Thursday, July 20, 2017

Brotherly-love and Hospitality

This week in “From Fr. Tom” I want to focus on two words that are crucial for the life of a Christian: “hospitality” and “brotherly-love.” Without these two things active and lively in a church, a church is a shell of what God intends it to be.

The Greek word for hospitality is literally “the love of the stranger,” it is loving the people we encounter, but we don’t know. Brotherly-love is a concept that comes from one of the Greek words for love: “philadelphia.” This kind of love stems from the love of deep friendship, love we show towards people we know well, with whom we have deep ties, loyalty, and affection.

Christians are called to love BOTH the stranger AND the familiar friend. Note what Paul says to the Galatian Church: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, AND especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)  Yes, emphasis is laid on the Church here, but BOTH those inside and out are mentioned. We are called to a “both/and” love by the author of Hebrews as well: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:1–2)

This is a both/and scenario: We cannot merely love “new people” all the time and ignore our deeper friendships and associations. Nor can we “hole up” with our close friends and become cliquish Christians. Usually, because of temperament and circumstance, we have a bent towards one or the other. 

Which are you more inclined to do? 

In a social setting, which are you more likely to do: talk to someone new? or talk to someone you already know?  My guess is that most in our church would rather talk to somebody we already know. This has huge implications for us as if we are to obey God’s commands to welcome the stranger. Like many areas of the Christian life, it means we must ask for God’s grace to live differently than our natural inclinations.

Certainly this love of the stranger is something we need to consider for our daily lives. How open are you to new people? Do you acknowledge that the people you run into day-in and day-out at the grocery store or at work or at school are not just faces in the crowd: they are made in God’s image, and loved dearly by him. Do we remember that we are constantly ambassadors for Christ, daily called to be a friendly and faithful witness… no matter who is around? I confess that the busyness of my life over the last two years has led me to be more closed off than I’ve ever been. I need to repent and pray for the help of God’s Holy Spirit.

This love of the stranger also relates to our life together as a Church. Let me share two stories:
  • Recently a woman came to join us in worship on a Sunday. She wandered past the greeters, past a crowd of Good Shepherd members and regulars in the main hall, and stood just past the elevators, not sure where to go. She looked lost. Finally someone noticed her, asking her if she was here for church, and if so, did she know where to go. 

  • I talked with a family earlier this year who shared with me that even though they had attended for months, they did not feel like they really knew anyone. They knew some people’s names, and many knew their names, but they confessed to me that the church was mostly full of strangers to them.

While I’m thankful that these two stories are the exception and not the rule, I’d like to ask us two questions in light of the Bible’s teaching on this:

1. Are we strangers to each other? When they command us to love the stranger, the writers of the New Testament assume that the people in our church with us will NOT be strangers to us. But is that the case? One marker of deep community is that we “know others and are known by others.” Does anyone at church know your struggles?  Joys?  Hopes? While I’m encouraged by the depth of relationships at Good Shepherd, I think we may still be “strange” to one another. How do we bridge that strangeness gap? We can start by saying “Hi” on a Sunday. Sitting with someone at Church on a Sunday. Confessing that we don’t know their name, and reintroducing ourselves (again)…. maybe grabbing a coffee or lunch. This summer we will be having some dinners together that I pray will make us less “strange” to one another. (Though, we might find out how “strange/weird” we all really are!)

2. How can we love new people who visit on Sundays?  I am so thankful that our church is a welcoming church. I’ve been told many times by people who have visited (and then who later stayed with us) that our church was welcoming, but not overbearing. What a great thing! However, like most gifts, if we don’t keep living into them, we will lose them.

