Sunday Morning Poem: “Hear Me,” by Czesław Miłosz

I’ve loved the poetry of Czesław Miłosz since a friend gave me a slim collection of his poems over a decade ago. Especially searing are the poems he composed amidst and about the Warsaw Uprising as a sympathetic Catholic outsider. Even after coming to the United States, Miłosz composed his verse primarily in Polish, often collaborating on the translations. This poem comes from his final collection, Second Space.

Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except prayer.

Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.

When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.

When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.

When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take part in religious rites.

When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.

When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life on earth a devil’s vaudeville.

Blessed are the Divorced

Many of us have recently participated in the “Eternal Marriage” lesson from the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. The lesson’s final section carries the heading “As a husband and wife faithfully observe all the ordinances and principles of the gospel, their joy in marriage grows sweeter.” The paragraphs in the section, however, lean toward defining this joy negatively, in terms of avoiding divorce. This tendency can have the effect of making our divorced sisters and brothers seem “less than” those whose marriages are currently working.

[Read more...]

Challenges of Vocation in Mormonism

It’s a commonplace to note that in the Church nobody chooses her calling. Rather, God, through the mediation of priesthood leaders, calls us to serve, typically only for a limited time, in any of a wide variety of capacities. There is much to be said for this approach: sometimes, by doing things we never would have chosen for ourselves, we, like Moses, learn things “we never had supposed.” Having this potential for divine surprises built into the system is a good thing.

Still, this approach comes at a price: we lose the concept of vocation—the idea that God calls us individually to walk a particular path of divine service. (Angela C recently wrote an excellent post about this.) To be sure, patriarchal blessings can provide something like an individual call, but in most cases there are not formal institutional venues for performing the things that we in the depths of our souls feel that God has called us to do. If a person in another denomination feels called to the ministry, in many cases there are formal processes of discernment and training to guide that person in working out whether this is really what God wants him or her to do. In Mormonism a person who feels so called must either wait for a formal calling or figure out some less formal way of acting as a minister. This latter option can mean “doing much good of [one's] own accord,” but it can also lead to tensions with the institutional Church. [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Poem: “There is a gold light in certain old paintings,” by Donald Justice

This late work appears as the final poem in Donald Justice’s Collected Poems (Knopf, 2006). It has been a favorite ever since I learned of it a few years ago. The third stanza strikes me as an especially clear expression of religious hope as tempered by thoroughgoing realism about the difficulty of life, represented by the almost Beckettian song at the end of the second stanza.

1 There is a gold light in certain old paintings That represents a diffusion of sunlight. It is like happiness, when we are happy. It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light, And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross Share in its charity equally with the cross.

2 Orpheus hesitated beside the black river. With so much to look forward to he looked back. We think he sang then, but the song is lost. At least he had seen once more the beloved back. I say the song went this way: O prolong the suffering if that is all there is to prolong.

3 The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work. One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good. The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar. Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good. And all that we suffered through having existed Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.

Note: regular BCC commenter melodynew contributes to a Poetry Sunday series over at The Exponent. Read her entry for today here. The more poetry, the better!

Book Review: Re-reading Job, by Michael Austin

Austin_Job_largeRe-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem
Michael Austin
Greg Kofford Books, 2014
$20.95

Academic approaches to scripture sometimes arouse suspicion in LDS circles, especially when they include the Higher Criticism (“Moses didn’t write the five books of Moses?”) or reading the Bible as literature (“So you think this is a work of fiction?”). People using or advocating these approaches often draw charges of privileging the intellectual ways of the world over the pure spiritual truth of God, of trusting in the arm of flesh, or of kowtowing to secular disbelief in the interest of seeming more acceptable.

[Read more...]

Who is God? (part 1)

Recent events—the death of Jordan Fowles, the shooting of the Stay family in Texas—have prompted some internal BCC discussions about the character of God. Commenters occasionally accuse BCC of being an echo chamber, but our discussions of this topic have turned out to be full of lively debate and disagreement. We’ve decided to bring our discussion to the blog, with several posts on the subject over the next few days. Our collective goal is to stimulate further conversation, not to defend any particular theological position (although some of us might choose to argue vociferously in the comments).

Terryl and Fiona Givens’ The God Who Weeps offers a provocative vision of a God whose heart beats in sympathy with human hearts, presenting this, as its subtitle (How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life) proclaims, as a compelling answer to the difficulties of being human. I want to follow in the spirit of Adam Miller’s thoughtful critique of Weeps in the Spring 2014 issue of Dialogue (subscribe if you haven’t yet) by probing some of the implications of the vulnerable God that the Givenses find in Moses 7:28-29. This probing will be ad hoc rather than systematic, stirring up dust rather than settling questions. With Miller, my aim is not to denigrate the book (pas du tout!), but rather to honor its contribution by allowing it to provoke further thinking.

