Halford E. Luccock

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To the faith that "God is love" and that love is the power that can save the world, many give the jaunty answer "What nonsense!"

Halford Edward Luccock (18851960) was a prominent American Methodist minister and professor of Homiletics at Yale's Divinity School

Quotes[edit]

There is the liability of accepting prematurely an artificial horizon for our own character and personality, of losing the horizon of the possible person we might be.
We have a moral obligation to be interesting, for our gospel is loaded with life-and-death interest for people.
Contrast Pilate with the prisoner before him, Jesus. Pilate was deeply concerned with position and power. Jesus cared for none of these things. Which was the richer in all that makes a great personality and true success in life?
  • Expressions of sharp and even violent criticism of religion and the church have been welcomed, for they usually imply sincerity of thought. If caustic criticism of religious institutions and practices is irreligious, then Amos, Isaiah, and Jesus were very irreligious men. In fact, that is exactly what many of their contemporaries took them to be.
    • The Questing Spirit: Religion in the Literature of Our Time (1947), p. 42
  • To the faith that "God is love" and that love is the power that can save the world, many give the jaunty answer "What nonsense!" Very well. But one of the most impressive sights of 1951 was that of an elderly man giving a lecture at Columbia University. He was a man not ordinarily accounted one of the twelve disciples, and I am not baptizing him now — Bertrand Russell. It was rather amusing to many to see and hear the apologies and hesitations with which he made his announcement that Christian love was the world's greatest need. Here are his words, with all the apologies left in:
The root of the matter (if we want a stable world) is a very simple and old-fashioned thing, a thing so simple that I am almost ashamed to mention it, for fear of the derisive smile with which wise cynics will greet my words. The thing I mean is love, Christian love.
"Christian love." But trying to have Christian love, without its source in the revelation of a God of love in Christ, is trying to create something out of nothing.
  • Marching Off the Map : And Other Sermons (1952), p. 83; in his autobiography Russell has emphasized that in such expressions he was using the term "Christian love" in a very broad sense, in contrast to sexual love, and was not actually endorsing Christian creeds.
  • There is the liability of accepting prematurely an artificial horizon for our own character and personality, of losing the horizon of the possible person we might be. It is the danger of considering our character as something static, rather than as something emerging.
    • Marching Off the Map : And Other Sermons (1952), p. 83
  • The Christian message is not an exhortation — "try hard to be good." Good advice, but there is no saving gospel in that.
    • Marching Off the Map : And Other Sermons (1952), p. 110
  • I believe in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
    • Described as his slogan in "Religion : Go Ye and Relax?" in TIME magazine (20 April 1953); this paraphrases the expression of Finley Peter Dunne, in Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902): Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward.
  • We have a moral obligation to be interesting, for our gospel is loaded with life-and-death interest for people.
    • As quoted in "Religion : Go Ye and Relax?" in TIME magazine (20 April 1953)
  • The aim of preaching is not the elucidation of a subject, but the transformation of a person … Our task is … the sharing of intense faith and experience.
    • As quoted in "Religion : Go Ye and Relax?" in TIME magazine (20 April 1953)
  • Many years ago Rudyard Kipling gave an address at McGill University in Montreal. He said one striking thing which deserves to be remembered. Warning the students against an over-concern for money, or position, or glory, he said: "Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are."
    That has happened on a grand scale. Jesus cared for none of these things. And for nineteen centuries he has led many people to see how poor they are with only a collection of things to show for their journey through life, and no spiritual resources.
    • "Dire Poverty", in Unfinished Business : Short Diversions On Religious Themes (1956)
  • Contrast Pilate with the prisoner before him, Jesus. Pilate was deeply concerned with position and power. Jesus cared for none of these things. Which was the richer in all that makes a great personality and true success in life? Contrast Nero, the Roman Emperor, and the prisoner named Paul who was beheaded in Nero's reign. Who was the real pauper, Nero or Paul?
    • "Dire Poverty", in Unfinished Business : Short Diversions On Religious Themes (1956)
  • There is a major disaster when a person allows some success to become a stopping place rather than a way station on to a larger goal. It often happens that an early success is a greater moral hazard than an early failure.
    • As quoted in Lifetime Speaker's Encyclopedia (1962) by Jacob Morton Braude
  • Christmas turns things tail-end foremost. The day and the spirit of Christmas rearrange the world parade. As the world arranges it, usually there come first in importance — leading the parade with a big blare of a band — the Big Shots. Frequently they are also the Stuffed Shirts. That's the first of the parade. Then at the tail end, as of little importance, trudge the weary, the poor, the lame, the halt, and the blind. But in the Christmas spirit, the procession is turned around. Those at the tail end are put first in the arrangement of the Child of Christmas.
    • As quoted in A Sampler of Christmas Wisdom (2000) by Ellyn Sanna, p. 79

Fares, Please! (1915)[edit]

"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, . . . full of grace and truth." Men miss the entire meaning of Jesus when they see in him the highest upreach of man; he is God reaching down and making common cause with man's struggle. The meaning of Christmas puts down the mighty things in men's minds from their seats — place, riches, talents — and exalts the things of low degree — humility, simplicity, and trust.
Fares, Please!: And Other Essays on Practical Themes (1915); 1916 edition · various formats at Internet Archive

