Joanna Trollope on the power of Jane Austen

English novelist Joanna Trollope has written a wonderful article on the power of Jane Austen. Here’s an excerpt:

Which leads, very comfortably, to her second extraordinary strength. Which is her voice. It isn’t just the sentiment in that celebrated opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice that is so arresting, it is the tone in which it is uttered – cool, amused, restrained and slightly ironic. Austen is right in these novels – Elinor Dashwood’s and Anne Elliot’s real suffering is vividly portrayed – but she is outside them too. These are her people, but they are also her puppets. Of course, she says, teenage Marianne Dashwood would never have forgiven herself if she’d managed to sleep the night after Willoughby inexplicably dashes to London. Of course Mr Elton and Mr Collins make absolute fools of themselves, proposing to the wrong girls for the wrong reasons. This is how they are: they can’t help themselves. But they need to be teased about their behaviour, don’t they? Of course they do!

There is such a maturity in this attitude, and this way of expressing herself. There is, in her style, a profound recognition of the need to live as truly to yourself as you can, but always within the constraints of society. You can tell, from the way she writes, that she loves cleverness, and modesty, and self-control. But she also loves wit. And because she is half in and half out of her novels, she not only leaves us free to possess them, but also to see what she sees, as freshly as if she were looking over our shoulders, pointing things out.

Read the rest here.

Luke 4:21-30: Preliminary Thoughts

Sunday’s Gospel is Luke 4:21-30. I’ve been doing some thinking about the passage this afternoon, and here are my thoughts.

This week’s reading follows hard on the heels of last week’s, and in fact the division between them is highly artificial, created by lectionary creators who maybe thought that 14-30 was too long, and that there was enough to meditate on in 14-21 by itself. But 21-30 makes no sense at all without 14-20, so we’ll consider the passage in context.

      14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”.

This passage comes immediately after the account of the temptation in the wilderness, and Luke, as he usually does, emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, where God spoke to him to assure him that “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”. (3:22). The same Spirit then led Jesus out into the desert for a forty-day fast where he had a direct encounter with the power of evil, reminding us that the gift of the Holy Spirit does not only mean joy, sweetness and light, but also struggle, temptation, and knowledge of ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses. So Jesus was tempted by the Devil to go off on a completely different tangent in his ministry, one that would involve meeting his own needs rather than meeting the needs of others (4:2-4), gaining the kingdoms of the world by the easy route of devil worship rather than the hard route of the cross (4:5-8), and self-display rather than obedience to the Father (4:9-13).

So as today’s passage begins Jesus is returning from the desert:

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

The desert encounter has had the opposite effect to the one that the temper wanted; rather than bring deflected from his mission, Jesus has been strengthened. He emerges from the desert, not as a defeated failure, but as a Spirit-filled teacher and preacher who is even more determined than he was to concentrate on God’s mission for him. In these two verses we learn:

  • Jesus ‘returned to Galilee’. His baptism took place in Judea, at the Jordan, and his temptations presumably happened in the wilderness south of Judea, but his mission will start in his home province of Galilee, where he has been known since he was a child. This will present him with some challenges, as we will see.
  • Jesus returned to Galilee, ‘filled with the power of the Spirit’. We remember again that Jesus was not Superman, able to do supernatural things because he came from somewhere else; the incarnation was real, he ‘emptied himself’ (Philippians 2:5-11), and so was entirely dependant on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to do the things God was calling him to do. In this, therefore, he is a good role model for us; we also need the Holy Spirit – we need to be ‘filled with the power of the Spirit’ – in order to be able to do what God wants. The Christian life is not difficult: the Christian life is impossible unless the Holy Spirit fills us, grows his fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23), and equips us with his gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-31, Romans 12:3-8).
  • Nazareth was not the first stop on Jesus’ itinerary: ‘a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone’. The report would not have spread unless Jesus had already begun his mission, and in fact this is assumed later in the text, where Jesus says, “And you will say, ‘Do also here in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum’” (4:23). So to talk about the so-called ‘Nazareth Manifesto’ (18-19) as if it was the first sermon Jesus ever preached, and one in which he intentionally set out his goals for his ministry, is going beyond what the text actually says. Isaiah 61 ‘just happened’ to be the text for the day, and Jesus did not in fact preach on it or appeal to it as a template for his ministry. More about this below; suffice it to say that Jesus’ ministry had already begun (apparently in Capernaum), and the word about him had already spread widely before he came to Nazareth. Presumably this ‘report’ included not just his fame as a teacher, but also the miracles he performed (‘Do also here in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum’).