Here a few practical ways we can continue to live into being a church who “let[s] brotherly love continue... [and does] not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…"
  • Pray for a loving heart. Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t give a rip. Sometimes our hearts are cold, small, dark… Let’s pray for “enlarged hearts”!
  • Wear a name tag.  If only the visitors are wearing name tags they feel branded. And if you’re not wearing a name tag, it makes it harder for others to remember your name. How many times have you forgotten someone’s name that you’ve met before? Save everyone else that embarrassment, and wear a name tag each week. 
  • Act like a host.  One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever heard about how to meet new people is to act like the host at every party you go to. If you’re the host, you care if a guest is alone, or not having a good time. Even if you’re not a “greeter” on Sunday, greet one person each Sunday. Look for someone who may be alone or that may be new. 
  • Sit near those who are alone. No one should have to sit alone in church. Nobody. Whether you know someone or not, if you see them sitting by themselves, sit near by. 

Remember, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we are God’s hands and face. Sometimes people show up to Church hurting, lonely, and tired. Sometimes the sermon doesn’t speak to us, the songs are unfamiliar, and the prayers don’t touch us. But in addition to the Word, prayers, and Sacrament, God may use YOU to love on someone… whether a friend or stranger. Your kindness may be the only message the person sitting next to you can hear. “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom 15:7)

Remember who loved on you, remember who included you.  Go and do likewise… and who knows if someone’s eternal destiny (or even just their week!) may be changed?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Knowing God to Make Him Known

In the previous weeks in “From Father Tom,” we’ve look at John 14:15-21, specifically the tripartite evidence Jesus gives for his exclusive claim in (v. 6): “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me.” Jesus says that his teachings, his miracles and his Church are the evidence for this claim (John 14:10-12), and we’ve spent the last few weeks examining how the Church, corrupt as she may be, can be a living witness to the testimony of Jesus.  

First, we looked at how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of Christians to make us a sign of Jesus’s Lordship and reality.  This was covered in a sermon at Church of the Good Shepherd.  

Second, we looked at how the Resurrection of Jesus gives Christians a hope that causes us to live differently.  We covered this in a blog post a few weeks back

Finally in this article, we will look at (John 14:21-23) and see how our ongoing relationship with God makes us people who are an effective, living testimony of the gospel.  

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21–23)

One basic part of being Jesus’s disciple is loving him.  We love Him because of his love for us. (1 John 4:9) It is impossible to have received the love of Jesus expressed to us on the cross and NOT love Him. In this sense, if we don’t love Jesus it is because we’re not Christians in any meaningful sense.  

Our love for Jesus is expressed through affections and obedience, and it is this loving obedience that is primarily in view in John 14 (and most of Bible).  Those who love Jesus, obey Him.  We cannot say “I love Jesus” or “I’m a Christian,” if we do not listen to what He says, and then do it.  As Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)  Many people will claim to be Christians, but their lives will show that their faith is fake.  (James 2:26)

For those who truly have received Jesus love, who truly love Him in return, and who obey his commands, the greatest possible treasure awaits.  This is expressed in two ways in John 14.  

  • I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  In one sense Jesus loves everyone (see John 3:16), but in another sense, Jesus’s deeper love and friendship is only for those who love him and obey him.  (See John 15:14-15; Ps 25:14) For those who love and obey Jesus, they will actually get to know him in a profound and personal way.  That is what is mean when Jesus says He will reveal/manifest/show himself to them.  We will get to know him now in this life (1 John 1:3), and we have a promise that we will know him more fully in the years to come (1 John 3:1-3). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt 5:8) J.I. Packer records the comments of a friend whose scholarly ambitions had been crushed by opponents who thought his faith was interfering too much with his work.  His career was over, and all the years of his life spent in study would result in nothing.  Thought pained, the man’s attitude was almost cavalier “But it doesn’t matter… for I’ve known God and they haven’t.”  (Knowing God, Ch. 2)  Knowing God (and not merely knowing about God) is the great privilege of every true Christian. 
  • “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Not only does Jesus promise that we will be his friends, but He also tells us that those who obey his commands will also find home with the Triune God.  This is not just the promise of a heavenly home (See John 14:1-4), but is speaking of the God of the Universe coming and living with us.  Note the language Jesus uses: “We will come TO him, and make our home WITH him.”  This is not a reference our spirits going to heaven after we die but to the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit.  Quite literally, God promises us a taste of heaven now, a bit of Home wherever we go.  This too is a kind of knowing God, something akin to bliss of an ideal domesticity: a loving family, the comfort of our own bed, a warm meal on a cold night, a cool drink on our porch on a sunny day. Home is where the heart lives.

