Passion and Atonement -- A People Chosen

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 51, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes Chapter 52.]

It is the beginning of a history--not of all humanity’s history, not of Nature, but of a particular story enacted by God, with us and for us, within the Nature we inhabit.

God is beginning His greatest adventure: giving us hope in this life.

For we --live-- in this life!--and God is committed to this Nature and to us, the synthetic persons He has molded, shaped, grown, begotten, within the womb of our mother.

But quickly or slowly or some combination thereof, God will do it in His own time; for His purpose is not to provide some technical 'method of salvation'.

Salvation from sin is a personal act, an act of God to co-operate with us as persons, and act of ours in response to the graces of God the Merciful and the Compassionate.

But He wants people in this history, sooner or later, to know more about Him and what His love truly is, than our own fanciful guesses and imaginations (and lusts and fears and hates) can tell us; more than He can tell us, and more than we can hear, merely within our corrupted hearts: hearts corrupted to expect some things of ultimate power and certainly not others.

He wants as many people as possible to work with Him as closely as possible, in this Nature; but one thing we need to know, in order to understand Him as a Person, is that while He can work swiftly He also works slowly (by our natural standards), subtly, spiritually from within, with His enemies--not only with the best of humanity (whoever they are), but with the dullest, most treacherous, least promising of us all.

Yes, He also does some things quickly, explosively even; and He will show us that, too. But we already have some idea of the power of quickness, of force, of heat, of cold, of wrath, of ravishing, of raw compassing energy.

And we are too quick, ourselves in sin, to envy or to worship mere power.

So I expect He will mostly work slowly, in ways which to our first natural guess would be folly--thinking, as we in our rebellion would do, in terms of how we would show those upstart rebels if we (the upstart rebels) were God!

Also, God will keep in mind the needs of His other children who are tampering with our Nature. The devils will also be taught some lessons--if they will listen and pay attention.

So, where to begin?

Start with someone who has some resources; that will mean someone in one of the core societies of the world.

But start with someone who isn't a vaunting hero, a haughty priestess, a vicious tyrant. Those are people whom God loves, too; but He does need to work with someone who has some immediate promise.

Someone not too good, someone not too bad: there will always be time for treachery later--and God will put Himself, at all levels, in line with that treachery, whenever it happens.

Someone who, in his own small derivative way, can begin to represent God more clearly to the world.

Would this be a man or a woman?

Whatever weaknesses a male may have, as follower or as leader; still at the most common (even 'vulgar') of levels a man represents a begettor, acting upon a receiver, to bring about creation.

Then again, a woman might more appropriately represent us all, all of creation, all of us who are affected by God.

I lean in the direction of expecting a man, in this case.

Not simply because this person will be regarded as an authority figure and the majority of societies throughout the world, worshiping in our sin the effecting of mere power to cause results, would more easily accept a man in this role; after all, God might choose a woman specifically to undermine the merely prevalent notion of authority!

Nor because this man, in representing us, must also represent our actions of responsibility in the story of atonement; after all, women can also act and might serve even better as a symbol of the derivative act-ers we all are.

No, I lean in the direction of a man simply because I also expect a woman will in fact be given an even more important role in the story eventually, fulfilling all these positive notions I have mentioned, as well as contributing a gift no man could possibly contribute to the story. And it might unbalance the story if the key human figure at the beginning of this story was also a woman.

So, not neglecting other possibilities of fulfillment, I will expectantly use the masculine to refer to this person.

Where to pick this man?

This man will be given the gift of vocation: he is to represent, eventually, a calling by God. People of his time, wherever they are in the world, may not have (or may no longer have) clearly in mind the concept of a calling.

Enchantments there may easily be in their epics, Sumerian, Egyptian, Peruvian, Chinese, Irish. But not yet an enchantment of love, true love, giving for the sake of the growth of the beloved in character and spirit. Enchantments of lust, yes. Enchantments of strength, yes. Enchantments of worldly wisdom, to some extent yes. Enchantments of death, most certainly!

Enchantments of life? Maybe.

But life, by itself, isn't love--or, rather, the Life of Lives is Love, but no one knows this yet (or else they have forgotten.)

Calendars they may have, yes; and accurate, and mathematical they may very well be, showing (to us) not only cleverness and sophistication, but also some strand of long-running knowledge that predates what we call 'history'. Even today, there are tribes in distant parts of the world, who somehow know the paths of stars they cannot see. They remember, through their culture; but someone once must have seen those stars--or else, they were told.

But these calendars may represent to them an unbreakable wheel--the triumph and domination of mere reaction and response, weighing down and overwhelming the choices of our will: the curse of our corrupted selves.

They may have some idea that the Earth is corrupted, and the heavens are divine. They may also have some idea that the Earth is blessed, and that somehow, some way, we ought to be able to share in the blessing of the Earth--even in the blessing of the heavens upon the Earth and by the Earth.

But their idea of blessing would be limited; they--we--need to learn more, of what it means to be blessed, and of what it means to suffer for the blessed and for the blessing.

