Tuesday, May 08, 2012

prayer in extermis..and in foxholes with Sufjan

Virtual Methodist posts:
We all go through dark days... some deeper and darker than others... even the most righteous. Jesus himself cried on the cross "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" quoting the Psalmist. There have been whole twisted theologies pinned on this one line (not to mention a few controversial hymn lyrics), and it is a potent point in the passion narrative... But I think it is telling that those standing nearby misunderstood Jesus' quotation of the Hebrew for an appeal to the prophet Elijah... either they weren't very familiar with their Psalms in general, or else this is not a Psalm that they heard much in synagogue... I suspect the latter... That then, as now, there was a reluctance to acknowledge that God seems quite distant at the most difficult of times... that he goes AWOL in times of action...

But it's all a question of perception... and that is why, as I have argued before, I believe that this was Jesus revealing himself to be fully human... not expressing any sort of separation within the Godhead because the Father cannot look on sin... that makes no sense in terms of both the integrity and eternity of the Trinity, but because at that moment Jesus perceived himself to be totally alone... abandoned by his Father.
Perception is all... I wrote last week of the perception of threat that the Awoleyu family experienced in the wake of two racist attacks... that had as real an impact on their 8 year old daughter as any ongoing concrete threat to them... and the perception of abandonment that Jesus experienced was no more or less real whether or not his Father actually "turned his face away"...
Anyway, what has prompted reflections on this again? Well, first because I noted in the stats for my blog, a previous post on this subject had received a substantial number of hits in the run up to Good Friday. Second, because of one of Kim Fabricius' Doodlings that I pointed you to on Sunday, namely:
"Of course, it’s okay to pray in a foxhole. It’s just that if you do not pray in ordinary, prayers in extremis make no sense. That is why our Lord’s cry of dereliction makes total sense: it comes from someone whose whole life was a prayer."
Do prayers in extremis really make no sense? What about those of both Martin Luther and John Newton, which, we are told, then kick-started their spiritual journeys, and consequently blessed others. In this, as in much else, I would not inexorably follow Kim's line... But certainly Christ's cry of dereliction makes sense in the light of his prayer-filled life... From the outside his cry can be justified. But what about those who never notice God's presence on the good days and then moan about his absence on the bad ones? That applies not only to atheists in foxholes, but to Christians too!

...Padraig O'Tuama pointed me (and his other FB friends) in the direction of this haunting modern lament by Sufjan Stevens... Perhaps this may help someone else out there who feels that God has gone AWOL.
        LINK: When God Goes AWOL

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!