Winter Issue 9
An Ode to the Pear
By Lorna Taylor
And what about the actual stuff that makes up her [pyrus communis’] mass, substance, character? It is here that my pear outshines her sister, ever so slightly, unsuspectingly, unintentionally, unaware, for it is ‘just so.’ So, she asserts herself, covering all the bases: water, fat, fibre, protein, carbohydrate, an overall higher caloric content and a measure of folate (Dietitians.ca). And though some values are minimal, they are all present and thus make the pear a ‘whole food’— sustainer, nurturer—in a way that the apple, quince, grapes, pomegranate and many other fruit cannot be (Rizza). Again, do not be mistaken, each of these fruits are sustaining gift (pomegranate and apple decidedly feminine too) in their own right (Biedermann; Chevalier and Gheerbrant; Toussaint-Samat). These values simply mark her intrinsic value as complementary to her feminine form and culinary virtue—voluptuous, ‘childbearing’ girth, selfless-servant and now nurturing—maternal. And here, in an image of Mary and Eve, we reach the climax of our story (Remington, Mary and Eve). For here the true significance of the pear is revealed. You see, it is not about the pear—creation. Nor is it about the apple—death/fall—that Eve clutches. No, it is about the fruit of the virgin’s womb—Jesus Christ, God incarnate, sacrificial Lamb, LIFE itself. Our pear, symbolic of the goodness and abundance that flows from the hand of the creator, act as backdrop, while our focus is drawn by the gaze of the women to the unborn babe in anticipation (Johnson, 6 Things To Notice In This Beautiful Image of Mary and Eve). Here we find hope; a hope of newness, of all the possibilities held in and by Jesus Christ. For, he is not burdened—and thus neither are we—by the fall of humanity or the mistakes of our past. And while we recognize them, it is the pear, not the apple that sits in our periphery as we focus on Christ and receive the gift of His mercies, new and abundant each day. All point toward Christ, His death and resurrection. And thus, we find our primary vocation in the act of worship, a continual turning toward our saviour.
But what singles my pear out as ‘only-possible-candidate’ for the role to be played here today [keep in mind this was written in November] is not simply her physical attributes, nutrient value or heritage. Nor is it that she resembles my own body, or that of my mother, or that she attests to the character of the women who have framed my understanding of what it is to be a human in the context of womanhood—like the pear is fruit first then pear, so am I created image bearer before I am woman. Rather, my pear is an outworking of the gift “my true love gave to me” on that first day of Christmas.
Profit Margins, Idolatry, and the Economy of Worship
By Mike Evanson
A few years ago, I attended a company training seminar. The word ‘training,’ however, would describe only the mouse’s share of what occurred. The remainder comprised of being talked at about company values, sales, revenues, and profits. During this one week, in a room full of managers and supervisors, a not unexpected, yet still spectacular, even if only in a small way, transformation occurred. Many, who under ordinary circumstances would not be described as “model employees,” suddenly were more than willing to pledge undying loyalty to the company.
Now ‘idolatry’ is probably too strong a word to describe what occurred, but the occasion nonetheless prompted the thought: Did these people (or did I for that matter) give a level of loyalty, worship even, however feigned, to this company that is only properly reserved for God? More importantly, why is idolatry so ubiquitous, so universal a human temptation?
The overvaluing of the created, so the common Christian understanding goes, is at the root of idolatry. We humans exalt the created to the level of Creator and then, seemingly by natural impulse, offer the worship, proper to the Creator, to the created. The fundamental error in this reckoning is one of incongruity, the value of the created out-of-step with the worship given it. While this is undoubtedly often the case, it seems that often idolatry is an economically viable option not only (and perhaps not even chiefly) because we overvalue the created, but because we undervalue our worship. Perhaps the incongruity of idolatry is most often not a result of exalting the created, but debasing our worship.
Something happens to most people (Christian, and not, I propose) at least once in their lives. Generally speaking, we think rather a lot of ourselves. This high view of self, however, is usually challenged at some point, usually a result of encountering something or someone I deem to be ‘higher,’ better or otherwise superior to myself. At this point, reactions seem to fall between two extremes: Either I respond with ambition to rise to the other’s level, and so begin a torturous campaign to meet or surpass the object of my envy, or I despair my place in the cosmic order and see just how deep the pit of despondency can go.
