Thursday, June 24, 2010

Today was a strange day.  I struggled the whole day to do the tasks I had set for myself.  On one hand, you might say I was productive.  On the other, how much was lost in the battle to concentrate?

Braving the wrath and condemnation of my boss, I worked from home in my pajamas, stretched out on the couch with my laptop.  I was able to create a spreadsheet detailing all our YTD funding by categories, a document I need for two grant applications and to draft my boss' report for the next Board meeting.  Plus, I finished the drafts of two grant applications, updating one attachment file.  Yesterday, I spent a few hours pulling together and updating all the rest of the required attachments for all three grant applications I am working ahead on so that my boss can finish them off while I am gone.  This week I also prepared a mid-year report for a grant that is due also in my absence.  Have I ever mentioned that I am a communications manager and grants management and writing is my boss' duty not mine?

While I did have tangible, needful work products produced at the end of the day, I struggled with a belittling email I received from her and my growing inability to tolerate such from her.  But my setting boundaries and refusing to do the things that are demeaning and controlling has not been well-received.

Then there was this episode with my blood sugar.  There I was, mere minutes after having some orange juice, feeling shaky and faint and panicked.  I checked my blood sugar and it was 62.  I was sweating and scared.  I did not want to drink more juice because too much sugar just ends up being a problem for me later with a greater dip than that which caused the need for the juice in the first place.  And I had dutifully eaten some peanuts with the juice.  Shaking, sweating, anxious, and confused, I nattered at someone on the phone while he talked sensibly back to me.  While I nearly keeled over getting up off the couch, I did make it to the refrigerator to give the sad listing of its meager contents.  He chose for me: a cookie, then milk, then cheese.  After a long while, I was safely back at 110.

Words cannot express or explain the mixture of fear and elation that I felt, growing worry over what was happening laced with this odd sort of peace and joy that someone was with me, albeit miles and miles away, and willing to remain until I was safe.  A stranger really.  Christ's mercy to me in that moment, truly.

These acts of mercy have me thinking more on Forde:

It [the theology of the cross] constantly seeks to uncover and expose the ways in which sinners hide their perfidy behind pious facades.  The delicate thing about it is that it attacks the best we have to offer, not the worst.  This explains why the theology of the cross is generally spoken of in contrast to a theology of glory.  The two theologies are always locked in mortal combat.  Wherever there is mention of a theology of the cross without indication of this combat, it is not truly the theology of the cross that is being expressed.  The preacher-theologian must know this and learn how to use the word of the cross in that combat. (4)

Why is it, really, that we continually try to offer things, offer our works, in place of the cross?  Understanding original sin, knowing full well we cannot approach God, cannot even want to approach God without the gift of faith, we still try to pass off our poor substitutes as if they were anything other than putrid dross.  I do, at least.  I still keep looking to my faith rather than to the Author and Perfecter of my faith as if my faith is what saves me, sustains me, heals me.

The cross draws us into itself so that we become participant int he story.  As Paul could put it in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Just as Jesus was crucified so we also are crucified with him.  The cross makes us part of its story.  The cross becomes our story. That is what it means to say, as Luther did, "The cross alone is our theology." (7)

Again, a piece of Scripture has shifted for me.  This is a passage that, obviously, with which I am quite familiar.  But, again, I have realized that I read this as about me!  I have longer I...I now would seem that thinking this was about me.  But it is not.  It is about Christ crucified!  Again, that central point, the beginning, middle, and end.  The whole point Paul is making is that he can only do those things, be who he is, because of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

This is made quite radically explicit in Luther's little writing, "A Meditation on Christ's Passion," written about the same time as the Heidelberg Disputation (1519).  In that writing Luther is concerned about the proper way to meditate on the Passion of Christ.  One does not mediate properly by blaming the Jews, she says, for that only feeds one's antipathy to enemies.  Nor does one mediate properly by using Christ's Passion as a kind of exercise or talisman to stave off sufferingwearing crosses and so forth as protection from misfortune.  Nor does one meditate properly by pitying and showing sympathy for Jesus, like the daughters of Jerusalem who wept as he went to crucifixion.  Rather, "the real and true work of Christ's Passion is to make man conformable to Christ, sot that man's conscience is tormented by his sins in like measure as Christ was pitiably tormented in body and soul by our sins...Now the whole world closes in upon you...."  Conscience can no longer defend us.  Luther thus projects for us an inescapable awareness of being drawn into the event:

"You must get this thought through your head and no doubt that you are the one who is torturing Christ thus, for your sins have surely wrought this.... Therefore when you see the nails piercing Christ's hands, you can be certain that it is your work.  When you behold his crown of thorns, you may rest assured that these are your evil thoughts, etc." (7-8)

Ah, Luther, he never minces words, eh? In a sense, then, according to Luther, that passage of Paul's is about me, for the cross is about me. But not in the way I would like it to be. It is not about my faith, but my sin. It is not about my devotion, but my doubt. It is not about my worship, but my turning away from Christ even as He died for me, crying with the crowd, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The cross is about me, but it is the work of Christ, work born of love, not merit. I did not earn the cross; I cannot. But I can be joined to Christ, enduring with Him His wounds that my own might be healed. I can be joined to Christ and I will die with Him. I can be joined with Christ and die with Him, but then I will be raised.

In many ways, right now, I believe that He is raising me up now.

Thus, the cross story becomes our story.  It presses itself upon us so that it becomes inescapable.  It fights to displace the glory story.  The cross thereby becomes the key to the biblical story and opens up new possibilities for appropriatingor better, being appropriated bythe entire story....It is vital to realize that a proper theology of the cross does not isolate attention just on the cross event.  To speak of the "cross story" is a shorthand way of intending the entire story culminating in cross and resurrection.  The cross is the key to unlocking the entire story. (8)

The beginning, middle, and end of Lutheran doctrine.  The beginning, middle, and end of me.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

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