Around 15 years ago, I heard Eric Treuil quote Dorothy Sayers to the effect that the carpenter from Nazareth never built any shoddy tables. It was fabulous. I’ve been thinking about that observation off and on ever since.
I recently stumbled upon it again, this time in its original form. It’s found in the essay “Why Work?” by Dorothy Sayers which appeared in her book Creed or Chaos
and is also now available online .
Here’s one of my favorite passages:
The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly – but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.
[The Church] has lost all sense of the fact that the living and eternal truth is expressed in work only so far as that work is true in itself, to itself, to the standards of its own technique. She has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred. Forgotten that a building must be good architecture before it can be a good church; that a painting must be well painted before it can be a good sacred picture; that work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work.
The whole essay is well worth reading and I commend it to you.
While preparing for this week’s sermon I was reminded of one of my all-time favorite poems. I won’t be able to use it in the message, so I thought I’d share it here as a bonus.
It’s God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins
. You can find more of his poems at Bartleby
THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Do you have a favorite poem?
Last year I had the chance to meet a guy named Benson Hines. He took a year to travel to nearly 200 college campuses to see what God was up to, and one of his stops was Stanford University. We met and talked shop for a while and have stayed in touch via Facebook since then.
Benson has just written a free book called Reaching The Campus Tribes
about his observations. His central thesis: college ministry is a whole lot more like foreign missions than it is like youth ministry
It’s going to be fully available next Monday at http://reachingthecampustribes.com/
. For now, there’s a prerelease version you can download (pdf link, 4.2 MB).
Benson also has a blog: Exploring College Ministry. Check it out.
One of my favorite MP3s is Tim Keller’s Preaching to Believers and Unbelievers. I desperately want to preach in such a way that I nourish believers while simultaneously engaging nonbelievers.
I don’t know of any comparable resource that talks about musical worship. Does anyone know of a good MP3, article or book along these lines?
I’m not just looking for something that says, “We should do this.” I’m looking for something that says, “We should do this, and here is how.”
You can leave a comment or send me an email/Facebook message.
The Freakonomics blog tipped me off to a fascinating interview with the author of a recent book on marriage in America. Two of the author’s responses stood out to me (emphasis added):
Fifty years ago you had to be married to be a respectable adult in the United States. Today, marriage is optional—you can get most of your emotional and economic needs by living with partner—and single parents can also get by. But oddly enough, marriage is, if anything, more important than ever to people as a symbol of having made it in life—of having a successful personal life. Most young Americans still want to get married, but they do it only when all the other steps to adulthood are in place—when they have completed their education, when they and their partners have jobs, when they have saved up enough for a down payment on a house, or even have had children together. Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood, but now it is the last. It’s the capstone of personal life—the final brick put in after all the others are in place.
So marriage is still important, but in a different way than in the past. It’s a symbol of personal achievement—the ultimate merit badge, the marriage badge.
One statistic that stunned me: take two children, one growing up with married parents in the United States, and one growing up with unmarried parents in Sweden—which child has the higher likelihood of seeing his parents’ relationship break up? Answer: the American kid, because children living with married parents in the United States have a higher probability of experiencing a break-up than do children living with unmarried parents in Sweden. That’s how high our break-up rates are.
So… yeah. If it sounds interesting to you, check out The Marriage-Go-Round. Interestingly, the Google Books page is very sparse right now. How long does it take for new books to get a full listing?
WARNING: grammar geekiness ahead.
I hate songs with nonsensical lyrics, especially those that purport to be worship songs. The lyrics of a song matter far more to me than their accompanying music: I would forbid a song from being played in my ministry for having bad lyrics but never for having chords which I did not like.
And so I was especially pleased to make sense of some puzzling lyrics in My Redeemer Lives
in church this morning.
The problematic stanza is
You lift my burdens
I’ll rise with You
I’m dancing on this mountain top
to see Your kingdom come
I was hung up on the word “to”, which I took to mean “I am dancing on this mountain top in order to bring about Your Kingdom’s arrival.” In another language this would be called a dative of purpose. This troubled me, because as Lindsey
said this morning, “There are few things less likely to bring about the kingdom than dancing on a mountain. How about feeding some homeless people or talking to someone about Jesus?”
But then I realized there were at least two other interpretations of the word “to”. It could be like a dative of instrument (“I am dancing on this mountain top because I get a good view from up here which enables me to behold Your kingdom as it spreads on earth”) or like an ablative of attendant circumstances (“To see your Kingdom come causes me to dance on this mountain top”).
I suspect it’s the latter.
So now I can sing that song.
For the 1% of you who have been similarly puzzled, you’re welcome.
For the 80% of you wondering if I made up the words dative and ablative, check out Wikipedia’s list of grammatical cases.