Tag Archives: Matthew 2

Home By Another Way – A Scripture Index – Advent – Christmas – Ephiphany

To help me navigate Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderfully brilliant collection of sermons, sermons that have such a natural flow to them, the odd great phrase, that makes you wonder why you never saw things that way before:

God’s beloved thief – Matthew 24 – The thief that comes in the night (page 1)

Wherever the way may lead – Mark 1 – page 8

Singing ahead of time – Luke 1 – page 15 – Mary and the Magnificat

Past Perfection – Luke 2 – Watchnight (page 20)

Home by another way – Epiphany – Midrash on the story – Matthew 2 (page 27)

The River of life- Baptism of Jesus – Mark 1 (page 32)

Miracle on the beach – Call of the disciples – Mark 1 (page 37)

The Company of Strangers – Luke 4 – Tells great story of going round the room and people being asked when they had met Jesus, and one person who replied “Who in my life has told the truth to clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?” (page 42)

Show me a sign – Judges 6 – Story of Gideon (page 47)

God’s Ferris Wheel – Luke 6 – Beatitudes (page 51)

Thin Places – Luke 9 – Up the mountain (page 57)






Tributes to Dallas Willard – Part 2

On definitions:

Dallas and I used to play a game. I would ask him for definitions of all kinds of words. And every definition would contain a clarity and freshness and precision that would require folks to sit and reflect for a while. “Hey Dallas . . . ,” and then I’d ask him about any word or concept that mattered, and would receive a brief education in the possibilities of redeemed thought.

The word spirit. “Disembodied personal power.”

Beauty. “Goodness made manifest to the senses.”Maturity

disciple is “anyone whose ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if he were in their place.”

Dignity is “a value that creates irreplaceability.” (This one, he graciously attributed to Immanuel Kant.)

“Hey Dallas, what is reality?”

“Reality is what you can count on.”

“Hey Dallas, what is pain?””Pain is what you experience when you bump into reality.”

“What is spiritual maturity?”

“The mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do in his or her place.”

“What exactly does it mean to glorify God?”

“To glorify God means to think and act in such a way that the goodness, greatness, and beauty of God are constantly obvious to ourselves and all those around us. It means to live in such a way that when people see us they think, Thank God for God, if God would create such a life.”

Somebody once said of Dallas: “I’d like to live in his time zone.” During one of his lectures, a listener challenged him with statements that were both offensive and incorrect. Dallas paused, thanked the person for their comments, and then simply moved on to the next question. Somebody asked Dallas afterward why he had not countered the student’s argument and put him in his place. “I’m practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.”

“One sign of maturity are the thoughts that no longer occur to you.” On the first day of sobriety, a recovering alcoholic will be filled with thoughts of her heroic efforts. After 20 years of sobriety, her mind will be free to think other, more interesting thoughts. Her sobriety will no longer look heroic, only sane—only a gift.

On eternity:

“Hey Dallas, what’s death?”

“Jesus made a special point of saying those who rely on him and have received the kind of life that flows in him and in God will never experience death. . . . Jesus shows his apprentices how to live in the light of the fact that they will never stop living.”

Our destiny, Dallas used to say, is to join a tremendously creative team effort, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast plane of activity, with ever more comprehensive cycles of productivity and enjoyment. This is what the “eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard” in the prophetic vision. It is worth a few dozen read-throughs (found in The Divine Conspiracy).

Dallas also used to say, “God will certainly let everyone into heaven that can possibly stand it.” This is another one of those statements that becomes more daunting and frightening and wonderful the more you think about it.

“Keep eternity before the children,” his mother said. Dallas kept eternity before us in a way no one else quite has. And now he has stepped into the eternal kind of life in a way he never has before.

I’ll bet he can stand it. I’ll bet he can.

The Divide Of The Cross

Thus it is clear that baptism is no mere question of a cup of water, nor even a baptistry of water.  It is something far greater, relating as it does to both the death and the resurrection of the Lord, and having in view two worlds.  Anyone who has seen men turn to Christ in a pagan country knows what tremendous issues are raised by baptism. (page 79)

In China a woman lost her husband but, becoming deranged by her loss, she flatly refused to have him buried. Day after day for  a fortnight he lay in the house. ‘No’, she said, ‘he is not dead’; I talk with him every night. ‘She was unwilling to have him buried because, poor woman, she did not believe him to be dead.  When are we willing to bury our dear ones? Only when we are absolutely sure that they have passed away.  While there is the tiniest hope that they are alive, we will never bury them.  So when will I ask for baptism?  When I see that God’s way is perfect and that I deserved to die, and when I truly believe that God has already crucified me. Once I am fully persuaded that, before God, I am quite dead, then I apply for baptism.  I say ‘Praise God, I am dead! Lord, You have slain me; now get me buried!” (page 81)

