Category Archives: Discipleship

Why Do We Sing in Church?

(Originally posted November 18, 2017 at malmochurch.ca.)

Tomorrow morning we will gather at Malmo again, as we have been doing faithfully for 125 years or so, to worship together through fellowship, prayer, scripture reading…and singing.

Singing has been a part of Christian worship since the first Christians gathered. In fact, some parts of the Bible are widely believed to be taken from early Christian songs of worship. For example, Philippians 2:6-11 is often referred to as the “Christ Hymn”:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

These stanzas contain not only generic praise to God, but they tell a story—the salvation story, in fact: God becomes human, dies on the cross, is raised from the dead and made Lord and Messiah.

But why do we do this? Why do we sing together in church, especially when some people don’t like singing or think they don’t have a good voice?

I can think of several reasons, and none of them have anything to do with being able to sing or carry a tune: singing brings glory to God; it helps us remember the gospel story; it is modelled and encouraged (even commanded!) in scripture; it brings believers together and encourages them (have you ever been at a concert or worship event where thousands of people sing along together? There are few things more unifying and beautiful).

(There are more reasons, I’m sure. In fact, here are a couple of further explanations for Christians singing that I have come across that you might find helpful: “The Three Rs: Why Christians Sing” and “Seven Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters.”)

So as we gather tomorrow and in the weeks to come, consider: can I choose to participate in worship, including the singing, even if I (think I) don’t sing very well, even if I don’t fully understand why we do it?

Author and pastor Eugene Peterson wrote, “Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.” Often we talk about worship, and especially the singing part of worship, as an expression of our feelings for God. That may be true, but there are some people who do not express their feelings for God in that way, and there are some days when my feelings for God are not great.

In a much more important way, whatever our feelings may be on a given day, our singing praise, our singing the gospel, plays a significant role in transforming us bit by bit over time, through low seasons and high seasons, as individuals and a community, into the people of God…if only we will open ourselves up—both our mouths and our hearts!

Evolution, Genesis, and Discipleship

I haven’t blogged about the question of how we read and understand the Genesis creation accounts in a while, though it continues to be of interest to me. Today I happened to listen to and watch a delightful moderated dialogue between Richard Dawkins, the famous biologist and outspoken atheist (to be fair, he identifies as an agnostic), and Rowan Williams, the former-but-current-in-the-video Archbishop of Canterbury, the sort of figurehead of the worldwide Anglican communion. (I don’t normally have the patience to watch anything on YouTube that’s longer than 15 minutes, but the whole discussion was 1.5 hours long and I was captivated. I must have been soothed by their English accents, particularly Williams’. Actually, it was a truly interesting exchange, and Dawkins was civil.)

Nothing particularly bloggable was said in the first hour, but just after the hour mark things got more generally interesting for a while in response to a question from the audience. Williams believes that the universe is billions of years old and that evolution, so far as we understand it, is how we got to now—at that level, he and Dawkins agree. Of course, as a Christian, Williams believes God is involved or present in this process (though in the discussion he does not explain how).

Here is a link to the portion of the video that I’m referring to (starting automatically at about 1:08:27 and you can stop listening at about 1:11:39, if you wish), but I will also include a transcript of the relevant bits below.

Moderator Anthony Kerr, quoting an audience question: “Surely if the truth is that the universe is billions of years old and life evolved, it would have been better when the Bible was written to say nothing about how humans began. Did the writers essentially get it wrong?”

Archbishop Rowan Williams: Probably [a question] for me…I can’t imagine that the biblical writers were, if you like, faced with a set of options, including telling the truth that the universe is billions of years old, and saying, “Oh, that’s too difficult.” The writers of the Bible, inspired as I believe they were, were nonetheless not inspired to do 21st century physics.

This is probably the most succinct way of explaining why we should not read the opening chapters of Genesis as a scientific textbook or manual. Williams goes on:

Williams: They were inspired to pass on to their readers what God wanted them to know—forgive the naked theology here, but I might as well come clean—and that means reading the first book of the Bible, what I look for is the basic information—this might be a different sense [of information] from what we were talking about just now: the universe depends on God, God’s freedom, humanity has a very distinctive role in that universe, and from the first measurable moment humans have made a rather conspicuous mess of that role. That’s where the Bible begins, that’s what I need to know, so to speak. And I don’t think that it makes very much sense to talk about the writers of scripture getting it wrong in the sense that there being lots of information available and they happened to get the wrong bits of it.

