Thursday, April 30, 2009

Love, the only way.

A very close friend of mine who teaches religion at a seminary told me not long ago, and I paraphrase, "Personal religion or expressing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a sign of pure arrogance."  He speaks with absolute venom when the idea of having a personal God who loves each one of us individually.   The more we talk about it, the more angry he gets.  

Now I love this guy and we have a good relationship.  We respect each other's views and agree to disagree.
I won't hazard to guess as to why he comes to this conclusion, other than he's had a great deal of disillusion with evangelical Christianity.  He attended a conservative seminary and got his masters and doctorate at a noted liberal seminary.  But his mind was made up long before he got his advanced degrees.  

Now why do I bring him up?  Out of love for the man and to protect his identity, I won't reveal his name.  But I mention this because this is the prevailing view of many people.  He is also one who is a product of the description of the hazards I began to bring up a couple of posts ago regarding those who linger, sit and absorb the thought of a world that denies God as shown in Psalm One.

I'll return to Psalm One soon, but today, I was praying and listening to the Morning Prayers of the Divine Liturgy as presented on the Divine Office website.  The hymn sung in preparation was the great old hymn, "Jesus,  Joy of Man's Desire" sung by the great singer Mary Mancini.  It was a magnificent rendition.
The words are a slight update of Bach's "Jesu, Thou Joy of Man's desiring."  The translation I post here is simply in more modern terms.  Plus, I'm trying not to break any copywrite laws.  The words go, 

Jesus, joy of man's desiring,
Holy Wisdom, Love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.

I don't know about you, but this sure looks like a personal communication/prayer.  How more personal can you get, than "Jesus, joy of man's desiring"?  Jesus, you are my joy, my wisdom, my love.  Jesus I'm drawn to you, my soul aspires, longs, thirsts for you.  I feel like soaring like an eagle whenever I worship you.
Sounds like a personal expression of love to one who loves us.  Read those words, embrace them, and then tell me if that is not a personal expression of love.  Drink of joy from deathless springs.  What a picture of total intoxication with one who is love.  And then those final words, "Thou dost ever lead Thine own in the love of joys unknown."

I'm sorry folks, but this great hymn by Johann Sebastian Bach expresses in a grand manner the entire story of a compassionate loving God, who from Genesis to Revelation has stepped out of Heaven to enter into our world to establish personal and national relationships with the people he loved dearly, culminating in the greatest act of love on Calvary.  How can you not respond with the words of Bach.  
O  Abba, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I love you from the well springs of my being.  May we as your children learn to love you and others as you have loved us.


  1. A few days ago I thought I was kinda smart (just a little bit, you know) until I started going through "Christianity in a one-story Universe" (from your "Life, From An Orthodox Perspective"). May be difficult, but worth reading and thinking about. What a different way to look at the world, and a very powerful testimony.

  2. Pennyyak, I think you'll be challenged as I was. When we realize the implications of the Kingdom of God being with us, as Steven emphasizes in his One Story Universe, we can't help but be changed. My pastor keeps teaching about bringing heaven down here and what he is saying is said brilliantly in the One Story Universe teaching. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Rich,
    This is a beautiful post!!

    "I don't know about you, but this sure looks like a personal communication/prayer. How more personal can you get, than "Jesus, joy of man's desiring"? Jesus, you are my joy, my wisdom, my love. Jesus I'm drawn to you, my soul aspires, longs, thirsts for you. I feel like soaring like an eagle whenever I worship you."


    ~Amy :)

  4. Thank you Amy. I'm glad it spoke to you. I've always loved that old hymn. The more I sing it or hear it sung, the more I'm drawn into the interior life with Christ. Jesus is so real to me in those moments. There comes a point that you know that you know that you know, that Jesus is real and with us at all times, on a personal basis. I love him so much. And, with a friendly nod to you, that means I love Abba, Jesus, Holy Spirit too. To love Jesus is to love the whole package.