[Read more...]

Scripture as Literature of Faith Crisis

In the many narratives of faith crisis that one hears these days, a common theme is resistance to the idea that the Sunday School answer of “read the scriptures” will do much good. “Don’t you understand that the scriptures got me into this mess in the first place?” people ask incredulously, especially as they’re troubled about questions of Book of Mormon historicity, the character of the Old Testament God, or a number of other concerns. [Read more...]

Trinity Sunday

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Trinity Sunday, Year A

Gen. 1:1-2:4a (NRSV); Psalm 8 (KJV); 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NRSV); Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV); 1 Nephi 11:6; Alma 34:37-38D&C 20:21-28

The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, who as the Father and the Son, aided by the presence of the Holy Spirit, appeared to thy servant Joseph Smith, jr.: grant that we may be one with each other, and one with thee, as you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one God forever and ever.

[Read more...]

Mormon Lectionary Project: The Collect for Peace

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Collect for Peace

O God, whose love surpasses all understanding, we thy wandering sheep plead that thou wilt reach into our hearts and, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, give us the peace purchased in the Garden and on the Cross by Jesus Christ thy Son; bless us that we may no more rend the body of Christ with our contentions; grant us the full measure of patience and love, that we may fulfill our covenants to bear one another’s burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, and to comfort those who stand in need of comfort; pour, dear Father, into the chasms of our souls the charity according to which thou, with thy Son and the Holy Spirit, art one God, for only in the gift of that charity can we find the unity that will lead us into the eternal peace of thy everlasting kingdom.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J.

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J.

Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 (NRSV)Psalm 19:1-6 (1662 BCP); Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV); Philippians 2:25-30 (NRSV); Jacob 2:8-10Mosiah 4:1-12; Moses 3:7

The Collect: Almighty God, who showed thy servant Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J., the glory of thy creation, brought him through spiritual desolation, and gave him strength of words for his wrestlings with thee: grant that through his verse we might grow in our capacity to reckon with both beauty and loneliness, by the grace of thy Son, Jesus Christ, and through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, who are, together with thee, the One True God. [Read more...]

The Anosognosic’s Dilemma, Blogging, and the Body of Christ

One need not spend much time on the internet before coming face-to-face with what looks like raw, unfiltered stupidity. We’ve all seen memes mocking such ignorance. “How could you not see that?” we say, indignantly congratulating ourselves on our own superiority. As an advocate of the Oxford comma, here’s one of my favorites:

Oxford comma

Still, as pleasurable as dumping on such instances of idiocy may be, most of us do recognize that this sort of thing isn’t very Christlike (as some huffy commenter, devoid of any irony, will inevitably point out). Such recognitions notwithstanding, we feel guilty for a few minutes and then jump back into another Facebook battle with one of the utter morons who seem to populate the place. [fn1] [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Poem: Milton, “Adam and Eve’s Morning Hymn”

This excerpt from Book V of Paradise Lost frequently appeared under the title “Adam and Eve’s Morning Hymn” or “Milton’s Morning Hymn” in 18th-century anthologies. It was such a familiar set piece that Edmund Burke’s only son, Richard, came into the room where his parents were sitting and recited it just before he died.

These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almightie, thine this universal Frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thy self how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sitst above these Heavens
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and Power Divine:
Speak yee who best can tell, ye Sons of light,
Angels, for yee behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, Day without Night,
Circle his Throne rejoycing, yee in Heav’n
On Earth joyn all ye Creatures to extoll
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end. [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Poem: “The Agonie,” by George Herbert

This series could not continue long without featuring George Herbert…

                                The Agonie

     Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
     But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.

     Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
     His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.

     Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
     If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

Sunday Morning Poem: “Fault”

I find that poetry occupies a place very near the heart of my worship. Nobody in my High Priest’s Group is at all surprised anymore when I bring a poem into the discussion, and I’ve even been known to read them over the pulpit in testimony meeting. In that spirit, I’d like to inaugurate an occasional series in which I post a poem on Sunday morning, leaving the verse to speak for itself. (Discussion in the comments is, of course, both welcome and encouraged.) I’ll start things off by sharing an effort of my own, now six years old.

Fault—an interesting word:
culpability as chasm—
the building pressures
of an inner tectonics
resulting in rupture,
the riven self reveals
the illusion of identity.

The first tremors throw
off the balance,
and the aftershocks
reiterate the wound,
the trembling gap between
the self I framed
and the charted graphs
of my seismic soul.

