Two Russian Stories

I try to stress to my theology students that theology is contextual, so two Russian stories from Anthony Bloom are worth capturing as examples.

First, in his discussion of intercession (which is more than asking on behalf of, but is actually interceding personally for the other), he describes how God has interceded in that way with humanity:

He has made himself solid with everyone. We discovered as exiled Russians in the early days of emigration when we had lost everything, when there was nothing left standing for us, when we were unwanted, rejected, despised, helpless, vulnerable to the utmost, we discovered we had also lost the God of the great cathedrals, the God of the beautifully engineered ceremonials. Where did we stand? When we looked at ourselves, we discovered that we had lost faith in ourselves and very often self-respect. And then we discovered our God in a new way. We discovered that in Christ God has revealed Himself as vulnerable, as helpless, as contemptible, as overcome and vanquished, as trodden under foot, as rejected, and we discovered that we had a God who was not ashamed of us, because He had made himself solid with what we were, in our misery, in our deprivation, in our rejection, and also that we had no reason to be ashamed of a God who knew how to love to the extent that He was prepared to become one of us…

The second account is the story of Natalie from the 1919 Russian war. The wife of an officer in the White Army, in a city occupied by the Red Army, was in hiding until Natalie arrived to tell her she was betrayed and would soon be killed. Due to her limited mobility (due to two small children), she is fearful she can not get away. Natalie intercedes for her – she says I will stay and they will kill me, as I have no children. Bloom then compares her to another who though innocent, willingly subjected himself to a horrible death on behalf of others. He concludes the story:

Natalie probably asked herself the same question–was it in vain that she was dying? There was no answer, only the hours passed, the cold of the early morning came and with it, death. The door was brutally opened and they did not even take the trouble of dragging her out. She was shot where she was at.

This is the answer which the Christian can give to the tragedy of history. The place where we must stand. Natalie stood where Christ had stood, and where Christ indeed stands now, risen in heaven with His hands and sides seared with nails and the spear. He stands at the very heart of human history, human suffering, human death, human anguish and tragedy. But he stands there like a rock.

And there too, we are called to stand, to drink that cup of suffering, to answer the call “Here am I, send me”, to go out as sheep among wolves.

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