04 July, 2010

For a Helmet, Hope

Link to first post in this series.

Friends, I really like to put well-thought-out ideas out here, and I'm afraid I can't really deliver these days. There's too much going on. Way too much. But, this Postmodernism stuff is still burning a hole in my pockets so let me put some quick summary guesses out here.

All attempts to stop Postmodernism's "erosion" of our inspired religion are both doomed and misguided. Christianity is not postmodern, but it's not anti-postmodern either. Postmodernism is an informed way of reacting to the world in which we live. Some people are doing Postmodernism in a very ugly way, but others are doing it with utmost sincerity - just the way we did Modernism and Romanticism in our time.

Postmodernism is an accurate reaction to the horrors of a fallen world when the Information Age forces us all to face those horrors honestly.

The question before the house is how Christians react to hardcore reality. For reasons I hope I've already given, we can no longer hide behind "It'll all be worth it in heaven," or "God is ordering everything for the good." Both those statements are true, but we have to face up to facts. Things aren't good now, and Jesus didn't come selling heaven. Jesus meets people where they are, not where we'd like them to be. We need to know how Jesus meets us now.

Over the past 4000 years, there've been many, many times and many, many prominent verses. Luther gave us, "the just shall live by faith." The fundamentalists brought, "The Word was with God and the Word was God," into new focus. I'd like to suggest the verse for our time is, "Jesus wept."

The urge of every youth movement is to assume no one who came before them was as passionate, caring, concerned, informed, intelligent, spiritual, persuaded, committed, or somehow just didn't get it. I know I made that mistake in spades, but I can't do it again. Now that I'm 46, I need to grab hold of "Jesus wept," but to do so without letting go of any of the other words that have come before. "Jesus wept" informs "The just shall live by faith" and "The Word was God." It doesn't replace them; it defines them.

The just live by faith in a Man Who weeps with them. The Word Who is God includes stanzas of mourning.

Jesus didn't weep when He heard His friend Lazarus was dying, nor after he'd died. He didn't weep when He explained to Martha the theology of death, resurrection, and life. He wept when Mary fell on the ground and asked Him why He'd not come sooner. He wept, just like we do, when the pain touched Him. The pain touched Almighty God in Flesh when the tears of those He loved were wept to Him.

Jesus is touched by those things that touch us.

I look out at all the disasters and pain in the world, in my church, and in my family and I'm crushed. I could as soon save those I love as win three tennis matches all at the same time. I might win or lose any one match if I practice and train, but this life shoots too many balls at us. It's hopeless.

Jesus weeps.

I don't know how to make Jesus weeping sync-up with God ever-blessed. I don't know the theological magic it takes to reconcile the God Who declares He brings disaster with the God Who weeps when the disaster strikes, but Jesus is YHWH in flesh and YHWH wept with Mary.

All of which brings us, finally, to the heart of the matter. I've come to believe Postmodernism is a failure of hope. A Christian Postmodernist can muster the faith to believe in Christ and the love to give his lif to God, but he can't hope being a Christian will make any difference. He reads God's promises and hears God declare them yeah and amen, but they don't seem to work in real life. A Christian's life looks an awful lot like a non-Christian's life, minus the sleeping in on Sunday.

Christianity makes sense when Jesus raises Lazarus, but I want Him to raise every Lazarus and He doesn't. He raised one man to make one point at one time. He raised Lazarus to show us Whom He was, but Lazarus died again a few years later and Jesus didn't raise Him again. There are Lazarus's all over this place whom Jesus doesn't raise, and that makes no sense. I'm so happy with Jesus I could bust, but then I'm a Modernist with a deep well of irrational hope from which to draw. What do I tell my children? Where's the hope? What's the hope?

(For this, I have to thank my wife. I flat didn't see where to go next, but she found it.)

Heb 5:7 While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could deliver him out of death. And God heard his prayers because of his reverence for God.

Jesus wept again before He died. He wept strongly and prayed ... hard ... for fear of personal suffering. Jesus even understood fully why He would suffer. It didn't help. Knowing "why" didn't end the tears. Jesus even had the assurance God heard His prayers. He had every benefit we imagine might make our suffering tolerable, and He wept all the same. He died all the same. And so must we.

I would like to hear whether any Postmodernists can find some hope there. Jesus wept for us and He wept for Himself, but the evil still came. He prayed and God answered by delivering Him over to His enemies, but the story didn't end there. A couple days later God delivered Jesus. He delivered Him from death, from shame, from tears. Jesus is not just the Firstborn from the dead, but Firstborn from tears. Jesus wept, but weeps no more, and He will deliver us from our tears. Jesus earned the power to dry our eyes.

Jesus' death has not yet removed evil from this world, but He told us it wouldn't for a while. We weep when pain comes to those we love and we weep when pain comes to us and we pass through the valley, just like our Lord did.

We answer pain with hope, hope founded on the victory of our Forerunner, Jesus the Annointed. His victory was not over pain but through it, and ours will be too. He promised it would be that way, and we need to grab hold of His example.

To do that, I might recommend we grab hold of an example of Americans who've done this before, beautifully and brilliantly. America's slaves learned to hurt and hope through pain, injustice, grief, and unanswered prayers. They composed songs that called out every pain honestly to the Lord and waited on Him for a deliverance they could only expect after death. I suspect the best answer to Postmodernism is going to sound a lot like a negro spiritual.

On this July 4th we'll celebrate our freedom, but maybe we really need to celebrate the hope of some who lived an American Nightmare.