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”.

Luke is consistent with his own story, which sees Jesus as having been born in Bethlehem but brought up in Nazareth. Jesus is an observant Jew who goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath day to join in the worship of the people (‘as was his custom’). The synagogue service would have consisted mainly of readings from the Torah and of prayers. The elders of the synagogue were responsible for ensuring that there was someone to teach the people from the scriptures; presumably Jesus had already gained a reputation as a good teacher, so they invited him to read and teach. The custom was for the reader to stand to read the scriptures and then to sit down to teach, a good distinction between the authority of the scripture and the lesser authority of the speaker, perhaps!

Jesus does not select his own text; he is given the Isaiah scroll to read from. This is one of the passages about the servant of the Lord from the second part of Isaiah. The original context was the situation of Judea after the return from the Babylonian captivity; we know from Ezra and Nehemiah that there was much poverty in the land, that rich people were exploiting the poor and throwing them into prison, and no doubt many were being ‘oppressed’. The original text is highly social and political: the Lord Yahweh has anointed his prophet with the Holy Spirit to proclaim good news to his people: the good news that the poor are going to be raised up, the captives set free, the blind given their sight, and the oppressed delivered, and that ‘the year of Yahweh’s favour’ is at hand. This may have meant the Jubilee year, the 50th year when all debts were to be forgiven and all slaves set free.

Jesus reads the text (he may well have read far more than is quoted here; Luke has just given us the main verses), and then sits down. The sermon he preaches is lost to us; Luke doesn’t tell us what he said beyond the one sentence of fulfillment: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. We know that there was more to the sermon than that, both because of the formula Luke uses (‘Then he began to say to them…’), and also from the following verse (‘All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth’). It is obvious that the sermon did not immediately offend them; they were mightily impressed.

To us, however, it seems strange that Jesus would say that his ministry had fulfilled this text. Jesus did not start an economic revolution to tax the rich and help the poor; he didn’t raise up an army to attack the prisons and set the oppressed free, and he had no executive authority to enforce the year of Jubilee. Almost the only things he did that are obviously connected to this text are to proclaim good news to the poor and to give sight to the blind. But the good news he proclaimed to the poor was not ‘your poverty is over’ but ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ (Luke 6:20) (along with ‘Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation’ – 6:24). Granted, he set up a community in which distinctions between rich and poor, powerful and oppressed, were meant to be erased. But a person listening to Jesus in the synagogue that day might have been forgiven for expecting something much more like the Davidic and Maccabean model of messiah (‘the anointed one’).

To us today the power in this manifesto is its refusal to accept a purely spiritual Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is both ‘spiritual’ and ‘material’. Jesus proclaims release to those who are unjustly imprisoned as well as release to those who are imprisoned by fear and guilt. He heals the blind and also brings spiritual sight to those who cannot see spiritual reality (see John 9). And he not only announces a Jubilee in which God forgives the debt we owe to him, but also clearly expects us to forgive one another as well (see Matthew 6:9-15).

It is tempting to speculate about what the rest of the sermon may have been about. One thing we should not assume is that it would have been easy to understand! Jesus’ recorded sermons often left people scratching their heads in confusion; this one may well have been the same.

21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

The sermon started well, but it didn’t end well. At first the people were impressed by what they heard: ‘All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth’. Perhaps they felt a bit of pride: ‘This is a local boy, and he’s made good; he’s one of us!’ But things quickly changed.

First, they were offended by the way he put himself at the centre of the scripture passage. This was not the way the scriptures were to be interpreted. He said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v.21). Their response was, in effect, “Who do you think you are?” ‘They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ (v. 22). Mark 6:1-6 gives us a slightly different slant on the story, omitting the scripture and the sermon entirely, but going into more detail about the negative reaction of the crowd:

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

So they took offence at Jesus because he was getting ideas about himself above his station. He wasn’t even a real rabbi; he hadn’t been trained in the recognized rabbinical process. He was a carpenter, a construction worker, and they all knew his family. Mark stresses that it was the fact of his teaching that offended them, whereas Luke adds the complimentary detail that they were especially incensed by the way he put himself at the centre of the prophet’s message: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”.

