simple & sense-able

Dec 1, 2020

Happy the eyes that see what you see,
for I tell you that many prophets and kings
wanted to see what you see, and never saw it;
to hear what you hear, and never heard it.
Luke 10:24

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth is widely considered to be one of the greatest theologians of last century. One biographer comments that “reading Barth’s theology poses a challenge, however, because of the sheer size of his corpus, the complexity of his claims, and the distance between his context and the context of his readers.”

As a 75 year old man on a lecture tour of the United States Barth was asked by a student if he could summarise his life’s work in a simple sentence. His response: Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

There’s a good reason that Barth’s words are quoted so often. It’s because we suspect that we tend to complicate things that are really very simple and that we make difficult what is really very easy.  Children get it, but (excuse the clumsy grammar), as children grow we adults unlearn them it.

I’m reminded of the old tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The wise and learned character in this ancient story was not any of the well-educated sycophantic subjects of the ruler, but the child who had not yet unlearned the simplicity of essential truth and freedom. It is the child who has not yet learned to fear and who therefore wouldn’t think of sacrificing integrity to win status in the eyes of others.

This is where the teaching of Jesus causes us discomfort since it seems just too basic, too simple to be true. Jesus communicates most often in simple parables which confuse the learned and clever yet make complete sense to the one who has the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

You might like to:

  • spend two or three minutes now in stillness and silence simply being aware of your breathing, noticing what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell with the senses of your soul. 
  • share a comment below offering your own thought or reflection. Many FFF readers comment that they are encouraged by what others share on these pages. It’s inspiring to see readers interacting with each other in the comments section.
  • send the initials of those you would like FFF readers to remember in prayer to john@fff.org.nz. If you add a note indicating any special intention I will list these in a paragraph separate from the initials.

10 Comments

  1. God loves me, and that’s all I need to know!

    Reply
  2. Jesus loves me this I know…..
    If only I can get out of His road and accept His love. My ego and arrogance just get in the way.
    Lord reduce my ego so that You can increase in me and help me to grow in trust and surrender to You.

    Reply
  3. Thank you Lord for cloaking my Corpus maximus with Your Healing Love and for Blessing my feet, in my wheelchair with Peace of Good News.

    Reply
  4. Allowing time to slowly enter the day with my cup of tea and become aware of my breath, to tune into my senses, helped me enter into silence and deep expansive knowing of God within, and the deepest sense of his love, joy and peace….I am blessed.

    Reply
  5. Mathew 11 28-30 I think says it very well.
    Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.
    29 Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
    30 Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
    Over the millennia the church has become increasingly intellectualised.
    One only has to look at writings coming out of the church to see they often are full of big words that only a theologian would understand, or at least I don’t and have to go and look them up.
    Perhaps if the church was to head back to the principals of Mathew 11 28-30, we might be able to reverse the decline of the church.

    Reply
  6. Thank you Fr John.
    Our small group of 6 have just finished our prayer time together. It was about protagonists of change – leaders as Jesus was and how we can rest and be quiet in his company – knowing that Jesus loves us, doing his work and not leaving it to others. Keeping it simple and sense-able. SKJ

    Reply
  7. Just sitting and watching a gentle blackbird staying very still with its head cocked. Unafraid and tuned into the moment. Time to sit in the present with the simple yet so profound mystery of God’s unfolding love.

    Reply
  8. JESUS” the innocent child
    Crucified”
    Never thought of that,untill
    Reading your FFF.
    Thankyou

    Reply
  9. The Emperor’s New Clothes tale is very relevant these days, when those who point out the truth are so often accused of bigotry and hate speech.

    Reply
  10. “we adults unlearn them it”: broadening the possibilities of English grammar even as you broaden my understanding of reality. Thanks John!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts

Annunciation

Annunciation

A couple of thousand years ago, a young Jewish woman was going about her normal morning routines, perhaps with a mixture of house and garden work, chatting with parents and neighbours, aware of the local drought, the sickness of a neighbour and annoyed by the neighbourhood’s lack of sleep caused by the Romans’ noisy party the night before, when God broke into her routine and entered her life in a new and powerful way.

the real centre

the real centre

Over the last month I have had the opportunity to work with many people across Aotearoa and further afield. In every retreat and seminar I have been with committed and faith-filled people who often feel as though they are on the periphery of the Church

the adventure

the adventure

It’s easy to make the mistake of seeing life as a treadmill, day after day ups and downs, a movement through time from youth to old age, then death and beyond.
Too often if feels as if we are helplessly captive carried along by the momentum of all that is expected of us and demanded from us, and we risk falling into an existence mode, a daily rhythm of survival, enduring, coping and so the treadmill rolls on.

the bigger picture

the bigger picture

Over the years, and even in recent months, weeks and days, I’ve prayed many prayers which have not been answered as I had hoped.
You’ve probably had the same experience: praying and wondering if and when or how your prayer will be answered.

moving waters

moving waters

Bible questions still pop up regularly in quiz shows and they often cost otherwise sharp players much needed points.
I’m ready for a question asking for the two names for the last book of the Bible. The book often known as Apocalypse is perhaps more often referred to as the Book of Revelation.
It’s common (thanks to movies) to think of an apocalypse as a devastating and unwelcome time of destruction.