Monday, November 28, 2011

For Advent, I'm expecting what I desire and what I deserve! (Synchroblog)

Since someone asked, I will answer..

For Advent this year, I expect to get:

                                                what I desire and deserve.

Many reading that will say it sounds heretical;
          but I can back it up with sound theologians.

Some reading that statement will be incensed; saying it smells
counter-intuitive, paradoxical,  subversive and unobvious.
                                  Of course it does; all legitimate gospel must smell that way.  Such is incense.

First of all, note I didn't say, "For Christmas, I want.."
No... it reads,  "for  Advent."

How could I want anything amiss if I really believe it's Advent?
Advent is Christmas converted.
 ...Though inevitably, even Christmas and Advent wishes can be co-opted by culture (or worse, Christian culture L"Our making of images to present our work in ministry is not invulnerable to idolatry", John Tschetter remiinds).Thus,  the Advent Conspiracy is  recommended.

So, before I defend my thesis, let me reveal who commissioned it.
Christine Sine, on her Godspace blog, is seeking contributors to a  synchroblog on the question at hand  (Join us  here ;   or via the  facebook page):

 [The] topic  {is} Jesus is Coming: What Do We Expect? Christmas is probably the most widely celebrated Christian festival in the world.  Incredibly, the birth of a tiny baby two thousand years ago in an obscure village in Palestine still has the power to impact and transform lives.  Unfortunately it is also the most commercialized event on our calendars and even for many Christians is fast losing its religious significance. So what are we really expecting this Advent and Christmas season? Are we just waiting for a baby born in a stable or are we expecting a Saviour who will transform the world? This month’s synchroblog is centred around our expectations for the Advent and Christmas season. What are we expecting? How will it impact our lives and our faith?  -Christine Sine
Starting point is Psalm  37:4:

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."

We have all heard that all our desires are inherently depraved and evil.

as we/if we/since we/when we  delight ourselves in the Lord  (which deep inside we desire to do; or at least desire to desire)..

...Then God is able to grant our desires, as they will he his.  We will will what he wills.

John 15:7: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you...ask whatever you wish, and it will be done."

This is not "name it and claim it." It's claiming it, and then naming it.
It's claiming God's desires, and then finding that we agree with them as we name them.

Could there be a normative, formative place to live, where all our prayers are answered, and  answered "yes"?

Dare to believe so, if you believe Romans 8:26 about The Spirit praying for, and through, us...

So the various theologians I bring into the conversation..

  • E Stanley Joines
  • Fr. James Martin
  • Madame Jeanne Guyon
  • James K. A. Smith
  • Robert Farrar Capon
  • St. Paul Hewson (Bono)

...all speak into this; and address it from different angles.

E. Stanley Jones:

"At our 'Open Heart' meetings in the Christian Ashrams, we give four or five hours to this catharsis (Christians sharing honestly about three questions: 'Why have you come?' 'What do you want?" "What do you really need?') The reaction of one person, who listened to it for the first time, was: 'Good gracious, have we all the messed up people in the country here?' My reply was: 'No, you have a cross section of the church life honestly revealed.'

In the ordinary church, it is suppressed by respectability, by a desire to appear better than we really are.

Did you notice the word "desire" used there in the usual negative sense?  Only because desires rea off base in the "ordinary church."  But not when it is extraordinary, as it is called to be,

Every year at Christian Ashrams that I lead (join us), the responses blow us away with their honesty...and holiness.

Check out Christina (left in photo)'s experience:

At open heart I was able to stand up and without any reservations answer the three questions given me.
1. Why did I come here?
2. What do I want?
3. What do I need?
Even though I knew the answers to these questions at that moment they instantly changed. I was shown that why I came, what I wanted, and what I needed was not very important.
So my week at Ashram really began. I learned so many things from John McFarland. Like how to lead a person to Christ. Something I had never even bothered to learn before. He taught me the LOVE, SIN, JESUS, SURRENDER technique. We did an exercise to practice this technique and I was confronted with a situation that my own brother might put me through. He is not a Christian so leading him to the Lord is a dream I have had for a while. This exercise helped to better prepare for the day this comes. I now know what I need to do when he is ready to hear it.
Dave Wainscot, the bible teacher, taught me a new way to study the bible. This lesson helped me, later that week, to make a major decision in my life. Just the tools he gave me lead me to the answer the Lord wanted me to hear. I was inspired with the book of Jeremiah. By being led to this book I was able to problem solve my way through the decision I was facing. It was so awesome to take what I learned and put it into action so quickly.
I was given the opportunity to pray for some people who really needed it. I prayed in the prayer chapel and at the healing service. This was such a rewarding experience. I was just able to pray exactly what God lead me to pray, without any hesitations. The Lord helped me to reach out to people young and old and better understand their struggles in their walk with the Lord. My prayer life became more powerful than ever before. Prayer is now one of the most important things in my life. I used to pray about everything, but now I pray about everything for everyone. It makes a big difference in the relationships I have with other people.
The only way to describe what I actually experienced at Ashram is Kingdom Living. Two words that I don’t think I understood at the beginning of the week. But something that the Ashram experience brings to life..LINK

