LORD, with what care hast thou begirt us round !
Parents first season us : then schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws ; They send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers,
Pulpits and sundayes, sorrow dogging sinne,
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,
Blessings beforehand, tyes of gratefulnesse,
The sound of glorie ringing in our eares ;
Without, our shame ; within, our consciences ;
Angels and grace, eternall hopes and fears.
Yet all these fences and their whole aray
One cunning bosome-sinne blows quite away.
Life is a rehearsal… the habits of rehearsal are everything we do in life, and I’m very affected by a lot of stories that encourage me in the belief that most of my life is preparation for crucial moments. I’m not saying I’ve reached a defining moment in my life, but I’ve reached some fairly crucial moments where I had to act from memory… .
You’re in a hospital, you’re holding the hand of an 82-year-old woman. All her family are around the intensive care unit, and you know that they’ve just unhooked the machines, so she’s got 45 minutes until she’s going to stop breathing. How do you fill that 45 minutes? That’s what you go to seminary for, to know how to fill that 45 minutes.
I’d say the first thing you do is you sing. You recall something that has been significant in the worshipping life of everybody there, and you sing that, and it puts you in touch with good things about the richness that this woman has brought to everybody’s life. And it’s also a prayer, but it’s a prayer that you know that the woman maybe can still hear, because hearing and touch are really among the last senses to go.
So if you’d never learned that hymn – in other words, if you hadn’t rehearsed – how could you ever sing it? So you think, ‘Well, why do we go – as you say to teenagers – why do we go every Sunday and we sing the same boring old hymns?’ Well, there’s an answer for you: because one day you’ll be in hospital with an 82-year-old woman — and it could be me, actually, that woman — and you’ll have 45 minutes until she dies, and you’ll be gathered around with everybody, and everyone will be weeping but wanting something important, and you’ll think, ‘Well, that’s why we sang those hymns, wasn’t it?’
Ethics reflects on the conditions of good moral thinking. Were it to posit an ideal relation of text to action which, in the name of obedience to scriptural authority, effectively abolished thinking, it would abolish morality, and thereby abolish itself. There is a necessary indeterminacy in the obedient action required by the faithful reading of the text. Acts are ordered in a basic repertoire of kinds and types, and of these kinds and types Scripture has a great deal of normative force to tell us; but Scripture does not determine the concrete act itself , the act we must perform now. If Scripture totally determined our actions, there would be no obedience, for there would be no deliberation. Deliberation does not simply repeat what it has heard; it pursues the goal of faithful and obedient action by searching out actions, possible within the material conditions that prevail, which will accord with the content of the testimony of Scripture.
The modern world, when it praises its little Caesars, talks of being strong and brave: but it does not see the eternal paradox involved in the conjunction of these ideas. The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in times of doubt, to be strong.
G. K. Chesterton