Emily Dickinson

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Emily Dickinson

Isaiah 6:5-8 (NRSV)Psalm 111:7-10 (Common Worship psalter); John 3:16 (KJV)1 Cor. 13:9 (NRSV); 2 Nephi 2:103 Nephi 8D&C 93:23-27

The Collect: Beloved God, who revealedst thy love for Emily Dickinson in the midst of her wrestlings with thee, and who hast now made that love known to us through her verse: grant that we also, in our strivings, may find thy love for us revealed in thy Son through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Read more...]

Dame Julian of Norwich

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Dame Julian of Norwich

Hebrews 10:19-24 (NRSV); John 4:23-26 (NRSV); Psalm 27:5-11 (1662 BCP); 1 Nephi 11:12-23; Alma 30:44; Moses 7:48-49

The Collect: Almighty God, who through thy servant Julian of Norwich showed us the Ground of our being, sustain us we pray with the sweet milk of thy Spirit through the everlasting nurture of thy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Read more...]

Emmeline B. Wells

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

With this post, the MLP inaugurates something we’ve been meaning to do for a while: use the lectionary format to celebrate specific LDS figures. In the spirit of the 1978 First Presidency statement noting the contributions made by non-LDS religious leaders and philosophers to the spread of light and truth, we’ll also be expanding the series to honor a broad spectrum of people who have contributed to the advancement of the human family from a smaller capacity to a greater one. We’re also increasing the amount of LDS scripture in each post, to include selections from the Small Plates, the abridgments of Mormon and Moroni, and the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price.

Emmeline B. Wells

Ruth 1:8-18, 2:4-17 (NRSV); Psalm 119:41-48 (1662 BCP); Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV); 2 Cor. 8:1-9 (NRSV); 2 Ne. 25:21-23; Ether 12:23-28; D&C 88:117-26

The Collect: O God, thou who givest us both daily bread and holy light to feed our minds and spirits, grant that we, like thy servant Emmeline B. Wells, may, through the grace of thy Son, Jesus Christ, write, teach, serve, and lead, that our sisters and brothers might forever be established in the strength of thy Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Read more...]

Sarah and Isaac

Sarah arose early in the morning. She looked out and saw Abraham saddling the donkey as though for a journey. Later he came in and said, “God has commanded me to bring Isaac up to a mountain that he will show me, there to offer a sacrifice.” Sarah watched them ride off together. [Read more...]

MLP: Easter Day

 

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Easter Day

Jeremiah 31:1-6 (NRSV); Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (1979 BCP); Acts 10:34-43 (NRSV); John 20:1-18 (NRSV); D&C 76:19-24

The Collect: Almighty God, who through your Son overcame the world and conquered death, grant that we might not only live in him, but that we might daily rejoice in this gift of life through thy Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

[Read more...]

MLP: Holy Saturday

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Holy Saturday

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 (NRSV); Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 (1979 BCP—see pp. 622-23); 1 Peter 4:1-8(NRSV); John 19:38-42 (NRSV); 3 Ne. 8:19-25

The Collect: O God, thou who sawest fit to try our faith on this day between the death and resurrection of thy Son: lift up our hearts with the hope of his rising, by the power of thy Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Read more...]

Mormon Lectionary Project: Tuesday in Holy Week

 

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Tuesday in Holy Week

Isaiah 49:1-7 (NRSV)1 Cor. 1:18-31 (NRSV)John 12:20-36 (NRSV)Psalm 71:1-14 (NRSV); D&C 121:1-9

The Collect: O God, who by the suffering of thy Son madest us a refuge in our suffering, grant that we, in our own fateful hours, might trust in the foolishness of the cross; whose shame sealed the triumph of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, amen. [Read more...]

Sunday Sermon: Creation

My wife, Kristine K. (disambiguation: not the same as Kristine) gave this sermon today in the Slate Canyon 13th Ward in Provo.

“[When] in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth . . . the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep . . . the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light” (Gen 1:1-3). [1] In this opening scene of creation, I picture “the Spirit of the Gods . . . brooding upon the face of the waters” (Abr. 4:2), in a way, as a feeling out or trying to get a sense of what is out there. Then realizing that they need a clearer view of the materials they have to work with, the Gods utter, “Let there be light.” What is revealed in that primordial light is primordial chaos—a watery wasteland. I’m sure the Gods realized—maybe in that moment, maybe before—that their work would be difficult, that it would be a long and arduous process. In his book Reflections of a Scientist, Henry Eyring informs us that it takes an average of 250 years to deposit one foot of sediment, or roughly 112 million years to deposit all known sediments. [2] In fact, the Book of Abraham says that after the Gods “prepar[ed] the earth to bring forth grass” (4:11) or “prepared[ed] the waters to bring forth . . . the moving creatures (4:20),” they “watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed” (4:18). [3] [Read more...]

