Tuesday, July 04, 2006

That fine wire, salvation...

I was just reading an article by Victoria Boyson, The Spirit of Salvation, in which she reminds us:

In the beginning, our heavenly Father created us for Himself and He greatly delighted in His creation. He meant for us to be His family and He loved us so much. However, Satan was perverted by His sick jealousy of man and sought to destroy what God loved. He twisted the words of God and lied to mankind in order to devour them.

How the Father mourned the loss of His dear ones that He cherished; how He wept over them. And how Satan used them to hurt God more and more by driving them to sin, then using their sin to torment them all the while "claiming" ownership of them. How it wounded the Father's heart each time His beloved would chose to sin and be driven farther from Him.

It just occurred to me how similar the modus operandi described here is to the philosophy of all terrorism and much violent crime: I don't like you, because you won't do what I want... but I can't get at you directly, so I'll hurt you by hurting those you love... and that will be your fault not mine, because you didn't go along with my wishes in the first place. You had only to give me pride of place in Heaven, and in your affections, and mankind would never have had to suffer the consequences of the Fall; you had only to release the political prisoners, and that busload of schoolchildren need never have been bombed; you had only to cook my meals right, and your daughter need never have been beaten till she couldn't walk.

What are we to do? How can we possibly deal with a tactic like this? The Cross is the only possible answer - there the grief and the mercy of God were drawn through the die of the worst injustice, the ultimate example of the suffering of the innocent, to form the fine but infinitely strong wire of salvation. A free gift, but as Eliot said in Little Gidding "Costing not less than everything..."

Yet again I'm reminded of the hymn I chose for our Songs of Praise evening, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", with Isaac Watts' astonishing words, "Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all."

The key lies in what Joyce Huggett describes as the shift in the focus of prayer from what or whom we are praying for - the victims of terrorism, say - to Jesus himself, our crucified Saviour (1 Corinthians 2:2). As Joyce says, "The acute awareness of the presence of Jesus [persuades us] that [we] need not fumble for fine words in order to present to Jesus the needs of others. All that [is] needed [is] that [we] should pass the person or situation into his... hands." (Listening to God, p73) Which is where Michael Ramsey's words, "putting ourselves in his presence, being hungry and thirsty for him, wanting him, letting heart and mind move towards him; with the needs of the world on our heart" come in. Our only possible prayer in the face of ultimate evil (well, my only possible prayer, anyway!) is the prayer of Romans 8:26, letting the Spirit intercede in our stead, "with sighs too deep for words..."

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner..." And in that mercy a world of grief and pain is washed and washed again "through his most precious blood."

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