He goes on to say, in response to a follow-up question from Dawkins, that reading Genesis in this way is “something which isn’t just a 21st century invention, but it’s a way people have read Genesis from very early on.”

What does appear to be a 21st century invention, however, is an insistence on a strictly literal (in the sense of literal six 24 hour days of creation—a sort of reverse scientific literalism, I suppose) reading of Genesis, which I suspect is a reaction to overzealous conclusions about religion and the existence of God drawn by some from the scientific evidence.

In many respects I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I don’t know much about evolutionary theory, nor do I have detailed knowledge of the evidence, so I can’t make an independent decision about its veracity. However, the vast majority of the scientific community, as far as I’m aware, including the many Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christian scientists among them (including personal friends), agree that the universe is very old and that we evolved, so I have to deal with that fact.

At this point I’m not sure it matters what a person believes about this question. I think a person can be just fine believing in a 6,000-year-old earth and a one-week creation; I think a person can be a fine follower of Jesus and hearer of scripture and believe the universe’s age is in the billions of years and that life evolved.

Where this question does interest me is on the level of biblical interpretation and discipleship. I’ve talked about the question of how to interpret Genesis in relation to question of its intent (as Williams addressed in the video) and genre. The question of discipleship comes up from time to time, particularly in terms of teaching our young people in preparation for higher education. What should we teach them about Genesis and science? we wonder Some think that we should teach them to defend against evolutionary theory, that we should make sure we understand the (apparent) evidence against evolution and for a young earth to prepare them when they face all the (mis?)information in university.

I’m inclined to disagree with this approach, and not  because I think that it is true that life evolved (I remain mostly agnostic about this, largely because I don’t know enough), but for two other reasons:

  1. Jesus is the heart, soul, and centre of our faith, not how we read the opening chapters of Genesis. Genesis is very important to our understanding of the faith. I love Genesis. But it’s not the centre or focal point. Jesus is.
  2. I’m convinced that training our young people against evolution will, in the long run, do more to harm their faith than grow it. If we train them with biblical scientific literalism (my term) and then they go to university and are overwhelmed with evidence in favour of evolution, it might bring them to a crisis of faith, having to choose between faith and science. It’s a choice I don’t think is necessary to make, but we may force that choice on them, depending on how we approach the issue in our teaching.

Note that this is not about whether or not evolution is true. It’s a question of whether it’s a battle that needs to be fought, of whether the Bible requires us to believe something other than what the scientific community is (purportedly?) finding out about our world and universe. It’s a question of how we understand the Bible and how we teach our kids in relation to that knowledge.

The reality is, even apart from what we’re hearing from biologists, astronomers, and physicists, the church has historically been okay with not reading Genesis as if it reflects a scientific account of our origins. I can quote (and have quoted in the past) respected and influential theologians and Christian writers through the ages—people like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and many more from the modern age—to make this point. These men can be wrong, of course, but the point is simply that literalism of the modern sort is not something based in historical theology and interpretation. If this is indeed the case, then why turn the question of evolution into a battle for truth? It seems to me to be entirely unnecessary.

In the end, I suspect the negative reaction is to people who have taken the evidence and the capacity of science farther than it can go, exemplified by the likes of Richard Dawkins and the other so-called “New Atheists,” but also carried forward by many in the general population: namely, that all of this “proves” that God doesn’t exist (or makes it unlikely that he exists or unnecessary to believe that he does). That is perhaps a battle worth fighting. But evolution vs. Genesis? No. It’s wasted effort, as far as I’m concerned, and quite possibly spiritually disastrous.

Silence is not just not talking

One of the pleasures of browsing books and desultory reading is coming across little gems that you hadn’t anticipated. For one reason or another, Dixie had pulled Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart, a a little book by Wayne E. Oates published in the late 1970s, off the shelf. I had bought it on a whim years ago at library book sale.

