Ganging Agley

Approximately 1,984 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth made an observation that he may as well have made last week. About me. He spoke to the crowds of curiosity seekers, bandwagon jumpers, and general rubberneckers who kept coming to hear him preach. Some of these even took to walking along the road with him and his little band for a day or two. As a cautionary tale about the necessity of commitment and persistence in the discipleship enterprise, he said, “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28–30, NRSV). Flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm won’t cut it. There has to be something more substantial to keep one going when the new wears off.

Image: " God's Ark " by  George Smyth  is used by  permission

Image: "God's Ark" by George Smyth is used by permission

Over eight months ago I started this little blog, with the intention of writing something every couple of days. But as Robbie Burns once put it, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / gang aft agley.” I wrote three posts in the space of ten days, and then nothing for the last seven months. My schemes, as it happens more often than I would like to admit, ganged agley. Gung agley? Whatever. Now, my peculiar mix of severe self-flagellation and inflated self-importance has me convinced that everyone who knew of my plan had to smother their smirks, snarks, and derisive guffaws every time they passed my unfinished cyber-tower since May.

In my own defense (read: pathetic self-justification), I have not been completely idle these past months. Just after I started the blog, I got a burst of energy and knocked out the last third of the book I had been working on off and on since 2011. I finished the first draft in late August, and spent much of September, October, and November revising that draft, revising the revisions, verifying and double-checking some of the historical, theological, and technical details I had included, checking my sources, writing a bibliography, and generally obsessing over the text until I got it to where I was willing to let other people see it. I’m still waiting to hear from the three people who agreed to read it and give me their comments. In the meantime, I have submitted a book proposal, including a sample chapter, to a small publisher of theological books in Oregon. In six weeks or so I should know if I have a book contract or not.

The book’s working title is Our Father Who Aren’t in Heaven: Subversive Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer. I interpret the Prayer in a defiantly this-worldly way, looking at how Jesus’s manifesto of the kingdom of God relates to our earthly condition and resisting as much as possible the temptation to spiritualize the Prayer and alienate it from its appropriate political and ethical contexts. Too often we relegate God to what I call the “heaven ghetto,” forgetting that the doctrine of the Incarnation, not to mention the cross, assures us of God’s deep and abiding concern for the creation and the human experience. In terms of that most famous of Bible verses, John 3:16, my book addresses the world that “God so love[s]” more than “everlasting life.”

Anyway, that’s what I have been up to while the bricks and mortar of my blog tower have lain idle for lo these many months. I have not abandoned the project permanently. In fact, my notebook holds a growing list of topics I intend to grumble about in future posts. The heading of the list reads “Curmudgeonly Blogitude.”

So brace yourself. Superstorm Crabby Patty is on its way. With any luck, it will make landfall close enough to the tower to sweep away all evidence of my imprudent beginning and unfulfilled promises. This time I’ll get it right. Follow through. Hold the line. Put my money where my mouth is. And no one will know it was ever otherwise.