Thursday, September 26, 2013

No straight lines

Human experience and thought as such, if they were to follow their own bias, would proceed in a straight line from despair to even deeper despair, from solemnity to even greater solemnity (there is also a negative theologia gloriae), or from triumph to even higher triumph, from joy to even greater joy.  To faith, however, this straight line movement is forbidden by the Word of God, which calls us from despair to triumph, from solemnity to joy, but also from triumph to despair and from joy to solemnity.  This is theologia crucis.
 Thus Karl Barth, in CD I/1, p 191.

The experience of the Word of God is an experience of always being called out of one place into another.  The Word of God meets us in our despair and calls us to a place of security and safety as it extends to us the righteousness of Christ.  The Word of God meets us in our security and calls us to a place of renunciation and repentance as it highlights our continuing sinfulness.  Always it is a call, which means that it is always an encounter, a fresh encounter.  This is personal interaction, not an escalator to holiness (or indeed to deeper and deeper self-renunciation).

God's Word "never leaves us alone whether in our humility or our pride".  God's Word goes with us, but not as our possession; not as the confirmation of our present humiliation or triumph.  How then would it be personal encounter?  Would it not be far more likely that this word which confirms me in my current state is just a self-reflection?  As the Word of God calls me out of humiliation into triumph, and out of triumph into humiliation, I hear the true speech of God, which is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

And faith is comforted despair.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Death, thou shalt die

The combination of two readings at Evening Prayer on Wednesday has been running around my brain the last couple of days.  In 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah raises from death the son of a widow who has been sheltering him during the divinely-imposed famine in Israel; in Acts 20, the apostle Paul brings back from death a young man who has fallen from a window after falling asleep during a lengthy apostolic homily.

Back from death.

I don't want to be morbid about it, but there's really no getting around the fact that death is the only absolutely terrible thing, the only thing that is, in an absolutely unqualified sense, disaster.  Anything else, even the worst thing, leaves us with some hope, or perhaps the possibility of learning, or perhaps the door to repentance.  Death ends it all.  Let's not kid ourselves or give false comfort by saying that death is not the end.  It is the end.  The annihilation of everything I have been, could have been, wanted to be.  And it is an intruder.  I was not made for this.  In so far as life is God's gift, it is grace, benefit, goodness - yes, even in all its struggles and hardships.  Death is the taking away of that gift.  Nowhere else do we see so clearly, if we have the eyes for it, that we stand under God's judgement.

All our days pass away under your wrath.

To be called back from death is nothing less than new creation.  Undoing the destruction, preserving the personality, remaking the life that has passed into shadow.

How can it be?

Jesus died, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Do you believe this, O my fearful soul?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tempus Fugit

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and for ever.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning.

Thoughts on my thirty-second birthday:

Our God is always the same, and always new; always both the Ancient of Days and the Bright Morning Star.  Always the One Who Was - never different from his own past.  Always the One Who Is - absolutely himself in the here and now.  Always the One Who Will Be - the promise that tomorrow and in every tomorrow he will be there, newly himself, newly the Same.

I am chained to time, but God is Free.  Time is his servant.  The God of the Bible - the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - is not timeless.  But he is the Master of time.  He directs it.  I cannot be everything I am in a moment - so much of me is lost in the past, or unknown in the future.  But God is himself, at all times and in all places.  He bears within himself his own past and future, perfectly.  He is the Same.  The newness that meets us each morning in new mercy is the real newness of God, of the God who is always old in his newness and new from ancient days.  Eternal.

Our hope - the hope of the Christian - is not to be rid of time, but to have all our time and our times gathered up and united in his eternity.  To experience Sabbath - sanctified time, the time which is bound to the Lord of Time, the goal and end of all our time and times.