, before they had even explored the garden or come to appreciate what they had been given.
That is the first act in the tragicomedy of the so-called consumer society. They did not know that God was going to come to them in the cool of the evening, not to withhold anything from them but to give them the knowledge of good and evil himself and, much more than that, to give them ‘his presence and his very self.’ Why did he come in the cool of the evening if not to speak with them and tell them stories and parables of nature and open their eyes and share their lives so that they could share his? It was, after all, just what he was prevented from doing in Eden, which he came to do later in the synagogue at Capernaum, in all the towns and villages of Galilee and on the road to Emmaus.
- John Arnold, Life Conquers Death: Meditations on the Garden, the Cross, and the Tree of Life, p. 24-25.
Sometimes I forget that even though I get called Mr. Emery at work and, occasionally, Pastor Scott elsewhere, one of my favorite titles is the one you call me, “Daddy.”
Sometimes I forget you are not “my” daughter, but “our” daughter: our family, our Church, our community, our God.
Sometimes I forget how quickly a 9 month pregnancy can turn into you, my 2 year old daughter.
Sometimes I forget that my responses to things can be the most formative times in your life.
Sometimes I forget the awe of how your warm cooing has transformed into a sweet, little voice.
Sometimes I forget that you are the embodiment of one of God’s words from eons ago.
Sometimes I forget how my ambition to be known for my theological thought should never outweigh my ambition to be known – by you – for my theological action.
Sometimes I forget that how I show your mother love will probably be the litmus test for how you imagine love looking.
Sometimes I forget how your little hands will be held by another some day.
Sometimes I forget your best friend is your older sister and your biggest imitator will be your younger sister, so how I love them effects you too.
Sometimes I forget that you are two and not 18.
Sometimes I forget how soon you will be 18.
Sometimes I forget how my parents have a 30 year old son with 3 girls – one of them being you – and how soon I will be in that position.
Sometimes I forget that you don’t get the tone in my voice.
Sometimes I forget how much I prayed for you before you were born and how those prayers are slowly being answered.
Sometimes I forget the hard reality that many of your similarly-aged future friends have been/are/will be sick and dying.
Sometimes I forget how much you have taught me.
You smile and I see love.
You request to pray before bed and I understand faith.
You hug my neck as we walk downstairs every morning and I know forgiveness.
You run to me in pain and I know healing.
You laugh and I become infected with hope.
You love me and I am filled with gratitude.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We have decided to place our house on the market and would love if you’d help us spread the word. If you are wondering, we are not leaving Syracuse; we plan to be here for the long haul. Don’t worry.
We bought it 5 years ago completely flipped, so everything is basically brand new. Here is our little blip:
Lovely home completely renovated in last 5 years, new furnace, windows, roof, siding, kitchen and baths. Hardwood floors in most of home with open floor plan and high ceilings. Enclosed porch, computer area, first floor laundry.
It is listed for $112,900. Details can be found on
Below are many pictures of the house. Feel free to share this on Facebook or Twitter.
Front of the House
1st Floor Laundry
Half Bath on First Floor
Enclosed Porch (currently our girls’ play room)
Large, open Floor Plan with 9 ft ceilings
Sitting Room/Office Area
Master Bedroom with Walk-In Closet
Full Bathroom on Second Floor
Second Sunday of Advent
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I have been contemplating the significant coupling of community and place as of late. One of the least examined – and probably the most significant – aspects of daily life for both individuals and communities is how their locales form them.
A great myth of modernism have been the universalizing tendencies to push local community life and practice into a monoculture. Under the guise of the universal we’ve lost the nuances of the local. Within this thought, we can and should expect life to be similar in Denver as it is in Syracuse. Or perhaps even within closer proximity, life to be the same in Nedrow (just south of the city of Syracuse) and Liverpool (a northern suburb of Syracuse).
The diminishing of the local gets carried out when we lose the differentiating nuances of particular communities through top-down practices. Instead of finding the shades and tints produced by a place’s cultural artwork which can only be only known from the ground-up, we supplant this patient-inducing work for the ease of assuming. We assume we know what works without knowing the people or the place. In my experience, this is most evident in ventures of “church planting.” Instead of asking how place and community live symbiotically, we rush in never taking notice of the subtleties the answers to that question raise. Not listening only leads to assuming.
