10 May 2017

My Father's House

I've been very much living in John's writings of late. The words that Jesus speaks to us, that He brings to us from the Father, He invites us to find a home in them ("If you abide in my word..." John 8) and for us to welcome them into us that they might find a home in us ("If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him..." John 14). And the Father is literally in those words. I think this means that as we sojourn in this world, we learn to make the Word of God our home, to dwell in His stories, and to let His stories dwell in us. This is how God dwells in us. The liturgy in its greatest depth is this house of God. We move into that house that that house may move into us.

Once, Dr. Nagel was challenged to define liturgy in a way that some students (who came from a different confession than the Lutheran) could grasp what he was talking about. He said the oddest thing: "The liturgy is wherein we live as the people of God." The liturgy holds forth the Word for us to be our home that we may live in it, children in the house of the Father.

Luther said that Augustine never said anything better than Verbum accedat ad elementum et fit sacramentum. I think we hear it too narrowly, though. This is first Incarnation. The Word comes to the element - and element here is the thing held as an object in itself - and suddenly the element is no longer in isolation, it is restored to what God would have creation be: sacrament, gift, alive with His presence. A man who was utterly and fully alive and connected to all. And the Verbum Dei comes in His incarnation to the whole of creation, to all our disjointed and singular "elements" by which we break down the inherent unity of creation's original gift and try to have each thing as its own. And this is death. So even into death, comes the Word of God, to fill it with Himself and suddenly even that last enemy becomes gift. The cup received from the hand of the Father who loves us.

And so all things cohere as liturgy. "All times and in all places" isn't a statement of moral duty, but a confession of eyes opened to the stunning lavishness of the Creator's gift that never ceases to rain down at every point in our lives. 

The passions of the flesh that Peter warns us against as warring on our souls, our very selves, are in each instance the attempt to extract a good, a pleasure, from the gift in which the Giver gave it and to enjoy it as a thing unto itself. And each instance fails. Cannot but fail. This attempt at extraction characterizes the whole of our modern lives. Don't give me the whole gift in the food; put it into a pill I can buy. Don't give me a marriage;  I'll just take the sex. Don't give me the friends gathered together enjoying each other's company, I'll just take the wine. Every time we yank the original pleasure from its gift context, it becomes "passion of the flesh" and by very definition insatiable. Doesn't matter what you throw at it, "too much is never enough." 

And we have no way out of this fragmentation that extends even to the way we treat our bodies and the bodies of others and all things as mere objects. We have no way out. But into this intense objectification stepped the Man for whom all was gift, even our sin, even our death, and who thus opened the way home to the Father, IS the way home to the Father. 

When His words dwell in us and we in them, then the Word that came to the element makes of the isolated stuff of life sacrament and the world becomes again a home. He gives us the words He carried from the heart of the Father that we might dwell in them and from them touching all the isolated "elements" of our lives, all might become sacrament, gift, the Presence of the Giver in the gifts uniting them all.


ginnie said...

Somehow this should be cross-referenced to your post on FB, or vice-versa.

P said...

Well this is just wonderful, Pastor Weedon. Thank you for this rich meditation. I have a phrase I like: that the grace of God is always extra nos, but never extraneous (I just submitted a thesis with that title). It is unexpected and undeserved, while also being mysteriously familiar and, as you put it, home. Thanks again!
Pastor Thomas Pietsch
Adelaide Australia