What I Learned From A 1656-Year-Old Dead Man: Part 2

Augustine of Hippo

Fall has sent the Rogue Valley a postcard.  Says it will be here soon; meanwhile, enjoy the hints of crisp, cool air and cloudscapes.  The dabbling of warm colors emerging on but a selection of green, full-bodied deciduous growth on the hills and throughout parks.

The transference of the musings within Saint Augustine’s “Confessions” has come to completion.  So much transparency and conviction.  Some things that I have questioned in the journey past. Much that I haven’t.

More from Augustine’s Confessions

Some additional selections and reflections:
“The one thing that delighted me in Cicero’s exhortation was the advice not to study one particular sect but to love and seek and pursue and hold fast and strongly embrace wisdom itself, wherever found.”
  • Don’t ever base your foundational beliefs and worldview upon one individual, one leadership group, one institution, one denomination. This is counterproductive to challenging ideas, to expanding thought processes, to becoming a well-rounded, fully equipped, tension-embracing disciple of Jesus.  And for all sorts of contexts.  Celebrate truth and wisdom wherever you find it, even if it’s outside conventional outlets of faith or spirituality.  Engage culture to see what’s beautiful and true and worthwhile.  Welcome opposition to your current understanding of the world. Embrace a friendly debate of finer points of lifestyle, theology, methodology, and especially music preferences.  Consider diversity. Wrestle with the unfamiliar. Like dirt under your fingernails, it’s good for ya.
“It is good to make confession to you, Lord, and to say, have mercy on me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.  I must not abuse your mercy so as to make it a license for sin, but remember the Lord’s saying; look, you are made whole, now do not sin, lest something worse happen to you.”
  • Don’t abuse grace.  Don’t cheapen grace by taking advantage of it for personal gain. Do enjoy mercy and render thanks to God who gives it.  You don’t deserve what you’ve been offered.  Join the movement of a transformed life.
“If physical objects give you pleasure, praise God for them and return love to their Maker lest, in the things that please you, you displease him.  If souls please you, they are being loved in God for they also are mutable and acquire stability by being established in him…For he did not create and then depart; the things derived from him have their being in him.  Look where he is – wherever there is a taste of truth.  He is very close to the heart; but the heart has wandered from him.  Return, sinners, to your heart, and adhere to him who made you.  Stand with him and you will stand fast.  Rest in him and you will be at rest.  Where are you going to along rough paths?  What is the goal of your journey?  The good which you love is from him.”
  • Reminds me of this.  I like how this has to do with God’s character and how we can recognize him as the author of all things good.
“He who for us is life itself descended here and endured our death and slew it by the abundance of his life.  In a thunderous voice he called us to return to him, at that secret place where he came forth to us.”
  • This is the Gospel.  It is abundance of life.  Jesus calls us to return and repent.  He is life itself.
“But love in one person is infectious in kindling it in another.”
  • Takes one to start a chain reaction.  Movements start with an individual.  Individual impacts another.  And they impact more.  Not each changing the world, but affecting personal change bit by bit. Love is the movementThis is the revolution.
“That man of God (Ambrose) received me like a father and expressed pleasure at my coming with a kindness most fitting in a bishop. I began to like him, at first indeed not as a teacher of the truth, for I had absolutely no confidence in your Church, but as a human being who was kind to me…Ambrose taught the sound doctrine of salvation.  From sinners such as I was at that time, salvation is far distant.  Nevertheless, gradually, though I did not realize it, I was drawing closer.”
  • It seems like people far from God are so guarded against those who say they know God, and rightfully so.  Many injustices and ungodly things have come from those of us who claim to know him.  The Church has not always acted like the gracious and forgiving representation of Jesus that she’s called to be.  I think Augustine’s insight here is fantastic – though repelled by the Church, imperfect as she is, he appreciated the kindness of one who personally acted with Jesus’ heart.  Connecting with outsiders to faith can drastically influence their journey toward God.
“But you use all, both those aware of it and those unaware of it, in the order which you know –and that order is just.”
  • Right in line with the previous selection.  Everyone used by God to achieve something meaningful?  Those close to him and those far from him, even?  Provoking.  Maybe we should be more mindful of what exactly he could be doing in us, in others.
“That is how we were until you, most high, not deserting our clay, had mercy on us poor wretches, and by wonderful and secret ways came to our aid.”
  • The Gospel.  Again.  Because one can never come to the end of metaphors forexplaining it.  Because there are shadows of this truth everywhere. Hints left in the most unlikely of places.  The Gospel is rescue. The Gospel is undeserved faithfulness.  The Gospel is unexpected love.
“You are present, liberating us from miserable errors, and you put us on your way, bringing comfort and saying: run, I will carry you, and I will see you through to the end, and there I will carry you.”
  • One of my favorites in the whole of “Confessions.”  God put skin on and moved into the neighborhood, empathizing with us and living alongside of us.  He’s with us on the journey.
“Simplicianus replied: I shall not believe that or count you among the Christians unless I see you in the Church of Christ. Victorinus laughed and said: Then do walls make Christians?”
  • Classic.  Theologians need to have a sense of humor.  And need to correct inaccurate and unbiblical perceptions of the Church.  She is not a building. She is a living being on mission with Jesus.  Most of the time, outside of walls, in the marketplace of ideas, in the homes of loved ones, in the fields of labor.
More to follow…

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