Saturday, September 17, 2011

Philippians 3: slaves in the victory parade

Paul warns his readers about the judaizers, calling them mutilating dogs. Abstaining from a lengthy theological treatise like Galatians or Romans, he says in effect "I was one of them, and believe me it's all rubbish."

Reading the New Testament this year I have been struck how the grace of God forbid both Jesus and Paul the permitted worldly comforts of hearth, home, children, and social, religious and professional success. Both of them in obedience to God's insistence grace consciously turned their backs on pretty much everything the world (and me too) wishes in love for its children. And endured in humility and patience when the world abused them for their holiness. The relentless, murderous hounding of Jesus by the Pharisees.....the same treatment of Paul by the was the loving grace of God that called these men to endure this suffering. It is a sign of Paul's true saintliness - his "set apart" heart - that he could say he walked away from what many considered to be good standing with God and man in order "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."

With clarity of mind and not a little dread, Dietrich Bonhoffer preached a sermon to a congregation of Germans in London in the mid 1930's. The subject was Jeremiah, and himself, and anyone with ears to hear:

"Jeremiah was upbraided as a disturber of the peace, an enemy of the people, just like all those, throughout the ages until the present day, who have been possessed and seized by God, for whom God has become too gladly would he have shouted peace and Heil with the rest....The triumphal procession of truth and justice, the triumphal procession of God and his Scriptures through the world, drags in the wake of the chariot of victory a train of prisoners in chains. May he at the last bind us to his triumphal carriage so that, although in bonds oppressed, we may participate in his victory!"

How unlike is the true God from the gimme-goodies-God my flesh would pretend to worship, with my lust-filled eyes fixed firmly on my eager, outstretched palm. God of Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and Dietrich, forgive my idolatry.

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