Daily Riches: The Inaccessibly Transcendent Christ (Charles Marsh, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Myles Horton)

“A Union student from east Tennessee named Myles Horton met him after he returned from his first visit to Abyssinian [Baptist Church.] Bonhoeffer, Horton recalled, was in an expansive mood and eager to talk. Horton accompanied him on a most animate walk down Riverside Drive, the whole way Bonhoeffer speaking excitedly–in both English and German, which Horton did not understand–of the preaching, the congregant’s participation, and ‘especially the singing of black spirituals.’ He conveyed the thrill of the flock voicing ascent with the preacher. Completely unguarded, at one point Bonhoeffer stopped abruptly and told Horton that this morning in Harlem was the only time ‘he had experienced true religion in the United States.’ Indeed, he had never seen such joy in worship anywhere before, certainly not in the melancholy north German plains. Bonhoeffer concluded that ‘only among blacks, who were oppressed, could there be any real religion in this country.’ His presence at Abyssinian that year coincided with important changes in Powell’s vocation as an urban minister. A skilled administrator as well as an eloquent preacher, Powell had already been senior pastor at the neo-Gothic church for more than twenty years. But with the Great Depression sweeping over the neighhorhoods of Harlem as bad as anywhere, he felt summoned to new convictions. For most of his ministry, he had traded comfortably on a notion of Christ as inaccessibly transcendent, the God-man in majesty. Lately, he had begun to dwell on Jesus as the one who wandered into distressed and lonely places to share the struggles of the poor as a friend and counselor. Bonhoeffer’s later formulation of the ‘Christological incognito’ bears the impress of Powell’s decisive awakening, of Christ going incognito into the world, ‘an outcast among outcasts,’ hiding himself in weakness.” Charles Marsh

“Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem”
Isaiah 53:3

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does your understanding of Christ make him so lofty and powerful that he seems distant and inaccessible? Is there a place in your religion for the “despised” sufferer of Isaiah–who “shares the struggles of the poor as a friend and counselor?”
  • Would the Christ that your congregation worships have sufficed for Harlem’s forgotten people in the midst of the Great Depression?
  • When you think of Jesus, do you think of “an outcast among outcasts … hiding himself in weakness?” Would making room for such a Jesus lead you to some kind of “awakening?”

Abba, grant me a decisive awakening to Christ incognito in my day, in my world.

For More: Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. – Bill

Daily Riches: Testing Christianity in Harlem (Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck)

“Few Catholics stop to think that Communism would make very little progress in the world, or none at all, if Catholics really lived up to their obligations, and really did the things Christ came on earth to teach them to do: that is, if they really loved one another, and saw Christ in one another, and lived as saints, and did something to win justice for the poor. For, she said, if Catholics were able to see Harlem, as they ought to see it, with the eyes of faith, they would not be able to stay away from such a place. Hundreds of priests and lay-people would give up everything to go there and try to do something to relieve the tremendous misery, the poverty, sickness, degradation and dereliction of a race that was being crushed and perverted, morally and physically under the burden of a colossal economic injustice. … If Catholics, she said, were able to see Harlem as they should see it, with the eyes of faith, as a challenge to their love of Christ, as a test of their Christianity, the Communists would be able to do nothing there. But, on the contrary, in Harlem the Communists were strong. They were bound to be strong. They were doing some of the things, performing some of the works of mercy that Christians should be expected to do. If some Negro workers lose their jobs, and are in danger of starving, the Communists are there to divide their own food with them, and to take up the defense of their case. If some Negro is dying, and is refused admission to a hospital, the Communists show up, and get someone to take care of him, and furthermore see to it that the injustice is publicized all over the city. If a Negro family is evicted, because they can’t pay the rent, the Communists are there, and find shelter for them, even if they have to divide their own bedding with them. And every time they do these things, more and more people begin to say: ‘See, the Communists really love the poor!'” Thomas Merton, loosely quoting Catherine de Hueck

“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them
receive many curses.”
Proverbs 28:27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Would anyone say of your church, “They really love the poor!”?
  • Is “loving the poor” central to your life of faith? (It was for Christians at least up to the time of the Reformation.)
  • Do you know any Christians who live like the Communists Merton describes? I do. It’s not a fantasy.

Abba, teach us to love.

