Dipping into Barth

“In Jesus Christ we are ready to learn to be told what Godhead or the Divine nature is. We are confronted with the revelation of what is and always will be to all other ways of looking and thinking, a mystery, and indeed a mystery which offends. The mystery reveals to us that for God it is just as natural to be lowly as it is to be high. To be near, as it is to be far. To be as little as it is to be great. To be abroad as it is to be at home. Thus when in the action and presence of Jesus Christ…. He chooses to go into the far country to conceal his form of Lordship in the form of this world, and therefore in the form of a servant he is not untrue to himself, but genuinely true to himself, to the freedom which is that of his love”. Vol 4:1, p 192 (for those of you who like to look things up).

Time for a confession. I have not directly read Barth, not even held one of his 12 (or is it more?) volumes of Church Dogmatics. I haven’t even read much written by people who have read his weighty tomes. But I think I might. This quote comes from a lecture I listened to this morning. The “…” bit had too many big foreign Latin words for me to guess at for the purpose of this post. All that (not so helpful information aside), this little quote blew me away. We sing about the grandeur, majesty, greatness of God (and rightly so). But here Barth declares that it is as natural for God to be lowly as it is for God to be high. To be near as it is to be far. We know Jesus made himself lowly to come to the “far country” as Barth aptly puts it, but somehow we seem to separate this “lowliness” from God. It is as though while we believe Jesus is God, we don’t follow that thought to its fullness in how we see God, and how we think about how God is. These pictures apply to Jesus while here on earth, but don’t reflect on God himself. We are told that if we have seen Jesus we have seen the Father. What is true of Jesus is true of the Father. This is not to say that they are identical in every respect (a huge topic of discussion for another day). I wonder how our Christian living would be impacted if that was the grid through which all of our journey was experienced. Do we relate primarily to God who is far or near, lowly or high, abroad or at home? Can our faith and everyday living cope with the tension of these apparent “opposites”?

Please dont chute the baby

I am someone notorious for lateness. Late arrivals, late returns of books, dvds. I have been fined many a time, and in the past avoided the library for years for fear of the fines that awaited me. Currently (thanks to a name change) I am in the clear. The library chute was my friend, providing a faceless opportunity to return that book that had graced my shelves for a year or so, with accumulated fines that could have bought the book two or three times over. So I am all for chutes. But for babies?

Let me explain. I read the paper today accompanied by an excellent latte at my favorite cafe in Belgrave, Earthly Pleasures. Today’s paper seemed littered with stories about unwanted children. In Perth a dead baby was found in a plastic bag, in a handbag, at the tip. I feel horrified even typing out these words. They are real, the picture devastating, but true. A couple of articles later, a five year old boy murdered by his substance addicted father. A few pages more I learned that in Germany and Italy, hospitals now have chutes for unwanted babies. They provide an opportunity for mothers to safely and discreetly deposit their unwanted babies. This saddens me greatly. Not that Germany has taken this initiative, for surely it is a better alternative than the fate of the little baby boy from Perth, but why is such a thing necessary? How can our ‘advanced’ western society have broken down to such an extent that a mother unable to care for her baby has no option but to “dispose” of the infant? I understand that there are many reasons that may lead a woman to make such a decision, and it is tragic, for both mother and baby. But even more lamentable is a society that can be so disconnected that a tiny boy can be thrown out in the garbage with no-one knowing, and no-one offering an alternative to support the mother, either in keeping or relinquishment, or caring for her if the boy was stillborn. When the church engages with the issues of mothers and unwanted babies, too often the focus is restricted to strong stands against abortion. The church (once again) is noted more for what it is against in this issue, rather than being part of the answers to the social/political/economic/psychological issues that lead to unwanted pregnancies, unwanted babies, and the need for chutes.