We give ourselves WAY too much credit. We grab at God’s glory even when – perhaps especially when – we wallow in, and selfishly obsess about, how un-glorious we are!
“Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”
― Jonathan Edwards
“God makes no appetite in vain.” – CSL
I did indeed mention that God’s saying is the same as His doing, and I agree that God’s saying/doing are at work in us – because He chooses to be at work in us (Phil. 1:6 and Eph. 2:8). I would also agree that the gracious gift of faith given to us by God develops in proportion to, and in accordance with, our receptivity and application of God’s Word. What I marvel at the most is the efficacy, incomprehensibility, and supreme power of GOD’s WORD aimed at redeeming and restoring rebellious evil creatures! The power of God’s Word is staggering, but the use of that power to seek and save sinners is absolutely paradoxical and astounding! (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 1:9; 3:9; 6:19; Col. 1:26; 1 Cor. 4:1; Acts 13:41).
“Ghetto-rigged righteous …Spending her dead husband’s money @ the ‘put-on beauty store.’ Her life is all hers, but it’s NOT real. ” – Howard Brown
“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!”
As we move in to Palm Sunday, the ironies become crushing. We come into God’s house as religious people, as pious people, and together with our priests we spend our Holy Week acting exactly as priests and pious people have: as cowards and sadists, who would fail to recognize God even when He stands in front of us. We drag Him and mock Him like Lynddie England leading a prisoner through Abu Ghraib. Our Holy Week liturgies are just like that sickening selfie: we dare to throw incense before God’s altar, and the smoke rises with the same humiliating insouciance as her lit cigarette.
We gather at the edge of sanctuary, which is the symbol of the heavenly Holy of Holies, and re-enact the part of the vicious mob in Jerusalem who called for the death of God for the sake of God’s name. We become the Roman torturers who mocked the King of the universe with a crown of thorns. We play the roles of the screaming and vain religious men, who work themselves into a fury. Our pastor intones the hysteria of the chief priest who condemned God Himself as a blasphemer. We once more present to God (and to ourselves) the bitter betrayals, laziness, and weakness of the Apostles after whom our priests are modeled — and who too often imitate their bad example.
And after all this, our own Via Dolorosa, we are finally prepared to hear the words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
He did not merely ask men to turn the other cheek when smitten on the one, to go the second mile when compelled to go one, to give the cloak also when sued at the law and the coat was taken away, to love our enemies and to bless them; he himself did that very thing. The servants struck him on one cheek, he turned the other and the soldiers struck him on that; they compelled him to go with them one mile, from Gethsemane to the judgment hall, he went with them two, even to Calvary. They took away his coat at the judgement hall and he gave them his seamless robe at the cross; and in the agony of the cruel torture of the cross he prayed for his enemies, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Martin Luther famously distinguished between a “theology of glory” and a “theology of the cross.” In the former you find yourself substituting a crown of thorns and a body of nailed flesh for a more palatable scene. But with a “theologia crucis,” you can call a spade a spade. You can look grief and loss in the face and identify them for what they are. There’s room — maybe even a literal room that you set aside in a basement — for rage and sobbing and protest and fear and horror. The great English-American poet W. H. Auden once heard a lecture in which, as Edward Mendelson recounts the scene, the speaker said that, “Jesus and Buddha were the same in effect: they were both attacked by spears, but in the Buddha’s case, the spears turned into flowers.” Auden bristled at this, shouting from the back of the lecture hall, “ON GOOD FRIDAY THE SPEARS WERE REAL.” If those spears were real, we can admit the spears we’ve felt are real, too. There’s no need to pretend we’re smelling roses when all we feel is metal piercing skin. Good Friday enables us to name the pain and face it.
Steve: You wanna do a good job today?
Alvin: Because I will only feel accepted and worthy if I hear the words “good job.”
Steve: What about your parents?
Alvin: What about them?
Steve: Is your acceptance contingent upon your performance in your relationship with your parents?
Alvin: No, if it was they would have rejected and forsaken me a long time ago.
Steve: So do you really think that your ACCEPTANCE is contingent upon your performance?
Alvin: No, but…
Steve: Shut up fool! …It’s okay to desire to hear the words, “Well done!” But let’s be clear about the roots from which those words are born. When the father says, “Well done” he’s not saying, “Now I accept you, but only because you performed adequately” …he’s saying, “As the father who loves/accepts you unconditionally I am specifically happy about this good fruit I see in your life at present.”
Alvin: I see what you’re saying, but I’m offended that you told me to “shut up.”
Alvin: No worries …you’re forgiven.