“As a Tumbler Sings”

Okay, I skipped a couple of weeks again. But this morning as I was doing devotions, God met me and encouraged me, and I had to share! I have been struggling over the past week, once again, with my own slothful inability to “self-start” or motivate myself. This morning I opened up Romans and Barth again.

Romans 5:1-5 | “The Coming Day: The New Man” (part 1)

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This was a powerful section of Barth’s commentary on Romans. By far the most lucid part, however, was his treatment of verse 5:

Therefore we glory in hope (v.2), precisely because it is not an achievement of our spirit, but the action of the Holy Spirit, and because the Love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us. The Holy Spirit is the operation of God in faith, the creative and redemptive power of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is nigh at hand. As a tumbler sings when it is touched, so we and our world are touched in faith by the Spirit of God, who is the eternal ‘Yes’. He provides faith with content…He is the miraculous factor in faith, its beginning and its end…He is the subject of faith, which ‘religious experience’ reaches after and longs for, but never finds.

Barth presents a simple image of the relationship between what God does and what I do: the singing crystal tumbler.

water glasses

A wine glass won’t sing on its own. But it has musical potential under the right touch (and ONLY the right touch. I am terrible at this trick!). Barth sees faith like the goblet’s music: not possible without the right (the Holy Spirit’s) touch.

Too often I fall into the larger American culture’s assumptions about the degree to which I can engineer and produce my own success and well-being (and then become frustrated and depressed when I discover that I really can’t). But Barth (and Paul!) is under no such “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” illusions when it comes to faith. This, of course, is where Arminians and Calvinists butt heads. As someone who is persuaded by Calvin and Barth, I am comforted and encouraged that this faith business isn’t up to me. The Triune God — Father, Son, and Spirit — is working in, with, and under me to produce faith within me and to bring me to live in response to that faith. I am an empty tumbler; Praise God for sending his Spirit to play me to the tune of Jesus Christ!

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2 thoughts on ““As a Tumbler Sings”

  1. Cody, as you know this idea is a major Apprentice theme, We change only by the power of the Spirit and that happens only as we give the Spirit space and “permission” (through the spiritual practice of surrender) to act on us. And then the Spirit relies on us to follow through. I view it as a lovely partnership. I’m teaching “Good and Beautiful God” this summer and this insight has been really powerful for many people. Planting a seed on the first night is moving metaphor for this process. Only God can make the seed grow, but we have to plant it first.

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