Everything Upside Down[edit]

Essay XXXV
  • There is far-reaching appropriateness in the fact that the world's immortal baby story, that of Bethlehem, should be a story of turning things upside down — for that is a baby's chief business. It is a gross slander on babies that their chief passion is food. It is rearrangement. Every orthodox baby rearranges all that he sees, from the order of importance in the family to the bric-a-brac and window curtains. The advent of every baby completely upsets his little world, both physically and spiritually. And it is not one of the smallest values of the fact that the Saviour of the world came into it as a baby, that it reminds men that every baby is born a savior, to some extent, from selfishness and greed and sin in the little circle which his advent blesses.
    • p. 185
  • Christmas turns everything upside down. This is the central truth of the incarnation — "Immanuel, God with us." The upside of heaven come down to earth. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, . . . full of grace and truth." Men miss the entire meaning of Jesus when they see in him the highest upreach of man; he is God reaching down and making common cause with man's struggle. The meaning of Christmas puts down the mighty things in men's minds from their seats — place, riches, talents — and exalts the things of low degree — humility, simplicity, and trust.
    • p. 185
  • Charles Lamb, in one of his most delightful essays, sets high worth on the observance of All Fools' Day, because it says to a man: "You look wise. Pray correct that error!" Christmas brings the universal message to men: "You look important and great; pray correct that error." It overturns the false standards that have blinded the vision and sets up again in their rightful magnitude those childlike qualities by which we enter the Kingdom.
    Christmas turns things inside out. Under the spell of the Christmas story the locked up treasures of kindliness and sympathy come from the inside of the heart, where they are often kept imprisoned, to the outside of actual expression in deed and word. … It is the vision of the Christ-child which enables all men to get at the best treasures of their lives and offer them for use.
    • p. 186
  • Christmas turns things last end foremost. The people whom the world arranges last in its procession — the weary, the poor, the foolish, the lame, the halt, the blind — these are the ones who come at the very head of the column in the consideration of the Little Child who leads. The last, the least, the lost — how often those words were on Jesus's lips — the three great objects of his passion! It is not the world's idea of correct form. … most of us unconsciously arrange our acquaintances or possible acquaintances in the order of what advantage they may be to us. Jesus reverses the whole scheme as a perversion and sets up a new basis of classification. His question is not, What can this man do for me? but What can I do for him? The most important person for us to know, he tells us both by word and example, is the one who needs us most. "The first shall be last and the last shall be first."
    • p. 187

Keeping Life Out of Confusion (1938)[edit]

When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled "made in Germany"; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, "Americanism."
Sermon delivered at the Riverside Church, New York, New York (11 September 1938), as quoted in "Disguised Fascism Seen As A Menace" in The New York Times (12 September 1938), p. 15
  • When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled "made in Germany"; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, "Americanism." … The high-sounding phrase "the American way" will be used by interested groups intent on profit, to cover a multitude of sins against the American and Christian tradition, such sins as lawless violence, teargas and shotguns, denial of civil libertiesThere is an obligation resting on us all to dedicate our minds to the hard task of thinking in terms of Christian objectives and values, so that we may be saved from moral confusion.
    For never, probably, has there been a time when there was a more vigorous effort to surround social and international questions with such a fog of distortion and prejudices and hysterical appeal to fear.
    We have touched a new low in a Congressional investigation this Summer, used by some participating in it to whip up fear and prejudice against many causes of human welfare, such as concern for peace and the rights of labor to bargain collectively.
  • We ought to recognize that uncertainty of mind is not all a bad thing. It is a sign that your mind is still alive, still sensitive. If you are not at all confused in this day you are dead mentally and spiritually.
    There is of course the peace of the cemetery. If you want that you can have it. But you will pay for such complacent serenity with blind eyes which do not see the world's fear and agony; with deaf ears, into which the still sad music of humanity never comes; with deadened nerves and unsensitized conscience.
    We will never be brought to confusion, even in such a baffling and muddled world as ours, if we have a faith in a God of love as the ultimate power in the universe. The words "God is love" have this deep meaning: that everything that is against love is ultimately doomed and damned.

Whoops! It's Christmas (1959)[edit]

The idea of divine love was wrapped up in a Person.
"Whoops! It's Christmas" (1959), published in The Abbott Christmas Book (1960) edited by Herbert W. Luthin; this is a re-working of his earlier essay "Everything Upside Down" published in Fares, Please! (1915)
  • A lady, who looked like an animated Christmas tree with packages dangling from every limb, and I bumped and spilled. As I was trying to pick up the packages she gasped out, “Oh, I hate Christmas, anyhow ! It turns everything upside down.”
    I said, “That is just what it was made for.” But this lofty sentiment did not stop her dirty looks at all. But it is the big thing about Christmas!
    Christmas is a story about a baby, and that is a baby's chief business, turning things upside down. It is gross slander on babies that their chief passion is food. It is rearrangement! Every orthodox baby rearranges everything he sees, or can get his little hooks into, from the order of who's important in the family, to the dishes on the table. A baby in a family divides time into two eras, just as Christmas does. There is B.C., which means "before child," and A.D., which means "after deluge."
  • Christmas is good news in a world of bad news. This was so on the first Christmas and on Christmas 1959 … Christmas brings hope to a dark world.

External links[edit]

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