A couple of minutes later I asked, ‘Can you tell me where the sugar is now, and where the tea?’ No’ he said, ‘you have put them together and the one has become lost in the other, they cannot now be separated.’  It was a simple illustration, but it helped him to see the intimacy and the finality of our union with Christ in death.  It is God that has put us there, and Goi’s acts cannot be reversed. (page 82)

Last Adam, Second Man

Many a time when preaching in the villages of China one has to use very simple illustrations for deep divine truth.  I remember once I took up a small book and put a piece of paper into it, and I said to those very simple folk, “Now look carefully.  I take a piece of paper.  It has an identity of its own, quite separate from this book.  Having no special purpose for it at the moment,I put it into the book.  Now I do something with the book.  I post it to Shanghai.  I do not post the paper, but the paper has been put into the book.  Then where is the paper?  Can the book go to Shanghai and the paper remain here?  Can the paper have a separate destiny from the book?  No! Where the book goes the paper goes.  If I drop the book in the river the paper goes too, and if I quickly take it out again I recover the paper also.  Whatever experience the book goes through the paper goes through with it, for it is still there in the book. (page 38)

Much is made of the terms in 1 Corinthians 15:45,47 of Christ being both “Last Adam” and “Second Man”.  In one he gathers up sinful humanity into death, and in the other he inaugurates a new era.

“As the last Adam he wiped out the old race; as the second Man He brings in the new race.  It is in His resurrection that He stands forth as the second Man, and there too we are included.  “For if we have become united with him by the likeness of his death, we shall be also by the likeness of the resurrection” We died in Him as the last Adam; we live in Him as the second Man.  The Cross is thus the mighty act of God which translates us from Adam to Christ.”

Merton’s Palace of Nowhere – Part 9 – The Door to Nowhere

From Douglas Steere:

The deepest prayer at its nub is a perpetual surrender to God./.. all meditation and specific acts of prayer might be seen as preparations and purifications to ready us for this never ending yielding.  Yet what is so often concealed is the there is a terrible dread that sweeps over me in the face of such an expectation.  If I am what I think myself to be and God is as I have picture him to be, then perhaps I could bear to risk it.  But what if he should turn out to be other than I have pictured him, and what if, in his piercing presence, whole layers of what I have known myself to be should dissolve away and an utterly unpredictable encounter take place.  (page 139)

Contemplation is the highest and most paradoxical form of self-realisation, attained by apparent self-annihilation. (page 140)

This loss, this going out, this ecstasy is not a going out from one form of self-containment into another, as though we were but pouring the precious fluid of our being into a bigger and more richly embellished container marked ‘mysticism’.  No.  Rather the going out is a going out into Being itself.  The awareness of our being is made one with the Being of God.  It is in contemplation that God becomes ALL in ALL in us as created persons called to perfect union with God. (page 142)

God, however, is not in existence, but is rather Existence itself.  He is that by which we are. (page 142)

How strange God’s ways are!  He calls us to a union we do not understand.  He calls us to a place of encounter which we cannot find.  We search and search.  Our silence reveals to us not a garden of delights but an awful nothingness.  God leaves us in an awful emptiness.  All our initial enthusiastic notions of prayer deteriorate into an acknowledgement of our utter superficiality and lack of authenticity before God.  We can only throw ourselves completely ion his mercy.  We can only believe that in Christ, God has already  spied us afar off returning repentant to his home.  In Christ God has already rushed out to meet us, fallen upon us and kissed us.  We can only accept that our poverty is so utterly deep that God himself will have to be our inheritance.  Our darkness is so intense that God himself will have to be our light.  (page 143)

At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.  This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. (page 145)

The following lengthy quote, written by Merton just before his death, echoes with the insight into the true self.

The three doors (they are one door)

1. The of emptiness.  Of no-where.  Of no place for a self, which cannot be entered into by a self.  And therefore is of no use to someone who is going somewhere.  Is it a door at all?  The door of no-door.


2. The door without sign, without indicator, without information.  Not particularised.  Hence, no one can say of it “This is it.  This is the door.” It is not recognisable as a door.  It is not led up to by other things pointing to it: “We are not it, but that is it – the door”  No signs saying “Exit”.  No use looking for indications.  Any door with a sign saying “Not-door”.  Or even “No Exit”.

3. The door without wish.  The undesired.  The unplanned door.  The door never expected.  Never wanted.  Not desirable as a door.  Not a joke, not a trap door.  Not select.  Not exclusive.  Not for a few.  Not for many.  Not for.  Door without aim.  Door without end.  Does not respond to a key.  Do not have you hopes on possession of the key.

Christ said “I am the door”.

This one door is the door of the Palace of Nowhere.  It is the door of God.  It is our very self, our true self called by God to perfect union with himself.  And it is through this door we secretly enter in responding to the saving call to:

“Come with me to the Palace of Nowhere where all the many things are one.” (page 147)


A man called Billy Hybels, and American pastor of some note was one day preparing his sermon in a restaurant, and he has his Bible out in front of him, and a young woman saw him reading the Bible at his table, and said to him “Why are you reading that?”