Enter Wendell Berry.
I read this today and it stopped me in my tracks. Instead of commenting further, I’ll let you read and soak it in.
For an authentic community is made less in reference to who we are than to where we are. I cannot farm my farm as a European American – or as an American, or as a Kentuckian – but only as a person belonging to the place itself. If I am to use it well and live on it authentically, I cannot do so by knowing where my ancestors came from (which, except for one great-grandfather, I do not know and probably can never know); I can do so only by knowing where I am, what the nature of the place permits me to do here, and who and what are here with me. To know these things, I must ask the place. A knowledge of foreign cultures is useful, perhaps indispensable, to me in my effort to settle here, but it cannot tell me where I am.
But there is a paradox in all this, and it is as cruel as it is obvious: as the emphasis on individual liberty has increased, the liberty and power of most individuals has declined. Most people are now finding that they are free to make very few significant choices. It is becoming steadily harder for ordinary people – the unrich, the unprivileged – to choose a kind of work for which they have a preference, a talent, or a vocation, to choose where they will live, to choose to work (or to live) at home, or even to choose to raise their own children. And most individuals (“liberated” or not) choose to conform not to local ways and conditions but to a rootless and placeless monoculture of commercial expectations and products. We try to be “emotionally self-sufficient” at the same time that we are entirely and helplessly dependent for our “happiness” on an economy that abuses us along with everything else. We want the liberty of divorce from spouses and independence from family and friends, yet we remain indissolubly married to a hundred corporations that regard us at best as captives and at worst as prey. The net result of our much-asserted individualism appears to be that we have become “free” for the sake of not much self-fulfillment at all.
Wendell Berry in Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community
My family and I have lived in our neighborhood for nearly 5 years now. It has been a time of growth in all areas personal, familial, and communal. When we moved in it was a cold, snowy day in mid-December hiding both our neighbors and their homes. Little did we know that within a few short months, people would emerge with the warm spring air and the continuing journey of living in West Phoenix would ensue.
Fast forward to the present and our tiny neighborhood of about 30-40 houses has shed some light on the areas mentioned above. It has been said that place is the least examined facet of our everyday lives and yet it has some of the most, if not the most, profound impacts on us as human beings. The actual locale one finds oneself can determine, shape, and call into question the entirety of our being. It does this by rooting us in the particular of our neighborhoods and opens our eyes to the nature of life itself. In a world of top-down hierarchy, understanding our placed-ness keeps us from importing the foreign and universal and pushes us to see ourselves as not only creators of our local environment, but also being created by our environments from the bottom up. This type of bottom-up engagement necessitates a posture of humbly listening and engaging instead of entering into a neighborhood with answers in tow. It constantly reminds us that we are only lying to ourselves when we think we can be human without relationally effecting others. Even when we aren’t aware of it, we are always relationally tied to each other and our locale however imperfect it may be.
Our tie to place is essential for us to be cognizant of because part of the essence of being human is to be placed. We are not unplaced beings and yet we find placelessness as a dominant theme of our current culture. We live as unrooted beings seeking after better jobs, better houses, and better paychecks. We have become a culture of commuters instead of a community of residents. Always having an eye to the horizon as any potential “better” may serve as an out for us, we become transient people who are able to value and hide behind anonymity. Our neighborhoods aren’t filled with actual neighbors; no, they just happen to be people living nearby. Objectification creeps in and people become “them” instead of named friends.
These ideas have become reality for me over the past several years as my place has come to dictate not only myself, but how I actually practice my faith as I follow after Jesus. A subtle paranoia has reared its ugly face as crime has fluctuated between petty theft to home invasion. Beyond that, we have had sex offenders move in, homeless people break into an abandoned house and subsequently live in tents outside of the house, multiple fires in the same building, and known drug dealers come and go.
And yet, Jesus tells me to love my neighbor and to make disciples.