The book was laying on our bed last night, so I picked it up and started reading and was hooked pretty quickly. Here’s a bit on silence as not simply the absence of noise (quoting Thomas Merton in the first paragraph):

Silence is a part of the rule of obedience which [Trappist monks] follow. This does not mean, however, that the “monk must never go out, never receive a letter, never have a visitor, never talk to anyone, never hear any news. He must distinguish what is useless and harmful from what is useful and salutary, and in all things glorify God…”

He uses the word “distinguish.” What does that mean about silence? Wrapped up in “distinguish” is the basic principle of nurturing silence in a noisy heart. It means to “chose between” or to “choose from among” the many sounds—noises, tones, words—what is useful in creating within us a clean heart and right spirit. We put to the test all that we are about so say or not say; we are constantly choosing to listen, and choosing what we will need to listen to. We develop, under the tutelage of the Spirit of God, the power to discern and make choices in the feeding, nurturing, and growing of our personal realm of silence. Jesus suggests a kind of prayer that is not know for its “much speaking.” He taught simplicity of utterance. Your “yes” is to be “yes” and your “no” is to be “no.” Silence, then, is not just not talking. Silence is a discipline of choosing what to say and to what to listen. Nurturing silence, then, is the growth of the power of discernment as to what will be the focus of your attention, care, and commitment. (9)

Well, that’s pretty profound, I thought to myself as I closed the book, grabbed my smartphone, and started watching Letterman clips on YouTube. Perhaps not profound enough, I guess.

These are words I need to heed. I have a lot of alone time, relatively speaking, but I don’t have a lot of silence, because I tend to fill my alone time with the noise of the internet. My excuse is that true silence is boring, but the reality is probably that silence is scary. In silence we begin to think about things we otherwise wouldn’t. We begin to realize things about ourselves that we’d rather ignore. God is given room to speak, when it would be much more comfortable to push his voice away with YouTube, Buzzfeed, Facebook, movies, work, etc.

Of course, none of these things aren bad in and of themselves, and sometimes it’s okay to just “escape,” but the danger is that we (I) simply start filling every space with this stuff, so that every waking moment is filled with noise of one kind or another. Smartphones with large data plans don’t help.

We need silence to quiet our hearts, to restore us, “reset” us from the noise, the outside voices, the cacophony of our world, so that we can hear God again, so that we can know who we are again.

 

Low-ball it and make it a meal.

I’ve been meeting one-on-one with the guys who live in an “intentional community” here in Winnipeg in connection with our denomination. We have “spiritual conversation”–or at least that’s the idea, and we have varying degrees of success meeting to meeting. It’s always good conversation, even if it isn’t always “spiritual” in the strictest sense. But then spiritual in the “strictest” sense may well not be a good thing–might, in fact, be a sort of gnostic dualism. Talking school, girl friends, spiritual life, jobs, family all are, I suppose, in some sense “spiritual”. But I digress.

It seems I’ve started a bit of a trend with at least one of the guys of coming up with memorable catch-phrases in relation to the spiritual disciplines or the personal “life with God” or whatever you want to call it. The first was “low-ball it”, which on its own may sound like terrible advice, but I think it has great value, depending on where a person is at.

As cheesy as catch-phrases tend to be, I have, more or less by accident, developed two catch-phrases so far (they have limited originality, I’m sure). I will share them with you now, with the BIG, HUGE caveat that these words were and are spoken as much to myself as to the guys with whom I’ve been having coffee. These thoughts come not out of seasoned practice in the spiritual life, but out of my reflections on how my own life with God can be improved.

1. Low-ball it, or alternately, aim low. As I say, at first blush this seems like terrible advice. But it’s really just a memorable way of saying “Do something.” It seems to me that it’s better to set the spiritual bar low for yourself and actually maintain your conversation and relationship with God (and thereby build on it), rather than setting the bar way too high (say, at the level you’d like to be at), getting frustrated at your inconsistency (or lack of “results”) and quickly giving up.

