Friday, April 22, 2011

At the Cross Is the Real World

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

We contemplate for a time the meaning of Good Friday, and then return to what is called the real world of work and shopping and commuter trains and homes. As we come out of a movie theater and shake our heads to clear our minds of another world where we lived for a time in suspended disbelief, as we reorient ourselves to reality, so we leave our contemplation - we leave the church building, we close the book - where for a time another reality seemed possible, believable, even real. But, we tell ourselves, the real world is a world elsewhere. It is the world of deadlines to be met, of appointments to be kept, of taxes to be paid, of children to be educated. From here, from this moment at the cross, it is a distant country. "Father, forgive them, for they have forgotten the way home. They have misplaced the real world." Here, here at the cross, is the real world, here is the axis mundi.
Richard John Neuhaus

Monday, April 18, 2011

A "Crazy" Gospel

"And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Mark 14:3-9 (ESV)

Emmanuel Katongole writes, "Mary represents the 'rebel consciousness' that is essential to Jesus' gospel. Wherever the gospel is preached, we must remember that its good news will make you crazy. Jesus will put you at odds with the economic and political systems of our world. This gospel will force you to act, interrupting the world as it is in ways that make even pious people indignant."

Monday, April 11, 2011

There Is a Hope

This is just what I need to hear right now. There is a hope... There is a hope.. There is a hope!

by Stuart Townend and Mark Edwards
Copyright (c) 2007 Thankyou Music.

There is a hope that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for ev'ry passing day;
a glimpse of glory now revealed in meager part,
Yet drives all doubt away:
I stand in Christ, with sins forgiv'n;
and Christ in me, the hope of heav'n!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
to make His will my home.

There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Savior there!
Through present sufferings, future's fear,
He whispers, "Courage!" in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.

There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
and every longing satisfied,
then joy unspeakable
will flood my soul,
For I am truly home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

God, Theology, Theologian, and Prayer

Vladimir Lossky

'God is not the object of a science, and theology differs radically from the thought of philosophers. The theologian does not search for God as a man seeks an object; he is seized by Him as one is seized by a person. And it is because he has initially been found by God, because God, one might say, has gone forth to find him in the encounter of revelation, that he can then search for God, as one searches for a presence with all one's being (and so also with one's intellect). The God of theology is a "Thou"; He is the living God of the Bible, the Absolute, certainly, but a personal Absolute whom one can address intimately in prayer.' (Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology)

From my limited exploration of Orthodox Theology, it seems that Orthodox Theology has a very strong emphasis on the deep interconnectedness between theology and prayer. The former cannot be understood apart from the latter, and vice versa. This is one thing which other Christian traditions can learn from the Orthodox tradition.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Liberating Understanding of the Kingdom of God

I recently read an article written by someone who has been serving in a parachurch organization. In the last part of his article, he explains that the vibrancy of this organization in striving to obey God's will more than anything else is what makes him continue to serve with them. He concludes with the hope that the ministry of this organization will be greatly expanded.

To me, what is curious is the absence of the Kingdom of God in his reflection. So, it gives the impression that his ultimate concern is to expand, whatever this may mean, the kingdom of that particular organization. I guess it is not an overstatement to say that this kind of understanding is often found within local churches or Christian organizations. Some regard their own local ministry as fully identical to the Kingdom of God. When this happens, the consequence is, ironically, the dissolution of the Kingdom of God.

Oscar Romero's understanding is much more biblical and holistic. He eloquently writes:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts: it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No sermon says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

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