Another interesting thing has transpired recently: I have been made our neighborhood’s co-leader of the Neighborhood Watch. We will be having our first neighborhood wide meeting in a few weeks due to the recent upswing of criminal mischief. In light of preparing for this meeting I have found myself wondering if I lack the competence needed in leading such a thing. It has hit me that I can teach and preach within the church walls, but that loving my neighbor in my actual neighborhood is another thing altogether.
Part of my realization of this is the nature of the Neighborhood Watch itself. I wonder if in some ways we are putting the cart before the horse. Everyone clamors for safety – or at least the sense of it – and yet safety and civility will not come from meetings here and there. Having a Neighborhood Watch is not profitable if you are not a neighbor yourself. Meetings to point out problems and complain about whatever is on your agenda will not accomplish much if you don’t have the space in your life to engage with your neighbor. We have replaced the being and doing of a neighbor with a program that (perhaps) expects the leader to take care of things, allowing the rest of us to passively sit back. The two – meetings and everyday neighborly life – need to kept intimately together.
I find myself being made aware of this in an analogous way within the Church. I have been told to love God and love my neighbor for as long as I can recall. However, it seems to me that the main – and maybe sole – way of loving my neighbor was through evangelism. “Winning souls for Jesus” was a thing taught and practiced through mission trips, cleaning up of yards, evangelistic tracts and surveys, and a whole host of other ways. Not once can I remember anything beyond somewhat pat answers and information concerning biblical reasons for loving our neighbors, let alone a visible and viable way of life worthy of imitation out in the real world.
And within a culture of placelessness this makes sense. This culture says, “There is a universal manner by which evangelism takes place and we can import it into any particular locale without regard to the specific people, customs, or way of life.” Part of this is due to the lack of meaning inherent to being seemingly unplaced. Walter Brueggemann states,
That promise concerned human persons who could lead detached, unrooted lives of endless choice and no commitment. It was glamorized around the virtues of mobility and anonymity that seemed so full of promise for freedom and self-actualization. But it has failed…It is now clear that a sense of place is a human hunger that urban promise has not met…It is rootlessness and not meaninglessness that characterizes the current crisis. There are no meanings apart from roots.
Without meaning our evangelism tactics fall flat because we allow ourselves to shortcut the relationships vital to the good news. Rootlessness sees our neighbors as primarily souls to convert, not friends to love, typically resulting not in a shared life, but instead random points of awkward contact. (Not to mention most [conservative] evangelism focuses on an individual’s eternal destination in a nonspatial “heaven” – a location without concrete place. Is it any wonder why we don’t know how to love within community?)
The odd thing is that it seems that we have bypassed the actual communal living of Jesus and his way, which is precisely the problem. We are not explicitly told to evangelize (in the way most people conservative Christians understand it) our neighbors; we are told to love them and to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. It is as if we have skipped over #1 and #2 on Jesus’ “list” in an effort to get to #3. (This may have never been communicated verbally by our church leaders, but certainly it has been taught in practice.) If we could only see that by loving our neighbors, we then (hopefully and prayerfully) might share Jesus’ good news, which should naturally be responded to by entering into discipleship. It is an exercise in patience which only comes about through rootedness in place. I am not saying we shouldn’t evangelize; I am saying that evangelism without (Jesus’) love is used car saleman-type browbeating and love without (Jesus’) evangelism is selfishly shortsighted. Perhaps if we began to reunite love and evangelism as a way of life, we might be able to make more sense of these things.
Just like Neighborhood Watch meetings are an effort to ensure safety through the bypassing of neighborliness, our evangelistic tendencies keep actual relationship at bay resulting in pseudo-love. They allow us to live in proximity with others, but concurrently get us off the hook of incarnating Jesus’ message. We have bought into a systematized way of relating behind formulated special events, sayings, and prayers that demonstrate our overvaluing of being pragmatically programmatic instead of placed.
So I ask: Does our attachment to universal, programmatic methods of evangelism coupled with our practices of placelessness drastically hinder us from truly loving our neighbors and living in community?