Our tendency when, say, creating a Rule of Life, is to shape it to look like the “ideal” spiritual life–the place we’d like to be at in terms of spiritual disciplines. Odds are, however, like big New Year’s resolutions, that we will get frustrated with the idealistic Rule of Life we’ve set up for ourselves and give up. Better to say, “I’m going to read a chapter of scripture each day” or “I will pray for 5 minutes each day” and actually keep it up than to say, “I am going to read scripture for one hour each day and pray for an hour and then sit in silence for 45 minutes”, but give up after a few days.

That’s not to say that we should keep the bar low, but that we should start small. “Baby steps,” as Dr. Leo Marvin would say.

2. Make it a meal. Today I was discussing with one of the guys the common problem of “life getting in the way” of our spiritual habits. It happens to me all the time. Daily, even. The problem is that we see faith and the spiritual life that goes with it as just one more to add to life, so that we have

life over here, and……………………..over here next to it, we have, school, work, church, friends, faith, family, play,
which we need to balance and prioritize.

When, in fact, as our pastor talked about a couple of months ago, faith is a way of life that encompasses all of these other things. Faith is not just an addition to the things of life that needs to be balanced in, but an essential, shaping element of life itself. It’s like food. “Life,” for those of us who live in the affluent west, does not get in the way of us eating three meals a day. In fact, we won’t let it. It doesn’t matter what’s going on with my life–how busy or stressed or discombobulated I am–I will have the meals I have every day. I need food to live.

Those of us who consider and struggle with the spiritual life have a hunger of a different sort–a spiritual hunger, if you will–but it’s easy for us to ignore the hunger or be unsure what it is or how to deal with it, because it does not manifest itself in hunger pangs and grumbly tummies. So to say, “Make it a meal,” is try to create a mental shift in perspective on the spiritual disciplines and to look at them as we would breakfast, lunch, or supper. We recognize that we need those meals and they just become a part of the essential elements of life–not an addition like work or meetings, but simply part of what it means to live day-to-day. Make the disciplines a meal.

There are some others brewing in my head (such as “Do it. Now. Don’t think. Do it.”, which clearly needs an explanation), but what do you think of “Low-ball it” and “Make it a meal”? Am I off my rocker?

Discipline

As a part of the MDiv (Master of Divinity – said like this) program, I am required to take a course called “Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation”.  It is a class studying the reason for and use of the spiritual disciplines (such as fasting, solitude, silence, the prayer of examen, etc.)

Our first assignment is to practice “spiritual journaling” for 30 days.  I’m in the middle of this assignment right now and it seems to be going okay.  Not much explanation was given as to what a spiritual journal might look like–are entries supposed to be addressed to God?  Do I cover a certain topic every day? What is legitimate content for a spiritual journal? (I wish I had read this book, instead of buying it and putting it on the shelf)–so I assume it’s quite open-ended.  It is a discipline not only as a means of self-reflection and God-reflection, but even in terms of staying focused.  It’s difficult to not veer off into events and frustrations of the day without any further thought or simply making it a book of theological musings.  I don’t know, maybe those are all legitimate forms of spiritual journaling.

After the 30 days of journaling period is over, we have to practice another discipline of our choosing for the next 30 days.  The professor suggested that it would be profitable if it was something I don’t normally do.  I jotted down some options during class today.  This is what the list looked like:

internet

lunch

internet

I had unwittingly written “internet” twice.  Part of me wants to take that as a message from my subconscious that I should give up the internet for 30 days–an internet fast.  That would certainly free up a lot of time.  But what would it look like?  I’d like to think that it would require a complete disconnection–no blogging, no reading of blogs, no twittering or Facebooking–but in the age of email communication cutting oneself off wholesale from the internet would kind of be like fasting from the telephone.  But if I do allow for email, but nothing else, I would be placing myself in a place of “temptation” every time I checked email.

The list I wrote down was essentially a fast list, and by “lunch” I meant doing a 30-day lunch fast.  I have never fasted before, so I have no idea what that would look like.  I presume that instead of eating lunch I should pray or contemplate or practice some other discipline.  I’m inclined to dismiss this option because the studying mind needs sustenance, but perhaps that’s the point: give up control for one meal.   And maybe eat more at breakfast to hold me over.

Another practice which came to mind this morning was lectio divina, which, as I understand it, it a slow, deliberate reading of a verse or passage of scripture, maybe even several times over, and then contemplating it.  I’ll have to do more reading about that.

