Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wisdom from B.B. Taylor's "The Preaching Life"

I've just finished Barbara Brown Taylor's The Preaching Life.  I picked it up because it was on the library shelf, not because I had a burning desire to read it.  So far, I've never read a book of hers that caused me regret, and this book was no exception. 

It's one of those books that I'd like to mark up.  In the past, I'd have bought the book and underlined it, and put it on the shelf, only to be taken down a time or two in the future.

I'm trying to accumulate less stuff, and so, I'm buying fewer books.  Instead of buying a book and marking it up, let me record some choice quotes here.

"Putting one foot ahead of the other is the best way to survive disillusionment, because the real danger is not the territory itself but getting stuck in it." (p. 9)

"For those willing to keep heaving themselves toward the light, things can change.  What has been lost gradually becomes less important than what is to be found."  (p. 9)

"It is a world that claims to have left us [Christians] behind, along with dragons and maps of a flat earth, but meanwhile the human heart continues to hunt its true home.  Today it is crystals and past-life readings; tomorrow it may be travel to Mars.  Ours is a restless and impatient race, known for abandoning our saviors as quickly as we elect them for not saving us soon or well or often enough." (pp. 11-12)

"If my own experience can be trusted, then God does not call us once but many times.  There are calls to faith and calls to ordination, but in between there are calls to particular communities and calls to particular tasks within them--calls into and out of relationships as well as calls to seek God wherever God may be found.  Sometimes those calls ring clear as bells and sometimes they are barely audible, but in any case we are not meant to hear them all by ourselves.  It was part of God's genius to incorporate us as one body, so that our ears have other ears, other eyes, minds, hearts, and voices to help us interpret what we have heard." (pp. 23-24)

"To glimpse the holiness of ordinary bread or wine or oil or water is to begin to suspect that holiness may be hiding in other things as well.  Holiness may be lurking inside a green leaf, a clay cup, a clean sheet, a freshly sawn board; it may be just below the surface of a key, a clock, a shiny stone.  To draw a line around the seven sacraments for which the church has rites is to underestimate the grace of God and the holiness of the creation.  According to the catechism, 'God does not limit himself to these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.'" (pp. 32-33)

"The search for sacraments becomes a search for our connections to God and to one another, and there is no end to them." (p. 36)

"If the church is where we learn who and whose we are, the world is where we are called to put that knowledge to use.

Answering that call requires no particular virtues.  Those who have been marked as Christ's own forever have everything they need, but a good imagination helps.  There is even a chance that the Christian vocation is above all a vocation to imagine--to see what God sees when God looks at the world, and to believe that God's dreams can come true."  (p. 37)

"By following the lectionary, we submit ourselves to one of the most ancient disciplines of the church.  Instead of picking and choosing our own ways through the Bible, we consent to take a guided walk.  With regular stops in the Old and New Testaments, it is a path that expands our horizons.  Frequently it leads us into territory we would never thought to have encountered or would have preferred to avoid, but that is the beauty of the walk." (p. 69)

She says this about the story of the rich young man who cannot give away everything he owns (Mark 10:  22-23): "It seems to me that Christians mangle this story in at least two ways.  First, by acting as if it were not about money, and second, by acting as if it were only about money."  (p. 124)

"Charity is no substitute for kinships.  We are not called to be philanthropists or social workers, but brothers and sisters.  We are called into relationship, even when that relationship is unlikely, momentary, or sad." (p. 138)

"We cling to the illusion that some of us are blessed and some of us are not, and that it is our job as those who are blessed to rescue those who are not.  . . . We succum to the illusion that they can all be saved if only we will work enough hours, find enough money, get enough publicity." (p. 160)

"We do not have to wear ourselves out protecting ourselves from the truth--that none of us is home yet, that home is hard to find, that our longing for home is deep and abiding and often very, very painful.  We do not have to use up all our energy running from that fact, or running from those who remind us of it."  (pp. 160-161) 

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