I note that today Christianity will continue to give offence precisely at this point. Judaism has expounded this passage for millennia without bringing Jesus into it. Christianity teaches that Jesus was the point of the whole story from day one. God always had a plan to heal the world, and Jesus was the goal the plan was moving toward. The world around us is much happier with a Jesus who is peripheral to God’s plan, so that we can be more ‘inclusive’ of other religious leaders and teachers. But New Testament Christianity has always proclaimed that Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). It is often said that Jesus put the kingdom of God at the centre of his message, but the church later changed it and put the person of Jesus at the centre. This is a false misreading of Jesus’ preaching: true, he did put the Kingdom of God at the centre of his message, but he also clearly saw himself as the anointed king who was the centre of that Kingdom. This caused offence then and it will cause offence now.

Secondly, they were offended because he refused to show favouritism. Verses 23-30 seem to assume that there has been some criticism of the fact that they haven’t yet seen a miracle. “Come on, Jesus – you did some amazing things in Capernaum! Why can’t you show us the same signs and wonders? After all, we’re your own people! You should give us a better show than you did over there in Capernaum!” (Interestingly, in his version of the story Mark adds the crucial detail that it was their own lack of faith that made it impossible for Jesus to do miracles in Nazareth, beyond a few healings. Deep down inside, they didn’t think he was anyone special, and so they found it hard to see him as a channel of the power of God into their lives).

But Jesus takes the issue further: he makes it an illustration of the fact that God isn’t just concerned for ‘people like us’, but wants to reach beyond the boundaries to our neighbours and even to our enemies. He reminds the congregation of two incidents in Jewish history.

The first takes place in 1 Kings 17. Elijah the prophet lived at the time of the evil King Ahab and his Sidonian queen, Jezebel, who led the people astray into the worship of Baal. In response, God proclaimed through Elijah that there would be a drought, and it lasted for three years. In this story, Jezebel is clearly the enemy, the tempter of Israel, and Ahab is her accomplice. But Jesus points out that this does not mean that God does not have mercy on the Sidonians. Elijah, in fact, went to live with a widow of Zarephath in Sidon, and while he was with her, God supernaturally provided them with food. Jesus makes the point that Elijah could have hidden with any one of a thousand Israelite widows, but God took him to an outsider instead.

The second story is the story of the healing of Naaman the leper in 2 Kings 5. This is an even more striking story, because Naaman is a Syrian general, the commander of an army which has often made war on Israel and oppressed its people. And yet, through the prophet Elisha, God chooses to reach out and bless this enemy of Israel and heal him from his leprosy.

We can see a cumulative effect here: first of all they were offended by the fact that he was so egocentric in the way he approached their most sacred texts (‘This passage is really all about me, you know!’). But they were even more enraged when he refused to confirm their hatred for the outsider, the Gentile, the oppressor of Israel. They needed a Messiah who would lead them in battle against the Romans, not a Messiah who would be soft on the enemy.

I note that this continues to be a challenge to Christians today. People want a chaplain who will pray for the troops as they go into battle, give them communion on the battlefield, and tell them that in fighting the enemy they are doing God’s work, because their cause is just and the enemy’s is not. They do not want a Jesus who is telling them to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek, and to imitate their heavenly Father who sends his rain and sun on good and bad alike. In this, now as then, the real biblical Jesus continues to offend his people.

They are so offended, in fact, that they become a lynch mob:

28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

This was obviously intended to be a stoning. At a stoning, the crowd took the victim, threw him off a cliff, and then hurled rocks down at his broken body to make sure he was dead. But something happened here; Luke obviously intends us to see it as something supernatural: ‘But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way’. Somehow God protected him, because, as John would have said, his hour had not yet come.

That’s it for now; time to check my favourite commentaries.

Pride and Prejudice at 200

edjn_20130128_final_a5_102987_i001I’m a late convert to Jane Austen: never really read her when I was growing up, and didn’t really start to get interested in her until I noticed in his letters how enthusiastic C.S. Lewis was. I’ve since read all of her novels, some of them several times, and although I break with convention in preferring Emma, I do want to join with many others on the Internet today in paying tribute to the 200th birthday of Pride and Prejudice, published in three volumes on January 28th 1813.

