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Longing for Enough in a Culture of More

Longing for Enough in a Culture of More

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Longing for Enough in a Culture of More

valutazioni:
5/5 (1 valutazione)
Lunghezza:
154 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
Sep 1, 2010
ISBN:
9781426723216
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

These 25 brief, thoughtful meditations by Paul Escamilla are organized in five topics: The Good Book, The Good Life, the Good Work, The Good Society, and The Good Earth. Whether read privately or with a group, these probing essays invite rather than indict the reader - making the "life of enough" seem not only possible but a natural next step in our lives as Christians. A gifted writer, Escamilla leads the reader to anticipate both physical and spiritual relief from saturation and excess. Together the author and the reader search for the secret of escaping the lifestyle and attitudes of "a weighed-down world." A study guide includes questions for reflection or discussion.

An excerpt from the Circuit Rider review: "This is a helpful little book. Clergy and laity will find in it much to consider. In a highly consumerist culture, there is a great deal to examine as persons ask questions about what constitutes having 'enough': How much is enough? How do we find rest and peace for anxious hearts? How do we discover a depth of being in a society always bent on 'doing' and 'having' more? For persons who are searching and exploring what the next step in the journey of faith is, this book will provide an instructive pathway to growth by someone who has also "been there and done that." And what they will receive is not an indicting finger but a gentle and persuasive hand."
Pubblicato:
Sep 1, 2010
ISBN:
9781426723216
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Paul L. Escamilla is an elder in the Río Texas Conference serving as senior pastor of Laurel Heights UMC in San Antonio.

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Longing for Enough in a Culture of More - Paul L. Escamilla

see.

The Good Book

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me;

it has feet, it runs after me; it has

hands, it lays hold of me.

Martin Luther

Chapter 1

The Modesty of God

And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:10b

Don't you find it curious that in the entire creation account in the book of Genesis there's not a single exclamation point? No Heavens to Betsy! No Have a look at this! Not even a Glory be! It goes without saying that the creation account is a story of epic size and scope, drama and dimension, in which light is wrested from darkness, the sun and moon hurled into their everlasting orbits, living things brought forth from earth and sea at the very mention of their names, the great waters shoved back from the land and held spellbound, and, of course, the human creature drafted and crafted from God's very image, mere mud being the medium. Yet in all of this astonishing activity not a syllable of superlative language makes it onto the page.

The closest these accounts in Genesis come to exclamatory speech is—are you ready?—And God saw that it was good. That's it. Once, in what we can only imagine was a flourish of unchecked enthusiasm, the narrative gives us slightly more: God saw everything that God had made, "and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31, even the emphasis is mine). We're talking about the making of the universe here, the very origination of who we and the world are, the biggest event history has ever been privy to, and the best God can do is good and very good"? This we could call understatement of divine proportions.

I'm sure you can think of a moment in the creation event you believe might have called for at least a little hoopla, a place where the powers that be might have placed an exclamation point or two—a totally awesome! or an utterly amazing!— without being accused of getting carried away. What would be your choice? Making the light? Suspending the sun? Fashioning the human creature? Any of these could easily qualify as marquee material. What we get instead is plain print on pastel parchment, posted not under the lights but on the shelf, all matter and no mirth.

Maybe the scribe was low on ink, rationing it for essentials, or reserving exclamatory speech for the possibility of something really big happening later. Perhaps the story had been handled so many countless times, generation to generation, that by the time it was finally put to print it had lost some of its original language of luster and pizzazz, the way the marble feet of a statuary saint are worn away by countless years of kisses.

Or maybe there's something else involved. The creation story might be told in such dramatically undramatic speech partly as a means of showing the reader a way of viewing not only the world and ourselves within it—two things we'll have time to talk about later—but something more: a way of thinking about God, and about the way God thinks.

In these earliest verses of the Bible is a God who is portrayed not as super-Herculean, just suitably capable; not as hyperheroic, but creative; not as melodramatic, but merely attentive. God is not lionized, but simply recognized, accounted for, presented right in with everything else, all without a great deal of flourish. Furthermore, the creating this God does is conceived not by flashing wand or rolling chariot, magic incantation or angelic host; creation is conceived by something far more pedestrian: mere words—the same garden-variety tools available to every babbling child and raving lunatic, every highway billboard and cable infomercial, every starving poet and dime-store novelist.