The discipline I was considering most seriously prior to writing my in-class list was silence.  I thought this might be a challenging and helpful discipline, given my lack of focus and constant drive to distraction.  It would be a way for me to stop and listen and simply be and let God.  The biggest struggle would be not to constantly think about the time or how I am going to report on my practice of this discipline.  Well, my wandering mind would just generally be a problem.

Perhaps I could combine several disciplines: some lectio divina in the middle of a time of silence instead of lunch.  That might work.

Think

What I need more than anything these days is time and space to think.  And maybe breathe.  Think and breathe.  Right now is the time that I’d like to claim last year’s birthday present from Dixie: a silent retreat or a weekend at a retreat centre of some kind.  It feels like life is barrelling forward and I’m just a passenger.  It’s heading in a good direction I think, but everything is whizzing by and it would be nice to stop and think and evaluate where I’m at and where I’m going.

Seems most of my spare (i.e. non-job-related) moments are focused on the seminary course I’m to complete by June 10.  That’ll be here before I know it and there is so much still to be done.  Some days I feel confident that I can complete the course, other days I feel like it’s impossible (and I start thinking about asking for an extension, which I really don’t want to do).

I’m neither a multitasker nor someone who can effectively divide his day into segments for this or that.  If I have something that needs doing, it’s on my mind exclusively (the corollary may just be that if I don’t foresee having the time to focus on and complete a task, I’m reluctant to start it).  So my spare moments are consumed with “I have to do read this” and “I have to write that” and “I have to research the other thing”.  I’m paying for the last three or four months which sort of disappeared without a trace.  And my family pays for it, too–with my lack of time or focus on them.  And I pay for it, because there are few clear moments.

I cherish those few normal, unencumbered, “present” moments.  Like at supper time I was looking at the ingredients of the “Real Fruit” popsicles.  I noted that they are largely made of fruit, but “hmm, it does contain sugar”.  Pretty unremarkable moment by any standard, but for a split second after I had said that I realized that I was really in that moment, I was really there, really present–nothing else was on my mind.  It was the pure joy of simple, every day, carefree inquiry, nothing else to worry about.

But if I do that too much, I won’t finish the course.

And because I don’t have much time to smell those proverbial roses, I find myself unsure of just what I’m thinking.  And some days I feel like I’m teetering on the brink of something.  I’m not sure that it’s a crisis of faith, exactly–or maybe it is, I don’t know–but I think regularly of those words by Robin Mark (which are likely just a rephrasing of something from the Psalms): “Make these broken, weary bones rise to dance again/ Wet this dry and thirsty land with a river”.

One of the workshops at the conference I attended in Chicago in February was on “The Spirituality of Preaching”.  The workshop leader said that it’s common for pastors/preachers to have times of feeling unqualified inadequate or fraudulent.  This was comforting to hear (that even people who are trained for that sort of thing have those feelings), except that I feel this not just sometimes, but often.

(As an aside, Dixie’s watching A Prairie Home Companion behind me as I write this [she wants me to say that she has it “on”, because she’s cleaning with the movie on in the background].  What a brilliant movie.  It brings joy and laughter.  Brilliant cast.  I’m thinking particularly of Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep, but everyone is really good, even Garrison Keillor as himself.  You should rent it.)

At the same time, there is hope, though I’m not quite sure what to make of the type of hope.

In his book, The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight posits that the general arc of the Bible is from oneness (Adam & Eve) to otherness (from the fall to Christ) and oneness (Christ as oneness, to be followed by universal oneness when Christ returns).  This oneness is relational: my relationship with God, with myself, with others, and with the world.  How God works out his redemptive plan (that is, fixing the “otherness”) is through and in covenant (!) community, first Israel and then the church.  This struck me as such a beautiful way of expressing things and such a beautiful picture of our past and our future.  And I see evidence of this community-as-redemptive-vessel in my life.

