Weighed Down With Worry

The Atlas Slave by Michelangelo, 1525–30.

THE HIDING PLACE
Corrie ten Boom

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex sin?”
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It’s too heavy,” I said.
Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

Luke 12:22–31

22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.


I am always amazed to see how much a person ages when they become President of the United States. They seem to go in with dark hair and come out with grey. I can only imagine the knowledge they are forced to bear and how the grave responsibilities of the office must weigh on their minds. Politics aside, we should pray for our leaders every day.

That also helps me to avoid questioning God when I don’t understand His ways. We don’t have enough wisdom to manage our own lives, much less so the affairs of the universe. The Bible says we should look to God as our Father and seek His will in our lives. Jesus reminds us that God is King and the answer to every worry is to let God be God.

As Ken Kovacs wrote in his book Out of the Depths

According to Jesus, the antidote to worry is the kingdom. The kingdom is the core message of Jesus’ preaching. Now, it’s natural to be anxious and to worry. But Jesus wants us to direct our attention away from what we think we don’t have (scarcity) to what we already do have, which is God’s kingdom that is and is still coming, and then he reminds us and calls us to rest and trust in God’s providential care for all of creation, from the detestable ravens, to the lilies of the field, to every human being created in God’s image. For we are, as the psalmist said, the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). Jesus is drawing us out away from anxious obsessions toward God’s faithfulness and invites us to act from within that sense of trust. To be caught up in a constant state of anxiety and worry is lack of faith; in other words it’s a sign that we’re not fully resting in God’s goodness. I don’t think Jesus says this to judge us—nor do I say this in judgment—Jesus isn’t trying to make our lives more difficult, but wants to show us a still more excellent way.

 

How is it practically possible to eliminate worry?

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Logo

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

 

 

Ken Kovacs
Ken Kovacs

Kenneth E. Kovacs is pastor of the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland, and has served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. He is also an analyst-in-training at the C. G. Jung Institute-Zürich. Author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter & Conviction (New York: Peter Lang, 2011) and Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), his current research areas include C. G. Jung and contemporary Christian experience. Ken has served on the board of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, is a current board member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, and a book reviewer for The Presbyterian Outlook.

Ken’s weekly sermons at CPC can be found at http://kekovacs.blogspot.com/

 

D I G  D E E P E R


 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

 

It’s nearly impossible to quantify the effects, both immediate and long-term, the events of World War II had on Christianity. As in any great conflict, the tenets of Christianity in Europe and North America were irreparably shuffled, and the Great War gave rise to some of the most revered Christian thinkers and writers in history.
Swiss theologian Karl Barth opposed the twisting of German Protestant beliefs into nationalism, sparking the inception of the Confessing Church, which opposed Nazi influence in Christianity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the founders of the Confessing Church, advocated the assassination of Adolph Hitler and was hanged in a concentration camp in 1945. In 1943, the BBC broadcast a series of talks from Oxford don C. S. Lewis, a collection that would later become Mere Christianity. French theologian Jacques Ellul was forced to hide in the Bourdeaux countryside and became a member of the French Resistance. Brother Andrew van der Bijl, who we talked about previously, waged a single-handed partisan campaign on occupying forces in the Dutch lowlands as a teenager. As the Axis powers fell—the echoes of a worldwide conflict, the horrors of genocide, the sheer crushing weight of the consequences—the church was left to grapple with what remained. Broadly, and particularly in North America, the church rejected pacifism, embraced Christian Zionism, and fascism fell off the map as a viable political option.
Through all this upheaval, there was Corrie Ten Boom, the youngest daughter of a well-regarded Dutch family from Haarlem. Two years after the Blitzkrieg tore through The Netherlands, the Ten Booms joined the Dutch resistance. Due to Corrie’s charity work and her family’s reputation, she became a connector for the resistance in Haarlem. The Ten Booms were able to procure additional ration cards, and for two years hid Jewish refugees in a specially-designed hidden room in their home.
The family was finally arrested in early 1944 due to a Gestapo informant, and Corrie and her sister were eventually moved to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp in northern Germany. In December of that year, Corrie’s sister, Betsie, died. A few weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, Corrie Ten Boom was released from Ravensbruck due to a clerical error. Two weeks after that, all female prisoners of the camp around Corrie’s age were killed.
The Hiding Place, the story of the Ten Booms’ experience, became one of the most well-known books about the Holocaust and the underground lattice of dissenters who risked their lives to save the Jews.
 Dan Gibson, Jordan Green, and John Pattison, Besides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012).
Art: The Atlas Slave by Michelangelo, 1525–30.
It is one of the ‘Prisoners’, the series of unfinished sculptures for the tomb of Pope Julius II. It is now held in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

Crisis Of Faith

1024px-van_gogh_-_trauernder_alter_mannLes Misérables
Victor Hugo

“Diamonds are found only in the dark bowels of the earth; truths are found only in the depths of thought. It seemed to him that after descending into those depths after long groping in the blackest of this darkness, he had at last found one of these diamonds, one of these truths, and that he held it in his hand; and it blinded him to look at it.”


Victor Hugo is the most towering figure in French literature.  Though he produced extensive poetry and prose, he is famous popularly for the novels The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables.

Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean.  Newly released from prison after serving a long term for stealing a loaf of bread, he is ostracized because of his ex-convict status. Bishop Myriel takes Valjean in and treats him kindly, but Valjean repays him by stealing his silverware. When the police arrive, Myriel claims the silverware was a gift, thereby giving Valjean another chance at a new life. Myriel’s only request is that Valjean become an honest man.

His story is that of a man struggling at once with the brutality of the letter of the law and the yearning for freedom which can only be realized in grace.  Victor Hugo uses imagery from the watery fate of the prophet Jonah to describe Jean Val Jean’s fall into despair. As circumstances begin to drown Jean, “he drinks in bitterness and it is all liquid hatred to him.”

A crisis is that decisive moment when, due to circumstances and the diminished ability to cope, the status quo is no longer sustainable and something must change.  Out of crisis something new must and will emerge—hence the common association of crisis with emergency.

The trajectory of an entire life is often determined by how crisis moments are navigated; such intense junctures (also known as “tipping points”) are pregnant with promise and peril.

The question is never if these moments will come, but whether we turn to One whose grace is entirely sufficient.

IMG_0181Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

D I G  D E E P E R


Art: At Eternity’s Gate by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh

At Eternity’s Gate is an oil painting by Vincent van Gogh that he made in 1890 in Saint-Rémy de Provence based on an early lithograph. The painting was completed in early May at a time when he was convalescing from a severe relapse in his health and some two months before his death, which is generally accepted as a suicide.

Literature & Liturgy: Victor Hugo and Crisis

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo

Between 1822 and 1832 Hugo established himself as a major literary figure in France. He wrote poetry, novels, and plays and became a leader in the Romantic movement.

In 1830 his play Hernani was a spectacular success. By shattering the artificial rules that had previously governed the writing of French drama, Hugo brought new freedom to the French stage. His novel Notre Dame de Paris was published in 1831. Translated as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it became vastly popular in many countries. In 1832 his play Le Roi s’amuse, or The King’s Diversion, on which Giuseppe Verdi later based his opera Rigoletto, was staged. Like so many of Hugo’s works, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The King’s Diversion were criticisms of social and political injustice. Another reason for writing the plays was to provide parts for the young actress Juliette Negroni, who became his mistress in 1833 and was to be his companion for the rest of her life.

In 1841 Hugo was elected to the French Academy, and in 1849 he became a member of the National Assembly. An outspoken political opponent of Napoleon III, Hugo had to flee France in 1851.

He remained in exile until 1870. During that time he wrote some of his finest works. In 1862 appeared Les Misérables, one of the most popular novels of all time. Hugo’s wife died in 1868, and Negroni moved into his home.

After the fall of the empire in 1870, Hugo returned to Paris. There he lived the rest of his life as a literary idol. Huge crowds turned out to celebrate his 80th birthday. Hugo died in Paris on May 22, 1885, and is buried in the Panthéon.

Some forms of recent Christian spirituality have highlighted the punctiliar (that is, it happens in an instant) nature of crisis and the profound urgency of choice. Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish father of modern existentialism, is best known for his haunting interpretation of the enigmatic biblical story of Abraham offering his beloved only son Isaac as a human sacrifice. According to Fear and Trembling (1843), the divine command to kill made no sense to Abraham and seemed to contradict every shard of moral sensibility; yet in that moment, hung suspended in eternity, the man of faith inexplicably chose to obey. He had said “yes” to God. The murder was averted and the crisis passed, but the father would never be the same again.

Building on an existentialist foundation, twentieth-century theologians like Karl Barth developed what was called a theology of crisis. Unlike the immanent God of liberal Protestantism, Barth’s God is altogether transcendent, touching humanity at tiny points of intersection (rather like the pinprick dot between a circle and a tangent), such that the divine reality from on high can never hang around for long or be domesticated or incorporated into anything human (e.g., such as a sacred text or a religious sentiment). Accordingly, God arrives out of nowhere, topples us off our chairs with a glancing touch, and then disappears. But we know that it was God, and we are forever changed.

According to British historian David Bebbington, the evangelical tradition has always been conversion-centered. The life-transforming religious experiences of seventeenth-century Pietists and Puritans, as well as those that characterized the Great Awakening of the 18th century and subsequent revivalism, all centered around the crisis moment of “salvation” in which disillusionment with alternatives, conviction of sin, and fear of judgment intensified until they exploded in the massive joy and relieved assurance of grace and eternal life. Given this historical legacy, it was only natural that the Christian life would often be conceptualized by subsequent evangelicals as a series of crises, beyond conversion itself, through which important added dimensions of a “deeper,” “higher,” or more empowered and Spirit-filled Christian life could be appropriated.

Inevitably the spiritual journey involves crises, though not necessarily a normative set. With these in view, the Scriptures encourage vigilant readiness, the virtues of courage and resilience when everything is on the line, and hope in God who makes all things new. Happy are those for whom the old is gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

Bibliography

Glen G. Scorgie, “Crisis,” ed. Glen G. Scorgie et al., Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 381.
Barbour Publishing Inc, Book Lover’s Devotional (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour, 2011).
Louis Markos, Literature: A Student’s Guide, ed. David S. Dockery, Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 98.
“Hugo, Victor,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).