Creation Song

Editor’s note: Brazos Fellows alum Emily Verdoorn (2019-2020) returns to the blog in this wonderful reflection for Eastertide. Be sure to check out Emily’s online studio to see more of her original artwork.

Yesterday afternoon, a beautiful storm rolled in here in Des Moines.  Grey green billowing clouds threatened that unsettling and mysterious kind of beauty, smell, and electric atmosphere which only a thunderstorm can bring.  The morning had been a kind of anxious blue with clouds scudding across the sky.  As distant thunder began, the stillness preceding the storm came almost as a relief to the wind.  I had been outside working on the back patio table, so I hurried to pack up my things.  In only a few minutes rain came down in torrents.  Small bits of hail seemed to jump up from the ground and bounced off the grass in the front yard.  Inside, we turned on lamps against the sudden dimness.  It didn’t last long and soon settled into an even, steady spring rain.  As the evening turned to night, the regular “plunk-plunk” of large drops of rain gave a sense of comfort in shelter and a promise of rich green growth.

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When Life Doesn’t Give You Lemons

In our backyard there’s a small lemon tree. We planted it last March, and right up to the Great Freeze of 2021 things looked promising. It was covered in leaves and fruit had started forming. Now, it looks dead. Local horticulturalists preach patience: it might come back, they advise; give it time.

Thankfully, the little lemon tree is the exception in our yard. Its bare branches contrast with the blossoming pecans and cottonwoods that will shade us all summer. 

It seems fitting that spring, at least in the northern hemisphere, coincides with Easter. Wildflowers, songbirds, bright green grass and blue sky—everything witnesses to new life. But as beautiful as this is, the coincidence can mislead. The spring-ification of Easter tempts us toward sentimentality.

Recently, the Brazos Fellows read Frederick Schleiermacher. We studied this Romanticist and German theologian as one example of the church’s response to the questions posed by modernity. Schleiermacher wanted to rescue Christianity for his very smart friends. They were sophisticated: they knew that the resurrection, like all miracles, was just a myth, and knowing this felt no need to continue with religious forms. 

Ok, that’s understandable, Schleiermacher replied, but real religion doesn’t have anything to do with doctrine or history. It’s a matter of feeling. It’s sensing the infinite; it’s experiencing one’s utter dependence; it’s that feeling “as fleeting and transparent as the first scent with which the dew gently caresses the waking flowers.”

That’s a lovely sentiment, as far as it goes. And thus liberal Protestant theology was born. In Schleiermacher’s version of Christianity, what matters is interior, subjective. For this, dew-covered blossoms do just as well as Word and Sacrament. And the Resurrection? Well, it’s a wonderful metaphor, isn’t it?

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Kairos, Kronos, and the Redemption of Time

Editor: please enjoy this latest post from Brazos Fellow Savannah Anne Carman.

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Credit: Laura Lee Blackburn

Rhythms and baking have been on my mind and a new part of my routine as of late. A part-time bagel baking job will do this, you know, when one is scheduling sleep and all else according to the demands of the dough. Bill Buford, journalist and chef in training, concisely described the process of bread-making he learned during time spent with a French baker. Buford explains how, “everything in time, everything good [comes] in time. Rhythm is time and bread-making is nothing if not a respect for rhythm—yeast, fermentation, heat.” The same holds true for life. Life’s rhythms are the heartbeat. Like the heart, which pumps blood and sustains breath, our daily activities move along according to the rhythms we hold, either giving or keeping what’s vital from us. Such routines form everything from callouses on our hands to grooves in our souls; they shape who we are and what we become. If the rote is so transformative, then what routines are proper to what we are made for, what we intrinsically desire?

418S-UzLUHL._SY346_Alexander Schmemann illuminates these questions about rhythm and time in his book For the Life of the World. In this book, the Orthodox priest considers the Christian rhythms of feasting and fasting, both in good times and hard. We do this because of a different understanding of time. Schmemann suggests that we order our lives to the reality of Christ, in Kairos, instead of the world, in Kronos. Kronos is about the temporal—it is one side of our three-dimension as finite creatures in time, space, and matter. The liturgy invites us into the reality beyond our finitude that harmonizes with Kairos, “the time of liturgical celebration.”

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Let us Keep the Feast

Late in the evening Saturday, the Brazos Fellows gathered in a candle-lit room for the Great Vigil. Being cloistered off into our own homes does not mean we missed participating, along with the whole church worldwide, in the great joy expressed in the Exsultet (eavesdrop on it being sung here):

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout Salvation for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth, bright with a glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church, and let your holy courts, in radiant light, resound with the praises of your people.

All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame, pray with me to God the Almighty for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light; through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Christianity [is] the revelation and gift of joy, and thus, the gift of genuine feast. Every Saturday night at the resurrection vigil we sing, “for through the Cross, joy came into the whole world.” This joy is pure joy because it does not depend on anything in this world, and it is not the reward of anything in us. It is totally and absolutely a gift, the “charis,” the grace. And being pure gift, this joy has a transforming power, the only really transforming power in this world.” — Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

And having been given this great gift, let us keep the feast! Alleluia! Alleluia! Wishing a very happy Eastertide to you all from the Brazos Fellows and Gutacker family.

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