Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Maturing - is it possible?

What constitutes maturing of the human race? I really wonder if I can write this last essay of the series. So much is not about 'me' but about social maturing. Yet so much is wrong, and there are so many setbacks and returns to primal violence whether religious or personal that one despairs of anything in the way of the appearance of completeness in the human condition.

The surprise is that maturing is possible but the individual brings it about by what is not, and by what is indirect. The direct process is the obedience to a command. But what command? and what kind of obedience? Yesterday I thought I could express this. Today I find the words elude me.

I could come straight to the point: Jesus found the means to the end of completeness through his own self-giving. We can also find this but it is by no means obvious. Paul makes the point directly in his conditional phrase: if you by the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. How does one mortify deeds? And how did Jesus know this would work? He knew through the psalms - not for their violence, but for their recognition of the character of God as compassionate and not violent. (E.g. Psalm 86).

Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered - (Psalm 68) - indeed - but how? Is it just another local battle? Just another pile of spoils? Just another pile of bodies? No. The answer comes in the form of Psalm 69 - the waters are up to my neck, do not let me slip in the mud, do not leave me in the pit. The enemies that are destroyed are our own inner enemies. Sounds far-fetched, doesn't it? When the wolf is at the door, you kill the wolf, you do not give yourself to it.

I may not finish this task. I am writing on a borrowed hotspot, my wife's phone. My own perished this morning, an ear torn off by a renegade sword, a broken sim-card no longer able to find its network. My wife provided the healed ear and so I write. (See Larry's posts on the ear here). I am writing as I wait fasting for the third day to get into the operation I need to keep on living for a while... probably tonight...

Anyway - it is God who matures and he does it in response to faith - whatever that is. Read Psalms 1, 15, 26, 101, and so on to know the ways in which the human is invited to respond to the character of God. It is not with violence.

I will keep writing on this - if possible. It has a lot to do with what others write about in these difficult times. It begins with giving up the dominance, the me-first, and it begins and continues with care for those who are devastated by those of us who refuse the path of self-giving.

Here's Psalm 116 - I can't escape from the fact that I think it is in the Psalms that Jesus recognizes what must happen to overcome the sin of the world.

116 - now please

כִּי יִשְׁמַע יְהוָה
אֶת קוֹלִי תַּחֲנוּנָי
1I love
for יְהוָה heard
the voice of my supplication
כִּי הִטָּה אָזְנוֹ לִי
וּבְיָמַי אֶקְרָא
2for he bent his ear to me
and in my days I will call

אֲפָפוּנִי חֶבְלֵי מָוֶת
וּמְצָרֵי שְׁאוֹל מְצָאוּנִי
צָרָה וְיָגוֹן אֶמְצָא
3the pangs of death enveloped me
and anguish of Sheol found me
trouble and sadness I find
וּבְשֵׁם יְהוָה אֶקְרָא
אָנָּה יְהוָה מַלְּטָה נַפְשִׁי
4so in the name of יְהוָה I will call
beseeching, יְהוָה, make an escape for my being

חַנּוּן יְהוָה וְצַדִּיק
וֵאלֹהֵינוּ מְרַחֵם
5Gracious is יְהוָה and righteous
and our God is compassionate
שֹׁמֵר פְּתָאיִם יְהוָה
דַּלֹּתִי וְלִי יְהוֹשִׁיעַ
6יְהוָה keeps the simple
I was brought low and me he saves

שׁוּבִי נַפְשִׁי לִמְנוּחָיְכִי
כִּי יְהוָה גָּמַל עָלָיְכִי
7Return O my being to your rest
for יְהוָה has matured you
כִּי חִלַּצְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִמָּוֶת
אֶת עֵינִי מִן דִּמְעָה
אֶת רַגְלִי מִדֶּחִי
8for he rescued my being from death
my eyes from tears
my foot from tripping

אֶתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה
בְּאַרְצוֹת הַחַיִּים
9I will walk in the presence of יְהוָה
in the lands of the living
הֶאֱמַנְתִּי כִּי אֲדַבֵּר
אֲנִי עָנִיתִי מְאֹד
10I believed so I spoke
I myself was much afflicted

אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי בְחָפְזִי
כָּל הָאָדָם כֹּזֵב
11I myself said in my haste
every human lies
מָה אָשִׁיב לַיהוָה
כָּל תַּגְמוּלוֹהִי עָלָי
12what will I return to יְהוָה
for all his benefits to me?
כּוֹס יְשׁוּעוֹת אֶשָּׂא

וּבְשֵׁם יְהוָה אֶקְרָא
13the cup of salvation I will bear

so in the name of יְהוָה I will call
נְדָרַי לַיהוָה אֲשַׁלֵּם
נֶגְדָה נָּא לְכָל עַמּוֹ
14my vows to יְהוָה I will pay
may it be before all his people

יָקָר בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה
הַמָּוְתָה לַחֲסִידָיו
15Precious in the eyes of יְהוָה
is the death of those under his mercy
אָנָּה יְהוָה כִּי אֲנִי עַבְדֶּךָ
אֲנִי עַבְדְּךָ בֶּן אֲמָתֶךָ
פִּתַּחְתָּ לְמוֹסֵרָי
16יְהוָה beseeching, for I myself am your servant
I myself your servant and child of your maidservant
you have loosed my bonds
לְךָ אֶזְבַּח זֶבַח תּוֹדָה

וּבְשֵׁם יְהוָה אֶקְרָא
17to you I will offer the offering of thanksgiving

so in the name of יְהוָה I will call
נְדָרַי לַיהוָה אֲשַׁלֵּם
נֶגְדָה נָּא לְכָל עַמּוֹ
18my vows to יְהוָה I will pay
may it be before all his people
בְּחַצְרוֹת בֵּית יְהוָה
בְּתוֹכֵכִי יְרוּשָׁלִָם
הַלְלוּ יָהּ
19in the courts of the house of יְהוָה
in your centre O Jerusalem
Hallelu Yah


  1. I should note a correction above. My phone was not broken. It had been cut off by the provider in another communications error. Apparently a phone of one of my employees had been lost several months ago and it was finally being dealt with but they severed the wrong connection (and fixed it two days later). I wonder what Malchus's ear means - maybe it too was a temporary severing of the hearing function - though he could still have hearing - but perhaps with lesser acuity).

    We must all learn to listen - is that not the case? And it is the hardest human faculty to learn since we must, to do it, temporarily suspend our own bias and criticism. We are changed by what we hear. (And we must be changed - that is clear.)