In sum, the great treasure offered to us who obey the commands of Jesus is knowing God.  And knowing God is itself eternal life (John 17:3).  Knowing God is an end in and of itself.  To know him is better than anything else (see Phil 3:8ff).  Relationship with God, knowing Him is the only thing that satisfies the human heart fully.  

Indeed, we were made to know him.  That’s part of what it means to be made in God’s image and God’s likeness (Gen 1:26ff).  When a human being receives the love of Christ offered in the gospel and begins a life of turning from self to God, she will find she is fulfilling the very purpose for which she was made.  As the prayer says: “In your infinite love O Lord, you made us for yourself…”  You have heard it said: “It’s all about who you know.”  As it turns out, this is more true than most people think.  If we know God, we have found Life that is truly Life.   

Indeed, in knowing God, we ourselves are elevated to a higher plain of existence.  I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.  Our nearness to God lifts us higher than we were before.   C.S. Lewis says it this way:  “But is it so strange really?  Is not that how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teachers her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does.  We treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human;’ that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end.”  (Mere Christianity, Book 4, Ch. 7) And as St. Peter said: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life
and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Pet 1:3–4, emphasis added)

Christians who know God like this are faithful, living testimonies of the truth and reality of Jesus.  People who are fulfilled don’t need to take from others, and therefore can love with the greatest freedom and give with the greatest sacrifice.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Concrete Hope

This Sunday, the sermon at Good Shepherd was from John 14:15-21.  Earlier in John 14, Jesus makes an incredible claim, namely, that He is "the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through [Him]."  (John 14:6)  In order to back this claim, Jesus offers three things as evidence:  His words (v. 10), his works (v. 11), and, surprisingly, the Church, that is, God's work among those who are his disciples (vv.12-15).  

Jesus's plan is to have his Church following his commandments in such a way that we will truly be the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16).  

But when we look at the Church, both past and present, we may question whether Jesus's third piece of evidence is helping at all.  We might say to Jesus, "Yes, everyone who reads your teachings finds them compelling, and yes, your miracles are clear testimony that you are the God of the Old Testament.  But Jesus, have you ever read Church history?  I'm not sure we are helping out that much." 

And yet, this is indeed Jesus plan.  God is so great, so powerful, that in his hand the humblest instrument can play the greatest music ever heard.  God can even use us to be evidence of the gospel.

In John 14:16-21, Jesus lays out HOW this great miracle can be accomplished.  How is it that sinful, broken people can be transformed to the point that the world would look at them and say: "Yes, because of the way these people live, I am compelled to follow Jesus.". 

Jesus gives three things in this passage that make this possible:
  1. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (v. 15-17)
  2. The tangible hope of our own resurrection (vv. 18-20)
  3. The life-giving relationship we have with the Father (vv. 21) 

On Sunday, we looked at the first of these three: the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  And in “From Fr. Tom” for this week and next we will look at the latter two: the objection reality of Christ's Resurrection and how impacts the way we live now, and the life-giving relationship Christians can have with God, and how that relationship transforms us for the better.  

Concrete Hope

In (vv. 18-19), Jesus says: ““I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:18–19) 

While some scholars see Jesus making a reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit here, I think that this is a reference to Jesus upcoming resurrection.  Yes, it is true that the Holy Spirit (sometimes called the Spirit of Christ, e.g. Romans 8:9) is Jesus’s presence among us (thus fulfilling Matthew 28:20).  And it is true that because of the Holy Spirit in us, we have new life (See Rom 8:11).  And so if we took the passage that way, we would not be too far off base.  

