Wednesday, May 11, 2005

God's Alien Work

I had an emotional experience of the theology of the cross this morning. How un-Lutheran is that?

In lectio, I've been working through the letter of James (speaking of un-Lutheran). Today I meditated on James 4:4-10. After feeling the full sting of James calling me an adulterer because of my freindship with the world (what a strawy epistle), I made my way to verse 6 and heard the sweet words, "But he gives all the more grace."

This verse sung to me today. I can't really explain why, but I definitely felt -- yes, felt -- the grace of God in this verse. So I probed it a little. "But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'" I saw that God's opposition to the proud is itself grace.

Now I generally begin lectio by reciting the following prayer for the acceptance of God's will (a prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow):

O Lord, I know not what to ask of Thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. Visit and help me for Thy great mercy's sake. Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Thy holy will and Thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to Thee. I put my trust in Thee. I have no other desire than to fulfill Thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Thou Thyself in me.
This morning, this was the perfect prayer and it came echoing back to me as I pondered James' words on the grace of God. "Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up." I pray these words regularly, but I'd have to admit that they aren't generally what I want. But today, ah what grace, today I repeated the prayer and I think today I actually wanted it (though now at a safe distance I want to add "in some abstract way").

I've mentioned before that I've been listening to Bach's "Mass in B Minor" during lectio. I have it on a mini disc and just let it loop, starting each day from some random place in the middle. Sometime during the meditation I just described, I noticed where I was in the music: "Crucifixus". And then, just as I finished praying, as if on cue, it kicked over to "Et resurrexit". (One of the women in my church calls this a GMC [God Manufactured Coincidence].)

This little contribution by Bach (the second time in a month that I've caught Bach preaching the Gospel to me) brought into view the whole scope of what Luther and Isaiah call "God's alien work." "The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." (1 Samuel 2:6) Even in the Crucifixion and Resurrection, God works in this strange way.

It's very mysterious. I see it, but I don't know quite what to make of it. I feel it, but I don't understand it. I have an intuitive grasp of it, but I'm not sure I can explain.

Is this making any sense to anyone but me?

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

Yes, it makes sense -- wonderful sense. I'm reminded of Wendell Barry's phrase "practice resurrection," except that it's God who is continually "killing" us, or parts of us, and raising us up again.