One of the things I appreciate most about the liturgical calendar is the richness and depth of its conception of our relationship with God. I grow generally frustrated when modern Evangelicals want to talk about their “personal relationship with Christ.” Not because such a relationship is contrary to orthodoxy – for two thousand years we have believed that our relationship with God is an interaction of persons and not a mere submission to an impersonal force. What annoys me though is that, in most conversations I hear, people forget to define “personal.” And when they do this, they usually assume that synonyms for “personal” might consist in words like “warm, fuzzy, and emotive”; non-words like “relatable”; or words denoting individual ownership – we have our own personal Jesus to go with our personal computers and our personal pan pizzas. While I will not deny that there are possibly some aspects of this set of words that has something to do with what “personal” means, I feel that the word has lost its full force and depth – to have a personal relationship is to relate as persons, and while this can include aspects of the aforementioned words, it can also include things like the dark night of the soul, Job’s confrontation by God in the whirlwind, and experiences like that which Donne describes in “Batter my heart, Three-Personed God.” In the liturgical calendar – between our consideration of Christ’s kingship and our practice of waiting for his return during Advent – we are given ample space and time to reflect on the various ways we relate to God, as members of his body, the Church. As someone who “gets” the God in the Jobean whirlwind far better than I “get” the vagaries of warm fuzzy relatableness, I submit the following poetic meditation on the season:
Meet God? Ah, yes;
Maybe shake his hand,
Share a cup of coffee
In cozy homes.
We forget Christ coming
Like a thief by night,
When we least expect;
You speak in pastel tones
Of letting Christ enter your heart;
Better to speak of letting a lion
Enter a chicken coop.
For, oh, we are haunted
Through highways and hedges
To the depths of hell,
Hunted like dogs
Protecting our mange
So fiercely we deny our depth of hunger.
But see, we see when He is not looking,
He has left scraps under table;
“Scraps are nothing, He will not notice,”
He does, who cares for nothing even.
We shy away cursing Him for it,
The rich meat He lets us taste
Leaving us satisfied with nothing less,
But wondering if dogs dare dream; and is it shame we feel?
Better a quick brown dog
Than killed lion’s carcass ooz sting-jacket honey
No sweeter for death.
They say Christopher was a dog once; he bore Christ.
Perhaps just maybe, the power of the dog can be chrismed
And Christ come to us in odd ways by odd means;
Our hungry thirst for blood and flesh not broken,
But blessed with difference.