Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dumbledore: Theologian of the Cross

As I've been collecting the audio books of Harry Potter, I continue to enjoy listening to them and hearing them again read by the delightful voice of Jim Dale. There's a reason he won so many awards and commendations for his fine work. It's as if a Broadway play is going on in your head as he reads - no, brings to life - Rowling's great work.

At any rate, the more you read things the more you notice details and nuances that you missed the first (or perhaps first several) time you read. The same goes for hearing the story read. You hear things differently when it is read to you and for you. Perhaps this is why the lost art of listening needs to be recovered in our culture - especially the church. Listen to the Scriptures read for you. For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Hear this Word again and again and again. Receive the Word as you receive Christ's manifold blessing.

And perhaps further still, the reason why we do not like listening is because our sinful flesh is at its root, like Voldemort, a theologian of glory. Power. The appearance of wisdom and intelligence. Success. Brute strength. Flashy. Entertainment. The list could go on. These are but common symptoms of the real sickness: idolatry. Love of self. That is the deadly disease that courses through the theology of glory. This goes to the heart of the 1st commandment.

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who claims to see into the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things that have actually happened (or have been made, created). Thesis 19, Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.

That person deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross. Thesis 20

A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. Thesis 21

To hear the Word with the ears of faith is to hear it as a theologian of the cross. In weakness. foolishness. Hidden. Lowly. Humble. Harry learned this in the Chamber of Secrets. As the basilisk bore down on him. As Voldemort taunted and jeered him and Dumbledore. As he felt his life slip away. He could only close his eyes. How weak. And all he had to trust in was a few simple things. A singing bird, Fawkes the phoenix and a hat, a dingy old hat. To all worldly wisdom this seemed ludicrous. To Voldemort this only proved his arrogance and superiority. And yet for Harry, this was the very stuff of salvation. Albus Dumbledore is a theologian of the cross. The very things that look to be so foolish and outrageously inadequate are the very things that bring rescue. Inside that ancient hat was a sword (get it...sword-in-hat!) that would find its hilt thrust into the serpent's mouth, its skull would be crushed. And that "song bird" as Voldemort sneered, his tears brought the healing that Harry so desperately needed. And his golden beak robbed the creature of his Medusa stare.

These are the tools of the theologian of the cross: hiddenness, weakness, foolishness, humility, lowly means. That's what Voldemort just couldn't figure out. But that is what the greatest of all stories - and the only true one - reveals. Christ has become your weakness; he was laid bare in utter humility before the world; he was the lowly, the loser, the fool hanging dead on the cross all to destroy the ancient serpent's power. The basilisk of hell is destroyed. Christ has crushed his head. And though the poison would bruise his heel, he would rise three days later in victory with healing - not in his tears - but in his very flesh and blood given for you.

Rejoice with Dumbledore and St. Paul that Christ continues to come among us in the hidden, lowly, foolish wisdom of Christ Crucified. Jesus' death and resurrection hidden for you in tap water in a font. Jesus' redeeming body and blood hidden for you in cheap wine and thin bread. Jesus' word of absolution hidden for you in the the words of a fellow sinner charged to proclaim this message to you day in and day out. And with those gifts, you can look the devil in the eye and say, I am forgiven. Depart from me you unclean spirit and make room for the Holy Spirit.

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