Earlier this week, we remembered the 1665th birthday of one of the most important theologians in the Christian tradition. Saint Augustine of Hippo, the Neoplatonic philosopher and Bishop of Hippo bridged the gap between late Roman antiquity and the early Church. We are who we are because of Augustine helped us become.
One of St. Augustine’s early works was The Confessions. It is a classic work of Christian theology and autobiography. In short, he defines the genre. The Confessions may best known for this quote, where Augustine says, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” What a rascal!
In honor of Augustine’s birth, here are a few of my own Confessions.
- After twenty plus years of full-time ministry, I feel awkward and self-conscious when I pray with my hands in the air. I’m more comfortable using my words and leaving my hands down.
- Some phrases become part of our entrenched prayer vocabulary. We use them so often they can lose the beauty of their intended meaning. I’m looking at you, “hedge of protection”.
- Outside the church, people don’t understand our “insider” language. We shouldn’t make ourselves challenging to understand. We have a vocabulary, by al means. However, everyone should be able to learn as they go.
- We need to talk more about Mark 3:20-35. Is Jesus the crazy relative we feel more comfortable trying to contain with our standards of conformity? I think so.
- I miss Sunday School. Specifically, I mean coloring pictures of Jesus on Sunday morning. Now I spend my Sunday mornings getting ready for worship. Coloring was fun.
- It is possible to take the Bible seriously but not literally? I feel like I say this all the time. Is anyone listening?
- Intinction is my preferred method of giving and receiving Holy Communion. It may not be the “old way” (of American Methodism), but it is the “oldest way,” which Jesus likely knew.
- Were we to compare United Methodism to a rare wine, I’ll prefer the 1738 Herrnhutt from Saxony. It’s a husky, smooth blend of English and German piety.
- A relationship with Jesus is, by default, a personal relationship. You don’t define any of the other meaningful relationships in your life (spouse, children, or parents) as personal. They are simply relationships. Be cautious of jargon (this goes for any part of your life), focus on the substance. Be in a relationship with God.
- It is easy to walk past a resurrection moment or to go in search of a Resurrection encounter only to realize; God’s right beside you, riding shotgun, ready to talk, and up for the journey.
Richard Lowell Bryant
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