Spiritual Formation and Dentistry
Then Joshua called the twelve men he had chosen, 5and said, “Go into the Jordan ahead of the Covenant Box of the LORD your God. Each one of you take a stone on your shoulder, one for each of the tribes of Israel. 6These stones will remind the people of what the LORD has done. In the future, when your children ask what these stones mean to you, 7you will tell them that the water of the Jordan stopped flowing when the LORD’s Covenant Box crossed the river. These stones will always remind the people of Israel of what happened here.” Joshua 4:4-7 GNT
Prayer and spirituality feature participation, the complex participation of God and the human, his will and our wills. We do not abandon ourselves to the stream of grace and drown in the ocean of love, losing identity. We do not pull the strings that activate God’s operations in our lives, subjecting God to our assertive identity. We neither manipulate God (active voice) or are manipulated by God (passive voice). We are involved in the action and participate in its results but do not control or define it (middle voice). Prayer takes place in the middle voice.
In supernatural union (union with God by grace) the divine Spirit within our spirit unites us immediately to the Image (the Word) in a new way. No longer is the divine Image present within us as unrecognized and known. We become aware of His presence. We plunge by supernatural understanding and love into the abyss of His light and being. And beyond all knowledge and love we are united with Him and rest in Him
My death is nothing. Christ’s suffering is my consolation, upon it I rely for the forgiveness of my sins; but my own death I will suffer to the praise and honor of my God freely and gratuitously, and for the advantage and profit of my neighbor, and in no way whatever depend upon it to avail anything in my own behalf before God.
Luther’s claim about death, is, I pray, what pastors and our people learn.
That eternal life is not just possible, but definite because of Christ’s suffering and death. Yet in reaction to that, I pray we would desire that our lives bring God praise, and cause people to praise and find value in a relationship with God.
But that is not simply a matter of saying a few words here and there. It is not by my reason or strength that I come to Christ, nor is it by my reason or strength that others come as well. It has to be the Holy Spirit’s work, through the words and sacraments I simply carry to them, that people are drawn into Christ and are united to Him. Merton’s word are far more eloquent than mine – but it is as He says, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ.
That union is deep, and deeply intimate. It is, as Peterson notes, neither active or as passive. It is like a dentist extracting one of our teeth. We are there; we are part of the process, and it deeply affects us, as that which shouldn’t be there is removed, and we are forever changed – living in the life so different than the pain and infection that required the tooth to be removed.
THe difference, of course, is that the dentist doesn’t remain – the Spirit does! The intimacy of the operation is nothing compared to the intimacy that Peterson reflects upon in the passage from his work. Both he and Merton talk about it, this consolation and comfort from knowing we aren’t alone, but we walk every day in God’s presence, as He comforts and consoles and empower us.
This is what Joshua and Israel had to conclude, and as important, remember. THeir walk with God wasn’t over as they entered the Promised Land. It only had begun. God made Joshua put up and altar of 12 stones to remember that point of origin, and what God did to make it happen. That God was going to be with them in this strange new world. As He does with us, neither being manipulated by us, or manipulating, rather walking and guiding and consoling.
This is our joy, our hope, and what sustains us. So may we always remember these markers in our lives, so that we never forget His presence.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 110.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 102–103.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 65.
Posted on February 16, 2023, in Devotions, Eugene Peterson, Martin Luther, Theology in Practice, Tozer and tagged hope, intimacy with God, joy, lunity, spiritual formation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.