"Sometimes, to love someone you gotta be a stranger."
Dekkard - Blade Runner 2049
It's been a busy few weeks, running a series of studies up to the 500th anniversary of the day when a concerned monk in a university town posted some considered admonitions and astute observations that changed everything, but I did manage a trip to the cinema to see the new movie quoted from above to good effect.
As to the anniversary, there's already been a great deal published and expounded this year about this, but what fascinates me is just how far (and how quickly) we can move ourselves away from the strangeness - the complete 'otherness' of God's (rightly defined) "alien" work in the world to a philosophy that is far more comfortable to our own home-made religious requirements. Redemption doesn't ever truly calmly arise naturally from our inner contemplations that instill an intent to serenely behave with placid equilibrium to all (due, presumably, to some inner virtue and well-being).
The story of our true recovery is far too earthy, too insistent for that. It begins in the nightmare of our becoming far less than truly human (Genesis 3), and, many generations on, reaches its zenith when a young maiden finds herself visited by an angelic being declaring that, although she had never laid with a man, she would soon be with child (Luke 1:26-35).
Our broken world has to be invaded by a stranger (a God who had become very foreign to us, though He is always so close) to become whole again.
It's only when we begin to unpack afresh the stark and often blunt realities of the Gospel Luther and company returned to centre stage that we become keenly aware of just how foreign biblical Christianity can be.
It's like the way photographs are used in the Blade Runner movies. They are supposedly precious because they unlock memories - moments that are considered crucial to identity - but the enigma in these stories is that the events depicted in these images are not our memories - they belong to another, and yet, at our core, we are still part of them, needing to appropriate these moments to us to make us whole.
These divine moments that are captured - seeded into our world - end us but heal us. Godliness doesn't come to energize our virtue or piety, but to bury it, cold and lifeless - to entirely end such devices and replace it with another nature, another 'personhood', that is not us. This all happens, not in some picturesque temple or a mentally obtained celestial realm so relished by Gnostics, but at a filthy, blood-stained cross surrounded by the cruel and the wicked, in the body of man killing our sin.
Christ takes our vile, vain "goodness" and shows us the true cost of all we are, alienated from the garden, in His broken, despised, rejected flesh - the bread we must eat to be healed. Stricken for us, He offers the world a new humanity that, embodied in this single death and resurrection, severs us from our vile religion so our flesh might be indeed raised whole.
As in the beginning, when creation is brought about by nothing but God's word, so in redemption, we who are ungodly are made whole only by the complete and entire saving "offering up" of the Son, so it is His 'rightness', not ours, that rescues and renews us, nothing else.
Replicants, in both Blade Runner movies, come to see there is something far greater to become than themselves, even if it kills them. They may have been defined as 'more human than human', even as 'angels', but what truly matters is, as Jesus spoke of it, to find that pearl so unique, so precious, that everything else will be eagerly sold to obtain such a prize.
God has paid that manner of price for us - to renew and regain all that we were meant to be in our reflection of His astonishing goodness.
The God who we often miss-shape and deride is so much closer than we often care to say - He so speaks in those deep, intimate moments of existence which move us and enthrall. He calls us to discard our folly, our derived pretense of self-sufficiency, to be made whole at the Cross. Only then will life and death become more than a burden - for there we find the one wounded for us, bringing healing by His wounds, that we might be restored.
Beyond us is a ground where justice and mercy met, where all may come and meet the stranger that loves us most.
"I want to drink out of that fountain, on a hill called double cure".
(Vigilantes of Love).