For More: The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton


Thanks for reading/sharing this blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Overwhelmed By So Small a Sign of Love (Thomas Merton, Catherine de Hueck)

In his autobiography Thomas Merton tells about joining the parents of young black students performing a play at Friendship House, a gospel outpost in Harlem started in the late thirties by Baroness Catherine de Hueck:

“It was an experience that nearly tore me to pieces. All the parents of the children were there, sitting on benches, literally choked with emotion at the fact that their children should be acting in a play: but that was not the thing. For, as I say, they knew that the play was nothing…. They were not taken in by that. Underneath it was something deep and wonderful and positive and true and overwhelming: their gratitude for even so small a sign of love as this, that someone should at least make some kind of a gesture that said: ‘This sort of thing can’t make anybody happy, but it is a way of saying, “I wish you were happy.” …If the Baroness had tried to face the tremendous paradox of Harlem with no other weapons than these, I think Friendship House would have closed down in three days. But the secret of her success and of her survival in the teeth of this gigantic problem was that she depended not on these frail human methods, not on theatricals, or meetings, or speeches, or conferences, but on God, Christ, the Holy Ghost. According to the plan of her vocation, the Baroness herself had come to Harlem, and had started to live there for God, and God had brought her quickly into contact with the others who were … the saints He had sent to sanctify and purify, not Harlem, but New York.”  Thomas Merton

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.”
Jesus in Matthew 25:40

Moving From Head to Heart

  • How often does some small gesture of yours convey “I wish you were happy.” to some person in need? Does that seem like a small thing to do in the face of gigantic problems? Can you imagine it being “overwhelming” in power?
  • Where you live, do you try to “live there for God” as Catherine de Hueck and others did in Harlem?
  • Is what you’re attempting for God too big to accomplish by “human methods?” Have you fallen into the trap of reducing ministry to what seems reasonable or attainable?

Abba, unleash the power of divine love through me and your sent saints.

For More: The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. Thanks for following/sharing. – Bill

Daily Riches – Publishing Changes

I’ve realized lately that it’s time for me to take a break from the daily publishing of this blog. I need to step back, rest, attend to some other things and other people, and give myself more time to live with the content before I publish it. I’ve resisted doing this for some time because of my love for the project, my sense of responsibility to my readers–and other things like ambition and worrying about what others would think–or how the project might lose momentum. I realize that I have to commit the fate of this project to God without regard to those things, and free up time to do more of what I have been writing about: loving well, resting and relaxing, slowing down, being less driven, and making space for contemplation. I always want this blog to be an overflow of what God is doing with me and never turn into something more like a deadline to meet. (It’s more work than I ever imagined to post something of quality six days a week.)

I’m still planning to write Daily Riches, but I’m afraid the name won’t fit so well anymore–not as far as the “Daily” part. I’m still going to post, but only when I want to, and when I can without interfering with the things I’m mentioned that need more attention. Maybe eventually, like after a sabbatical, I will return to the regular schedule. Thank you so much, faithful readers and new friends for your support–many of you have been reading almost since the beginning over two years ago. I hope you’ll still stay tuned for Riches that will come your way–albeit less frequently. And certainly, and especially if you’re a more recent subscriber, you may want to work through the archives. There’s a lot of great stuff there–most of it definitely worth reading more than one or two times. I still believe this project is important and unique, and I have really appreciated the support and feedback from many along the way.

Please pray for me in the meantime, and for the continuing influence and success of this project. As always, I wish the best for you, as you seek after God, and as God seeks after you.


Daily Riches: Determined Simply to Love (Gregory Boyd and Roger Olson)

“Love is God’s essence, not just an attribute.” Roger Olson

“It was not without reason that Jesus acquired the scandalous reputation of fellowshipping with the dregs of society (Matt. 9:10–11; 11:19; Mark 2:15–16; Luke 7:34; 15:1). He loved and fellowshipped with prostitutes, tax collectors, and drunkards. He loved, gave attention to, and helped the ‘unimportant’ people as well as the ‘important’ people. Indeed, he even loved those who crucified him to the point of praying for their forgiveness (Luke 23:34). This is how we are to love, for this is how we are loved! God’s love is impartial and universal, and so must ours be (Deut. 10:17–19; 2 Chron. 19:7; Mark 12:14; John 3:16; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:10–11; Eph. 6:9; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 4:8). Anyone in need whom we happen to come upon is our ‘neighbor’ whom we are called to love (Luke 10:27–37). Nothing is closer to the heart of God than this kind of love. Indeed, love is the very heart of God. Hence, loving as God loves—manifesting the truth that we are in union with Christ and in fellowship with the triune community—must be the singular concern of the Christian. Whomever we encounter, whatever situation he or she may be in, whatever his or her lifestyle might be, however much we may approve or disapprove of the person’s appearance, words, or deeds, our one and only concern must be to affirm his or her unsurpassable worth with our words and deeds. This is the concern that must be above all other concerns. It is the concern we must wear and live in. With every person we encounter, the only question that should be on our mind is, How can I, right here and right now, affirm the unsurpassable worth of this person for whom Christ died?” Gregory Boyd