However, the logic of Jesus’s statement “Because I live, you will also live” makes more sense in light of the Resurrection way.  Here’s why…

Because we are in union with Christ through faith and the waters of baptism (Rom 6:1-10), everything that happens to Him happens to us:
    • Since Jesus died, so do we - “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Rom 6:3)
    • Since Jesus rose from the dead, so do we - We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4, see also 1 Cor 15:20–22; Phil 3:20-21; Col 3:4)
When we look at the Resurrection of Jesus, the historical fact that it is, we have great confidence that we too, though we may die for a while, whether in suffering for the gospel, working hard to live holy lives or even physically dying, in the end we will have life.  

Proof of Life

Indeed, it is the resurrection of Jesus that is our hope that God will complete the work he started with us. Not only does Jesus’s resurrection itself provide grounds for faith in his claims (See John 14:11, 20), but it also provides great hope for his people.  

It is worth asking this question:  Why did Jesus make you his in the first place?  Was it so you could endless fall back into sin forever?  NO!  As we strive with God to become his faithful witnesses (see Phil 2:12-16), we have confidence that God Himself will complete the work.  (Phil 1:6)  Though we may fail, though we may lose strength, God will not fail.  Though the battle with sin in our hearts can seem hopeless, in reality, it is not.  If God can raise Christ from death itself, and if he promises to raise YOU to that same kind of holy life, then He will see you to then.  “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2:11–13) 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Parenting Advice from a Wise Woman

A few months ago, I asked my mom for parenting advice.  What she gave me was "off the top of her head," and yet, I was hit by its profundity and wisdom.  I put it into a list, and I believe it expresses (in part) what she and Dad have discovered over the years in parenting: from mistakes no doubt, but also from successes.   I pass them on here, with a little commentary from myself, hoping they'll benefit you as much as they have me.

1. Love your spouse - The best thing you can do for your kids is put your spouse before your kids.  This is counterintuitive to some, but the research bears this out.  Kids cannot bear the weight of being the center of your marriage, and if you put there them, you will crush them and your marriage and your family.  More divorces happen because one of the parents (usually the mom) is more 'married' to the kids than their spouse.  (And even though this post isn't about marriage, let me add one thing on marriage: your spouse can't bear the weight of being the center of your marriage either.  That place belongs to God.  Marriage isn't just a union between man and wife, it is like Communion: through it, Christ is leading you Himself.)

2. Be consistent - My dad has often said that with kids being consistent is more important than being right.  Stick to your guns: if you say you're going to do it, do it.  Establish a consistent way of life in your home, and let it be stable.  Children need the stability of consistency.  They need to know what they can expect from you. Nothing will exasperate a child more quickly (or any human being) than having an unpredictable, capricious authority.

3. Confess your mistakes - Every parent sins against their children in some way.  Unless you've got the patience of Job, you've probably had unrighteous anger toward your children at some point.  My children need to know that Daddy knows that he is a sinner in need of God's grace just like everyone else.  Also, the reality is that children know when you've wronged them.  If you want to earn your children's trust, you'll speak to the elephant in the room.

4. Learn from your mistakes - This, I think, is easier said than done.  What I love about this point of advice is that it acknowledges that you will make mistakes and then leads you to a response: "You're gonna mess up, but what are you going to do about it?"  When you foul up as a parent, confess it to God, confess it to your kids, ask for for forgiveness from both, and then learn from it.  What can you learn from the parenting mistakes you made last week? How can you keep from repeating your mistakes?