Maybe Augustine was right: "Love God and do  (and ask) what you want."

But in the process, even our wants become refined and realigned.

Fr. Martin (who to his credit, is chaplain to The Colbert Report):

Advent is a time of desire.  We desire the coming of Christ into our lives.  The readings from the Book of Isaiah, which we hear during the season, reveal even the earth desiring the presence of God.  The wonderful “O antiphons,” sung at evening prayer and during the Gospel acclamations towards the end of Advent, speak of Christ at the “King of Nations and their Desire.”

But desire has a disreputable reputation in religious circles. When most people hear the term, they think of two things: sexual desire or material
wants, both of which are often condemned by some religious leaders. The first is one of the greatest gifts from God to humanity; without it the human race would cease to exist. The second is part of our natural desire for a healthy life--for food, shelter and clothing.

..Why all this emphasis on desire in Advent, or any other time?  Because desire is a key way that God speaks to us.

Holy desires are different than surface wants, like "I want a new car" or "I want a new computer."  Instead I'm talking about our deepest desires, the ones that shape our lives: desires that help us know who we are to become and what we are to do. Our deep desires help us know God’s desires for us, and how much God desire to be with us. And God, I believe, encourages us to "notice" and "name" these desires, in the same way that Jesus encouraged Bartimaeus, the blind beggar to articulate his desire. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  Recognize our desires means recognizing God's desires for us.  Here's a dramatic story to illustrate this. At least it was dramatic for me.
           ...These are a few reasons why St. Ignatius asks us repeatedly in the Spiritual Exercises to pray for what we want. At the beginning of each prayer, Ignatius asks you to ask God "for what I want and desire."  For instance, if you are meditating on the life of Jesus, you ask for a deeper knowledge of Jesus. It reminds you of the importance of asking for things in the spiritual life, and of realizing that whatever we receive is a gift from God. 
...Some people find that their deep desires are difficult to identify. What then?   Margaret Silf, an English spiritual writer, retreat director and popular lecturer, provides one answer in her book Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality.  She suggests two ways that you may come to know your hidden desires. One is "Outside In" the other "Inside Out."  The "Outside-In" approach considers those desires already present, which may point to deeper ones. Desires like "I want a new job" or "I want to move" may signify a longing for greater overall freedom.
The "Inside-Out" approach uses archetypal stories as signposts to your desires. What fairy tales, myths, stories, films or novels appealed to you when you were young?  The same could be asked about stories from your sacred Scriptures. Are you drawn toward the story of Moses freeing the Hebrew slaves?  Or Jesus' healing the blind man? Why? Might these real-life stories hold clues about your holy desires?

Desire is a key part of Christian spirituality because desire is a key way that God's voice is heard in our lives. And our deepest desire, planted within us, is our desire for Christ, the Desire of the Nations.    LINK,
Advent: The Season of Desire
Madame Guyon:

"It is almost impossible for me not to desire all that God desires..

so one lets  their desires flow into God only in order to desire according to his movement,and to will through his will. :-Autobiography of Madame Guyon, Volume 2,. 93, 200


" we are desiring agents with a passional orientation toward  the ultimate--to a vision of 'The Kingdom'"....though at times our desires need to be "redirected" as part as a  liturgical "pedagogy for

desire". - Chapter "Why Victoria's In on the Secret: Picturing Discipleship at The Moulin Rouge" in "Desiring the Kingdom


