Thursday, January 08, 2009
'Not having received what was promised'
The following passage is taken from a seminary commencement address.
Christ is our employer as surely as the general contractor is the carpenter's employer, only the chances are that this side of Paradise we will never see his face except mirrored darkly in dreams and shadows, if we're lucky, and in each other's faces.
He is our general, but the chances are that this side of Paradise we will never hear his voice except in the depth of our own inner silence and in each other's voices. He is our shepherd, but the chances are we will never feel his touch except as we are touched by the joy and pain and holiness of our own life and each other's lives.
He is our pilot, our guide, our true, fast, final friend and judge, but often when we need him most, he seems farthest away because he will always have gone on ahead, leaving only the faint print of his feet on the path to follow.
And the world blows leaves across the path. And branches fall. And darkness falls.
We are, all of us, Mary Magdalene, who reached out to him at the end only to embrace empty air. We are the ones who stopped for a bit to eat that evening at Emmaus and , as soon as they saw who it was that was sitting there at the table with them, found him vanished from their sight.
Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Rahab, Sarah are our brothers and sisters because, like them, we all must live in faith, as the great chapter put it with a staggering honesty that should be a lesson to us all, "not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar," and only from afar.
And yet the country we seek and do not truly find, at least not here, not now, the heavenly country and homeland, is there somewhere as surely as our yearning for it is there; and I think that our yearning for it is itself as much a part of the truth of it as our yearning for love or beauty or peace is a part of those truths.
And Christ is there with us on our way as surely as the way itself is there that has brought us to this place. It has brought us. We are here. He is with us -- that is our faith -- but only in unseen ways, as subtle and pervasive as air.
It made me think of this (and I apologize in advance for the cheesy "video." I love the song).
Which made me think of this joke:
Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and says to the first man he meets, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
The man said, "I do Father."
The priest said, "Then stand over there against the wall."
Then the priest asked the second man, "Do you want to got to heaven?"
"Certainly, Father," was the man's reply.
"Then stand over there against the wall," said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O'Toole and said, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
O'Toole said, "No, I don't Father."
The priest said, "I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?"
O'Toole said, "Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now."
All of which is to say: I feel about "Beulah Land" or "heaven" or a fuller realization of Christ in me, and in life and such, or however you want to say it, about like I used to feel homesick when I was in college.
I had tasks at hand, work to do, but I missed my mama and daddy and brother.
Now, I have tasks at hand. Work to do. But sometimes I "miss" my Holy Abba, Father -- Papa.
A devotional, some music, a joke, a little commentary -- and it inspired Ronholio to personal testimony!
Love offerings gladly accepted! :-)
HIs existential approach was an important source of freedom for me as a young man feeling so imprisoned by a biblicist church. His writings were not doctrinal corrections to my destitute religious inheritance, but were deeply persuasive spiritual guidance because they drew from felt human religious experience.
Christ was not the subject of his writings, even less an object. He universalized the experience of "yearning for Christ". This tended to reveal church teaching that was obsessed with NT milieu as a neurotic and anachronistic traditionalism.
It was both liberated me and left me a bit at sea, without a faith community.
I ran across another reference of Clement of Alexandria calling the Word of God "a song," which you mentioned some weeks ago. I was rereading a book by an old professor of mine (Broken Lights and Mended Lives by Rowan Greer, p. 9).
Clement was Christianizing the pagan legend of Eunomos breaking a cithera string in a contest and a grasshopper flew to his lyre to supply the missing note.
Clement used this story to talk of the Word of God supplying the missing note in creation, "compos[ing] the universe into melodious order, and tuned the discord of the elements to harmonious arrangement, so that the whole world might become harmony." [From Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol, 2, p. 171]
Comes close to an old Coke commercial.
The Buechner piece is in his "Listening to Your Life," a book of daily devotionals (Jan. 8), but originally was in his "A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces" (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1984), 140-141.
Would that you could be a part of the church I'm a part of! It runs the gamut, from Spong types to reforming Baptist, to a handful of orhtodox traditionalists who believe all the fundamentals (the original ones), but do not insist that everybody toe their own doctrinal lines.