Sunday Sermon: The War in Heaven and Human Agency

My wife, Kristine K. (disambiguation: not the same as Kristine), and I both delivered  sermons today in the Slate Canyon 13th Ward in Provo. I spoke first, on the War in Heaven, and then she spoke on the Creation. I’m posting my sermon now, with Kristine’s to follow shortly, as I believe that it will also resonate with readers of BCC.

For the vital part that the war in heaven plays in LDS theology, much about it remains unclear. The phrase itself derives from Revelation chapter 12, which depicts “a great red dragon” whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (vv. 3-4, NRSV). Then, we read, “war broke out in heaven.” This seems to have been instigated by Michael and his angels, as the text mentions their aggression first, going on to say that “the dragon and his angels fought back, but were defeated” (vv. 7-8, NRSV). The effect of this defeat is that Satan “was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (v. 9, NRSV).

[Read more...]

Fifth Sunday in Lent

 

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A

Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45, Psalm 130, 2 Nephi 4:16-35

The Collect: Almighty God, who weepest with us in the depths of our extremity: console us, we pray, but also breathe life into our dry bones, that we, encircled in the robe of thy righteousness, may put our trust in thee and live in the Holy Spirit, through the mercy of thy gracious Son. Amen.
[Read more...]

An Apologia for “High Church” Mormonism

MLP

MLP

Readers of BCC will have noticed a persistent interest here in things Anglican. If it isn’t Kristine reminding us once again that on the eighth day God made British choirboys, there are all the posts in the Mormon Lectionary Project, Ronan’s Christian Disciplines series, or John F.’s posts about occasions when Mormons get liturgical (including this Rosh Hashanah post). Occasionally, people wonder about the implications of all this crypto-Anglicanism. I mean, isn’t it good that Mormons left some of this stuff behind, the light of the Restoration dispelling the shadows of apostasy?

[Read more...]

Guest Post: Holy Envy

BCC is pleased to feature this guest post from Peter H. Bendtsen of Fredericia, Denmark, where he works as a Key Account Manager in the chemical business. In the Church he served as a missionary in Manchester, UK from 1993-95; since then he’s been a Bishop’s counselor, Bishop, and High Councilor. He and his wife Lisette Krogstrup Bendtsen have two children.

We like to quote Krister Stendahl, the Swedish Bishop of Stockholm, who mentioned that he has holy envy of us Mormons for our temple worship.

What then could we as Mormons have of holy envy with regard to other Christian religions?

[Read more...]

The First Sunday in Lent

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The First Sunday in Lent, Year A

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11; Psalm 32; 2 Nephi 2:17-26

The Collect: O God, thou who hast sent us forth into a world of opposition and trial: bless us, through the ever-present grace of him who overcame all, with the joy that surpasses understanding.

That Lent should be a season of joy seems, well, not quite right. Why voluntarily enter a world of deprivation when life is usually hard enough as it is? We can hardly follow Jesus into the wilderness if that’s where we’re already living, having been cast out of Eden alongside Adam and Eve. Sin and death really do seem to have the dominion here. [Read more...]

Event: “Milton and the Anonymous Authority of De doctrina Christiana,” 3pm on 11 March at BYU

In addition to our blogging, BCC permas do occasionally write other, non-internet type things. If you’re interested in witnessing this strange phenomenon, I will be giving a talk, “Milton and the Anonymous Authority of De doctrina Christiana,” next Tuesday, March 11, at BYU. It will take place at 3pm in B042 JFSB. Here is an abstract: [Read more...]

George Herbert, Priest

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of George Herbert, Priest, 1633.

1 Peter 5:1-4; Matt. 5:1-10; Psalm 23; Alma 4:11-20

The Collect: O God, who broughtest thy servant George Herbert through the disappointment of his worldly aspirations to become a priest to thy Temple, a poet of thy praise, and an instrument of thy undivided love in a contentious time: guide us also by thy inner light so that we might worship thee together in the beauty of holiness.

[Read more...]

Jesus in Isaiah 52:13-53:12

We in the Church—along with many other Christians—read the “Fourth Servant Song” in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as transparently about Jesus. It’s kind of hard not to: phrases like “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” fit the Christological narrative almost too perfectly. And yet the presence of this passage in the Hebrew Scriptures suggests the possibility of a reading that has nothing at all to do with Jesus, because Jews obviously do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. So what is this other reading? More pointedly, why should we as Christians bother to look beyond the seemingly straightforward identification of the “servant” in this passage with Jesus?

[Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,625 other followers