And Billy looked back, this is an exact quote, he’s a kind of pugnacious, combative guy Bill Hybels, and this is what he said to her

“Because I don’t feel like going to hell when I die.”


So said to him, “There’s no such thing as heaven or hell”


And Bill loves edgy conversations, that get to the heart of the matter, so he thought to himself, “Why do you say that?”


She said, “Everyone knows that when you die, your candle just goes out… pooofff!”


“You mean, there’s no afterlife” says Bill

“That means you must be able just to live as you please”

“That’s right”

“Like no judgement day, no justice coming from God, world being set right, everybody giving account, nothing like that”



Bill said “Well, that’s fascinating to me, where did you hear that?”


“I read it somewhere”


“Can you give me the name of the book?”


“I don’t recall”


“Can you give me the name of the author?”


“I forgot his name”


“Did the author write any other books?”


“I don’t know.”


“Is it possible that your author changed his mind, two years after he wrote this particular book, and then wrote another book saying there is a heaven and hell, is that possible?”


“It’s possible, not likely”


Bill said, “So let me get this right, you are rolling the dice on your eternity, on the basis of what someone you don’t even know, wrote in a book you cannot even recall the title of, have I got that straight.”


“That’s right”


Bill said, “Do you know what I think friend, I think that you have merely created a belief that guarantees the continuation of your unencumbered lifestyle, I think you made it up, because it is very discomforting to think of a heaven, it is very discomforting to think of a hell, it is very unnerving to face a holy God, on the day of reckoning, I think you made it all up.”

Merton’s Palace of Nowhere – Part 2 – False Self


The crux of the matter is, however, that we cannot be like God without God.  We cannot be like God by usurping God’s transcendant sovereignty in a spiritual coup that violates God’s will.  We cannot take our deepest self, which is a gift from God, and wrench it from God’s hands to claim it as a coveted possession. (page 34)


And yet it is this suicidal act that the brazen liar invites Adam to commit – and Adam accepts the offer!  In doing so, Adam, in effect, decapitates himself.  He tears out his own heart.  He gives birth to that sinister child of darkness and death that we are here referring to as the false self, the identity that Merton describes as “someone that I was never intended to be and therefore a denial of what I am suppose to be.” (page 35)


When we seem to possess and use our being and natural faculties in a completely autonomous manner, as if our individual ego were the pure source and end of our own acts, then we are in illusion and our acts, however spontaneous they may seem to be, lack spiritual meaning and authenticity. (page 36)


In our zeal to become the landlords of our own being, we cling to each achievement as a kind of verification of our self-proclaimed reality.  We become the centre and God somehow recedes to an invisible fringe.  Others become real to the extent they become significant others to the designs of our ego.  And in this process the ALL of God dies in us and the sterile nothingness of our desires becomes our God. (page 36)


This is the man I want to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him.  And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy. (page 36)


We are not very good at recognising illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves – the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin.  For most people in the world, there is not greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist.  A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin. (page 37)


After Adam had passed through the centre of himself and emerge on the other side to escape from God by putting himself between himself and God, he had mentally reconstructed the whole universe in his own image and likeness.  That is the painful and useless labour which has been inherited by his descendants – the labour of science without wisdom, the mental toil that pieces together fragments that never manage to coalesce in one completely integrated whole; the labour of action without contemplation, that never ends in peace or satisfaction, since no task is finished without opening the way to ten more tasks that have to be done. (page 38)

Everything Must Change – Part 1



  1. Environmental breakdown – the prosperity crisis
  2. The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor – the equity crisis
  3. The danger of cataclysmic war – the security crisis
  4. The failure of the world’s religions, especially its two largest – the spirituality crisis

(page 5)


The popular and domesticated Jesus who has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilisation, can thus be replaced with a more radical, saving, and I believe, real Jesus. (page 6)

Tell my story



One time he didn’t say it.  He was in the veteran’s hospital, and he was down to severy-three pounds.  They’d taken out his throat, and said, “It’s too late.”  They put in a metal tube, and X-rays burned him to pieces.  I flew in to see him.  He couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat.  I looked around the room, potted plants and cut flowers on all the windowsills, a stck of cards twenty inches deep beside his bed.  And even that tray where they put food, if you can eat, on that was a flower.  And all the flowers beside the bed, every card, every blossom, were from persons or groups from the church.


He saw me read a card.  He could not speak, so he took a Kleenex box and wrote on the side of it a line from Shakespeare.  If he had not written this line, I would not tell you this story.  He wrote, “In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.”


I said, “What is your story, Daddy?”

And he wrote, “I was wrong.”


(Page 14)