Thursday, March 11, 2004

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee 10

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me): Finding Grace to Live Unmasked by John Fischer on Amazon

STEP 10: "We embrace the state of astonishment as a permanent and glorious reality."

Step 10 text notes:

12 steps for the recovering pharisee book coverRight away JF grabbed me with the words of this step! "Astonishing" is exactly what God's self-revelation in Christ Jesus is; "astonishment" is the only imaginable response to our God of glory, majesty and sovereignty choosing to live and die as one of us. And that's the God Who has the power that raises the dead! I like Kierkegaard's idea that opens this chapter. Everything I've been trying to do to better myself "is completely and utterly ineffectual?" I don't think so! It may not exactly be salvific, but it sure does help in my spiritual growth and in the lives of others around me. Part of me likes the Sermon on the Mount's image of revisiting the Mosaic covenant, but another part of me prefers the solidarity with the "little people" of the Sermon on the Plain and its promise of justice.

"Failure is the doorway to freedom." I need to ponder that. Page 131: "Law has no grace?" Possibly not in and of itself, but law leads to the realization of inadequacy and the subsequent grasp (embrace) of grace! All of you know Paul of Tarsus and his theology of depravity and grace. I don't like the way JF spiritualizes the Sermon on the Mount, (preferring Luke's version, which is about the reality of material and economic poverty), but OK, each of us is spiritually impoverished at times, and if we're not right now, we have been and will be later and/or must become so! We're supposed to lose? As Robert Farrar Capon insists, only the last, the least, the little and the lost will be saved or can be saved! Because we gotta become like God (You shall be like God, as the tempter promised back in the primal Garden of Earthly Delights), we need to empty ourselves and take the attitude and the actual position of a slave…remember Maundy Thursday's foot-washing? Oh wow, I was reading and typing through this chapter and then JF quotes Fr. Capon! Absolutely true we never would've thought of the gospel of being forgiven, freed and sent forth to serve because it is outrageously against our human ideas of greatness.

Page 135: "Just as law has no grace, grace has no law." Imagining we deserve the status of being saved, of being whole? but in a sense we do, since we're God's creation. Page 137: earthen vessels, clay jars drawing attention to their contents rather than to their appearances. Yes! That's essential information for those of us (ahem) who tend to be into appearances.

1. Have you ever taken a particular virtue, isolated it, and done everything in your power to perfect it? What was the result? If you haven't done this, do you think it's possible?

No, I haven't but it like the idea. Even though I'll never "win," I will make progress, which will better our life and the lives of those we touch, as in the concentric circles made by the stone thrown into the pond.

2. In your experience, does the local church reflect the opening statement of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount? Why or why not?

Too many people in too many local churches have too much tendency to spiritualize (or to "over"-spiritualize) the whole entire Christian Jesus trip. I've also not been thrilled with all the smiling liberals who imagine they're saying and doing all the right things but in real life, are saying and doing one obscenity after another.

3. If our salvation, or our being chosen by God, doesn't amaze us, what are we missing? To whom is salvation truly the greatest gift? Is it possible to be "good' enough that the wonder of salvation is diminished in our lives?

I'd hope and expect all creation would be elect! It's not only God's gift to each of one us and to the entire redeemed, restored and recreated creation; it's also God's gift to Godself, as in the Christ event God buys back, "redeems" creation for His glory: "The people I formed for myself that they might declare my praise!"

4. Are confession and repentance a natural part of your church experience?

Yes, if JF is referring particularly to Sunday morning worship, I really like it when worship services include confession of sin and absolution offered and conveyed by the Word and in the Name of God. However, when I participate or attend a liturgy that doesn't include confession and absolution, I'm fine with that, since so many of them do. This past Good Friday evening I was at a worship and concert event where we had the opportunity physically to nail sins, attitudes, concerns or whatevers to a big wooden cross using a big hammer. Powerful!

5. Have you ever seen a Pharisee dance? Can you picture it?

No, not quite but claiming my own sometimes pharisaical and legalistic attitudes (both about myself and about all those "others" out there and even in here, in the visible church), I often come close to it when I end up laughing at myself. BTW, I love to dance anywhere and at anytime, but I think this is more about Dancing Before the Lord than it's about going to some secular dance club venue.

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