Friday, July 31, 2009

This day started off on a good note, a pure note, with a second special dispensation communion. From what I understand, this was probably my last one. Given the rest of the day, I am still glad that Pastor came by.

What I find most interesting is how very much I learned in the process, between confession/absolution and the Lord's Supper. I am a glutton for teaching and Pastor is gifted at doing so. Much of what he said gave me pause. The best imagery he shared was that of the alter. Part of the liturgy is the Sanctus, from Isaiah 6 when he glimpsed heaven. Many alters have communion bars that are slightly curved back toward the table (not that they have this at church where St. Athanasius currently meets, but the bar is not the important part). Communion is where Christ comes and meet us this day. So, picture the heavenly host curved around the alter on the other side, so that all of us are there together, surrounded around the One who joins us together.

Holy, holy, holy Lord god of Sabaoth adored;
Heav'n and earth with full acclaim shout the glory of Your name.
Sing hosanna in the highest, sing hosanna to the Lord;
Truly blest is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Isaiah 6:3; Matthew 21:9)

I finally got up the courage to ask Pastor one of my "stupid" questions: Why do you take communion when you bring it to your flock? His answer was simple: no one communes alone.

The rest of the day swiftly rolled downhill, save perhaps for a very strange non-lunch with my new scripture memory partner. She is a very, very interesting person who is not afraid to share her mind. That which she shared was something I had been talking with Pastor about, so I literally burst into laughter. I couldn't really explain why, but I tried. Then she started in on this vision of my future she is certain will come. When it started to include my family, I struggled mightily to keep a smile on my face. This time, I really didn't try much to explain. That she was thinking of me was kindness enough. The rest shouldn't matter.

Then work piled up with more impossible tasks.
Much yelling was flung my way.
The small tear in my incision grew significantly larger when I forgot and bent over to retrieve the keys I had dropped.
I fielded 5 angry calls from family members because I chose not to visit with my brother this week.
I learned I had not been invited to my half-brother's graduation, which happens to be tomorrow.
And I received a call from the specialist surgeon who has decided that she wants me to see another specialist surgeon.

Another new doctor. Another exam. I am having great difficulty swallowing this news. Great difficulty.

Like something else in my life, I dared to take a chance, I gathered my courage and tried, and find myself no closer, despite being more brave than I thought it possible to be.

In the Bonhoeffer treatise, there is a quote from Luther that I like: The Sela indicates that one must be still and quickly think through the words of the Psalm; for they demand a quiet and restful soul, which can grasp and hold to that which the Holy Spirit there presents and offers (24).

I like the "definition" of Sela. I like the charge to be quiet and restful. I like the reminder that it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us through the Word.

Following Luther's quote is the conclusion of Bonhoeffer's bit on "Names, Music , Verse Form": The Psalms were probably most often sung antiphonally. They were particularly well suited for that through the verse form, according to which the two parts of a verse are so connected that they express in different words essentially the same thought. This is called parallelism. This form is not simply accidental. It encourages us not to allow the prayer to be cut off prematurely, and it invites us to pray together with one another. That which seems to be unnecessary repetition to us, who are inclined to pray too hurriedly, is actually proper immersion and concentration in prayer. It is at the same time the sign that many, indeed all believers, pray with different words yet with one and the same word. Therefore the very in form in particular summons us to pray the Psalms together (24-25).

This reminds me of how I felt when Pastor read aloud Psalm 136...awe and wonder at what God has done...comforted by hearing him read even as I took my turn.

I am rather greedy about being read to, savoring being surrounded by the Word. And I relish the opportunity to read aloud with another present so that I can ask questions or share my thoughts.

You know, I have come to revel in Bonhoeffer's treatise as much as I do Gene Veith's The Spirituality of the Cross. The latter opened up the universe to me, with the great big world of Objective Grace. The former holds a glimpse of the depth and breath of the prayer book of the bible and the peace and grace we can have by praying it.

I admit that I have struggled with Bonhoeffer as I have not with Veith. Vieth's book is like coming home to a place I never knew existed but yet recognize with absolute certainty. Bonhoeffer's treatise is this frustratingly wondrous meal that is just beyond my fingertips as I reach through prison bars, stomach growling, grubby hands reaching out in vain. Sometimes I snag a piece and greedily gulp down that bite. But the entire meal is not accessible, dire though my hunger is. For example, I have read page 28 more times than I can count. It should be easy, this beginning of the examination of God as Creator in the psalms. Yet, be it the cadence, the sentence construction, or the failings of my own mind (surely the latter is the culprit), the obstacle thus remains.

However, in some spots, I marvel at the sweetness of the truth behind his words.

How is it possible for a man [David] and Jesus Christ to pray the Psalter together? It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God and who stands in our place and prays for us. He has known torment and pain, guilt and death more deeply than we. Therefore it is the prayer of the human nature assumed by him which comes here before God. It is really our prayer, but since he knows us better than we know ourselves and since he himself was true man for our sakes, it is also really his prayer, and it can become our prayer only because it was his prayer (20-21).


How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah.
How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

~Psalm 84

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