Purist

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for Holy Wednesday 04 April 2012
Purist
I was thinking about meditation, betrayals, how Satan comes and goes in an instant, and how God is also glorified in an instant. What was it that Martin Luther said about navel-gazing? Mike Weaver had said,
“Be clear and focused on the cause outside of yourselves. Martin Luther taught that focusing too much on your own spiritual performance is an exercise in navel-gazing.”
Since meditation is one of the forms I practice as I commune with God, I toyed with the phrase “navel-gazing.” I thought about it in the context of today’s Gospel lesson on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.
Jn 13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” …
I let my soul sit with the words. I’ve taken the communion wafer and dipped it in the wine. I’ve given it to others when I served as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. Others have done the same and given it to me. The scripture words took on a richer and deeper meaning the more I thought about them. It was sobering. My meditation suddenly didn’t feel at all like “navel-gazing.” It was personal yet not. It wasn’t just about me, but shared in community. I wasn’t staring or gazing at my navel waiting for wisdom to suddenly come and hit me up the side of the head. Definitely no spiritual performance was in this excursion! What I was experiencing was a form of meditation, but it was not self-focused. While I was still tripping over the navel-gazing stigma tied to the word “meditation,” at the same time I was trying not to fall on the rocks of spiritual performance as I looked around my soul’s landscape for Christ. I had suddenly gotten myself a bit disoriented in my quest for understanding. Meditation is part of my “who that I do” but it does not fit the mold as meditations go. [Oy vey, here we go again…I get in trouble every time I don’t fit the mold.] I asked God for help and the Holy Spirit led me to an article by Matt Johnson where he explained more of Martin Luther and the art of navel-gazing.
“CURVED IN ON SELF”
“Mining the depths of our innards for answers and wisdom is the default of the human heart. The Reformers referred to this phenomenon as Homo Incurvatus in Se: which is the fancy, Latin way of saying “the state of being curved in on self”—or, put another way, navel-gazing. We’re obsessed with our ability (or lack thereof). And in both cases, the common denominator is self-infatuation. The remedy is to be straightened out in order to see that hope comes from without, not from within.”
These words rang true in my soul. When I had offered communion to others and them to me, we were offering each other hope. Hope is imputed (given.) We cannot infuse hope into another. If we try, then hope can morph into “good advice.” If we can’t live up to the advice of another or ourselves, then we can become hurt. Matt Johnson continued,
INFUSION = GOOD ADVICE
At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther had a real problem with the Catholic Church’s view of how sinners are justified before a holy God—or rather how a believer maintains their righteousness. This “process” of justification is called infusion. Per the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, grace is initially given to the believer through the work of Christ but “nevertheless he or she is formally justified and made holy by his or her own personal justice and holiness.”
Huh….
To make this real practical: what happens at the end of a I’ve-been-a-naughty-Christian day and you get hit by a car? This version of justification sounds like good advice, not good news…
IMPUTATION = GOOD NEWS
On the other hand, Martin Luther taught that the Christian’s righteousness is alien. As in, righteousness comes from outside of ourselves and is imputed (given) to us. Our righteousness is not our own—we wear it like a robe (Colossians 3).
…Advice is not comforting to people in trouble. Advice is shrouded in a thick fog of mere possibilities. …Good advice-laden Infusion keeps us stuck in a morass of potentiality that curves us in on ourselves. By the grace of God, may our spines be straightened out so we’re able to see beyond our toes to behold what is already accomplished for us and outside of us.”
Naturally, being who I am, I looked at the pure beauty and symmetry of communion now with a richer focus as I overlaid communion on top of meditation on top of the concept of justification on top of the Church. [Multi-layered cake!] I further looked at Jesus’ next words after Judas had received the dipped bread and Satan had entered into him. (Jn 13:27) Jesus had said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” The same dynamic had played itself out between the Church-as-Institution and me. Where was the Holy Spirit leading me in this? This trip down Memory Lane didn’t seem to go anywhere. I took the words and expanded my spiritual focus and “saw”
Revelation 18:10Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
“ ‘Woe! Woe, O great city,
O Babylon, city of power!
In one hour your doom has come!’
Revelation 18:17In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’
Since the actual city of Babylon has already come to ruin, I “knew” the Holy Spirit was showing me something fresh. I stepped back from the vehicle to let God lead (since this is the dance of my variety of meditation.) I looked and remembered. My memories were not just distant past. Last week a news clip on the BBC showed crowds gathering all across Germany uniting over the concept of a purist race. They do not call themselves Nazis or Neo-Nazis. There was no single leader unifying the country like a present-day Hitler. Calls to gather spread by cell phone and social media. I tried to research more the next day and found nothing on Google or the BBC’s website. It was as if all mention of the broadcast had been erased. (This behavior of removing all traces was affirmed in an article I read. ) I surrendered my frustration to God, and took the issue itself into prayer. I held the issue up to today’s lectionary lessons. I held them up to the backdrop that Holy Communion is pure. The Holy Spirit makes it pure. Our job is to discern the holy from the impure. The concept of a purist race is abhorrent to me. It troubled me in my spirit. (Jn 13:21) Our authentic and beautiful Selves are already “pure” in God’s eyes.
