MacDonald (selections from Lewis)

it occurred to me that that’s sort of like Paul–that he’d rather have someone preach out of conceit, than not do it at all–but the giving is much more foundational, most likely.

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(73) Miracles

The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of his Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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(74) The Sacred Present

The care of the disciples was care for the day, not for the morrow; the word morrow must stand for any and every point of the future. The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years–in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything. Those claims only of the morrow which have to be prepared to-day are of the duty of to-day; the moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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This is one of Jesus’ teachings that I hope to understand better than I do. Isn’t planning for the future (the waiting virgins taking oil for their lamps) part of the duty of each moment anyway? I mean … if on the advice of James all I need to do is add “… if the Lord is willing …” into my thoughts and words as I plan, then that is an easy enough addition to make. Surely there is more difference between wickedness and righteousness than such a simple recognition tacked on at the front or back? [And one that is or ought to be implied in everything the Christian says or does at any rate.]

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(75) Forethought

If a man forget a thing, God will see to that: man is not lord of his memory or his intellect. But man is lord of his will, his action; and is then verily to blame when, remembering a duty, he does not do it, but puts it off, and so forgets it. If a man lay himself out to do the immediate duty of the moment, wonderfully little forethought, I suspect, will be found needful. That forethought only is right which has to determine duty, and pass into action. To the foundation of yesterday’s work well done, the work of the morrow will be sure to fit. Work done is of more consequence for the future than the foresight of an archangel.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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Further reflecting on Jesus’ admonishment that we not trouble ourselves over the morrow …

It seems that a reasonable understanding of this might be that it is to warn us away from the arrogance of thinking we’re in charge - and that our own plans are what makes the world go round (or even our own personal little world go round). If I’m able to always think of my own plans as contingent on so many things beyond my control (but not beyond God’s control), then I’ll hold to them lightly and always be looking for any alternative discernments the Lord may send my way should I be called to do course corrections in the moment. I.e. … sketching out your plans with pencil rather than a pen. (math teacher talk, that!)

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Always pencil, Merv.

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(76) Not the Rich Only

If it be Things that slay you, what matter whether things you have, or things you have not?

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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(77) Care

To-morrow makes to-day’s whole head sick, its whole heart faint. When we should be still, sleeping or dreaming, we are fretting about an hour that lies a half sun’s-journey away! Not so doest thou, Lord! thou doest the work of thy Father!

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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(78) The Sacred Present

The care that is filling your mind at this moment, or but waiting till you lay the book aside to leap upon you–that need which is no need, is a demon sucking at the spring of your life.

‘No; mine is a reasonable care–an unavoidable care, indeed!’

‘Is it something you have to do this very moment?’

‘No.’

‘Then you are allowing it to usurp the place of something that is required of you this moment!’

‘There is nothing required of me at this moment.’

‘Nay, but there is–the greatest thing that can be required of man.’

‘Pray, what is it?’

‘Trust in the living God. His will is your life.’

‘He may not will I should have what I need!’

‘Then you only think you need it. Is it a good thing?’

‘Yes, it is a good thing.’

‘Then why doubt you shall have it?’

‘Because God may choose to have me go without it.’

‘Why should he?’

‘I cannot tell.’

‘Must it not be in order to give you something instead?’

‘I want nothing instead.’

‘I thought I was talking to a Christian!’

‘I can consent to be called nothing else.’

‘Do you not, then, know that, when God denies anything a child of his values, it is to give him something he values?’

‘But if I do not want it?’

‘You are none the less miserable just because you do not have it. Instead of his great possessions the young man was to have the company of Jesus, and treasure in heaven. When God refused to deliver a certain man from a sore evil, concerning which he three times besought him, unaccustomed to be denied, he gave him instead his own graciousness, consoled him in person for his pain.’

‘Ah, but that was St. Paul!’

‘True; what of that?’

‘He was one by himself!’

‘God deals with all his children after his own father-nature. No scripture is of private interpretation even for a St. Paul. It sets forth God’s way with man. If thou art not willing that God should have his way with thee, then, in the name of God, be miserable–till thy misery drive thee to the arms of the Father.’

‘I do trust him in spiritual matters.’

'Everything is an affair of the spirit.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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(79) Heaven

For the only air of the soul, in which it can breathe and live, is the present God and the spirits of the just: that is our heaven, our home, our all-right place. Cleansed of greed, jealousy, vanity, pride, possession, all the thousand forms of the evil self, we shall be God’s children on the hills and in the fields of that heaven, not one desiring to be before another, any more than to cast that other out; for ambition and hatred will then be seen to be one and the same spirit.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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This is the foundational hope, isn’t it? Not rewards or recognition or honors or anything like that. But “our all-right place.” To be set right. What that goodness looks like or how it functions is beyond my imagination and defies any description.

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“…ambition and hatred will then be seen to be one and the same spirit.”