What I'm suggesting is this: the way we are given the creation account is modest—it is modestly executed (with few words), modestly appraised (with fewer words), and modestly recalled (with a few more words). It's the plainspoken recounting of a good day's work, six times over. What it seems to reveal, among other things, and perhaps more than any other thing, is a certain modesty on the part of God, who is seen here employing mere language to make something out of nothing, without benefit—or more to the point, without need—of either fawning audience or flexing ego, fanfare introductions as it all begins or flaunting accolades when it's all wrapped up. In the tradition of a good utility player, God just gets in there, rolls up the old sleeves, and does the job. Furthermore, once all is said and done, God takes a breather. Now I ask you—did Hercules ever take a breather? This is a modest God if we've ever seen one.

For whatever assortment of reasons, we clamor at times for God to be great, awesome, supreme, omniscient, omnipotent, and a host of other superlative things besides. We can describe this as the need for what Peter Berger once called a sacred canopy, a way of understanding God that feels safe, strong, and unshakably sturdy. We know, of course, that God can, in some form or fashion, express many superlative attributes— God is often described as great (Psalm 145), mighty (Psalm 50), wonderful and magnificent (Isaiah 28:29), and powerful (Revelation 11:17). But as seems also to be true with people, the God we come to relate to the most transparently and trust the most deeply is not the God whose name we are likely to see in the marquee lights by virtue of being fabulous, stupendous, spectacular, incredible, or totally awesome, but the God who is simply—to borrow a word from the early pages of the GoodBook—good. Safe, strong, and sturdy is the sacred canopy spread over us by ordinary trustworthiness and love.

Where does that leave us? Perhaps with a slightly different perspective not only on God but also on those said to have been created in God's image, namely, us. If there is a sense in which God can be understood as modest rather than grandiose in character, then our own self-understanding may bear similar reflection. In the chapter just ahead, we'll explore that idea in greater depth. Once again, the trusty book of Genesis will be on hand to help us with that enterprise, painting a picture of a place that includes some surprisingly modest features and yet, curiously, still goes by the name of paradise.

Chapter 2

Paradise in the Balance

I've got two tickets to paradise. Won't you pack your

bags—we'll leave tonight.

Eddie Money

When you hear the word paradise, what comes to mind? Don't we usually think of our ideal vacation—or something like it—palm trees, soft breeze, wine and cheese, endless ease? There may be a chaise lounge in the picture, white sands, perhaps an occasional dip in the crystal-clear waters of the gentle surf, the requisite spa experience, and, of course, an abundance of delectable cuisine. Our favorite people are all there—and in the best of humor. Days and nights are filled with laughter, leisure, and relaxation. Everything is picture-perfect. Ah, paradise!

You'll think I'm crazy, but I've got a question: Is there work in your picture of paradise? Let me rush to my own defense: the question wasn't my idea. Paradise is where you don't work— that's the whole point, right? If we think of paradise as a glorified vacation, well, what is a vacation but getting away—emphasis on the word away—from work? Any mention of the w-word in the context of the paradise described above is likely to get a person scowled right off the beach.

As soon as you're done scowling, listen to this: the garden of-Eden, the place from which we draw our images of the original paradise, is more about work than pleasure. That's right—there's a time clock in paradise and punch cards. In both creation stories (Genesis 1:28-31; 2:15-22), we are given the idea right from the get-go that work is central to the human creature's idyllic existence. I'm not talking about the punishment phase after that little mishap with the serpent. I mean before that, when, as Browning put it, God was in heaven, and all was right with the world. Words about work are sewn into these earliest narratives like buttons on a jacket: God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . .' (Genesis 1:28). The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it (Genesis 2:15).

That second paradise picture almost gives us the idea that we were created with a job in mind! Just earlier in this narrative, before our kind ever appeared on the scene, the humans' advent is anticipated as those who will eventually be on hand to till the ground (2:5). Imagine the divine logic: "Hmmm, all these nice things I've created—fruit trees, lovely grasses, flowers, shrubs. They're definitely going to need some looking after—watering, weeding, pruning. I think I'll fashion a creature who can take care of this place. Let's see, something with an eye for beauty and a strong

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