The next step after embracing a notion of a “purist race” is genocide, because the elitist group sees others as less-than. I looked up the meaning of genocide. The term has its origins dating back to 1940-45, the time of WWII. It means “racial murder; the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” A phrase akin to genocide is “ethnic cleansing.” Now I looked at this spirit through eyes of discernment. Ethnic cleansings, genocide, and purist race elitism stem from a spirit of discontent, fear, and arrogance. If an artist were to draw caricatures of these spirits, they’d look like three frogs. (Rev 16:13) Spirits dip their hands in the common “bowl” of each of our souls. (cf Jn 13:26) None of us is immune no matter how loudly we may protest with “Surly not I!” (Mt 26:25) Satan can do his work quickly. (Jn 13:27) We eat of the common bread and it is spiritual night. (v 30) The grace is that since God has been glorified in the Son of Man, and in the sons of man (mortals), then God will glorify Himself in Christ at once again. (v 32) God does His work quicker than Satan can catch on and “wake up.” Spiritually waking up can happen at once and spread to others in an hour. The mirror opposite is also true.
Purity is about setting aside ego-self to drink in God’s purity within. It cannot come through externals and trying to eliminate others like some ethnic exorcism. God’s holiness is purity itself. In my meditation on meditation I realized that, yes, our meditation must not become self-infatuation. Our meditation can be (and must revolve around) God’s character and what He is doing. How ironic that the land of the heart of the Protestant Reformation and the home of the branch of study of the human mind—Psychology—the birthplace of being anchored in the solid understanding that we are saved by grace and not by works (or brains) should be the land of the heart of so much stress and the call to a “purist race.” The trumpet call of God is for all to know that we stand in our authentic core Selves without all the ego-baggage (terms and concepts which were birthed in the “Fatherland.”) Did you forget who you are? We are holy and pure before God. We stand in His radiant grace alone. Getting in each others’ good graces is a different story. Potential, good advice, and self-infatuation can infuse us with a false sense of justification. Wasn’t this what both Matt Johnson and Martin Luther were getting at?
A ribbon of Light kept dancing in and around the various points on this tapestry of meditation and I let them be and gave them expression. In the end I realized that, for me, meditation and navel-gazing were not the culprits I had initially thought due to the stigma attached to the words. They were powerful only because of Whom my focus was upon while I meditated! Christ is the Purist. This purity comes from above, rests inside, and moves outwardly in grace-filled flow. It cannot be forced outwardly to be ingested by others like bad medicine. The purity of Christ carries hope. Hope is imparted (given) and not necessarily infused like an IV drip into the soul’s veins, (although sometimes that is needed when hope is dying.) Of this Truth of hope in Christ we can be sure because “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) bears testimony with their very lives (both past and present). We are also told to expect to see Christ “coming in the clouds.” (Mk 13:26) Revelation 7:9-12 describes a “great multitude” standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb wearing white robes [purity] and holding palm branches in their hands. Are we so caught up in our escapist image of “heaven” as where we want to end up that we forget we must BECOME in our lives what we want to experience in our world? Certainly we know we are “strangers in a strange land”–
Eph 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
And that our citizenship is in heaven–
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
But we also have been praying the Lord’s Prayer for two millennia and saying “On earth as it is in heaven.”
Mt 6:10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
As above, so below. There IS purity in heaven AND in our hearts. This purity focuses on the holy purity of God and not focusing on the idols of purism or elitism, of which –isms and (–-ologies) are human constructs. We must remember that we are made pure by God’s grace and that grace may never be taken for granted, lest we repeat the same mistakes of history all over again. We are supposed to run the race that is set before us. (Heb 12:1) It’s a marathon race, passing on the best of what we’ve learned, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Aren’t all the countries past and present around the world (and not just Germany) who are crying out for racial, social, financial, and/or religious purism really putting their feet on the pavement in search of pure hope, but their search has led them off course by an idol of ideology? And isn’t pure hope what Christ Himself offers? Therefore He knocks over the idols.
Prayer: Lord, please knock the idols of ideology off their pedestals so that we can see You clearly and follow You. Please help us to follow the flow of the Holy Spirit and not necessarily the flow of the masses. We acknowledge that we really do make a fine mess of things. We humbly thank You that You steer us back to Yourself whenever we veer off course. We are Your sheep. Forgive us for taking Your grace for granted. Please bring Your kingdom into our hearts and make us so infatuated with You that our idols disappear. Amen.

Holy Wednesday 04 April 2012 Gospel: John 13:21-32
Isaiah 50:4-9a
50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

50:5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.

50:6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

50:7 The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

50:8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.

50:9a It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 70
70:1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me!

70:2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.

70:3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.

70:4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

70:5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

Hebrews 12:1-3
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

12:3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

John 13:21-32
13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

13:23 One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him;

13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.

13:29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.

13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

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