Thanks for the Clement info. I encountered his song idea in "Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism" (Quet Books, 1993).
And, may I add: Coke is it! :-) (I actually prefer RC.)
But as for every Sunday I need bread, wine, altar, the prayer of consecration and a theology of the presence, mystical though it may be for protestants.
Well, actually Clement referred to the 'Logos' as the song. In his world that would not have ment "the word of God" as it now stands. As you are aware Logos ment much much more in Greek. As for the Clementine meaning of "song" you have to delve into the Greek God-Man thinking and the use of "the song" to control the world.
Understanding the old guys has to be done in context, theirs not ours.
I feel sad for those who claim Christ as their own and then treat him as future or as pie in the sky or as being somewhere else. If you shut up sit down and be still you will feel his hand on you shoulder. Only now touches eternity. Christ is always with you now.
"At the table of the Lord
we celebrate with thanksgiving
the saving acts and presence of Christ."
For Clement the Logos is the Word, the Word is the Logos. The Greek is Logos; in English translation we have the Word of God who was there at the creation and operative in the creation as God's immanence. The being of God is ineffable, outside of language. The Word of God is the knowable operation of God at work.
Perhaps you mean to be saying that the Logos (Word of God) and the Son of God are not yet quite the same for Clement. The second person of the Trinity as both is not a concrete notion for him.
But as Christian Platonism, his is not the same system as a strict Platonist. He has baptised it and changed it according to his understanding of God in Christ.
This is his context.
If by, "those who claim Christ as... being somewhere else," you are referring to Buechner's existentialism, I would agree.
So would Buechner. In his most recent years he has emphasized prayer and meditation as communion with God in a felt and immediate sense. Part of this has come from wrestling with addiction as a trait in his family. A sign I would take as signifying that the distant, whispering God began not to satisfy.
The one thing the (Southern) C of C did prepare me for was centralizing communion.
However, as I came to be formed by the Eucharist, crackers, grape juice in shot glasses, and mumbling men ceased to represent respect for what they claimed to respect.
And have you suddenly added missionary to being a deacon?
If the D of C also claims the other seven sacraments, I may be close. (bap/confirm/euch/confess/ord/marr/oil/ chocolate)
Not missionary. Just tryin' to be helpful.
I did have a charismatic Southern Baptist who fanced she had the "gift of prophecy" tell me years ago, when we both were doing Evangelism Explosion, that I would become involved in some kind of international radio ministry. Stranger things have happened. "Prophecy" being what it is, and teh Internet not yet in common existence, maybe she "saw" blogging and thought "radio." :-)
Who knows what all your parish may have in mind for you?
Prophecy can come, and did come, from very strange folks.
Re, Sooners: Boo hoo. You will be able to hear the whining from there.
The Yankees average a championship one out of every four years in the last one hundred years. (I am currently claiming to be a Mets fan, but my faith is weak.)
After that, it becomes a steep drop off to the Celtics, Canadians. Lakers?
And then steep again to everybody else.
Hell, Fedor, the Trinity hadn't been quite invented (recognized?) yet in Clement's time.
Logos would have had far more and deeper connotations for Clement in the 2nd or 3rd Century than Word has for us in the 21st Century. That is what I meant.
That it was tied to an deeper Greek tradition, and that Clement understood it in such a context, is comcominant with your example of his use of the story Eunomous breaking his string at Delphi while playing the Pythian Song.
Once I would have said I was an existential Christian. To claim such was popular when I was in college (Uh, mucho decade ago). I later came to understand that position as a form of mental flagellation, unnecessary and and distracting from the Kingdom of God at hand. Yearning for the presence of Christ kept me from knowing I was in his presence. Longing for Gods touch kept me from feeling his Grace in which I was suspended.
ER as a missionary? Of course he is. That is one of the underlying purposes of this very blog whether he is cognisant of it or not.
"Yearning for the presence of Christ kept me from knowing I was in his presence. Longing for God's touch kept me from feeling his Grace in which I was suspended."