Creation is a dance of desire.  In the long run, it hardly matters that creation's notion of what it desires is almost invarianly cockeyed.  The desireable and desiring  God is still in charge.  And when every last particle of Creation--including you, me, the lamppost and the church--ends up dead, gone, and at absolute zero, its heart will still leap up at the heart of the Beloved..
..The God incarnate in Jesus is an utterly DESIRABLE God. He runs the world from beginning to end by the radically astonishing device of ROMANCING it into being out of nothing.
Because the church is not a club; its is a divine Mystery-the body of Him who fills all in all and who, when He is lifted up, draws all to Himself. We are in a dance of desire over which we have no final power to throw in a wet blanket. The thirst of the astonished heart lies at the root of all thirsts, however trivial, and it is the THIRSTY, therefore-and the hungry, the last, the lost, the least, the little and the dead-who are the sacraments of the church's hope. Only fools, of course, willingly embrace these conditions. But the divine Fool who died and rose needs only one of them-Himself-to bring the dance to its wild conclusion. Even if all the rest of us are tripping over our feet to the end of time-even if we spend every one of our days trying to wallflower our way through the various models of the church-even if we never get the dance of desire right, God never gets it wrong.
Resurrection reigns wherever there is death; and with it comes the joy of the Really Good News: the dance into the New Creation in Christ will always be alive and well. DESIRE, however we manage it, can always explode into astonishment.  -link
St. Paul Hewson  (Bono) via three U2 songs)"


Bono comments: "On one level, I'm starting to criticize these lunatic fringe preachers, 'stealing hearts at a travelling show'_-but I'm also starting to realize that there is a real parallel between what I'm doing and what  they are" -

U2: into the heart : [the stories behind every song]

 By Niall Stokes, p. 81


This song seems to be inspired by the rabbinic prayer technique of the same name, which encourages elevation (not sublimating or exorcising) sexual thoughts/base desires.  See Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen, quoted in

"I Believe in Father Christmas":

Granted, this is not a U2-penned song, but it became theirs when they subtly but profoundly converted and subverted  (better yet, "elevated") the original lyrics by Greg Lake:
I had to smile in admiration at the very minor but very thoughtful lyric changes that turn Lake's text into something not just potentially, but authentically, U2ey. Did you catch them? "They sold me a Merry Christmas, they sold me a Silent Night, they sold me a fairy story..." is transmuted into something more like Popmart's "I wanted to meet God but they sold me religion" by one little shift: no longer did "they" keep selling "till I believed in the Israelite"; no, they can try to sell such holiday fantasies all they want "but I believe in the Israelite."
And the end of the original second verse, one assumes the implication is that the once-hopeful little boy awakes, exhausted and bleary-eyed, to witness his father dressed as Santa and realize the whole thing's a shuck ("I awoke with a yawn in the first light of dawn and saw him -- and through his disguise.") But U2 create a whole different feel by taking out that one little "and," so that the narrator now says that he watched in hope, woke at dawn, and "I saw him through his disguise." Another idea that we've heard many times before from this band.Beth Maynard, link

For me, to claim "But I believe in the Israelite" is to desire Him. and to dare to believe that, as another lyric in the song offers: "On Christmas we get what we deserve."

I know, I know. We've been taught that the whole idea of grace is that it is undeserved.
True enough.  But hear out my thoughts on why Bono kept that apparent "works theology" in the lyric?  Here's a question I got on my blog:

Anonymous said...
Can you please explain that last "Christmas we get we deserve" bit a little more? I really love the song, but I don't understand how this is connected to God's grace. I thought grace was our getting what we don't deserve or earn.

11:56 AM, December 03, 2008 dave said.:
great question...that part wasn't clear.
Partly, I meant Bono can be seen as pushing grace over the top...making it "even better than the real thing."
Not that the old definition you quoted goes, but we realize in sense, even though we don't deserve grace, Jesus teats us as if we do.
I still like Ric Mullins line "Hell is better than we deserve."
And in a sense...sounds pretty Calvinist..and too close to karma, even"whatever kind of Christmas we get, we deserve it..
I take Bono to perhaps mean, "If you trust Jesus, you get what you technically don't deserve, but Jesus treats you as if you do.
If you don' still get what you deserve..."
Thus the heaven and hell line.
I dunno, it just feels like the last line is loaded.   LINK

Deep in my heart/soul/seat of desire; I want..dare I say "deserve"  what I don't deserve..that is, what believe  in .. the Israelite.

For Advent this year, I'll ask for what I desire (God's desires), and what I deserve to deserve (the desires of my heart.

Please enjoy the other synchroblogs on this question,  The posts so far are  listed here and below.
You have one more day to add yours.

You desire to, right?
You might even deserve to do it.

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