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Spirituality for Dusty Crack Pots – Three Reflections to Prepare for Sunday

February 2, 2012

[This Sunday, we shall be reflecting on God’s gift of rest. If you’re feeling a little cracked, a little dusty, I believe that this may be a “divine appointment” for you – as it will be, I know, for me! To help us prepare to hear God speak to us, I invite us to read the reflections embedded below, by John Bailllie, Mark Buchanan, and Robert Grant.]

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One thing the Bible never allows us to do is to forget our earthly origin. The very first thing it tells us about ourselves is that we were ‘formed out of the dust of the ground.’ But the Bible also tells us that within this earthen vessel we hold a hidden treasure. Within the crock of clay there lies a precious jewel, our spiritual life, without which all else is dust and ashes.  

It is such a fragile thing and it is so easily quenched. In the bustle and hurry of the world’s business you will find it is threatened with extinction on every side. As Jesus Himself said, ‘the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in,’ are always threatening to choke it. This has always been the experience of people in every age, but perhaps in the modern West the danger is greater than it has ever been before. Life is more complex and more confused. Never have there been so many competing interests, so many possibilities of distraction, so many alternative ways of spending our time. Never have people had to be so carefully on their guard, in order to keep a little clear space at the centre of their lives in which the precious jewel may continue to shine and the tender flame continue to burn.

[John Baillie in Robert L. Seaborn, ed., Faith in Our Time, page 23 – from an address he prepared shortly before his death in 1960. I can’t help but be struck by how well these words describe the post-Modern twenty-first century West over 50 years after they were written!]

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God made us from dust. We’re never too far from our origins. The apostle Paul says we’re only clay pots – dust mixed with water, passed through fire. Hard, yes, but brittle too. Knowing this, God gave us the gift of Sabbath – not just as a day, but as an orientation, a way of seeing and knowing. Sabbath-keeping is a form of mending. It’s mortar in the joints. Keep Sabbath, or else break too easily, and oversoon. Keep it, otherwise our dustiness consumes us, becomes us, and we end up able to hold exactly nothing. 

In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest God invites us to enter more fully so that we might know God more deeply. “Be still and know that I am God.” Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still.

[Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, pages 2-3. The words “Be still and know that I am God” are a quotation from the tenth verse of Psalm 46. I am really enjoying this book, and am depriving myself of sleep in a frantic effort to cram its contents into my brain before Sunday (just kidding on this last bit!).]

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Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend.

O measureless Might, ineffable Love,
while angels delight to hymn thee above,
the humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
with true adoration shall sing to thy praise.

[These words by Robert Grant in 1833 are based on William Kethe’s paraphrase of Psalm 104 in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561. They are the last two verses of the Hymn, “O Worship the King,” a version of which is embedded below.]

From → All Posts, Music, Quotes

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