A profound voice in my life the past 15 years has been The Journals of Alexander Schmemann. With few words that cut heart and mind, Schmemmann (who served as dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York) sums up matters of his everyday life freshly and differently and, I feel, profoundly theologically. Like, in an age of constant self-branding and marketing, what he journaled in 1975 about a new book he was getting ready to publish:
“I don’t know at all, not at all, whether it is good or bad, necessary or not necessary. I know one thing: it is what I feel and think. It is a simple and liberating thought: if what I feel and think is not needed or already well known, or weak, or superficial–then all that writing will fall into nonexistence and that is the end of it. But I can and must write only what is my own…”
I thought of Schemmann when I recently found out that two of my books are listed on InterVarsity’s “40 Books Every Student Should Read” List. When Spencer Perkins and I wrote one of those books (More Than Equals) we were writing what was our own. It could not have been more “It is what we feel and think.” And we were simply surprised and happy that someone would publish it. How hard in the years since to maintain that sense of surprise, and simple delight, and not surrender to the need and expectation and drive for “more.”
I’m happy that each book I’ve published has been a unique gift to me, and by the feedback, to its readers. But may I continue to write with the “one liberating thing” in mind: to write only what is my own.
P.S. Of course, I did just promote my two books. I confess, the impact of mentor John Perkins (who loves selling his books) is strong on me. “Chris, the books aren’t about you!” John would say. “They’are about the ideas, man, the ideas!”
Duke Divinity School has posted an article on the April reconciliation forum in Nagasaki, meeting 70 years after the atomic bomb, “Northeast Asian Christian Leaders Gather for Peace.”
From Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. three voices describe the “kairos” time in Northeast Asia. All were participants in Nagasaki in April at the 3rd Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia.
At Sojourners magazine, Atsuyoshi Fujiwara writes: “Those of us who take the teaching of Jesus as our norm need to reject not only the atomic bomb, but also weapons and violence as a means of forcing one’s will on others…” see more
From the Korean Anabaptist Center, director KyongJung Kim writes: “The truth that may shock everyone is that nations who are victims in a situation, can also be an attacker in another. However the question is church. Christ’s church can never be a victim who also becomes the attacking side and robs people of their lives, because self-indulgent work with national violence is contrary to Christ and blocks the work aligned with him. This forum was a time of peaceful fellowship to hear and see the deep thinking of reconciliation’s calling.” see more
And a third testimony (with terrific photos) from Sue Park-Hur at the ReconciliAsian website: “Imagining a ‘New WE’ in Northeast Asia”
It has been 9 months now in this new adventure in South Korea for Donna and me. It was at Duke that I began to think of Christian ministry as a journey of revelation. I do know I count on revelation, discovery, surprise. My colleague Emmanuel Katongole and I became fond of “claiming” things as if they are true–things that resonate with an intuition that they are somehow from God.
One revelation from these 9 months:
Serving at Duke for 10 years felt like a labyrinth of sorts. You get close to the center, that place of rest. Can see it, right there. Suddenly the path turns away, further, further, then close, away again. So many joys! Yet never felt “there.” In Korea, it has been the opposite: As if landing smack in the center, the place of rest, still moving out into the labyrinth and its twists and turns and surprises and disappointments. Yet what a difference, living from the center. Well, after all, I grew up here.
This is Richard Hay’s last week serving as the Dean of Duke Divinity School. He recently announced he is stepping down for treatment for pancreatic cancer (details here).
This image of Dean Hays is one of my favorites from the Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia, held in Nagasaki in April. Richard and his wife Judy joined the 60 participants from China, Japan, Korea, and U.S., and Richard gave a powerful teaching on reconciliation. On day two, we went on pilgrimage to a museum telling the story of Japanese military atrocities. Unexpectedly, many tears were shed, holy tears of desire for a new future. The next day in morning worship, we gathered around our Japanese brothers and sisters, and Richard led prayers for this very special group of Christian leaders.
Richard is one of the top New Testament scholars in the world. When I came to Duke as a student in 2000, his classes delivered a biblical vision for what we had lived in Mississippi. When he became Dean ten years later, what a pleasure to serve under him as director of the Center for Reconciliation. Yet over those years, more significant in God’s wisdom than the scholar or Dean, I have come to know the man here, the pastoral heart, the gentle and wise spirit, the man who seeks to embody what he teaches.
As he laid his hands in prayer, may we lay our prayers on him and Judy as they walk this unexpected new chapter before them. May much grace, joy, and faith for one day at a time be upon them.
See compelling article in Sojourners magazine by my Japanese colleague Dr. Atsuyoshi Fujiwara, A Love That Disarms. Reflecting on next month’s 70th anniversary of the U.S. bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagsaki, Fujiwara writes:
“This ‘realistic’ ethic [of theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr] … led to the ironic tragedy of a country that claimed to be Christian dropping a bomb on Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, where generations of underground Roman Catholic Christians had lived, worshiped, and been persecuted for 260 years.”
We must abolish nuclear weapons argues Fujiwara, but we can’t stop there.