Monday, January 16, 2012

Time Doesn't Stand Still

As a way of clarifying why I refuse to rest easy with my understandings of Christian Scripture at any particular time and place, I think an obvious point to make would be this - time and place are always changing. I am not the same person I was yesterday, last year, ten years ago. I have no idea who I will be tomorrow, in five years, in twenty years.

I often reference the Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Few works have had the impact on the way I understand the faith and my life in that faith. It is important to understand this work that it was never finished. Indeed, some Bonhoeffer scholars think he would be unhappy with the publication of various notes and manuscript pages, some separated by years, that lack organization or any central theme. Which is why it is with caution I approach anything he has written in these pages; they are incomplete, lacking a center. All the same, the two things that have made the biggest impact upon me seem, to me at any rate, to be complete ideas. They open the reader to possibilities.

In this case, he makes it clear that "ethics" is and always has been a questionable name for the study of that part of the Christian life that includes not only the moral life of the individual and community, but worship and liturgy, private devotion and prayer, the relationship between the church and the state, and what was known, once upon a time, as the Orders of Creation. Bonhoeffer makes plain his discomfort with this by contrasting the study of "Christian ethics" with a consideration that what is right and proper for Christian is not a concern that their actions and lives are ethical or moral; rather, referencing abundant Scriptures, not least the saying of Jesus that we are to seek the Kingdom of God above all things, and concludes that it is our lot not to pursue "the good" (however we envision that particular word), but rather, each and every day, to seek in prayer and devotion, to do the Will of God.

Why each day? Simply because each day is new. We must set to one side the idea that God's timelessness has anything to do with our perception of what God is calling us to be and do. Like a blind man in a room with an elephant, we can't believe we have it all figured out from one, or even two, or perhaps many, encounters with various parts of the elephant.

We are being pulled forward in to God's Holy future, the true creative force in history. For this reason, each day brings not only more clarity, a smidge closer to that final Triumph for which we all live. It also rolls the stone in front of the tomb that has become our past. I would submit that God's will for us, however we understand that phrase, does not change. I would also submit that our understanding of that will for us, our perception of it, our openness to the Word for us, changes all the time. Everything changes for us, each and every day. Why should our understanding of Scripture, our perception of the whispered Word of the Spirit in our lives be any different?

Virtual Tin Cup

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