“for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
Romans 13:8

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your religion mostly about treating others such that they sense God’s incredible affection for and interest in them?
  • Can you do this even when you strongly disapprove of someone’s situation, appearance or lifestyle?
  • Are you preoccupied with the question, “How can I, right here and right now, affirm the unsurpassable worth of this person for whom Christ died?”
  • President Obama was called a “Muslim lover.” Isn’t that a fantastic compliment disguised as a slur? What if you were called a “Muslim lover”, or “n—– lover” or “queer lover?” Would you be gratified? proud?

Abba, let nothing keep me from loving well. Not “truth.” Not judgment. Nothing.

For More: Repenting of Religion by Gregory Boyd


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. – Bill

Daily Riches: This Confusion of Images and Myths (Neil Postman, Thomas Merton, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley)

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t…. we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another—slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. …In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.” Neil Postman

“But how does one stop to separate the truth from the half-truth, the event from the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image? It is in this confusion of images and myths, superstitions and ideologies that the ‘powers of the air’ govern our thinking…. Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, no time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?” Thomas Merton

“What is truth?”

Pontius Pilate in John 18:38


Moving From the Head the Heart

  • Perhaps both Orwell and Huxley were right. Do you see our world in their prophecies? Have you heeded their dire warnings?
  • Are you sufficiently detached from the culture to have perspective? How could you detach? Do you?
  • Is what you fear, or what you love, preoccupying you so that you have no time to “ask the pertinent questions?”

Abba, deliver me from delusion and illusion that I might be more useful to you.

For More: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman


Thanks for following and sharing my blog. I appreciate it!– Bill

Daily Riches: Come and See Evangelism (Phyllis Tickle, David Fitch, David Di Sabatino and St. Francis)

“Your life is your theology and your sermon. Don’t preach the good news, but be the good news … Preach as you go! Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Francis of Assisi

“The general tendency in Emergence Christian theology is to question with real vigor and precision whether or not the connection between faith and doctrinal precision is essential to the soul’s salvation. Dogma, yes, but doctrine, not so much. That is, do one’s brainwaves and verbal utterances actually make one’s faith? Emergence Christians can often take this even a step further and reference those places of spiritual primacy where Jesus taught (as in his judgment of the nations as told in the Gospel of Matthew, for example) that a life is what constitutes and demonstrates a disciple, rather than a mind-set.” Phyllis Tickle

“For postmodern evangelism, this means that truth is best communicated as it is lived in the life of a body of Christ out of its (his)story and its stories, not one-on-one combat via evidentiary apologetic. Instead, the church itself becomes the apologetic. As the truth of the gospel is worked out in the real lives of people living together in community, its veracity cannot be debated or individualized, it’s reality is something into which we may simply invite others to ‘come and see’ and the church thereby becomes the center for evangelism. Evangelicals often preach that what the culture needs is absolute truth, but what the culture needs is a church that believes the truth so absolutely it actually lives it out.” David Fitch

“Silence every radio and television preacher, stop every evangelical book or tract from being published, take down every evangelical website from the net and simply ask Christians to show one tangible expression of Jesus’s love to another person every day. We would be far better off.” David Di Sabatino

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.
Could this be the Messiah?”
John 4:29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • If Jesus was going to evaluate your relationship to him more by your life (your behavior) than your mind-set (your beliefs), would you need to make some changes?
  • Which will be more persuasive with people you know–”absolute truth” from you, or “unconditional love?”
  • Are people more or less interested in God after they spend time with you?
  •  If you showed “one tangible expression of Jesus’s love to another person every day”, how different would that be from what you’re doing now?

Abba, move my “faith” into my hands and my feet.

For More: The Great Giveaway by David Fitch


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. – Bill