Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

O Fortuna


I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;  I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name.  I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig's flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.
           
Behold, it is written before me: “I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their bosom both your iniquities and your fathers' iniquities together, says the LORD; because they made offerings on the mountains and insulted me on the hills, I will measure into their bosom payment for their former deeds.”

Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants' sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there.  Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me.
           
But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.”
(Isaiah 65:1-12 ESV)

In the 11th and 12th century in central Europe a movement called the Goliard produced a body of satirical poems we know today as Carmina Burana (follow this link to hear Carl Orff’s famous 1935 setting of some of the poems

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEllLECo4OM

O Fortuna,
velut Luna

statu variabilis,

semper crescis

aut decrescis;

vita detestabilis

nunc obdurat

et tunc curat

ludo mentis aciem;

egestatem,

potestatem,

dissolvit ut glaciem.

“O Fortune, like the moon of ever changing state, you are always waxing or waning; hateful life now is brutal, now pampers our feelings with its game; poverty, power, it melts them like ice.”

The poems were written by theological students and by clergy.  Most of the poems satirize the Catholic Church of the day, often in bawdy and uncomplimentary terms, ultimately concluding that following Fortune, goddess of the earth, is preferable to the following the will of the organized church.  The poems well illustrate what God is saying here in Isaiah 65.  “You who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny.”  

What happens when those who are commissioned to represent God forget God and his ways?  The answer is clear, “I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter.”  Has not the church all too often lived this out?  There is no need for God to bring the sword upon us.  We have brought it upon ourselves. From internal squabbles to denominational disputes, from backing foreign wars, to the Inquisition and the Crusades, we – the church -- have lived by the sword, and “the way of peace [we] have not known.”  It is a wonder there remains a remnant church at all. 

How did this happen?  “When I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen.”  That’s how.  This is the explanation for every sin and failure in my life.  I have to conclude it works on a global scale as well.

The deepest pain of any Christian’s life is knowing “you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.”  We all do that at times.  But the great glory of the Christian’s life is that “as the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants' sake.”  

God does not cast us aside.  That’s the miracle of his grace and mercy.   He chooses, against all evidence to the contrary, to believe in us, and continues to grant us (to expand on a famous Lewis quote) the “intolerable privilege” of representing him to the world, because he “has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” (The Problem of Pain, 1940, p. 33)

Jon

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