Here we are...

Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

New and Persuasive Words

If you have followed the work of Paul Zahl you will recognize the title of this blogpost. Thornton Wilder is the source. In a collection of "playlets" published back in 1928, entitled The Angel that Troubled the Waters, Wilder addressed the problem of defaced and degraded religious language which had lost its persuasive edge.

PZ took up the challenge in 2010 to express eternal truths with a new language, language not necessarily encumbered with accreted cultural and psychological baggage. He did a series of talks at a church in Chevy Chase which one can find on the internet and at mbird.com (Mockingbird). New Persuasive Words for Defaced or Degraded Ones: Mercy, Grace and Hope in an Age of Recession (This is the full title of his series of talks.) These talks have continued to stir me ever since I heard them.

And, they continue to challenge me to express my own convictions, whatever those might be, in language that avoids distracting attachments to this religion or that ideology.

For instance: I have attended and led many funerals in churches and funeral homes. I have found myself saying, or hearing others say, all sorts of things regarding HOPE and HEAVEN. Some of it has been helpful, and much of it has not.

The bereaved family is clinging to everything that floats in their ocean of grief.
What is it that they actually hear? That actually helps? What of the religious language uttered or the cultural apothegms offered make any sort of lasting difference? What does one say?

As a challenge to myself I recently set about to compose a single sentence, devoid of any "traditional religious language", which would be the punchline of my remarks at a funeral. Here's what I came up with:

As we wrap our arms of love around Sally and her family, we are somehow participating in a larger than love embrace, which knew Frank before he was born, understands Frank, Sally, and all of us even now, and will never let any of us go. (and, let's just say that this is the punch line for a homily which reflects on John 14)

I'm not entirely happy with this; but it is consistent with my desire to gaze "off the port bow" in this new chapter of my life.

In future posts I hope to take this challenge into other pastoral and existential contexts.

Caveat Emptor: this is a retired PREACHER speaking, whose entire schtick is saying or writing the right words in whatever context. I am no longer preaching, and find that there is greater solace for the sufferer - whatever the pain might be - in a silent compassionate presence.

(I am chuckling with the thought of an empty blog, conveying the greatest truths of life with an complete absence of words.)



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Songs of Travel

Bearing to Port

Bearing to Port