Strength for Today, and Bright Hope

How odd, writing about strength on a rainy Friday night at the end of a short but intense work week.  But that’s the way the essay-for-reflection falls.  And so the question of strength from Kevin Vanhoozer’s “The Drama of Discipleship.”

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For Vanhoozer, strength of “heart, soul, and mind” comes “by constantly practicing the presence (and activity) of Christ in the power of the Spirit.”  And things like vocation, formation, and culture are all connected to it.  “Everyday life affords plenty of opportunities to practice the way of Jesus Christ.”  And Scripture helps inform that.  I like how Vanhoozer brings back the triad of inform/form/transform throughout the piece.  He does it again when talking about the command to love God with all our strength, particularly as he completes the square with conforming:

The Latin conformare means “to make of the same form.”  This is precisely the vocation of the church: to make disciples, people who have the same “form” as Jesus Christ: that is, the form of a servant, the form of a son– not to mention the form of prophets, priests and kings, the offices that make up the holy nation.  In the final analysis, God is not shaping individuals only, but a people.

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What role, then, does Scripture play in the realm of strength?  Of the many things Scripture does, Vanhoozer adds that “Scripture’s role in the economy of revelation and redemption is that of finishing school.  It is the Spirit’s curriculum for imparting habits of right thinking and desiring, for cultivating the mind of Christ in his disciples.”  It is Scripture, then, that “communicates an extraordinary culture: a set of belief, values and practices that correspond to the new created order ‘in Christ.'”

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The section on strength feels a little slight when compared to the previous sections of the Great Commandment.  Perhaps strength is almost a picture of the other three (heart, soul, and mind) played out over a longer period of time.  And so strength is not just the lifting of a car to free someone trapped underneath.  It is the long haul, the spiritual stamina, that continues on past today.

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