In this morning’s Edmonton Journal Paula Simons noted that we have a first edition of Pride and Prejudice in the University of Alberta’s Rutherford Library. In her column, she had this to say:

Today, it’s easy to forget how truly radical this book was, both in subject matter and in its use of language. The typical Gothic romance of the day featured drooping damsels in distress, who fainted at the first sign of trouble, and who spoke in high-flown, artificial rhetoric. Lizzie Bennet, the wisecracking girl next door who shocks the neighbours by tromping three miles through the mud, who sasses the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, never thinks of fainting. She is no picture of perfection, to make us sick and wicked. Instead, with her unquenchable spirit, her capacity to own her mistakes, her willingness to seize and shape her destiny, she speaks to us as a thoroughly modern character. On her bicentennial birthday, she, her sisters, their lovers and their families, are a fresh, as funny, as socially subversive as ever.

I agree. Miss Austen. you created a masterpiece, and we salute you for it today. And no matter how good the movies are (and there are several very good ones), they will never equal the brilliance of your written word.

P.S. Grandmère Mimi’s heartfelt personal tribute is well worth reading.

Blogging appears to be slow right now

2547739081_63653b3a13Just a word about the general lack of posts from me right now.

We started a new service at the church on January 6th, Sundays@4. I don’t preach every week, but some weeks it means two sermons instead of one, so about eight hours of sermon preparation instead of four. I love Sundays@4 and I love sermon preparation, so this is not a sob story, just an explanation.

We’ve had a lot of pastoral stuff going on at the church too (bereavements and the like) which has taken up a lot of my time. And then, it’s the silly season of church life: the Annual General Meeting is coming up, and that means a lot of time writing reports, soliciting reports from others, etc. etc.

I’ve also been doing a lot of work on traditional folk songs in my ‘spare time’ – ‘renovating’ them, as I like to call it. This usually involves extensive lyrical revision and often a new tune. I get a lot of enjoyment out of this, so again, not a sob story.

And after Christmas while on holiday I started writing another piece of ‘recreational fiction’. I may post this in a month or two, when I’m fairly sure I know where it’s going.

All of this is to say that creative thought is going in other directions right now. So blogging is going to be light for a while. And, of course, Lent is only a month away, and that means goodbye to the blogosphere for six weeks.

In Awe of the Psalms


‘We should be in awe of the Psalms, they have lasted thousands of years, translate into multiple languages, and were a staple diet for our spiritual ancestors. Ninety Psalms are quoted in the New Testament, and short quotes are like headlines that say ‘go back and read the whole thing’. Augustine called the Psalms a school for people learning to pray. Ambrose called them a ‘gymnasium’. Athanasius said that whereas most of scripture speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us, they give us a language, a vocabulary of engagement with God for every kind of circumstance and condition.

‘We would do well to increase their use in public worship, but the setting from which I would suggest the ‘jewel’ is most absent is not so much the public as the private.

‘I believe that the Psalms are gifted by God to enable every Christian to do much better what most Christians find most difficult – to pray and worship daily with gritty honesty, consistency using words inspired by the Holy Spirit. What if that daily habit became established in every worshipping community?

‘One of the strongest arguments for using the Psalms is both simple and profound – it was what Jesus did. The Psalms were Jesus’ prayer book, songbook and meditation manual, and if he needed them how much more do we? The Christian community was early convinced that he continues praying them through us as we pray them: “we recite this prayer of the Psalm in Him, and He recites it in us.” [Augustine]. We can take the Psalms on our lips as God’s gift of words to sing or pray back to him, knowing that they are fulfilled in Christ.’

 – Graham Kendrick.

Read the rest here. And no need for Anglicans to feel all smug and self-satisfied about the fact that we still use the psalms in our public worship. How many Anglican Christians use the psalms regularly in their private prayers?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

dovefireI’m starting to think about my sermon for this coming Sunday. It’s the day in the church year when we tell the story of Jesus’ baptism (the ‘Feast of the Baptism of the Lord’, as we call it). But there’s a problem.

This is the year when most of our gospel texts are from Luke. But Luke doesn’t seem to be very interested in the fact that Jesus was baptized. In fact he doesn’t describe it at all: he describes what comes after it:

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22, all references from NIV 2011).

