Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Questions for Troubled Ladies and Their Husbands

At Facebook, the gifted Lutheran essayist and poet Chad Bird observes that the first recorded words of God directed at man on the spot, in Genesis and Luke's Gospel, share a distinctive similarity.  They are both in the form of questions ("Where art thou?" and "How is it that ye sought Me?," respectively).  They are hauntingly demanding, unsettling, and with a pinch of disappointment thrown in the mix.  What's this all about?

God is all knowing, and fills heaven and earth.  The first question, addressed to Adam and Eve, is not the whine of a befuddled old man or a buffoonish Zeus.  And, it has nothing do with precise latitude or longitude.  In my clinical opinion, this is a brilliant probe of creaturely man's spirit and mind; the perfect opener for a knock-down, brutally honest 50-minute session on the couch.  It is an invitation to bare all (pun fully intended) and sequentially participate in the first quasi-Private Confessions of all time.  But you know the script:

V "Where are you?"
R:   "Here's where we're at, LORD.  Our situation is desperate.  We are poor miserable sinners.  We thought we could freely abandon You, and do without You.  We spurned the "DO THIS" food You commanded for our blessing, and much preferred instead our own thoughts and wisdom as to procedure and matter.  Truth be told, our transference feeling is one of total sympathy with the evil Serpent, and a totally murderous hatred towards You.  In fact, we'd hoist You on a tree if opportunity presented itself.  But we're weak and scared.  We need help, therefore; we need You.  For we deserve nothing but annihilation and death.  Have mercy on us, Three times over."

Of course, while the fate of Creation itself hung in the balance ... remember(with Jonah) wicked Nineveh's sparing, upon its donning of sackcloth and ashes ... NO such confession was forthcoming.  That's the tragic history.  While the couple was frightened and embarrassed as to their shocking vulnerability and dependency, there was no despairing remorse or a spoken recognition of their -- not God! -- being absolutely lost.   God resolutely sought the truth from them; but what He received was excuses from Eve, and a slap in the face from Adam.  The great name-giver of every living creature of God,  was tongue-tied and resistant when it came to identifying his own depravity.  "Somebody else is to blame, certainly not me."   This creed continues to be a universal scream of our age; and perhaps accounts for the scandalous decline and conscious avoidance of Private Confession, although our Book of Concord stoutly insists "Oh, yes, yes; among the Lutherans, we do keep and treasure such." Our own dogmas judge us, as a people.

The little Lord Jesus ... steadily growing in wisdom, strength, and favor with both God and man ... challenges His parents in a way quite similar to that in which He probed our first parents.  Jesus' parents had been caught in a spot, too, losing sight of God and faith-based expectations of His behavior.  "Examine yourselves," He confronts the Best Parents the world has seen.  "You who tabernacled Me in the womb, doing My Father's business:  "Why did you not expect to find Me safely tabernacled in My loving Father's House, doing His business?"  Significantly, Luke records no satisfactory response for the lapse in understanding and indeed,  I maintain, of faith.    They had frantically sought Him among kin and acquaintances, and spent three additional days of agony and fear of Jesus' death in the vicinity of Jerusalem ... a rehearsal for the Passion to come.  But they sought in anything and everything but the established, earthly abode of His Father.  See, the Scriptures are razor-sharp in exposing the failings and frustrations of the heroes and heroines of our merciful God.   They are not less heroes in God's sight, through Christ His Son, for all that.

"Oh come all ye unfaithful" ... to worship and bless our Incarnate Lord, as Chad Bird brilliantly phrases it.  So true! The Lord is a compassionate physician to the ill, not the self-satisfied self-deluded.  Bird is dangerous, and if he keeps this up, could potentially put the entire psychiatric community out of business.  But I digress.     

I have nothing but the deepest respect and love for our Lady St. Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God.  Again, in this episode of the 12-year old Jesus' life, we have dear Mary giving us an example to ever ponder and keep in our hearts what her God-man Son says, and does.  To me, this memory from Dr. Luke also underscores why I love and treasure her so.  She too was fully and really human, no plaster-cast Santa, but a human subject to the same fears and frettings associated with a perceived loss.  But she also possesses a heart's attention which  fixates once again, solidly, on Jesus ... her self-professed Savior.  My attention is more scattered, and unlike hers, outrageously cowardly among men.  But He is my Savior, too, and for this grandness, tonight, I rejoice with her my Lady; dear St. Joseph; all my brethren; and all the hosts of Heaven.  Gloria in Excelsis!

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