5. Pray for your kids - This probably should've been the first thing on the list.  Do you pray for your kids?  And what do you pray for them for?  The contents of your prayers for your children will reveal your heart... and really all you need to know about your parenting in order to evaluate it.  It is a good thing to pray for their basic needs: health and growth, healthy friendships, happiness in life... etc.  But if that's all your praying for, you're missing your job as a parent.  Parents (fathers in particular) are called to bring up their children in the fear and discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:1-4).  This surely includes praying the things that St. Paul prayed for his spiritual children (See Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:8-12; Ephesians 1:15-21; 3:14-21) and what Jesus prayed for us  (See John 17 and note the Lord's Prayer).  Not sure what to pray?  The prayers we pray for children at their baptism will a great guide for you in this as well.  (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305-306)

6. Remember you can't control how they'll respond - Mom always says that the hardest part about parenting is that a child's point-of-view, whether they are young or an adult, is impossible to predict.  You just never know how your kids are going to take life.  Often the solution to their woes or successes will be clear to you, but they simply won't see it... even after you have told them a thousand times.  So, what can you do?  You give them more and more latitude the older they get to make mistakes.... and you pray like crazy.  Unless your child has an increasing freedom to fail, they will not grow up.  And that is the point, isn't it?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Gospel Isn't a Long-Range Missile

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message that is meant to be communicated up close and personal.  Yes, you can text the gospel, email it, preach it to thousands in a stadium, tweet it even, but it is not normally received or communicated outside the context of a relationship between the hearer and the listener.

The gospel is not just communicated for conversion, for the first decision to follow Jesus.  The gospel is the mainstay of the Christian life.  It is through the preaching of the Gospel that we mature in the faith.  (Colossians 1:28-29) The gospel that saved us is the gospel that sanctifies us.

In light of the fact the gospel ministry is an ongoing and life-long process, I want to remind us of this verse:  “we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
(1 Thessalonians 2:8)

This verse reminds us that those who minister the gospel need to be in real, loving relationships with the people they 'proclaim' the gospel to.  Do you want an effective ministry?  Make it gospel-centered.  How do you have gospel-centered ministry? Life on life.   Do you want to share the gospel? Then share your gospel-filled life as well (Philippians 4:9)

So, we should ask the question:

  • How well do I know the people to whom I minister?  Do they know you? 
  • Do I hang out with them regularly?  
  • Do I have a few of them on 'speed-dial'?  
  • Is my life open enough to have people over (or go to their place) from time to time? 

A Prayer Asking God to Move

Recently, some friends and I were discussing during our church's Foundations Course what it means to be "born again." Though it is used in many non-biblical ways, the phrase "born again" is a biblical one.  But what does it mean?  When we were born from our mother, even though our life began, the reality is that we were born spiritually dead.  In order to have spiritual life, we must be born "again" (or born "from above") (see John 3:1-21; 1 Peter 1:3-8; Titus 3:1-7).  This "new birth" is a transformation of our hearts, a change of our desires and inclinations.  (Titus 2:11-14; Ezekiel 26:25-32; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  This change is not something we can make in ourselves, but it is an act of God, a work of God in us (Look at John 3:1-21 again).  In many ways, the cry of the Christian's heart is for God to come and change us, to make us new, to transform us.  In fact, the desire to pray this prayer is evidence that you are already born again.

A Christian's spiritual life really starts when we respond to this move of God, and a Christian's life continues for eternity dependent on God in the same way.  We continually respond to and ask for God to work and move in us.

The following prayer comes from a book called "The Valley of Vision" and perfectly captures the heart of someone who knows they are dependent on God (John 15:5):

