Monday, September 15, 2014

The real tussle

If you are angry, be sure that it is not out of wounded pride or bad temper. Never go to bed angry–don’t give the devil that sort of foothold. Be kind to each other, be understanding. Be ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:27,32

Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil. Matthew 5:12

To forgive for the moment is not difficult. But to go on forgiving, to forgive the same offense again every time it recurs to the memory–there’s the real tussle.  C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

I am quite sure that there are many profound missives reflecting on the power of the crucifix, the hanging body of Christ with blood running down his forehead, his hands and feet and down his side. But in my small little unwired condition, I cannot click on them.

In the Benediction monastery down the street the official crucifix is small and dim and in order to consider it carefully I would have to make my way up to the front of the chapel, but there where I kneel in the back pew, right next to the official street person of Country Club with his orange Gideon New Testament, is a stature of Mary cradling the body of Jesus. By the way, I found out where he sleeps, because he joined me on the long bench hidden in the trees behind the silent building Saturday night.

I am reading St Francis by G. K. Chesterton as well. Yes, the stack next to the small floral couch is high, although this happens to be an electronic version on my desktop.

And this line grips me as I consider the white alabaster: You will not be able rationally to read the Gospel and regard the Crucifixion as an afterthought or an anti-climax in the life of Christ: it is obviously the point of the story like the point of a sword, the sword that pierced the heart of the Mother of God.

Yep, and there was one more book I was reading yesterday as well. Well, on top of Lewis’ Letters to Children just to fill my heart with gentle goodness, and that is Simply Christian by N. T. Wright. Wow it was a full day. And Wright writes that Christianity is not about Jesus offering a new moral teaching as though our principle need was to see what a life of utter love and devotion to God and other people would look like so we could copy it…Nor is Christianity about Jesus offering, demonstrating, or even accomplishing a new route by which people can “go to heaven when they die…” Finally Christianity isn’t about giving the world a fresh teaching about God Himself–though clearly, we do indeed learn a great deal about who God is by looking at Jesus…Christianity is all about…A great door in the cosmos has swung open which can never again be shut. It’s the door to the prison where we have been kept chained up. We are offered freedom, freedom to experience God’s rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we have access. In particular, we are all invited–summoned, actually–to discover, through following Jesus, that this new world is indeed a place of justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty, and we are not only to enjoy it as such but to work at bringing it to birth on earth as it is in heaven.

And all of this ties together into the smashing power and purpose of His death, to bring us back to the garden with restored relationship and purpose.

And I know the wiles of the mind. Monday morning is distance day at Hillenbrand pool, back and forth, back and forth, 400 meters after 400 meters. And my very lively mind can think of lots of excuses, well, um reasons, good reasons, why I should hop out of the pool right now and forget about it. But something keeps me there, doing what I have to do, back and forth, back and forth. And at last, after the last 100, the cool down, and I finish the course and finally pull myself up out of the water there is a joy and billowing celebration of fresh air and pounding heart hope. Well done.

Prayer: And Dear God Almighty Who Strolls in the Garden in the cool of the evening, keep me clear of temptation, free from the Evil One who seeks a foothold in order to destroy. And may I forgive the same offense again and again, seventy times seven. For there is the tussle. And there is the open door.