Strong words, those! And I’m not sure I’ve heard the modern western preacher courageous enough to utter those words. Ambition has something of an entrenchment and honored place already in the hearts of … well … all of us?

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Ambition (as part of competition) is seen as praise-worthy in our worst form of unbridled Western economic endeavors , i.e. unchecked Capitalism.

But ambition based in competition means that someone is going to have to lose. In playing zero sum games we eat each other alive. In order the understand the evil, we have to look behind us at the carnage rather than ahead to some shining golden future for the winners.

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I don’t think all of those are things that simply must be cut out from our being. Leastwise it isn’t their inclusion in the soup of our being which cause out dissatisfaction and alienation in life. It is more the violence of peevishly embracing them indifferent to the way they affect our neighbors which harms us most. Hardening our hearts to others leads to loss of belonging and we aren’t cut out for being islands.

Or maybe we are simply ambitious for the wrong things? If we were ambitious to serve what is greater than our narrow self interest and to do so well no harm would follow. And I don’t think it is any impediment to recognize our narrow self interest is best served by so doing.

I once heard a wise old pastor refer to something similar to this as “enlightened self-interest”.

I suppose there must be a place for that - just as there is a place for a “right” kind of pride - a pride in something bigger than yourself, even if and when it includes yourself. But always the dangerous edge ever lurks. One could be righteously proud of their country or something their nation has done, I suppose, but if it was done at the expense of other nations or peoples, then there the devil is, yet again waiting to claim his due. On the other hand, If I’m proud of my nation, my community, my ___, because of how it has helped others or made the entire world a better place for others as well, then surely that would be a righteous kind of pride? On the other hand, why feel proud at all? Jesus says that all the obedient servant did was what he was already expected to do in the first place. So Jesus just doesn’t seem to be a trophy-dispensing kind of guy. “What more are you doing than a lot of pagans already do just because they know it’s better for all concerned including themselves?”

It’s a hard lesson because we want to think of pride as having a righteous side to be found somewhere! Can a parent or teacher be proud of their child / student without really being proud of themselves? (and for that matter - what would be so wrong with that?) Probably nothing - at least by societal standards, and we all do it - even encourage it in among our colleagues and friends, especially if someone needs lifting up. But Jesus doesn’t seem to traffic much in societal standards.

Tough lesson.

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That’s why I don’t think we need to be all hide bent on expunging all traces of these negative traits. It is probably more realistic to hope they will just recede more and more only bubbling up on occasion but never bubbling over and certainly not with our enthusiastic support. It’s like the old maxim about calming the waters with a flat iron. Patience and a little detachment can get it done better.

Yeah - well - we’re all right there together, aren’t we!

One must keep in mind that the same source that would “expunge” every last particle of injustice from each of us is the same person who exhorted us to “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

So … there is realism, and then there is perfection. Another wise person I know likes to repeat the mantra: “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Maybe this is just another example of how we can delight in progress, but that we shouldn’t then think this ever leaves us with no more to be done. And part of our realism is to realize we never will arrive - at least not in this life.

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(80) Shaky Foundations

The things readiest to be done, those which lie not at the door but on the very table of a man’s mind, are not merely in general the most neglected, but even by the thoughtful man, the oftenest let alone, the oftenest postponed. The Lord of life demanding high virtue of us, can it be that he does not care for the first principles of justice? May a man become strong in righteousness without learning to speak the truth to his neighbour? Shall a man climb the last flight of the stair who has never set foot on the lowest step? Truth is one, and he who does the truth in the small thing is of the truth; he who will do it only in a great thing, who postpones the small thing near him to the great thing farther from him, is not of the truth.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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(81) Fussing

We too dull our understandings with trifles, fill the heavenly spaces with phantoms, waste the heavenly time with hurry. To those who possess their souls in patience come the heavenly visions. When I trouble myself over a trifle, even a trifle confessed–the loss of some little article, say–spurring my memory, and hunting the house, not from immediate need, but from dislike of loss; when a book has been borrowed of me and not returned, and I have forgotten the borrower, and fret over the missing volume, while there are thousands on my shelves from which the moments thus lost might gather treasure holding relation with neither moth, nor rust, nor thief; am I not like the disciples? Am I not a fool whenever loss troubles me more than recovery would gladden? God would have me wise, and smile at the trifle. Is it not time I lost a few things when I care for them so unreasonably? This losing of things is of the mercy of God; it comes to teach us to let them go. Or have I forgotten a thought that came to me, which seemed of the truth, and a revealment to my heart? I wanted to keep it, to have it, to use it by and by, and it is gone! I keep trying and trying to call it back, feeling a poor man till that thought be recovered–to be far more lost, perhaps, in a note-book, into which I shall never look again to find it! I forget that it is live things God cares about–live truths, not things set down in a book, or in a memory, or embalmed in the joy of knowledge, but things lifting up the heart, things active in an active will.

From the sermon: “The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

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