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Unpacking After the Market Day of the Soul

September 25, 2006

Gratitude is not encoded in the Cat’s DNA; therefore, he is ungrateful for your prayers. I, however, am most grateful. The Cat has responded well to Vitamin B supplements for his appetite, and has recovered from his anorexic stint–in fact, he has undergone a philosophical shift from alchemical gnosticism to Epicureanism. No longer seeking the quintessential flavor, he now basks in normative feline luxuries: eating and shredding things. He eats on his own, because he eats more than I, not being nocturnal, can feed him. We have conceded to his nocturnal predator identity and permit him to free-feed at night. He seems happy and sweet-natured, so we can have no way of knowing what he is plotting. I do sense covert antisocial behavior in his handling of his special body pillow toy. I made this for him; it is nearly the length of his belly, stuffed with catnip at one end and polyfill at the other. He licks the catnip end while shredding the polyfill with his mighty back feet–feline hedonist heaven manifest. So again, I do thank you for your prayers for him.

You did pray for my Cat, didn’t you? You didn’t have to, of course. His own infirm groans and mine would have sufficed. God’s all-reaching mercy to my beast, viz. Jonah 4:11, where God regarded the cattle of Nineveh, would have been influenced no more or less by the volume or competence of prayers sent on the Cat’s behalf. But if you cared for the Cat–or for my peace of heart with respect to him, I think you had an affirmative duty to pray for his well being. This could have been done very secretly, and I need never know. I certainly do not want to know if you did not pray for my pitiful beast.

Prayer…so near and yet so far. My depravity was deeper than the Marianas Trench, and I never could have prayed my way to the top; it never occurred to me to do so. Prayer, infirm as it is, stilted and motive-confounded as it remains, was a gift that came with saving faith. But how glibly the world appropriates the term. “I’ll pray for you.” Right. And if she remembers, she’ll light a candle. Or dance with fairies. Or drum herself stupid. The merciful Christian response in these situations should be, “Please don’t.” It seems unconscionable to let someone set himself up to honor a false god with a false prayer.

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And I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Je 3:15

The highlight of my market day of the soul yesterday, as well as Friday evening at a conference at our sister church, was hearing Walter J. Chantry preach. It was my first time to hear this venerable defender of the true faith. With what power he drove home cohesive messages of worship, sin, forgiveness, gratitude–I wondered whether there could possibly be any unhearing ears in the room. No, said Walter Chantry, worshipping idols does not empower sticks and stones, but the impelling demons unseen to the idolator nonetheless “drink in the worship.” I see a lot of “harmless” harm by misguided Christians.

Jesus permitted a sinful woman to touch him and anoint him in the cameo of transformation from perdition to grace in Luke 7. I had the thought that the woman likely received the precious oil in payment for sinful services, and that she transferred the oil, the sin-gotten gain, onto her savior. I reflected on the contrast between Jesus’ permitting her touch and the untouchable Pharisees who could not countenance blood money in their temple, who could not touch the man left for dead, who was taken in by the pariah Samaritan. Jesus wants us to touch him. He is Jehovah, the God who persistently exhorts his people to seek his face…images of close encounter.

“Seek my face” seems to mean “pray” in the Old Testament. I don’t know how much this is accountable to language and the prevalent use of figure in Hebrew. Old Testament saints also “inquire of the Lord.” Both phrases certainly imply continual, active inquiry and closeness. Jehovah spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex 33:11). Moses prayed to Jehovah, but still asked Jehovah to “show me now thy ways, that I may know thee…” (Ex 33:13). Moses knew to seek God’s will, but labored under no pretense that he knew God’s will. And Moses is one of few competent men of prayer in human history.

There is a phrase I have always loved in the Revelation to John, in Chapter Five at verse eight: “…golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” This tells me that our prayers have substance, aroma, and destination. But mine are so pithless. The responsibility to pray is like the responsibility to repent and believe the gospel: it is absolutely imperative and absolutely impossible–without the intervention of the Spirit who conveys our prayer to the Lord’s presence. My infirmity at prayer is far more evident to me than how the Spirit might transform my selfish, imbecilic groans into aromatic substance in golden bowls in the presence of the Lamb. The supplications of a righteous man avail much (Ja 5:16), because the righteous man is praying in God’s will. But no one is righteous. But a man declared righteous by imputation will receive this help. Without the Spirit’s mediation, there is no prayer, only superficial social blather about a spoken intention to do something, when he is completely helpless to do anything at all without the intercession available only to the child of God. We are responsible to pray–to seek God’s face–as we are responsible to believe, and we cannot believe without God-granted faith. Luther explicated these things very persuasively for me in Bondage of the Will. I remember feeling sorry for Erasmus, who didn’t get it. You are responsible and you are unable; it will be given unto you to ask for the help you need if it is in God’s will to give this gracious help.

So, if you truly prayed for my Cat during these past two weeks, or for anyone, the fruit of your moments of kindness arrived before the Lamb, its aroma filling a golden bowl. I tend to spiritualize much of Revelation, but I do enjoy this image.

5 comments:

Victorbravo said…
It will probably take me a day to unpack what you’ve unpacked. I do note that the transformation from alchemical Gnosticism to Epicureanism actually parallels the modern synthesis of neo-platonism with emprical idolatry. The gnostic idea that you are what you eat leads directly to the conclusion that you eat to be happy.And the goal of being happy is the only ethical basis that empiricists can find.

On “seek my face” I remembered this little passage which neatly ties up prayer, repentence, forgivness, and healing:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chron. 7:14.

If we are truly humble, that is, if we are brought to understanding of our true condition, we know our prayers are imbecilic. God be praised that he “hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.”

And praise God that the Cat eats. Perhaps his theology was wrong (almost certainly it was, if he was a Gnostic); he might have misunderstood Jonah 3:7:

“Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water.”

At least that has been straightened out. We have to be careful with our CATechisms.

9:41 AM  
Mrs. B said…
If Jonah 3:7 is indeed the passage on which the Cat way relying in bringing about his affliction, then we shall have to have a little sharing with him regarding his misapprehension of its context. We cannot have him buying into that neo-ailurocentric theology.
10:28 AM  
Mike Pitzler said…
No. It’s not what goes into a cat that defiles it. Nor what comes out. It’s not a sinner. But it does groan because of sin, and so does the epicurean sinner, who is defiled by the things that come out.So many that I talk to would like to hide in their catlikeness, supposing to be released into the great atman (or is it the brahman?), as worms digest samsara, or something. My hindi isn’t so clear, but neither is theirs.

I too am constantly thankful for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and their marvelous Redemption Accomplished and Applied to His Glory and on our behalf.

12:22 PM  
HZ said…
Lauren the first paragraph I went into the alpha state over the language and lost the thread of meaning completely. I picked it up again at once when I realized what had happened though. I will read with the spirit and the understanding also….I liked esp. the point that Christ wants us to touch Him.

& what you said about Luther and Erasmus reminded me that prayer is a response, primarily. Those who don’t understand this, who are trying to ‘make’ their idols do something, to initiate the action rather than respond to the First Mover, are simply making vain repetitions.

1:00 AM  
Mrs. B said…
You didn’t miss it Heidi. The thread was rather particulate…little alpha particles of DNA and cat food. The Cat’s shifting philosophies are difficult to track.
9:00 AM  
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