Monday, June 21, 2010

Long day.

Others think today went well, but it really doesn't feel that way to me.  I suppose having answers is "well."  But I had a horrible reaction to the drug given to distress my heart and ended up with agony...not my legs??  It is as if I did the exercise myself somehow.

Pastor C had agreed to be on standby, so he came and fetched me, along with someone from his church, and the two of them ended up lugging me inside since I couldn't quite make it past my stone lions.  After being dumped on the couch, here I have remained.  When I discovered it was his day off, I felt horrible, but he did say that he would not have agreed to help if he did not wish to do so.

I spent all day on the couch where I was dumped, snoozing and spending time on the Internet.  Yes, my connection is mostly up this day.  And, yes, Pastor F is right to think me a dunce for I FINALLY figured out what he was saying about using download helper in Firefox.  I sometimes wonder if I shall ever have that lovely little technical thingamagiggy that I so desire, but I am thankful to have a collection of sermons now to savor even when my Internet connection is less than advertised.

In between downloads I Googled pacemakers.  The good news is that I have no blockage, so the slow heartbeat is not due to low blood flow. The bad news is my heart is not beating properly.  The next step is a test with the kind of specialist who will put in a pacemaker, should I not pass sufficiently.  The cardiologist seemed to say it is now or later, not never.  I have no desire to have a mechanical device placed within my body, but I especially do not wish to have such a thing connected to my heart.  I fear I shall be quite incapable of facing such a challenge even when pacemakers are quite commonplace.

Before my nerves declared war on me during the testing, I spent time waiting on processes of the procedures by starting a new bookPastor F's homeworkOn Being a Theologian of the Cross:  Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.
Already, I am savoring it!

The difficulty here is that the cross is the theo-logy, the logos of the God; the word of the cross is the attack.  It doesn't coin itself in ready theological propositions that we can appropriate and still go on pretty much as usual.  The word of the cross kills and makes alive.  It crucifies the old being in anticipation of the resurrection of the new.  "The cross alone is our theology," Luther could say.  And those oft-quoted words are to be take literally.  But we cannot fail to notice what an odd claim it is.  How can the cross be a theology?  The cross is an event.  Theology is reflection on and explanation of the event.  Theology is about the event, is it not?  However, that is what makes writing some definitive theology of the cross impossible. At best all such theology can did is clear the way for the proclamation of the cross, to drive us actually to preach the word of the cross as that folly that destroys the wisdom of the wise. (3-4)

I have said and will say again, the beginning, middle, and end of confessional Lutheranism is Christ crucified.  Sometimes I think I am beginning to understand what this means; other times I am certain that I have not even learned the letters of the alphabet yet.

In Pastor E's sermon yesterday, I noted how he so beautifully taught me what to see when I look at the crucifix.  But I would also like to point out the bit he wrote about the new pattern of our lives as Christians:

Baptism is repentance. And yet it is not a singular act of repentance, but a life-long pattern. That is the pattern to which William was joined this morning. That is the pattern to which we were all called in our baptism. When we witness the baptism of another person, be it a child or an adult, we are witnessing what our own life is to be: a drowning and emerging, the death of the old Adam (the sinful nature) and a rising to live a new life, all in Christ.

Baptism is about death as much as it is about new life.  You can say that we are dying from the moment we are born given that we are mortal beings.  Pastor F is wont to be rather blunt about the decay and putrid stench about us.  I find it fascinating that he has no desire to shield his cherubs one iota from that truth yet is incredibly loving and protective of them.  Even his wee ones understand this theology, to some degree, for it is their first language.

I also spent time thinking on the joy of the cross.  The joy of the cross!

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,


Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,  but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 
~I Corinthians 1:18-25

Gerherd Forde understands this joy and this folly.

Funny how sometimes reading the Living Word in a book can change that Word, help shift it from obscurity to light, drive you back to the context, the scope and sequence of the whole of what God has given us.  I was surprised, reading this passage, to realize I have not heard, ever, this idea of the theology of the cross before joining the Lutheran confession.  Is that not strange?

I mean, what real theology, what real doctrine have I learned?  Even though I have studied reformed theology myself, what I hold are bits and pieces, mostly mired in the specious emphasis of meritorious works on the part of man veiled in the language of worship and relationship.  I never had the whole.  And the whole, from the beginning of time until the end, is the cross.

If you know me at all, you have learned my favorite passage of the Book of Concord is the following bit from the Apology.

In order to retain the Gospel among people, He openly sets the confession of saints against the kingdom of the devil and, in our weakness, declares His power.  [AP, Article V, 68]

Now, I am no theologian and I fear my scholarly days have long passed thanks to the ravages of MS, but I did have a thought about this bit.

I  have always read this in light of me.  [I know, surprise.]  On the surface, surely I should.  I mean...I am a saint, I am weak, and I do confess.  But...I am a saint because of Christ, it is my weakness that required His salvation, what I confess is Christ crucified, and I can only make that confession because God gave His Son who gave me the Holy Spirit so that, in turn, the Holy Spirit can take me to Christ and it is Christ's confession upon my tongue, falling from my lips before the Father.

I have read this as more folly, but in truth it is the most logical act of the universe:  

He is setting all creation against the devil.
He is setting all His plans and purposes against the devil.
He is setting all His promises against the devil.
He is setting Christ against the devil.

In this strange sort of way, to me at least, my weakness is actually Christ...because, in Him, I am strong.  I am strong because He took my weakness into His body, bore it upon the cross, and then put Himself back into my body in the Lord's Supper, turning that weakness into strength.

Pit God against any created being, even one as wily and persistent as the devil, and God will win every time.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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