This installment of Just For You includes works from a biblical scholar, an American novelist, a boy-shepherd turned king, and Jesus. I’d say that’s a pretty good line up.
Since taking Esau McCaulley’s course called The Bible and Theology in Color offered at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in 2020, I’ve read his book Reading While Black, listened to him on numerous podcasts, and read his contributions at the New York Times. A central theme of his work is defiant joy. After I finish reading one of his pieces or listening to him in an interview, I am encouraged, more hopeful and joyful. And it’s not because he’s not talking about what’s happening in the world. On the contrary, he writes about some of the most terrible things happening in the world, and reminds us of why the people of God can have hope and joy in the midst of it.
“A consistent theme in the Bible is God’s desire to gather different types of people. Union across ethnic difference under the lordship of Jesus seems to be a central teaching of the New Testament,” says McCaulley. Our encounters with God don’t make us less of who we are, it makes us the people God intends us to be. This applies to individual and cultural encounters. God gave us our unique personalities, He gave each culture a distinctiveness to display His beauty and glory – on purpose. As we are formed into Christlikeness, those distinctions aren’t erased but made more beautiful……we become more fully who we are.
What kind of artistic forms can I use to shape people to think about the world in a way that may ultimately be conducive to God’s purposes?Esau mccaulley
This podcast episode will build you up, tell you truer stories about God and others, and inspire you in your work, whether you’re a pastor, artist, fitness instructor, or accountant. McCaulley’s written works will do the same. Like he says, “Go do your thing, child of God.”
Across the Path
I recently reread a novel I read in 2016 because it was assigned in one of my classes. It’s called Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. It was even better the second time around. Wendell Berry is an essayist, novelist, environmental activist, and farmer from Kentucky. He is one of those artists who does exactly what McCaulley mentioned above: he tells stories in a way that help shape us to think about the world in a way that may ultimately be conducive to God’s purposes.
Berry tells simple stories about simple people and makes us think about big things. He’s a deep theologian whether he tries to be or not. I urge you to pick up one of his novels. I plan to read Hannah Coulter this summer and I’m sure to enjoy it as much as I did Jayber Crow.
A Morning Liturgy
For the past several weeks, I’ve changed up my morning routine with a borrowed prayer. Sometimes I pray an old prayer of a saint. It could be one of Paul’s prayers from his epistles, or the well-known prayer of St. Patrick or St. Teresa of Avila. I’ve prayed several of the Psalms, especially Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer, and those from the Book of Common Prayer lately.
One morning last week I was surprised and delighted when I woke up and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer in my head. A couple of sentences in and I realized I was combining the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. How meaningful it is! I’m certain I’m not the first to do this, but I’ve prayed it since. Here’s how it goes:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
Sometimes borrowed prayers from the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us are exactly what we need. This one seems exceptionally appropriate for those times when we may not have our own words. The boy-shepherd turned king, David, penned Psalm 23, and the One who came to dwell among us, Jesus, taught his disciples to pray with the Lord’s Prayer.
What a beautiful way to start a day! It may help us stay focused as we go do our things.