Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hands and Feet Un-nailed

I have a bonsai plant that I nurtured for several years.  Its nurture wasn’t particularly hard but it did mean I had to pay attention to the water level and pruning and bugs and weeds.  I keep several bonsais.  They remind me of the mountains but mainly I keep them because they teach me.  They teach me to be patient and remind me that caring is not hard but takes a steady hand over time.  I can train an oak bough to bend if I do so gently.  And though I can persuade an oak branch to bend, I can never make it into a willow.  My long work on this particular bonsai was for naught when I neglected it for a couple of weeks this fall and never saw the spider mites that took it over.  Nurture is a long work, however easy it is – “Oh, look at them. They are such nice kids,” did not happen over night.  “Why in the world would he do that?” also has a history.
                I hate to bring up what are now, for some, fading memories of the terrible December day in Connecticut but, truly, it is essential that I do.  The world is not learning and we Christians are not standing up with the answer.  Amidst the endless calls for justice – a place for blame - and the tired pleas once again for gun control and more police in schools, we must reconsider our lives of independence and power and immediacy as those 15 families are forever reconsidering their lives without ones held so dear. 
                The world has cried out that if there is a God then He certainly does not love us any more.  Or, if there could be a God, truly God – big and strong - then evil would not happen.  He must not exist.  What the world (and many of us if the truth be told) wants is a genie-god to fix evil but leave us alone. 
                What the world does not want to hear is that the answer to the terrible crimes we have witnessed in the last few years is the same answer to our own lack of faith and the answer to the diminishing following of Jesus Christ and the answer to our children leaving the faith, following the world.  The answer is not a big dramatic heave-ho as we all are apt to do and which feels good and productive and for which we can hold our breath long enough to do before we get back to life.  The answer, rather, must be a “long obedience in the same direction” as Peterson has titled his book.   The answer is to show up not incidentally but every day for a lifetime.  There is no answer truly for anything except to sit daily with God.  To be with Him long enough every day for His presence to wash away the defilement of our own nature and to dissolve the filth that clings to our hearts from our TV and movie driven culture.  The answer is to sit with God long enough every day so that the corruption tugging on us from the world, bidding us to be like the world is but a pestering snag.  The answer is listening and hearing from God His plan… for today… for you.  Then taking that plan to the street. 
                The answer is someone simply embracing their God-job in the life of a man named Adam Lanza.  This is the answer for December 14ths.  The answer is us.  We are Luther’s “little Christ’s.  You do so, so much.  Yet we must show up even more dedicatedly in God’s presence every single day and then be in the world, as we are told to be, in a long obedience as Christ’s feet and hands no longer nailed to the cross.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Approach Towards Revelation

Boy I wish I had come up with this phrase.  It is from Georg Huntemann in The Other Bonhoeffer.  Everything we do as Christians must eschew the pursuit of anything but revelation from God and our acting on revelation.  If we pursue knowledge of Scripture it must be so that we can know that the revelation we think we have received is from God.  If we pursue understanding it must be so that we can understand God's revelation to us.  If we pursue a woman or a man it must be so that we can act on the revelation from God that we have received.  If we go to work it must be so that we can make money to act on God's revelation to us or to implement His revelation in that setting.  Everything must be "an approach to revelation."  Bonhoeffer was not nearly the first to embrace a "mystic" point of view by any means but he is one of the very few evangelicals who have blessed, sanctioned, taught that knowledge is not the key.  That "a Christian worldview" is not the answer to our ills both in the church and without.  He is one of the few evangelicals who not only accepts "mystery", not as an unfortunate spiritual blindness that we must try to figure out, but as a great grace.  We cannot learn enough.  We cannot understand enough.  There is no system that has God figured out.  There is no theology that is correct.  There is no "squaring" God with our understanding.  We are not equals to God and His revelation, though complete enough to get us to heaven, it does not give us a complete picture of God.  So, we must depend on revelation.  We must humble ourselves and wait on God.  We must, like Joshua, ask God for directions and then respond with a "Yes Sir," with a cavalier disregard for  Kant's "religion within reason".  Hard for westerners.  We want our relationship with God strained through the sieve of analytics so we don't do anything stupid or unseemly.  God wouldn't ask us to do anything dumb. 
Read your Bible again more slowly. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Every Day

Acts 2:46 "every day"

..."it is precisely in retreats of short duration that the human element [desires of the flesh] develops most easily.  Nothing is easier than to stimulate the glow of fellowship in a few days of life together, but nothing is more fatal to the sound, sober, brotherly fellowship of everyday life.Life Together - Bonhoeffer p39

     Events are such a draw for people.  They are fun and exciting.  They give us a new spirit of engagement.  They get into our memories and stay there.  One still remembers what was on the table for Thanksgiving three weeks ago but no one knows the breakfast of last Thursday.  So why is Bonhoeffer so hard on short events?  "Fatal"? 
     We can hold our breath for a short event.  We can agree to disagree for a few days.  We can make it through Spring Break with Uncle Fred because we know that it will end soon.  We can "be nice" during the reception because we are headed home.  The trouble is that we fool ourselves into thinking that since we can do this for a few moments or even days that we are redeemed.  Our souls have been changed.  And our ministry is done for the year.  We have sacrificed our lives for four hours a day for a week.  That is enough on the time clock.  And we have been pleasant besides.
     "What care I for the number of your sacrifices.  I have had enough of whole burnt rams and fat of fatlings; in the blood of calves and lambs and goats I find no pleasure.  Bring me no more worthless offerings.  Your incense is loathsome to me.  Your new moons and festivals I detest."  Isaiah 1:11
     However small your daily time with God is, it is better.  If all you can do is one minute while on the john, telling Him that He is still God, it is better. We must attend to the God of the universe every day, every day, every day.  It is no use to think that a fun date once a week or month is a relationship.  It is a lie.  Worse than that.  It is a disease that will kill you.  Every day...say something to the lover of your soul.