It seems that I feel lowest as the week progresses and I’ve spent much time in my own scattered, mixed up thoughts–when I’m left to my own devices.  But meeting with people, particularly on Sunday mornings, is always a great encouragement.  I find hope in that community.  Maybe it’s just psychological, in the sense that they affirm me in what I do when I preach or whatever.  But I think it’s more, too.  I was thinking tonight about how I am not expected to be anything but me in that community–I’m not expected to be more “spiritual” or to behave a certain way.  Of course as a community it has its faults, as any community does, but there is love there and there is hope.  And somehow that restores me, if only for a time.

Realizations

1. Loving my neighbour requires care of creation, because loving my neighbour doesn’t just mean the guy literally next-door to me; not just the people in my community; not just the people in the so-called “global village” (i.e. everyone); but also those generations which will follow ours.

2. Being a servant to others, the life to which Jesus calls his disciples, includes my children as well. They have a special place in the Kingdom of God and my position of authority as a parent does not preclude treating them any differently in terms of my servant approach than I would treat an adult. Authority and service are not mutually exclusive things.

Sermon #2

I’m speaking in church again on August 10 (a week and a half from now).  I don’t want to say “preaching”, because . . . I don’t know, it makes me uncomfortable.  “Speaking” sounds less . . . well . . . preachy.  I don’t want to preach at people; I want to speak with people (even though, I guess, I’m doing most of the talking).

I’ve been using the Revised Common Lectionary as the starting point for a passage on which to base the sermon.  The lectionary sets out a couple of Old Testament Passages, a couple of Psalms, a Gospel passage and something from an epistle.  What I did for the first sermon was read through all the passages a couple of times and see if anything comes to mind, if I feel inspired in some way about one of the passages, and then I run with it.

There’s no magic to it, folks.  As far as I’m concerned, I could open the Bible at a random spot, eyes closed, hoping against hope that it will not be Galatians 6:11 or Psalm 137:9* or something, and try to make a go of it with whatever passage my finger lands on, but there’s too much chance in that for my tastes.  The other option is to just pick a passage, but I’m to indecisive for that, so I use the lectionary to narrow my options.

In a strange twist of fate, the Gospel for August 10 is Matthew 14:22-33, in which Peter tries to walk on water.  This is the passage on which John Ortberg’s book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, is based, and you may recall that I had a hard time with this book and that it put me into a melancholic mood for some time.

For a while I had the sense that maybe I should speak on that passage, even though I didn’t really want to—that maybe God was trying to force to examine this subject with which John Ortberg had kicked me in the nuts (or at least tried).  Was it coincidence that the lectionary Gospel for the date I was scheduled to speak was Ortberg’s basis for his offending book?  Who knows.

Plus: 1) this is only my second sermon, so the Psalms were out; 2) how do I preach on an Old Testament passage, Psalm or otherwise?, so the other passages from the OT were out; 3) Romans, from which the epistle for August 10 hails, is quite possibly the scariest book in the Bible in terms of understanding, so that was out, too.  What choice did I have, but to go with the Matthew passage (or, I suppose, forget the lectionary altogether [see above])?

As it happens, it was one of the Old Testament passages which inspired me most, so that’s what I’ve been working on.  Thank the Lord.  (That Matthew passage may still come back to haunt me, though.)

_____________________________________
*For the record, I think Psalm 137, properly understood, is beautiful psalm.

If the prodigal had lived economically

The French theologian Simone Weil often wrote about the spiritual journey.  Her favorite image for it was Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.  “It is only the prodigals,” she claimed, “who find themselves in the arms of the Father.”  The elder brother, to whom the father says, “You have always been with me,” undergoes no religious experience.

Weil goes on to argue that it is very dangerous to our spiritual well-being to live too carefully.  We live too carefully when we assure ourselves that, like the elder brother, we have always stayed with the Father.  None of us possesses God.  He finds us periodically, and those moments of encounter are authentic religious experiences.  But all who really want to know God have to come to him as prodigals.

Although we are assured of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the Christian experience is full of opportunities to discover just how desperately we need that salvation.  Actually, that is the good news.  If the prodigal had lived economically, he would have never found his way home to the father.  The constant reminders of how far we have roamed from God make us all the more ready to receive God’s grace—which, of course, is the only way to get back home.  (Barnes, Yearning, pp.103-4, emphasis mine)

**Barnes/Weil is not suggesting we sin “so that grace may abound”.