23 October 2007

Word for the Day... or maybe the year

"Sentimental pessimism or melancholy over the state of the world"

(from the German meaning world-pain or world-weariness) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that the physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world.

The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness, that can occur when realizing that someone's own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances.

"Gleaned" from www.yourdictionary.com and Wikipedia; image from the Canadian comic strip, Weltschmerz.

17 October 2007

Habakkuk in Kyrgyzstan

I recently received a letter from friends in Kyrgyzstan, chock full of genuine concerns: looming political crisis, rising inflation, persecution of the church, faith-stretching projects underway, personal financial struggles, a serious health problem and the gathering of world leaders in Bishkek. Then they added,

"Yet, in the end, we were reminded that GOD IS IN CONTROL! He holds the hearts of rulers in His hand, and shapes their wills to His own. What a comforting thought! We may feel that the political situation in the world is spinning out of control, but we are reminded of the day when Jesus will reign and 'the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Isaiah 11:9)."

Here is my response to them:
It caught my attention when you quoted Isaiah 11:6 in the context of, or in response to, your list of struggles and, what could be interpreted as, spiritual attack or oppression. One of the other places that we find those words is in Habakkuk 2:14, "For the time will come when all the earth will be filled, as the waters fill the sea, with an awareness of the glory of the LORD." However, the context in which Habakkuk finds himself is dire and perplexing -- a people more wicked than his own are being used as the instruments of judgment on his people, as well as, all around him he sees terror, greed, corruption and idolatry, often where he thought he saw God's glory at work, even among God's people (ch. 2).

Nevertheless, Habakkuk is told that this tidal wave of the LORD's glory is "slowly, steadily, surely" coming (2:3) and that "if it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place." Two paths are placed before him: "Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked" and then there's "the righteous" who "will live by their faith." (2:4) We too live in perplexing times, even among believers we find both the emerging of God's glory and corruption and syncretism (old spiritual ways mixed with their new faith); we see moments of redemption and occurrences of oppression and terror.

Eventually, Habakkuk re-centers himself "But the LORD is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him." (2:20) Then he is able to close his prayer with these words:

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (3:17-19)

God's kingdom -- like a slow train coming, as the prophet Bob Dylan said. Keep the faith.

07 October 2007

Our darkest hour - ever!

"Our darkest hour"? No, not the bombing of Pearl Harbour or 9/11 or even the recent eruption of Mt. Ruapehu. Worse yet. The All-Blacks, perennial rugby favorites, lost again -- early and badly -- in the Rugby World Cup. In NZ, a whole nation mourns. Here are some of the headlines in today's papers.

From www.stuff.co.nz

Our darkest hour - ever!

The horror, the horror. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for the All Blacks at the World Cup, it did.

Nightmare continues: ABs fried by French

Four more years. Those bitter words, plus the screaming celebrations of 20,000 Frenchmen, were ringing in the ears of the All Blacks after they were sensationally bundled out of the World Cup by France 20-18 in Cardiff on Sunday with Graham Henry's side suffering New Zealand's earliest exit from the tournament.

Our gods fall to earth

The All Blacks didn't play badly, but they didn't play well enough. For long periods of this test match they played better rugby than any other team in the competition is remotely possible of playing.

Teary All Blacks 'grief stricken'

"Don't let it happen again".

Rugby: All Blacks choked

Chokers. That is what international media are labelling the All Blacks after they crashed out of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals against France this morning.

Sports writers were left in as much disbelief as All Blacks fans after New Zealand let a 10-point halftime lead turn into 18-20 loss in Cardiff - their worst ever World Cup performance.

"You've got to choking, it's a new world order" said the Sydney Morning Herald's, while "End of the world for the All Blacks" was brandished across Britain's Telegraph website.

"They said it could not happen again. They said that New Zealand could not botch another World Cup. They said that there would not be a repeat of 1999 at Twickenham when France, from nowhere, humbled the seemingly invincible All Blacks," wrote the Telegraph's Steve James.

"Well, revise your opinions. New Zealand have yet another long wait and France are through to face England in an intruiging semi-final in Paris next Saturday (Sunday NZ time)."