Saturday, December 30, 2017

Blasphemy (All I have to praise him with)

"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven..." (Matthew 12:32a)

When I say Jesus is LORD, which I do say, as a Christian, what I am saying is this: The humble, self-effacing God is the one true God.

Anyone who turns the triumph of the cross into a triumphalism has already forgotten its content: the humiliation of the Son of God.

So how can I possibly hope to communicate this mystery to a world full of rivalry, a world bent on dividing everyone into winners and losers? When I say that Jesus has won, how can this not be irreparably distorted, falling into an arena where the victory of one blood-soaked gladiator always means the condemnation of another?

The answer seems to be swaddled in the humiliating descent of the incarnation. The word, to be received, must become flesh. “Jesus is Lord” as a disembodied truth claim is terrible. It is an idolatry - not because I am mistaken in whom I am ascribing divinity to, but because I am mistaken in what I am ascribing to the truly Divine. The whole point of the incarnation is to reveal God as Immanuel, God-with-us, not as some royal totem apart-from-us. God as woundable, God as a beggar for our love, not as the one to whom we beg for love, God taking on the form of a slave, not the form of a king.

Really, the only ones who can witness truthfully to this God are the poor. Only those who are themselves defaced and humiliated can say, boldly and with full confidence, that the humble, self-effacing God is the one true God. To the extent that I have been privileged by the world with status and respect, a chauvinism inevitably creeps in to my declaration of these same words. The meaning goes off. I cannot be confident of my witness. It is a revelation that the world can only hear aright when it is looking down at Jesus, not when it is looking up at him. This is why he had to descend from heaven. This is why he had to empty himself of divinity to communicate the message of God’s love. God is not only in the sunlight shining down from heaven. God is also in the grass trampled underfoot. In the greening, and in the trampling of the earth is a holy mystery. God is not only source of all that is, but the receiver. Not only refuge, but refugee.

Words break apart on the word made flesh. Those with the words do not know, and those who know do not have the words. For the Christian, it is impossible to speak of this revelation, it is impossible not to.

So yes, Jesus is Lord, and I am his fool, and this is my gibberish. By raising him up with these wooden, roughhewn terms, I have crucified him yet again. Only by his mercy am I allowed this blasphemy. I trust that he knows that this blasphemy is all I have to praise him with, and that he suffers me to do so.

By his cross is he made known.

And thus do I know the joy of the Christian: the joy of being wrong, and thus do I dare hope to share it.

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