Saturday, November 19, 2011

Presence-to-Bless {A Response from Dr. T. David Gordon}

Dr. Gordon has kindly offered his thoughts on the conversation regarding the sacred and the mundane. I found them to be clarifying of the issues and an encouragement toward humility and grace as we discuss these things. Here is his response:

Dear Mrs. Rosenkranz,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me; permit me to attempt at least an abbreviated reply.

Church-historically speaking, this is the issue that separates the Eastern and Western churches.  Within Eastern Orthodoxy, all of life is sacred, everything is sacramental.  The Western churches believe that only some realities are sacraments (though Protestants and Catholics differ on the number).  A colleague of mine here is Orthodox, and we've discussed the matter many times.  Here's what I've learned from him and while I yet do not agree with him.

He is right to teach us that God discloses Himself in all the works of His hands, just as Rembrandt discloses Rembrandt in each painting.  So in this sense, it really is true that every aspect of creation is and can be (and should be?) revelatory.  The "natural" realm, as we call it, is the realm in which the "supernatural" God makes Himself known.  Perhaps the well-known hymn "This Is my Father's World" makes this claim.

At the same time, the distinction between the sacred and the mundane is important.  After Genesis 3, we have been banished from the presence of God, whom to know is life eternal.  His presence is still a source of great blessedness, but he deliberately and judicially banned us from His presence; and since then has only invested that presence in special places (e.g. tabernacle) or events (e.g. the Lord's Supper).  So, once we get beyond the semantic issue of how best to say this, there is still an important truth in saying that God has pledged His presence in the Supper in a way that He has not pledged it when I'm hiking in the woods.

While due humility should probably induce us all, therefore, not to be too insistent on any particular way of articulating the matter (e.g. sacred/secular, sacred/mundane, two kingdoms, etc.), I think we must acknowledge both truths:  that God discloses Himself in all created things, but pledges His presence-to-bless (or curse) in only a small number of created things or events.  I myself would be content if we could all agree on these two points, even as we do our best to consider how best to put the matter.

That God would bless and keep you and yours, is the prayer of your servant,
Dr. T. David Gordon
Professor of Religion and Greek
Grove City College

. . . . .

Dr. Gordon is a Professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College, author of several books and many articles, including "Vocation: Work Quietly with Your Hands" in Modern Reformation magazine, Vol. 20.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vocation and the Sacred {a conversation}

Edie at Life in Grace recently wrote about "Where mundane touches sacred," inviting us to appreciate the "sacred work" of the mundane. Such encouraging words for all of us as we go about the daily drudgery of the many things to which we have been called. I emailed her with a question that she very graciously added to the end of her post. I'd like to expand on a bit on my thoughts here.

This is my email: 


Your post today was beautiful, well-written, and brought a tear to my eye. And it touched on some things I’ve been mulling over lately. I’ve been thinking about this idea of all things being sacred–of finding the spiritual in the mundane things. I’d love to know what you think, since I think we approach our understanding of Christianity and the church from similar perspectives.

I’m wondering about the conflating of sacred and secular, or of sacred and all of life. I’ve read others writing similar (encouraging!) things. I certainly appreciate and recognize the reality that God works in all of our life–through the mundane and the routine and the little things. But I wonder if that is the same as a thing being sacred? I wonder if our sacramentalizing all of life actually may cause us to care less about, to lose our wonder at the true sacraments ordained by Christ and the special grace of which they are a means. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics and I’m thinking too much about this. Maybe it’s just because I was an English teacher and I get really interested in the words we use and how the usage changes, but maybe the usage does affect the way we think and then finally what we believe.
Just my two cents, for what it’s worth. I love your thought-provoking writing, Edie. No need to respond unless you want to.

Love to you,
the given life

I agree with so much of what Edie wrote ~
              the significance of the small, everyday things,
                                        that our work, no matter how mundane, is truly vocation ~
                                                                                                                       that is, divine calling

In fact, I think that we have lost the meaning of the word vocation, or allowed our understanding of it to shrink to include only special professions, especially those related to ministry, and to exclude those things that are unglamorous, menial, or temporary.

I stand with those who would broaden 
our understanding of vocation, 
elevating our little things 
~ like laundry and diapers, paperwork and planting ~ 
giving them standing as worthy work, 
part of our divine calling as humans 
made in the image of God. 

