It is winter in Australia.
This is a time to slow down, focus on staying fit, eating right and keeping warm.
I only do one of those four things really well, although thanks to not eating potato, pasta or bread for the past six months, I have been able to manage the middle two a whole lot better.
Six months ago my father, who has type two diabetes, mentioned to me that his doctor had told him to move away from these “high-carb” foods. This is because his body has trouble processing them. Eating pasta, bread and potato were putting him at odds with any form of exercise that he was doing.
My conversation with my dad was brief and it included some mention of me watching out for those kinds of foods as well.
For context: I don’t have the world’s best relationship with my dad. If I was to describe what connects us as father and son, I would use the image of a fragile rope bridge which would only allow for cautious passage over an abyss, once or twice. So basically it is a cacophony of images inspired more by ‘Dante’s Inferno’, than ‘Little house on the Prairie’. For the sake of respect for my father, simplicity and privacy, I will not go into the reasons for such boundaries.
I will say that, even though my relationship with my father is broken, problematic and in need of maintenance, I am thankful that I can communicate with him in a civil way.
Recently someone pointed out to me that the ability to talk in this way with my father, was an outworking of forgiveness that is only found in Jesus the Christ.
The more I process this theological assessment, the more I agree with them.
For instance: it is only because Christ forgives that I can be grateful for, and talk with my father. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say here. I HAVE to put in an effort which finds its ‘goal and basis in Christ’s effort’ (Barth, CD.IV.4). Ergo, it is only because I choose to be a follower of Christ that I can be led in this out working of Christ likeness.
Let me be even clearer – being led means alignment. It does not necessarily mean being controlled like a puppet. This view is inconsistent with what we know about God revealed in Jesus the Christ and His relationship with humanity as handed down to us in the Old Testament.
My relationship with my father is far from healed, but I admit that because of Jesus the Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers my ability to forgive, which consequently is promoting healing of that relationship.
A friend asked me last night – “where is Christ working in the world?”. It was a good question that made me think. So I answered that faith is not superstition, nor is God a genie who is at our beck and call.
There is no formula, potion or mystical being that magically appears in order to do our bidding and meet our every want. This is a misleading, straw man argument. It’s origins can be sourced back to caricatures of God, promoted by militant atheists who hypocritically call for critical thinking, as long as it means not questioning them.
This idea of God is misleading. It is grounded in pride and a sense of false entitlement. This is because, as understood through theological enquiry, God does not have to do anything – BUT – HE does CHOOSE TO do something! Many things! They just never pop out of a bottle. So we cannot verify them and certify God’s qualifications as an able artist, scientist, Lord; in short, benevolent Creator.
Even if we are compelled to use this theologically false metaphor to hint at the nature of our relationship with God, it must be restated to reflect the biblical truth that ‘we do not summon God, rather it is God who lovingly summons us’ (Barth et.al)!
In the Christ event: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we see the divine act. This is real; it involves blood and water, heartbeat, pain, joy, fear, compassion, tears and broken flesh. As Karl Barth puts it Jesus the Christ ‘has come in the flesh, He comes, and He will come again, He is not from below but from above, He has come from God and is His Son’ (CD.IV.4:124).
This is to say that the real work of Christ is generally only visible after-the-fact. Like Peter and Thomas we seek confirmation with the hope of finding the possible in the midst of the impossible. When we do discover the resurrected God-man, our response will necessarily, and must only be ‘MY LORD and MY GOD’. (Jn.20 ESV)
In the midst of murky dilemmas, we lack clarity of vision. This is natural, as anxiety and alarm can help us protect ourselves and others from threats. However, it should never be allowed to steel us away in panic, from the anchor of our souls. We are invited to grasp this eternal hope as the truth of it grasps us.
‘For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Like the response to an unexpected sonic boom, when encountered by His movement, our heads are lifted, our hearts directed and our minds aligned towards the very real origins of our identity and existence. There is no hype or deception here, just brutal other-centred forgiveness, informed by conviction, faithful confession and a hope filled anticipation, which is grounded in the promise of the one WHO WAS and IS and IS to come.