Monday, November 26, 2007

Do Not Devour Each Other

I wrote this as a sermon for Homiletics, but I am trying to edit it a little bit for our purposes here. I will break it up into three (or so) segments.

"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." - Gal. 5:15

Galatians 5:13-18 acts as a crucial balancing statement to the previous exhortations in Galatians. The church there was divided—many believed that it was through following the Law that one might be saved and others (rightfully) condemned this belief. This misguided belief is what Paul has spent time correcting up to this point in the letter. Yet Paul warns the Galatians to move past their differences, telling them that if they keep “biting each other” they will “devour each other." Christians today are (obviously) just as fragmented and divisive as ever, with so many denominations, each composed by individuals with theological and practical differences. There is room in the Church for our differences—they are part of what make the body of Christ beautiful and colorful. But there is a danger that we hold onto these differences too tightly and alienate ourselves from our brothers and sisters and eventually devour each other with angry words.

I suppose there is always a danger to exclude, judge, look down on those brothers and sisters with different theological views, worship practices, etc. It is perhaps because of this tendency that so many people have been hurt by the Church—turned off by its hypocrisy or hurt by its misspent zeal. There is room for dialogue and opposing views on issues (my commitment to nonviolence, for instance.) I used to love listening to preachers just so I could discover how they had misquoted or misused a passage in Scripture. I suppose I'm trying to learn to let go of finding identity in being right or being part of the correct group of people or reading the right books. Otherwise, I will only continue this process of the Church “devouring” its own people. In the case of the Galatian church, it seemed to make little difference that the group who opposed the ones who wanted to follow the Law was really the “right” one; they too would devour and be devoured if they did not let go of their differences.

--John Orzechowski

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Journal of Christian Spirituality

I would like to bring attention to a young scholarly journal (first issue: 2001) that I think might be particularly relevant to our on-going community dialogue. It is called Spititus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality and is published by John Hopkins University Press. I am only beginning to explore the journal, but I am overwhelmingly impressed.

Here, as a sample, are the titles of an article and of a book review: "Raiding the Inarticulate: Mysticism, Poetics, and the Unlanguageable;" "Spirituality@work: 10 ways to balance your life on-the-job." There are also pieces on Thomas Merton, Flannery O'Conner, and Emily Dickinson. The classical mystics frequently come up as well. Poems are also published occasionally. I've found a number (at least 10) by Mary Oliver, one by Czeslaw Milosz (translated with Robert Hass), one by Scott Cairns, and one by Naomi Shihab Nye. There are some photo essays too.

The URL that I access it through is: However, I don't know if a subscription is necessary to use it.

The journal is the official publication of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. Their web page is:

Again, I have only begun to explore this resource, but what I have seen of it so far indicates that it might be a valuable and edifying resource for our community.

-Paul Corrigan

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Poetry, Spirituality, and Stress-Time

“Make sure that you don’t think too much about this” – a professor.

I should say rather, a concerned professor. The this (in the quote) refers to a poem that I showed a professor of mine. (I’ve appended it below.) He (oops, I mean, “he or she”) mentioned a few adjustments I might want to make: for example, use the word “cord” instead of "rope." And we chatted about the connotations that that would bring: umbilical cord, the monkey-line, the nooses in the news. (Maybe I’ll want to change the word, but to “line,” as in “tow the line,” which would go along with "towline.") The end of the conversation was the above comment. It startled me a little at the time, but I've thought more about it since, and I want to focus on the absurdity of the remark. And to emphasize his concern, consternation. He knew of my tremendous course workload—the insanity of the scientific process brought to literature. So he meant well . . . but HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU TELL SOMEONE TO NOT INVEST THEMSELVES INTO POETRY! Especially at the crux, when the hammers are falling, when the institutional structures are beating you down, sapping your vital energy, especially then, poetry, poetry.

APPENDIX: The poem is titled "Ishmael Knows This," by which I intend to insinuate a rewrite of Moby-Dick, as in "if Ishmael were honest with himself, he'd admit that 'Ahab' (whatever Ahab stands for) is alive." I'm not sure how this poem particularly relates to my entry above--other than the fact of it being a poem.

Ahab running loose—loose:
The pirates are chasing Ahab; the gods,
Ahab; the whale, Ahab;
Ahab, Ahab; but

I say—I say—I say unto you,
the rope, the rope: phantasmagoria:
the rope chasing Ahab—strung round
with a quick snap—the flying towline of the sea—
yea, yea—the rope is chasing Ahab, and

Ahab is loose—running loose.

PS: I am presupposing for this entry that the incarnational dynamic of poetry can directly relate to Jesus , redemption, and salvation; that the practice of poetry can be can be deeply spiritual and contemplative; and that therefore chatting about poetry is/can be relevant to discussing spirituality. I am open to reply-comments that you think might be relevant to spirituality, either about the entry or poem .

-Paul Corrigan

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Remaining in Christ: the Contemplative State

John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

The “remaining” Jesus speaks of in this passage is translated in the King James version as “abiding.” I believe it refers to living in and from the Spirit of Jesus. Other ways of thinking of it are as “communing” with the Spirit or “resting” in the Spirit even in the midst of action. Mystics have described it as the contemplative state as opposed to contemplative prayer. The point is a permanent state of connection and responsiveness to Jesus. It requires a transformation of consciousness, a change in our awareness so that we are able to have a sense of God’s presence and move in step with him as reality develops and unfolds moment by moment. In this way we can be his witness and his instrument. Coming to this place is a long-term process, a journey. Humility and a tender spirit are essential. Developing this kind of relationship with the Lord is my prayer for us all.

-Rickey Cotton

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