T. David Gordon writes, "Human life is never 'on hold'; it does not begin when we find 'the right job' or the ideal job. It begins when we imitate God; and if we labor productively in his created order . . . , we are doing what we were created to do."

We can find deep fulfillment and satisfaction in knowing that God worked for six days
creating the material world, the ordinary things and the small things, 
and he proclaimed that it was "good." 
By working in this ordinary, physical, world
(cleaning, feeding, tucking little ones into bed)
we are participating in God-ordained tasks; 
this everyday work "is essential to our very nature and dignity as human beings." 

We can find significance in the small things, 
and "in whatever [we] do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. 
You are serving the Lord Christ"
(Col. 3:23-24).

By recovering a large and full understanding of vocation, we can avoid losing the special meanings held by the words "sacred" and "sacrament." The Westminster and Heidelberg catechisms both ask the questions "What is a sacrament?" and "How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the New Covenant?" And they answer, in my summarized paraphrase, that a sacrament is a holy, visible, sign and seal, which mediates grace to the believer by more fully declaring and sealing to us the promise of the gospel. And that there are only two sacraments, namely baptism and the Lord's supper.

I want to enter into my menial workaday life 
with passion and meaning
But I also want to regard the means of grace that Christ instituted 
as holy and unique
I think I can do both. 
But the words I choose matter, they designate categories. 
All things do not need to be set apart in order to be significant. 
If all things are set apart, then nothing is set apart. 
But God, by the act of creation and by creating us in his image 
has made all things good, and made our lawful work noble and dignified. 
So, we can find deep satisfaction in our menial tasks, 
while also reserving the words "holy" and "sacred" for those things 
that God himself has designated as such.


(I have borrowed heavily in my thinking from T. David Gordon's article "Vocation: Work Quietly with Your Hands," published in Modern Reformation, Vol. 20 and from the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Defending the Fatherless

Many churches recognize the first Sunday in November as "Adoption Sunday," 
a day for the church to consider the theology of our own adoption ~ 
from weak, broken, enemies of God to chosen, forgiven, children of God. 

It is also an opportunity to think about how we as the church can care for the fatherless. 

One of the most striking things about this focus, for me, is how we all are the needy ones. 
Each and every one of us, fatherless until chosen by God, without a family until brought into the church. 
Oftentimes the call to social action overshadows the greater reality that Christ himself is making his kingdom 
and ultimately fulfilling all of the Old and New Testament admonitions to justice and peace. 

In Luke 6, Jesus reads from Isaiah,

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

and then he announces,

"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Ultimately, finally, Jesus is the healer, liberator, savior. 
We, having been chosen in him, can walk in his way, 
in a manner worthy of our calling as children of God. 

~ welcoming the outcast ~
~ working to free the wrongly imprisoned ~
~ giving to those who have need ~
~ defending the fatherless ~

We are called to the many varied outworkings of loving our neighbor, 
loving our enemies, loving the unlovely. 

Not because we are creating the kingdom
but because we are children of the King.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rachel's Greek Chili

Last week we had Greek chili, a recipe passed along to us by my sister from her friend, Rachel. 
It's a lighter, healthier variation on traditional chili ~ great for cooler days.


1 can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can chick peas
1 can black olives (either sliced, or cut in half)
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. ground turkey
1 large onion
crumbled feta cheese
pita chips


Brown the onion in a bit of olive oil. Add turkey and spices. Add tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes.

Drain and rinse and add chick peas, olives, and artichokes.

Simmer for a while. Serve with feta and pita chips.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


         Before the foundations of the earth,
                                       before God separated the light from the darkness,
                                                                                                                        before time began,

God chose those whom he had predestined for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. 
Sons of God. Inheritors of the promise. Co-heirs with Christ. 


When viewed from this perspective, 
                               beyond the stars and the planets and galaxies,
                                                before my first cry, my first failure, my first stirrings of belief,

it becomes starkly, strikingly clear that he chose me 
because of his great grace, for the praise of his glory

It's not about me.

                He reached down,  
                                   through the tangle of history,  
                                                            into the turbid ebb and flow of human misery,

and grasped my hand,  and drew me to himself. 


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, 
that we should be holy and blameless before him. 

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, 
according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, 
with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, 
according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, 
in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, 
according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, 
to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:3~10

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