It is somewhere in between these two reactions that many Christians remain. They may respond through personal effort to make themselves worthy of God or having realized their inability to measure up, they respond with despair. Often both effects eventually run their course and the Christian is left exhausted, but hopefully marginally better than before, having now at least a more accurate picture of their lowliness. While such humility is surely desirable, they leave their praise and worship also undervalued. This is on the surface not so unreasonable. If I am quite small, it would seem to follow that my worship is also quite insignificant. And so as long as I view my worship as something quite unimportant, I will spend it quite readily. I will devote my heart to a great many created things because I view neither myself nor my worship as being anything of great consequence.
It is a most awesome truth that the highest being in existence should value the worship of very lowly beings. I do not claim to understand this; I do not think anyone can. However, an essential truth follows: If this God who I have come to recognize as most worthy values my worship so highly, then this worship of mine is of immense worth. Its value must be of such magnitude that it is desired not only by other created beings, but by the supreme Being. It must be the most valuable ‘commodity’ in the cosmos, if you will permit such profane language. It is a most peculiar, most perplexing and yet most wondrous thing that the Creator should bestow the responsibility for the generating of something so valuable, to us. Very poor economic planning; God, it seems, could have benefitted from attending the aforementioned conference.
Such a view of this “Economy of Worship” enables a crucial shift, I think. When I understand how much God values my worship, I see it differently. I recognize the incongruity of giving what is of great value (my worship) to what is not (the created). My worship will become supremely valuable in my eyes, opportunities to worship the Creator will seem to be the most profitable of enterprises, and idolatry, by the grace of God, will become less and less natural, not because I have lessened the value of the created, but because I can see the immense value in my worship and how improper it is to spend it on anything created.
This proper understanding of the value of worship offers me an avenue to a proper valuing of myself and all created things. We are all of us crafters of worship, and God highly desires the product of our craft. Lowly as we are, we are integral to the Economy of Worship. Crucially, as much as this commission exalts the human person, they still remain themselves unworthy of the worship they can generate and so there can be no profit in keeping their worship to themselves.
In the grandness of this vision, my worship, which properly includes the whole of my life, can be put into perspective. Time spent singing in a church, which to the pragmatically oriented can appear to be a waste of time, is doing something of great value: Our Creator is not so pragmatic as we perhaps. Conversely, the practical, the everyday, the ‘overhead’ of life, which can be so easily devalued, can be treated as great profit: If the whole of life, everything we do, can be acts of worship, can generate this most valuable of product, then they are elevated as well, and no longer ‘red ink’ in the accounting of our lives. And to return to the example where I started, we may be able to approach the institutions we work for rightly, devoting not our worship and devotion to them, for they are far too great to give to human institutions, but rather giving a level of energy and commitment proper to them, for our work there can be highly profitable—generating and offering up that which our Creator most earnestly desires, our worship.
The Rainbow Electric IPIAT: March 21, 7:00pm, Regent Chapel
If you care about this cosmos and wanna know who's really pulling your strings, then you better come and see Matthew Nelson's IPIAT, readings from his novel, The Rainbow Electric, on March 21st at 7:00pm in the Chapel.
Logline: Fledgling LA screenwriter Quinn Herzfield tries to save himself and his old flame, rising movie star Rose, from evils spiritual and techno-magickal in the days just before the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st, 2012.
By Jonathan Lipps
Words fling themselves into being
Carried from our stomachs,
Using our throats as a birth canal
Some soft, some harsh, some so repetitious
They begin to come forth stillborn,
Meaningless heaps unable to stem the tide
Of miscommunication, the endless river
Which is always between us,
Threatening to flood our little towns
Sometimes I use my words and
Sometimes they use me,
Committing me to dividing my soul in two
My words in any language can bring
A power to uphold and create life
Or the world's approval as it tilts drunkenly
I shy away from words that divide,
Even as I sharpen the shining blade
Whose only purpose is to split
True from false, light from dark,
Caring not for acceptance or status
Burning with an alien heat
I long to bridge the riverbanks
Not to burn the slow, small ferry
Which is their only link
But I fear that such a bridge will tempt
Our villages to forget the wild,
The real gulf, the incompatible views
Separating our souls from true friendship,
Deadening our ears to echoes of fierce love,
And spinning words that means less
Than the sum of their parts.