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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rivers of Grace 3

Today I'm reading Mark 1:5, "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."
And 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, "So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

This painting of the northern lake country of Michigan was titled after Ernest Hemingway's two-part short story called "Big Two Hearted River."

Hemingway has always been one of my favorite authors. I always loved the brevity and clarity of his writing. But he was also one of these 20th century American authors who couldn't escape his Christian upbringing (as hard as he tried). Not that he was a believer, but the themes that he wrote about always touched on God and human fallibility (sin).

In "Big Two Hearted River" he follows a young man named Nick Adams as he returns to his home in the northern lakes region of Michigan after World War 1. But he discovers that the world has changed and he has changed. The forest of his youth is all burned down and the scenery reminds him of the battlefields he left behind in France. "You can't go home again" is sort of the main theme, and Nick tries to rediscover who he is now that his home is forever altered. The only thing that seems to survive are the grasshoppers who have learned to adapt to their new environment. And the question seems to be this: Can he and other returning soldiers adapt to their new environment since the horrors of war have changed them forever? Nick finds a type of personal redemption as he fights to catch a tough trout in the waters of the big river.

Hemingway was the ultimate "a real man can handle anything" kind of guy. But as he got older he couldn't cope with his own aging and the loss of his virility. And the number of blows he had taken to the head over the years also took a toll. Consequently, he ended his life on the wrong end of an expensive Italian shotgun.

When John the Baptist confronted people he brought them to the point of change through baptism in the Jordan River. The Jordan is not much of a river. Today it's more like a muddy creek, so there isn't anything magical about the water itself. It was the symbolism of surrender that made baptism significant. Paul says, "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" I wish this was a truth that Hemingway would have discovered.

Of course he didn't like the idea of symbolism in writing anyway. He once said about the epic struggle in "The Old Man and the Sea" - There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is s**t. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”

Paul says, "At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!"

Knowing Christ really does make all the difference.


Today's prayer:

You are holy, Lord,
the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love.
You are wisdom.
You are humility.
You are endurance.
You are rest.
You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Saviour.

st. francis of assisi

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