thoughts personal, public and everything in between

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

with the grain of the universe

"To love others well we must first love the truth....One who really loves another is not merely moved by the desire to see him contented and healthy and prosperous in this world. Love cannot be satisfied with anything so incomplete. If I am to love my brother, I must somehow enter into the deep mystery of God's love for him." --Thomas Merton

"Do not make any oaths at all....not even by your own head, for you have no power to make a single hair white or black. But let your word be yes for yes and no for no, for anything beyond this comes from evil." --Jesus

Someone told me recently that if anything bad ever happened to me, all her positive memories of me would turn into negative memories. I certainly hope that's not the case. One shouldn't have to become invincible to give something good to one's friends.

To be like God--or better, to attain to a distorted picture of God: to be free of limitation, in control of one's surroundings, unaccountable and invulnerable to suffering--was the first temptation to present itself to humankind, and it's been a bad idea ever since. It lies at the heart of the mentality that reduces persons to consumers and human community to a network of market exchanges: your life--like your car, your iPod, your television, and your beer--is only as good as the ad campaign that sells it and the warranty that backs it up. But this belief forces us to lie to each other. It tells us that we have nothing to give unless we can be something that we are not.

This is one reason I think the message of Christ's cross and resurrection has something important to tell us. For one thing, it corrects the notion of God as the sovereign string-puller and reveals instead a covenant partner who willingly enters into human experience with all its contradictions: "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Divine power here is not construed as the controlling of human events so that they all conform to a perfect plan, but as the freedom to suffer patiently and lovingly for the sake of the world, in order to summon creation to its true identity. This is not a God who conquers opposition with a flash of irresistible force, but who befriends creation, even though it means receiving in human flesh the violence and hatred of a race that has overthrown its creaturely status, and refusing to hate it in return.

In this light, the resurrection signifies much more than an invitation to go to heaven and be with Jesus when we die (an image that I've never found very compelling). What it signifies is that God's final word to humankind is Yes and not No--that the fear that dominates us by virtue of our limitations and proneness to suffer and die is not ultimate, that history belongs not those who pretend by force or manipulation to rescue us from chaos, but that, to quote John Howard Yoder, "those who bear crosses are walking with the grain of the universe." The resurrection means that we no longer have to be afraid of the truth--even if the truth detroys all our images of what life ought to be like--because the truth finally belongs to God, who is for us and not against us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something bad is already happening to you. If something worse happens I will be one sad mama. But my memories of you will remain as they already are, a constant source of joy.

Regarding your fourth paragraph: But I want to be God-like, in that I strive to be loving, kind, generous with my thoughts and deeds. When I remember that God is always present, I move to a place of peace. Am I Misunder-standing your intent? Or am I misinterpreting my own life?
Love you, Mom

16/11/06 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Deb Flagg said...

I so appreciated these thoughts. I have often thought that the beautiful thing about being in relationship with God is that it places us exactly where we ought to be, cradled, as it were, in the nexxus of the universe. Our life is brought into harmony with all that is, even as we are pushed and pulled by contingency, indeterminacy, tragedy. And in the midst of these things, we can take comfort in knowing that God is also being pushed and pulled, holding us so that we don't fly into a million pieces.

And I love what you say about resurrection, that it is God's ultimate YES to humanity, to creation. Evil and suffering will not have the last word in the world nor in our lives.

We are most loved when we are most human.

16/11/06 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott -

It could never be possible in a thousand, million years that all my positive memories of you could turn into negative memories. There are too many and they are too cherished and I would be a different person without them. There's no ungiving the something good you've given to this friend. I have always meant it when I called you my Christian Dad...I love you like you are one of my parents.

I can't even count the number of hard times that you have helped me through, and how you've inspired me to remain faithful in God even when I can't explain how that's possible to a family full of sort-of-sometimes-believing-but-mostly-not-believers. You and Karla are in my thoughts and prayers every single day.


19/11/06 9:44 PM  
Blogger Dwayne Need said...

Wikipedia helped define "aufhebung" for me though I have a ways to go before I have a full undestanding of the word. [BTW, did someone else already use "aufenbung" so you had to use "aufenbung1"? Crazy scholars!]

Scott, I so enjoy your and Karla's friendship that I sometimes forget how great of a teacher you are and how much I learn from you--from a Sunday School classroom to standing in line for a ride at Disneyland. First of all, you have something significant to share, but more importantly, you can communicate that thought brilliantly to others.

Your 5th paragraph contains ideas I don't want to embrace yet, but you're making me think about them probably years before I would consider them on my own.

I just wanted to tell you that.

21/11/06 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


thank you so much for turning the light on upstairs. God has you in my life for such a time as this. My spirit has truely been ignited by the teachings God has given to you. Often times I thought that your teaching is above my head, but God is closer than I often think. I never truely understood the role that God can play in our political and social lives as the Holy Scriptures express openly to those who seek truth. The Ten commands for one have humbled me to now understand even my church religiousity has kept me from living in the true love of God...It's interesting to note that God's love for people is not exclusive. "God so loved the world....

Scott, God is so have inspired me to continue to seek God in my life more openly less pretentiously. That's often what I feel keeps Christians from making a radical change. People are living for others and not God.

May god bless your richly.


18/12/06 12:21 PM  

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