And they cannot learn more, merely by studying the heavens and the earth--for the heavens they see are themselves Nature, and can at best be only a symbol, not the Absolute.

These people will, however, act; they will be quite impressed (and rightfully so) with the inherently magical power of actions and choices. Writing will become one such magic; and although our own 'modern' senses are often dulled to its wonder and its meaning, writing is still an enchantment today--sometimes holy, sometimes dark and deadly, always awful: full of awe, for those with eyes to see, and with ears to hear.

If, my reader, you do not believe me, try walking down the quiet aisles of a library, preferably an old one; and feel the enchantments coursing around you, shards of will encased in ink and paper, dormantly waiting yet almost twitching with carried intent--waiting for a supernatural creature to read those words and waken the enchantment.

Such enchantments will also exist in those days, usually spoken, perhaps occasionally written; dark enchantments for the most part, but laughing enchantments, too. We see television specials on 'the ancients', and perhaps we find the ancients dull, brutish, barely cognizant, far too serious. Well, perhaps they were; there is some evidence in what now remains, that the earliest civilizations and earliest 'savages', could take themselves rather too seriously. But there is also evidence that they laughed, had fun, enjoyed themselves.

As sinners, indeed, they would have enjoyed their selves a little too much!

But then again, my reader: so do you and I.

This is the humanity (perhaps not necessarily in our distant past) out of whom God will choose someone to begin working with Him for the history of our atonement.

Maybe not a priest, locked into the rituals or even the seductions of power.

But an idol-maker would do. Someone who has some working knowledge, in quite a literal sense, of what the 'gods' seen all around him 'are'.

Someone who, perhaps, has come to the conclusion, inspired by the Living God, that these gods are only wood and stone; but who, rather than give in to fatal scepticism, wishes for something better; perhaps already is hearing something better, speaking with the expected voice of an ancestor.

Someone good enough by the grace of God to look for what light he can see, and then to look for more light thereby.

Yet someone unsaintly enough, that he could be any of us.

There could be any number of such men (or women), scattered around the world, in any year.

But this one particular man will carry a message, a lineage, a tradition, an idea, a vocation.

So he will need to be located where he, and his descendants, have the greatest opportunity to spread such an idea and such a message, to as many different people as possible--sooner or later.

This is where he must be sent, as an externally enacted symbol of vocation: to a hinge, a pivot, a 'cardinal point' between such historical forces; and perhaps he should come from a time and a place where his call for vocation would be most distinctive: a time and place where ‘normal’ people do not ‘normally’ expect to receive such calls!

But it would also help if this cardinal point, to which he is called, is a land in which people could flourish. Moreover, I can see how it would help if someone already in that land knows at least a little more about God than this man does!

This man, after all, is not being chosen for his own sake, nor for having special wisdoms and insight better than anyone else. Probably plenty of men, and women, will have had such flashes; for God is still busy working with everyone He can, to whatever little extent remains possible--in this life. Some of those men, and women, would have achieved roles of importance and authority in their societies: the salt of the earth, the sheep who do not know their shepherd, are already on the march, carrying on the family name, doing what they can to keep the light shining in the dark.

It would be to one such man, or woman, that God's chosen man would be sent--for God will choose less than the very best our world has to offer. This man will be helped by those who are better than he; for that is what the best people do.

The man is nudged; he is called; he is sent.

And almost as importantly as being sent at all:

he goes.

He goes, for without going the call to be sent will be void. He goes, without knowing the future of what will happen. He goes, creating a story, a history...

An adventure.

The great heroes and kings of antiquity were born great heroes and kings (and queens) from the beginning, born of the earth and the sky perhaps, the mighty men--the Nephilim.

But this man is only a man, like any of us, not the strongest or richest, not the wisest or the most good (according to whatever light still shines in the dark).

Yet he will have resources; for he can hardly be in a position to know God enough, to trust God enough, to let God provide all resources needed. That trust will come later, maybe to him, certainly to his descendants who will carry on the ideas and traditions that he learns and receives. This is to be a learning process: for him and for his descendents.

But it also is an adventure: the adventure of a man, the adventure of Mankind.

We all, most of us, know who this man is; we have heard his name, read his story, maybe dismissed it as legend or myth.

We know of a man, perhaps the man of whom I am talking, who went; to a place far away that he could feasibly reach; to a hinge--a cardinal point--of cultures, and of history.

There, we are told, he met a mysterious priest-king, a peacemaker, who knew far more of this chosen man's God, than did God's chosen man himself.

Melchizedek, the priest-king of Bethel, humbles himself to bless the inheritor whom his God has chosen; Abram, the exalted father, humbles himself to receive the blessing from a man who knows more than he does.

And the journey of the good news of God--a news now new to even the mysterious ruler of Bethel, that the Lord Most High works wonders through the dusty and unremarkable--has begun.

[Next: the harmony of dissonance]


Jason Pratt said…
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