O Supreme Moving Cause,
May I always be subordinate to thee,
  be dependent upon thee,
  be found in the path where thou dost walk,
    and where thy Spirit moves,
  take heed of estrangement from thee,
    of becoming insensible to thy love.
Thou dost not move men like stones,
  but dost endue them with life,
  not to enable them to move without thee,
  but in submission to thee, the first mover.
O Lord, I am astonished at the difference
  between my receivings and my deservings,
  between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness,
  between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit.
Who made me to differ, but thee?
  for I was no more ready to receive Christ than were others;
I could not have begun to love thee hadst thou not first loved me,
  or been willing unless thou hadst first made me so.
O that such a crown should fit the head of such a sinner!
  such high advancement be for an unfruitful person!
  such joys for so vile a rebel!
Infinite wisdom cast the design of salvation
  into the mould of purchase and freedom;
Let wrath deserved be written on the door of hell,
But the free gift of grace on the gate of heaven.
I know that my sufferings are the result of my sinning,
  but in heaven both shall cease;
Grant me to attain this haven and be done with sailing,
  and may the gales of thy mercy blow me safely into harbour.
Let thy love draw me nearer to thyself,
  wean me from sin, mortify me to this world,
  and make me ready for my departure hence.
Secure me by thy grace as I sail across this stormy sea.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Best Parenting Article You'll Ever Read

This is going to be the best parenting article you'll ever read.  Well, maybe.

The reality is that parenting is both simple and complicated at the same time.  Most everyone knows the simple and straightforward commands of parenting: love your kid, provide for them, be gentle but firm, consistent and fair, etc. etc.  Everyone from Strabo the Stoic Graeco-Roman philosopher, to St. Paul the great Christian missionary and scholar, to Dr. Phil the psychologist and media attention addict, give the same basic advice to parents.  To be sure there are big differences among the many schools of thought on parenting, but there is a significant amount of common ground as well.

The complicated part is applying this knowledge to a specific family, a specific child, at a specific age and time, in a specific situation... and doing so again and again as both the parents and the child(ren) change and grow and move on in time.  This takes wisdom.  One mentor of mine said that wisdom is "knowing the right thing to do, at the right time, in the right way."  If that's the case, then wise parenting is contextual and therefore... complex.

There are many great resources out there to learn wisdom from.  Certainly life-on-life learning is the best way to learn wisdom.  Whether it is a career, a sport, a religion, a new relational role, the best way to learn is in real-time with someone who has experience and success.  One way to access some of this experience is through the books that wise people write.  Books are no substitute for life-on-life learning (so get off the internet and get a mentor or two), but they can be helpful.

I recently came across one of the most helpful articles on parenting I've ever read (So, we're back to the title of this blog post now).  It was written in the 1860's.  Uncovering parenting tips from the past allows me to have a fresh perspective on my own historical biases.  It is like a cross-cultural experience.

So, if you're ready for a cross-cultural experience, check this out:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

C.S. Lewis on "Family"

Family is one of those "inevitable" relationships in life.  We may joke about the only certain things in life being "death" and "taxes," but the reality is that the longing for a loving family and the results of sin in our family leave are certainties as well.  In fact, the living pain many have from their families of origin is a reoccurring aspect of my ministry.

  • What good things did you receive from your upbringing?  
  • What about your family as it is right now? What joys do you have there? Why?
  • What wounds and burdens do you bear because of your parents, your spouse, your kids? Why
  • Here's a question many are asking: Is family worth it? Don't friends work just as well?
  • Why do we often have so many problems with family members?

Recently, as I was preparing for a sermon on "family," I ran across this essay by C.S. Lewis.  The author comments on a sermon he heard, and the distance between the content of the sermon and the reality of the subject.

Anyone wrestlings with the realities of family life will find this helpful.  I reproduce it here as I found it online for free (If I'm in violation of a copyright, please let me know, and I'll remove it.)

by C.S. Lewis

...SAID THE PREACHER, 'THE HOME MUST BE THE foundation of our national life. It is there, all said and done, that character is formed. It is there that we appear as we really are. It is there we can fling aside the weary disguises of the outer world and be ourselves. It is there that we retreat from the noise and stress and temptation and dissipation of daily life to seek the sources of fresh strength and renewed purity. ..' And as he spoke I noticed that all confidence in him had departed from every member of that congregation who was under thirty. They had been listening well up to this point. Now the shufflings and coughings began. Pews creaked; muscles relaxed. The sermon, for all practical purposes, was over; the five minutes for which the preacher continued talking were a total waste of time - at least for most of us.

