Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mundane Catastrophes

Pundits are right in claiming that God sends cataclysmic events in order to grab our attention. Of this fact there can be no doubt. It is akin to the teacher in the classroom clapping her hands or slapping a ruler on her desk in order to make a loud noise. “Well, do I have your attention now?”

While it may be the catastrophe that drives a nation to its knees, it is the mundane that more likely crumbles the individual’s will to despair. It is there when Satan pulls out his most evil arsenal. As the routine becomes the expected, it is absorbed as though this the way things are going to be forever and ever amen. Moreover, the routine becomes the habitus of life: If one gives himself over to grumbling in his vocation, then that is his catechesis.

Cancer never had me praying nearly as much as one more dirty dish to wash, one more diaper to change, one more bit of adolescent insolence, one more toilet to scrub. It hasn’t changed any even with the kids grown and gone and me now teaching school. Add long hours of work reaping what appears to be little more than criticism and the deaf ears and stubborn wills of students, and the field is fertile for only a bitter harvest.

Like Elijah crying to God, Satan convinces that “I, I alone am left!”

To this Jesus answers, “I came for the sinners, not the righteous.”

When God divided Israel, He reserved Jerusalem for Himself. God caused His name to dwell there, in the temple Solomon built. Yet, that temple was destroyed, and the nation was sent into Babylon for the sake of their repentance. Eventually the temple was rebuilt in order that God’s name could once more dwell in it. The Temple of God who is the likeness of God’s image bearing His Name returned to that newly built temple in Jerusalem. Yet, He was tossed out and killed. In His death is the death of all sin; in His resurrection the Temple is once more raised, and death, the last enemy, is overcome.

In that, too, the mundane is redeemed. For, what is the ordinary task but service to neighbor? And what is the defeat of Satan but the confession of our own sin (not the neighbor’s!) in repentance?

The Baptized in Christ are the New Jerusalem, His Temple. These are they upon whom He has put His name- and a collective is never alone. Though storms and floods are His, too, here also is where He dwells and calls His own to repentance: in the mundane banality of His people until He returns forever and ever amen.

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