Luke’s gospel is full of references to the Holy Spirit – more so, perhaps, than any of the other gospels – and this emphasis continues in his second volume, the Book of Acts. He doesn’t discount water baptism – he makes it clear in Acts that the early Christians practised it – but his major emphasis is on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In Sunday’s Gospel, out of all the things he could have chosen to emphasize about Jesus, he chooses the fact that he will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit:

“I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with  fire” (Luke 3:16).

This promise is fulfilled in the Pentecostal experience in the Book of Acts. Jesus tells his followers:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).

A few days later the fulfilment comes:

When the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole place where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).

And this is not just a one-off experience; in chapter 4 it happens again:

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (4:31).

This was not something the early Christians had to take on faith; it was something obvious to people who were watching. In Acts chapter 8, Peter and John lay hands on some new Christians in Samaria, and immediately they are filled with the Holy Spirit. A local magician, Simon Magus, sees this and is so impressed that he offers the apostles money if they will give him the power to do that – to lay hands on people so that they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Does this happen to people today? In the Anglican Church we are so in love with an ordered liturgy and getting the service finished on time that I fear we are not prepared to give the Holy Spirit room to work in this way. But sometimes he seems to just reach out and make room for himself, to remind us what it’s all about. I remember a friend in a previous parish telling me about his adult confirmation experience. He had experienced a Christian conversion in his thirties and had then offered himself for confirmation. When the time came in the service, he went forward and knelt before the bishop, who laid hands on him and prayed. As the bishop was praying, my friend felt what he described as ‘an electric shock of power’ that came from the bishop’s hands and spread through my friend’s entire body. The sense of the presence of God was almost overwhelming to him, to the point that it scared him (as often happened in the Bible when people experienced it).

I also remember reading about this sort of thing in David Wilkerson’s book The Cross and the Switchblade. David was a young Pentecostal pastor, and in the 1950s God guided him to leave his church and move to inner city New York to do evangelistic work amongst the street gangs and drug addicts. He simply shared the gospel with young people, helped them commit their lives to Jesus and experience the power of the Holy Spirit for themselves. He used the same language Jesus used – ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit” – to describe this. Some time after he began his work he was discussing what had been happening with a group of former addicts who had become Christians through his ministry. He asked them when they first began to experience freedom from their addiction. Over and over again, they replied, “It was when I was first baptized in the Holy Spirit. That was when I started to get free”.

So if baptism in the Holy Spirit is so powerful, and if it is still available to Christians today, why don’t we give much attention to it in the mainstream Anglican Church? True, we’ve preserved the rite of confirmation, but a ritual (and one that has all too often taken place in the context of parents telling their kids “Time you were confirmed”) is a pretty poor substitute for the sort of thing that Acts describes, and that David Wilkerson’s young friends experienced.

Yesterday when we were discussing this passage at our deanery clergy meeting, one of my colleagues said, “I think that the baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire is the one I really want, but that the baptism with water is the one I’ll settle for”. Maybe 2013 is a good year to stop settling for less than what God wants to give us. I think it might be for me.

Hopefully, a bit of wisdom for 2013

I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions because I’m not good at keeping them, but here are a few nuggets of wisdom to take into 2013. A few old saws here, but true nonetheless.

‘Most folks are as happy as they choose to be’
 – attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

“Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
Gandalf, speaking to Frodo about Gollum in Tolkien’s ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’.

‘Junk will always expand to fill available space, and work will always expand to fill available time. So building more storage space is not the answer, and neither is working longer hours’.

‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’
– Jesus, Luke 12:15 

‘From the lying moon to the movement of stars,
Everyone’s wondering who they are;
And those who know don’t have the words to tell,
And those with the words don’t know too well’
 – Bruce Cockburn, ‘Burden of the Angel/Beast’

‘Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar;
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade.’
Polonius, in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ʿloveʾ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
– C.S. Lewis, in ‘Mere Christianity’

‘There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty; not by maneuvering and finessing, but by vigour and resolution.’
– Mr. Knightley to Emma Woodhouse, in Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’

‘Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you’re making’.
– C.S. Lewis, in ‘Mere Christianity’

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy’.
– Portia, in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’

‘The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination’.
– C.S. Lewis, from a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’
 – several places in the Old Testament

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’
– Jesus, Matthew 7:21

‘So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’.
– Jesus, Matthew 5:31-34