Whether I wasted them or not is for you to judge. I certainly did not hear any more of the sermon. I was thinking; and the starting-point of my thought was the question, 'How can he? How can he of all people?' For I knew the preacher's own home pretty well. In fact, I had been lunching there that very day, making a fifth to the Vicar and the Vicar's wife and the son (RAF.)! and the daughter (AT.S.),2 who happened both to be on leave. I could have avoided it, but the girl had whispered to me, 'For God's sake stay to lunch if  they ask you. It's always a little less frightful when there's a visitor.'

Lunch at the vicarage nearly always follows the same pattern. It starts with a desperate attempt on the part of the young people to keep up a bright patter of trivial conversation: trivial not because they are trivially minded (you can have real conversation with them if you get them alone), but because it would never occur to either of them to say at home anything they were really thinking, unless it is forced out of them by anger. They are talking only to try to keep their parents quiet. They fail. The Vicar, ruthlessly interrupting, cuts in on a quite different subject. He is telling us how to re-educate Germany. He has never been there and seems to know nothing either of German history or the German language. 'But, father,' begins the son, and gets no further. His mother is now talking, though nobody knows exactly when she began. She is in the middle of a complicated story about how badly some neighbour has treated her. Though it goes on a long time, we never learn either how it began or how it ended: it is all middle. 'Mother, that's not quite fair,' says the daughter at last. 'Mrs Walker never said -' but her father's voice booms in again. He is telling his son about the organization of the RA.F. So it goes on until either the Vicar or his wife says something so preposterous that the boy or the girl contradicts and insists on making the contradiction heard. The real minds of the young people have at last been called into action. They talk fiercely, quickly, contemptuously. They have facts and logic on their side. There is an answering flare up from the parents. The father storms; the mother is (oh, blessed domestic queen's move!) 'hurt'- plays pathos for all she is worth. The daughter becomes ironical. The father and son, elaborately ignoring each other, start talking to me. The lunch party is in ruins.
The memory of that lunch worries me during the last few minutes of the sermon. I am not worried by the fact that the Vicar's practice differs from his precept. That is, no doubt, regrettable, but it is nothing to the purpose. As Dr Johnson said, precept may be very sincere (and, let us add, very profitable) where practice is very imperfect,3 and no one but a fool would discount a doctor's warnings about alcoholic poisoning because the doctor himself drank too much. What worries me is the fact that the Vicar is not telling us at all that home life is difficult and has, like every form of life, its own proper temptations and corruptions. He keeps on talking as if 'home' were a panacea, a magical charm which of itself was bound to produce happiness and virtue. The trouble is not that he is insincere but that he is a fool. He is not talking from his own experience of family life at all: he is automatically reproducing a sentimental tradition - and it happens to be a false tradition. That is why the congregation have stopped listening to him.

If Christian teachers wish to recall Christian people to domesticity - and I, for one, believe that people must be recalled to it...:..- the first necessity is to stop telling lies about home life and to substitute realistic teaching. Perhaps the fundamental principles would be something like this.

1. Since the Fall no organization or way of life whatever has a natural tendency to go right. In the Middle Ages some people thought that if only they entered a religious order they would find themselves automatically becoming holy and happy: the whole native literature of the period echoes with the exposure of that fatal error. In the nineteenth century some people thought that monogamous family life would automatically make them holy and happy; the savage anti-domestic literature of modern times - the Samuel Butlers, the Gosses, the Shaws - delivered the answer. In both cases the 'debunkers' may have been wrong about principles and may have forgotten the maxim abusus non tollit usum ('The abuse does not abolish the use.' ), but in both cases they were pretty right about matter of fact. Both family life and monastic life were often detestable, and it should be noticed that the serious defenders of both are well aware of the dangers and free of the sentimental illusion. The author of the Imitation of Christ knows (no one better) how easily monastic life goes wrong. Charlotte M.Yonge makes it abundantly clear that domesticity is no passport to heaven on earth but an arduous vocation - a sea full of hidden rocks and perilous ice shores only to be navigated by one who uses a celestial chart. That is the first point on which we must be absolutely clear. The family, like the nation, can be offered to God, can be converted and redeemed, and will then become the channel of particular blessings and graces. But, like everything else that is human, it needs redemption. Unredeemed, it will produce only particular temptations, corruptions, and miseries. Charity begins at home: so does uncharity.

