Sunday, February 1, 2009

Faith and the mystery of choice

This is my understanding of life in the Anointed anointing now through the creative work of Jesus. It has changed my perception of time and resources concerning the work of God. Part of this personal testimony is due to a brief reading of Islamic mysticism : a short history by Alexander Knysh. He wrote of the path and place (מקום) of the mystic - I note the word place since this has significance as temple. Clearly 'path' has similar resonance for Jew and Christian.

I really don't know what to make of teaching and learning. Is it possible to teach Christ? (I used to say if someone learned, then perhaps you taught.) In a recent thought on teaching Sunday school, I wrote:

It seems to me that no amount of explanation or apologetic will win commitment to the promises of God. What a mystery choice is.
Whatever my life is, if I had to summarize it, I would today say that it has been a lifetime of learning about covenant. Too bad I didn't 'figure this out' earlier.
  • From childish bed to non-communicative parental response to childish questions,
  • from abusive school and the ignorance and cover-up of frustrated teachers,
  • from intense choirmasters to teachers of voice who had no possibility of knowing the extent of therapy they needed to apply, but likely couldn't, (not being free themselves)
  • from competitive suitors whose religious and literary knowledge made them think they knew something,
  • from the fragility of children being raised and my refusal to let them be treated as I had been, to the impossibility of explaining why I vacillated from Anglicanism to atheism and back again,
  • from the subsequent gifts of brilliant musicians, and children, and the support and faith of a visible life-partner representing the invisible one (as Rumpole would say - she who must be obeyed).
- in all these complexities, still I believe and grow. Not that I have or will achieve anything, but that in this life, through the name of Jesus Christ, something for me is different, known in part, understood but without power, and empowered somehow but without understanding. All that necessary therapy - impossible to a human, was applied by the life-giving Spirit - sometimes as if directly, and often through other humans. At least that is my best current 'explanation'. And it was applied from the childish bed into the fullness of time.
  • When my parent said "we don't talk about these things" and refused to respond to questions, I learned to keep quiet. Was there a thought that said "This was real, and you will learn more later from me"?
  • When the school refused to correct its teachers, I learned avoidance techniques and likely much worse that I can't blame the school for. Did someone say "Don't worry about this, we will work this out"?
  • When the teacher of voice could not fix my inner tension, still I managed to sing. Later the voice said - "Leave the if-onlys behind." I find this difficult advice.
  • When the use of literature as a means of put down was a life-pattern of my enemy, somehow I escaped - but what a strange escape - out of the Anglican into fundamentalism. What a trial for my wife! But then the voice became a continuous song - even though the fundamentalists did not approve of glossolalia.
  • As my own children were growing, I learned redemption and the difference between their undesirable behaviour and my convenience. Redemption is sufficient. The awareness grew of the presence of the past and of time working backwards.
  • From many gifted musicians - especially my wife, I learned about discipline - mostly admiring the discipline of my children in music. I had always had passion.
Now I need to apply the lessons in my old age. So what path can I suggest to the seeker?
  • It is said to be narrow and few find it; but the narrowness is simply personal and one gets into that way that is the Son.
  • It is a desirable state to be sought, a replacement for all places – the only temple.
  • The Sufi speak of achievement though human effort and strenuous self-exertion. But his yoke is easy.
  • They speak of stages but our beginning is his work in his death, not a heavy yoke of law or morality or exertion but a light burden entered by faith and where the necessary exertion is a gift.
  • In the way of Christ there is no fleeting state that is not under the human spirit’s control or for which it cannot wait.
  • There is no uncontrolled state that impresses itself on the human spirit such that it is compelled by the Spirit.
  • Direct encounters are mediated in Christ - so there is no risk of the human being subject to madness.
  • The novice is not at a disadvantage because the Christian novice has the work of the cross always in sight.
  • While I am intrigued by this human desire for what almost seems a hypostatic union with God, I found the Sufi mystic’s way lacking in the one sufficiency: redemption. Again the Incarnation (in agreement with al Hallaj, see my note here) is vital to valuing the gifts of the Spirit in the world. This is why the Song of Solomon is not of such 'union' but is a love song.
The book’s author makes a shrewd point: he points out how 10th century scholars lacking the mystical experience imputed heresy to others who try to describe it.

How does the Christian deal with the need for holiness, truthfulness, sincerity, i.e. a non-destroying life? God confronts that person in Christ with opportunity to hear and act. Maturity acts since the consequences of failure are severe. Maturity does not act since the action is in Christ and therefore is of the resurrection, not of the flesh. Take both of these at once, and you have something near the opening of the Tao te Ching. But the Christian has both voice and potential for explanation. So maybe teaching is possible.

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