The Importance of Excellence in Christian Writing

Stories and poetry can be powerful ways to show the truth of the Christian faith — if they are truly good stories and good poetry. Too often, Christian writers settle for less than the best, wrapping a mediocre story around a Bible lesson or apologetics argument and thinking that’s “good enough.” However, Christians should have the highest standards of excellence for Christian literature, to give glory to God and to have the greatest power to draw people to the faith.

In this talk, I challenge Christians, as writers and readers, to recognize that good intentions are not enough. We need excellence in craftsmanship, in storytelling, in art — doing our very best work to the glory of God.

These are some of the books and poems that I discuss in the talk:

CS Lewis: “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said.” On Stories and Other Essays on Literature

Michael Ward: The Narnia Code and a podcast series on The Narnia Code.

Michael Ward: Planet Narnia

Gerard Manley Hopkins: poems

Malcolm Guite: “O Clavis”

You can listen to the talk by using the player at the top of the post, or if that does not appear, by clicking on this link.

 

 

Reflecting on The Stations of the Cross Sonnets by Malcolm Guite: Four Talks

Poetry is a way that we can reflect on reality – both the natural world that we see around us, and the supernatural world that is, though invisible, no less real. All people are called to know Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life; and all Christians are called to walk with Our Lord on the way of the Cross, through death into life. As Christians, we are deeply identified with Christ — but how does that work out in our day to day lives?

Sounding the SeasonsMalcolm Guite, a 21st century poet, academic, and Anglican priest, has written an extraordinary sonnet sequence called “Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Church Year”; at the heart of this book is a sequence called “The Stations of the Cross.” This set of sonnets helps us to reflect upon, interpret, and deepen our engagement with each of these vivid moments in the last hours of Jesus’ life before the Cross.

In this set of four lectures on the “Stations” sonnets, I help readers engage more deeply with these marvelous poems and, through them, with the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord.

I talk about our journey with Jesus to the Cross, using Guite’s sonnets as my text and using the theological thought of Charles Williams as a way to better understand what it is that happens when we begin the transformative journey of following Christ. These sonnets reveal more riches with each reading; they are easily the equal (and I do not say this lightly) of the work of John Donne or George Herbert.

You can read the full text of Malcolm Guite’s “Stations of the Cross” sonnets here. And here is the fifteenth sonnet, “Easter Dawn.”

Here are the four talks. If you can’t see the audio player, you can also click on the title to go to the podcast for that episode:

Part 1: Co-Inherence.

Part 2: Encounter.

Part 3: Failing and Falling.

Part 4: Dying and Rising.

I encourage you to purchase Sounding the Seasons. The entire sequence is a tremendous poetic achievement. It is available in print from Canterbury Press in the UK; you can also get a Kindle edition from Amazon in the US, from Amazon in the UK, or Amazon in Canada.

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Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith. Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

The Way of the Cross: Malcolm Guite’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ Sonnets (Part 4)

We have been following Our Lord on the way of the cross — reflecting on them through poetry, through Malcolm Guite’s sonnet sequence “The Stations of the Cross.” (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)  It has been a difficult journey. But then, we have to take Our Lord’s words seriously. When he says, Follow me – he is headed to the Cross. To death. And to life — but through death, not around it.

Now, in the last part of this sonnet sequence, we come to the end — Jesus’ crucifixion and death. But we live on the other side of the Cross: even as we confront the very worst, we know that we have hope.

Paradoxically, the more fully we confront the depth of loss in the Crucifixion, the more fully we grasp that this was the end, absolutely the end — the more fully we will be able to grasp the hope of the Resurrection.

If the player does not appear above, click here to listen to the podcast.

You can read the full text of Malcolm Guite’s “Stations of the Cross” sonnets on his blog, here:

Stations I – III

Stations IV – V

Stations VI – VII

Stations VIII – IX

Stations X – XII

Stations XIII – XIV

Station XV

Listen to Part 1 of the series here, and Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

The Way of the Cross: Malcolm Guite’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ Sonnets (Part 3)

Over the past two weeks we have been reflecting on the Way of the Cross, through Malcolm Guite’s sonnet sequence “The Stations of the Cross.” (Part 1; Part 2). Today we are going to reflect on the darkest and most painful stretch of the journey. We are going to look at the three falls and the stripping of Jesus before his crucifixion.

Facing our own failure and weakness is never easy or pleasant. It’s always “safer” to not admit to any of that — but Our Lord says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we can’t admit our own weakness, how can we minister fully to another?

As we look at the Stations of the Cross, Jesus’ three falls along the road to Golgotha give us the chance to reflect deeply on what it means to fail, and fall, and truly be broken — and yet, still know that we are part of the Body of Christ, that we dwell in Him, and He in us.

You can read the full text of Malcolm Guite’s “Stations of the Cross” sonnets on his blog, here:

Stations I – III

Stations IV – V

Stations VI – VII

Stations VIII – IX

Stations X – XII

Stations XIII – XIV

Station XV

Listen to Part 1 of the series here, and Part 2 here.

The Way of the Cross: Malcolm Guite’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ Sonnets (Part 2)

What does it mean to walk the way of the cross with Our Lord?

Last week we looked at the opening and closing sonnets of Malcolm Guite’s sequence “The Stations of the Cross.” We started with Pilate choosing to rebel against God who made him and who loves him, Pilate who condemns Jesus to death; we end with Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Jesus outside the tomb, Mary whose night of grief is turned to a new day of joy and life. In Part 2, “Encounter,” we look at the people whom Jesus encounters on the way to his death: his mother Mary, the women of Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene, and Veronica.

In each of these encounters we can find ourselves, for as the liturgy of the Eucharist reminds us, we are all part of the body of Christ:

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee
for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the
spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy
Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of
thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very
members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the
blessed company of all faithful people
; and are also heirs,
through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom. […]

You can read the full text of Malcolm Guite’s “Stations of the Cross” sonnets on his blog, here:

Stations I – III

Stations IV – V

Stations VI – VII

Stations VIII – IX

Stations X – XII

Stations XIII – XIV

Station XV

Listen to Part 1 of the series here.

If the audio player doesn’t appear at the top of the post, you can click here to get the audio of the talk .

The Way of the Cross: Malcolm Guite’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ Sonnets (Part 1)

It’s tempting to just do a quick acknowledgement of the Cross and hurry on to think about the Resurrection. Easter is more pleasant than Good Friday. But St Paul says, “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5 ESV) We don’t have the option of a Resurrection without the Cross. Death comes before new birth.

So in this talk and in the three that follow, we are going to meditate on Our Lord’s journey on the way of the cross. As we will see, in a very real sense, we are walking the way of the cross along with him, because we are united with him.

In order to do this, we will be reading and reflecting on a marvelous sequence of poems, “The Stations of the Cross” by Malcolm Guite. They are part of a larger sequence called “Sounding the Seasons,” which moves through the entire Church Year.

In this first talk, I introduce the idea of “coinherence,” from the thought of Charles Williams, one of the Inklings of Oxford and a friend and influence upon C.S. Lewis (and a great theologian and writer in his own right!). You can listen to Part 2 here.

You can read the full text of Malcolm Guite’s “Stations of the Cross” sonnets on his blog, here:

Stations I – III

Stations IV – V

Stations VI – VII

Stations VIII – IX

Stations X – XII

Stations XIII – XIV

Station XV

If the audio player doesn’t appear at the top of the post, you can click here to get the audio of the talk (34 min. long)