2. By the conversion or sanctification of family life we must be careful to mean something more than the preservation of 'love' in the sense of natural affection. Love (in that sense) is not enough. Affection, as distinct from charity, is not a cause of lasting happiness. Left to its natural bent affection becomes in the end greedy, naggingly solicitous, jealous, exacting, timorous. It suffers agony when its object is absent - but
is not repaid by any long enjoyment when the object is present. Even at the Vicar's lunch table affection was partly the cause of the quarrel. That son would have borne patiently and humorously from any other old man the silliness which enraged him in his father. It is because he still (in some fashion) 'cares' that he is impatient. The Vicar's wife would not be quite that endless whimper of self-pity which she now is if she did not (in a sense) 'love' the family: the continued disappointment of her continued and ruthless demand for sympathy, for affection, for appreciation has helped to make her what she is. I do not think this aspect of affection is nearly enough noticed by most popular moralists. The greed to be loved is a fearful thing. Some of those who say (and almost with pride) that they live only for love come, at last, to live in incessant resentment.

3. We must realize the yawning pitfall in that very characteristic of home life which is so often glibly paraded as its principal attraction. 'It is there that we appear as we really are: it is there that we can fling aside the disguises and be ourselves.' These words, in the Vicar's mouth, were only too true and he showed at the lunch table what they meant. Outside his own house he behaves with ordinary courtesy. He would not have interrupted any other young man as he interrupted his son. He would not, in any other society, have talked confident nonsense about subjects of which he was totally ignorant: or, if he had, he would have accepted correction with good temper. In fact, he values home as the  place where he can 'be himself' in the sense of trampling on all the restraints which civilized humanity has found indispensable for tolerable social intercourse. And this, I think, is very common. What chiefly distinguishes domestic from public conversation is surely very often simply its downright rudeness. What distinguishes domestic behaviour is often its selfishness, slovenliness, incivility - even brutality. And it will often happen that those who praise home life most loudly are the worst offenders in this respect: they praise it - they
are always glad to get home, hate the outer world, can't stand visitors, can't be bothered meeting people, etc. - because the freedoms in which they indulge themselves at home have ended by making them unfit for civilized society. If they practised elsewhere the only behaviour they now find 'natural' they would simply be knocked down.

4. How, then, are people to behave at home? If a man can't be comfortable and unguarded, can't take his ease and 'be himself' in his own house, where can he? That is, I confess, the trouble. The answer is an alarming one. There is nowhere this side of heaven where one can safely lay the reins on the horse's neck. It will never be lawful simply to 'be ourselves' until 'ourselves' have become sons of God. It is all there in the hymn - 'Christian, seek not yet repose.' This does not mean, of course, that there is no difference between home life and general society. It does mean that home life has its own rule of courtesy - a code more intimate, more subtle, more sensitive, and, therefore, in some ways more difficult, than that of the outer world.

5. Finally, must we not teach that if the home is to be a means of grace it must be a place of rules? There cannot be a common life without a regula. The alternative to rule is not freedom but the unconstitutional (and often unconscious) tyranny of the most selfish member.

In a word, must we not either cease to preach domesticity or else begin to preach it seriously? Must we not abandon sentimental eulogies and begin to give practical advice on the high, hard, lovely, and adventurous art of really creating the Christian family?