Saturday, March 22, 2008

Playfulness of God

How 'bout something a little more uplifting this morning? From Belden Lane in "The Solace of Fierce Landscapes"....he's writing about the playfulness of God:

Martin Luther once spoke of his experience as a young student in Magdeburg, singing in the streets with another youngster, hoping for small gifts of money or food. A huge man suddenly came running out from a nearby house, waving sausages in the air and yelling at them in noisy jest, "What are you boys up to with such a racket?" The man grinned as he spoke, yet the boys weren't sure how to respond. They wanted the sausages, but in fearful confusion they bolted and ran. Luther later asked in his Tabletalk if the story wasn't typical of our response to God and God's grace. Like the man frantically waving sausages, he said, God holds out Jesus Christ to us, not seeking to frighten but to draw us to Godself. Yet we're afraid. We can't imagine such forgiveness. We run the other way, certain that God is angry with us, tragically misinterpreting God's play.

When we finally do begin to understand this business about the playfulness of God, when we decide not to run the other way, we discover that God invites us to playfulness in return. Therese of Lisieux, for example, could speak of virtually wrapping God around her little finger with respect to her habit of sometimes falling asleep during prayer, a habit her sisters in the religious life found disconcerting. She knew that God was a sucker for "little nothings" like herself who frequently fall asleep in their fathers' arms. Far from expecting any punishment, therefore, she knew that her 'weakness' was the very thing that bound God to her, allowing her to "hold him prisoner" for the sake of love.

There's a hardy and playful banter with God that one finds at times among the saints. Teresa of Avila once talked back when God was playing unusually rough with her, saying, "If this is how you treat your friends, I know why you have so many enemies!" This bold and playful rejoinder to God is one that pushes the outer edges of God's covenant with God's people. Its goal is intimacy, a deeper relationship with God made possible by the mutual acceptance of play.

The playfulness of God. I could use some of that today! I have to work on a lecture I'm suppose to give to one of the Ph.D. seminars at the seminary next week--I'm just substituting for the professor who is out of town. I'd much rather be out and about, visiting friends, going to the movies perhaps, anything but sitting in my home office and working through what I want to say. Dear God, if you can show me how to make this fun, please do!

I guess it's not such a bad deal. I love the topic. And it won't take me all day.

Life is good.

7 comments:

Linda said...

What's your topic? I'm teaching for Duane this week, since he will be out of town, I'm guessing for the same reason the one you're substituting for is. I get to teach some of the basic concepts of Narrative theory...naming the problem, externalizing it, etc. So...I'm going to be at home preparing a lecture today too. :)

Katherine E. said...

Well I got an email from the prof (JM), Linda, and now all I have to do is talk about my dissertation and how I came to understand it and the process and all that. So it'll be easier than I thought. Good luck with the narrative-- you can do that one with one arm tied behind the proverbial back!

Rev SS said...

I love this post about the playfulness of God ... gonna print it off for my files. Thank you! And hope you got your presentation put together without any gliches.

RevDrKate said...

I love this post! I was doing a little fist-shaking at God today about sermon writing and hoping really hard that, as I believe, God does have a sense of humor. I am now reassured. Thank you! Wish I could hear your lecture.

Gannet Girl said...

Belden Lane is on of my favorites, and I got to hear him speak and preach, and to talk with him 2 weeks ago!

Jan said...

Thanks for this. Glad your talk will be that easy, since you already did all that work on your dissertation years ago. I still remember you writing and writing. . . .

Diane said...

oh, that sounds so good! the playfulness of god....