Receiving Everyone as God's Messenger
What Difference Would that Make?
Theophan the Recluse writes:
All the things we do, great or small, should be done as though the eye of God were looking at us. Every visitor or every person we meet should be welcomed as a messenger from God. The first question we should always ask inwardly is this: what does the Lord wish me to do with or for this person? We should receive everyone as though they were the image of God, reverencing them as ready to help them all we can.
Mercilessness toward self, willingness to undertake any service for others, and complete self-surrender to the Lord, abiding in Him in prayer—these are the things which build up spiritual life.
Is this the posture of your heart?
Toward your children?
Toward your parents?
Toward your spouse?
Toward the angry person on the other end of the phone?
Toward the new person you need to train?
Toward every student you teach?
Toward the stranger walking through your door, or the person interrupting you in your work?
Toward those you work alongside?
Toward the person who can do nothing for you?
What would happen if this became the posture of your heart?
Pray that it would be so.
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is a novel I’m not giving up on. I passed the halfway point. My paperback copy has just under 1,000 pages. He has amazing command of the English language. He writes incredible sentences. His brilliance flashes on the page. There are occasional bursts of humor. The world he builds is familiar in its weirdness. Infinite Jest is set in a future not far beyond the time of its writing, on a North American continent that has undergone widespread political realignment. The commercialization of everything, as described in the novel, feels familiar. The dysfunctional, entertainment-oriented and cynical politics feels very, very familiar. Characters’ obsessions with pleasure as a means of escape and destruction are described in ways that possess prophetic timelessness in the critique of human nature. But the characters aren’t interesting, and the plot, if there is one, is obtuse. I make it through ten to twenty pages each night. I’m past the point of expecting a payoff for my endurance. But I’m pressing on.
I completed Wendell Berry’s This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems.
Remember that Chernow book I was reading about George Washington? Still reading it.
I finished a new book by Cornelius Plantinga, Under the Wings of God: Twenty Biblical Reflections for a Deeper Faith. I’ve been given an opportunity to review it for a web-based publication. It is well written and contains a number of insights. I recommend it.
The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, compiled by Igumen Chariton of Valamo, contains riches. I finished reading it this week. I highlighted, marked, and noted passages I will return to for further contemplation. Most of the selections in this volume are from Theophan the Recluse, an Eastern Orthodox monk who lived in the 1800s. Eastern Orthodox spirituality emphasizes The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and this volume does have large portions of commentary on this prayer and its practice. But there are other observations about prayer in this book that I have found to be personally true but seldom articulated in writings and teachings on prayer that I have encountered.
I began Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger. I’m only fifty pages in, but I’m hooked.
Sights and Sounds
I shared my February tunes.
I watched The Other Guys (2010), a buddy cop satire starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. To my surprise, I loved it.
I also watched 47 Ronin (2013) starring Keanu Reeves, a movie I remember being hated on release. I understand why. The film is mystical and strange, and contains honor/shame elements that are confusing to those unfamiliar with these kinds of cultures. Honor/shame is centrally featured in the film’s climax in the ritual of hara-kiri. Last year I watched the 1962 movie Harakiri, which prepared me to appreciate 47 Ronin in ways I would not have otherwise.
Lastly, Black Adam (2022) was underwhelming. My son David crawled in to my lap while I was watching it. That was the best part of the experience. When the credits rolled and David saw “Dwayne Johnson,” he said, "Who was he?” He had never associated the name with a face. His friends at school talk about “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.” I enjoyed helping him make the connection. Indestructible superheroes with no vulnerabilities are not interesting to me. I haven’t been taken in by the stories DC has told on screen, though there are many characters in their universe I do like. We’ll see what their future films hold. Maybe James Gunn will take fresh, more interesting turns.
On the blog: I shared a sermon I would’ve preached had our winter storm not occurred (actually, the sermon was different; I would’ve cut it down if I delivered it in a room with other people), a biblical reason for patient presence in ministry, ways Christians can be helpful as generalists, instruction on beginning your day with reverence, and how to keep perspective on the progress we’re making.
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P.S. - The freeze we had a couple of weeks ago didn’t much affect the roads, but it did rest heavy on our trees.