For the past two days I hosted a book table at a conference which was held at Calvin Theological Seminary. One of the plenary speakers was N.T. Wright. I sat in during his lecture and it was one of the best I’ve heard from him. I was told that they did record the lectures and will be available on the Calvin website in about a week.
One of my practices at a book table is to read/scan some of the books I’ve brought with me that I’m unfamiliar with. This helps pass the time during the slow times and I become more familiar with the product I’m selling. At this table I started reading For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church by Wright. This is an older title published back in 1997. On the first page of the Introduction I read the following words:
“For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream. It’s a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred. It’s nostalgic, cosy, and comforting. But real Christianity isn’t like that at all. Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children. But that misses the point completely. Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle that’s already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that’s so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St John, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (2)
I’ve read this paragraph a number of times now and I think my whole perspective on lighting advent candles has changed forever. But I continued reading and found this on page 16.
“When we realize once again that our God is the one who loves us into new life, then we will really know how to celebrate. True celebration, in turn, sustains true humanness. As we glimpse the living God, we are transformed into his likeness.
So it isn’t surprising that those who are grasped by this gospel have built cathedrals. People who have forgotten who God is produce concrete jungles and cardboard cities. People who remember or rediscover who God is build cathedrals to his glory, and homes where the poor are cared for; we have both in the city of Lichfield, and they belong together, in celebration and healing. People in our contemporary society are cramped and stifled, fed on a diet of ugliness and noise. They are hungry for beauty, for light, for music. In celebrating and maintaining a wonderful cathedral, we are not a sub-branch of the ‘heritage industry.’ We are telling real people about a real God: we are saying that there is a different way to be human, a way in which worship and mystery and silence and light and space all play their proper part.”
When I got back to the store I immediately bought a copy. This is a fantastic little book and I’m only pages into it.