All posts in Humanity

  • Every Grain of Sand


    Every Grain of Sand
    Brian Zahnd

    In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
    In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

    –Bob Dylan, Every Grain of Sand

    I had a dream. I dreamed I was riding a yellow bicycle. While riding my yellow bicycle I was intently observing the beauty of creation, especially the vibrant colors — the green of the grass and trees (the human eye is more attune to the green spectrum than any other), the blue sky, the red roses, the yellow dandelions. During my colorful dreamland bike ride I was thinking about the nature of salvation. When I awoke I wrote down my nocturnal thoughts:

    When we make salvation mostly postmortem, all about the afterlife, we create a barrier — a wall of separation between redemption and the land of the living. No wonder so many shrug their shoulders in disinterest. But when we locate salvation here and now we achieve a stunning relevance.

    Salvation is about being human. This is why the Logic (Logos) of God became human flesh. Jesus came to give us back the life we lost ever since we stumbled out of the garden to wander in the violent land east of Eden.

    When Adam and Eve were banished from Eden Creation lost its gardener. Is it any surprise that the faster our technology has advanced the more rapacious we have become in the pillage and plunder of our planet? When we lost our vocation as gardeners, the planet lost its God-ordained caretakers. From the stone age to the dawn of the industrial age the planet has been able to muddle by without its caretakers, but now human civilization, divorced from its original vocation, threatens to imperil the earth.

    Mary Magdalene’s Easter “mistake” of thinking Jesus was the gardener is a poetic hint of how the Last Adam leads us back to our first vocation. Any understanding of salvation that doesn’t lead us to love God’s creation is far more Gnostic than Christian. Or perhaps it’s just voracious capitalism dressed up in Christian garb — a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If we cannot love the primeval forest I’m not sure we can love either God or neighbor. The wise Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov gives this counsel to the novice monk Alyosha:
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  • Saturday Morning


    Saturday Morning
    (A thought and a poem)

    Let Christ inform all of your life, but do not become a shallow religious cliché.
    Be a real, earthy human being; belong to the human race.

    So… Read more

  • One Minute to Address the World


    I’ve got a new thought experiment for you.

    Imagine you have one minute to address the whole world. You and you alone are given this opportunity. Every person in the world will hear what you have to say. You can say anything you want. You can address politics, economics, religion, culture—anything you want to say. But you are given only one minute. Sixty seconds. That’s all. What would you say? The address you compose is probably quite revealing about yourself.

    I worked on my one minute address to the world for twenty minutes or less. (So there’s not a lot of thought in it.) It’s what I would say today. Tomorrow…who knows? My address is 143 words. I can say it in one minute. Here it is: Read more

  • Art, etc.

    Hendrick Avercamp, Marc Chagall, Emily Dickinson, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Bob Dylan, Francis of Assisi, Wassily Kandinsky, Phil Keaggy, Kierkegaard, T. S. Eliot, Leonardo da Vinci, C.S. Lewis, Dave Matthews, George McDonald, Herman Melville, Michelangelo, Milton, Monet, Ezra Pound, Solomon Raj, Rodin, Salman Rushdie, Evgeniy Shibanov, John Steinbeck, Leo Tolstoy, U2, Jason Upton, Van Gogh, Walt Whitman, Wilco, Neil Young, Warren Zevon

    These are a few of my favorite artists. They have nothing more in common other than in my opinion they are very good at their art. Art. That’s what I’m thinking about on my thinking day. What is art? Some define art as one of the humanities. And what are the humanities? The humanities might be understood as branches of learning and expression that investigate and reflect human concerns. Humans are interested in art; animals are not.

    Since art is part of what makes us uniquely human, art is connected with God, because you cannot define what it means to be human apart from God. I’ll show you what I mean. Look up the Merriam-Webster definition of human and you get this:
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  • Son of Adam

    So this is Christmas…

    And I’m thinking about the Immanuel mystery of the Incarnation. The greatest of all the holy mysteries.

    God with us.
    With us in our humanity.
    God who has become one of us.

    What if God were one of us?

    In Christ he is.

    In the Incarnation we can rightly speak of the humanity of God.

    O holy mystery!

    Don’t be casual with this mystery.

    Let it take your breath away.
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  • From The Dust

    God formed man
    From the dust of the earth
    Breathed into him the breath of life
    Man became a human being.
    Genesis 2:7

    Humanity did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus like Athena or fall from the sky like one of the gods of Greek mythology. Humanity did not have a pre-existent state in the non-spatial, non-temporal realm of perfect forms as Plato imagined. Humanity did not come from somewhere other than the earth. Humanity’s only home has been the spinning blue orb third from the sun. If this world is not our home (as the Gnostics claimed) we are homeless.

    Humanity was formed.
    Formed by God.
    Formed from the earth.
    All living things share common ancestry
    The dust of the earth.
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  • Locating Salvation

    I get lots of questions via Facebook. I can’t answer them all. That’s just the way it is. But here’s one I’d like to address. The question goes like this…

    Pastor Brian,
    What is the one thing that motivates you everyday to live a radical life for Jesus? Is it the hope of glory? An experience you’ve had? The realization of your identity in Christ? The reason I ask is because it’s not always easy to be radical for the Lord. It’s easy when you get to surf the wave, but when you are paddling out to sea, it’s rough… it’s easy when you get the pools of breakthroughs and miracles… but what do you do when you’re in a desert? what is it that keeps you pressing hard?

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  • The Mark of Cain

    Thinking out loud.

    Sitting on my deck thinking. Thinking.

    What am I?

    A human being?

    Yes. But what more can be said?

    A pastor?

    This is what I do, but not really what I am.

    To cease vocation is not to cease being.

    What are you?

    A human too.

    A Christian?

    Perhaps, but that reflects a religious choice.

    Can we come closer to the essence of being?

    Can we be more basic?

    What are you?
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  • Hope of Glory

    Christ in you the hope of glory.

    Colossians Chaper One, Verse Twenty-Seven.

    Seven words. All but one monosyllabic. Simple. But what does it mean?


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