Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday in Advent: The Mystery Continues

I was sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops the other day thinking about today- the First Sunday of Advent. Here's part of the assigned lesson today from Mark 13:35:
Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,
This is part of Mark's little apocalypse where tradition says Jesus is talking about the "Second Coming." It is used on this First Sunday in Advent to make sure that in these weeks of Advent we don't lose sight that this isn't just about something that happened a long time ago in a world far away. It has a future as well.

But if course as anyone who knows anything about the church is aware, the study of the "Second Coming" is fraught with multiple interpretations, misunderstandings and textual abuse. As I was thinking, I overheard a conversation at another table. Some of the people there were in some sort of "seminary" program. One person said his first class in the morning was "The Mystery of Salvation." What a great phrase! It says in four words my whole theology of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Every Sunday as part of the Episcopal Eucharist we see, hear and say:
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Celebrant and People

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Don't ask me to explain it. It is
  • beyond rational, 
  • deeper than logic, 
  • older than any theology trying to make sense of it.
  • It is an experience of God! 
It isn't, I believe, expected to make sense. Yet we Christians spend so much time trying to explain it so we- or others- can understand.

We have come to dislike mystery. Even the greatest hero of our mystery stories, Sherlock Holmes, solves all his cases by sheer logic, an "uber-rationality" that can always be explained, even if those explanations are so deep that normal people would miss them. Someone, somewhere can describe the events and understand what they mean, even if I can't.

I find that kind of life quite dull. I like mystery. It humbles me. It keeps me on my toes- "What else is there I don't know and can't explain?" That is exciting.

So I Googled "mystery of salvation" and found a good quote from the website "Today's Christian Woman." Since it is from a more conservative web site, I was pleased to read of their acceptance of the great and unexplainable mystery of salvation. It is something to ponder today as we start our annual journey to one of the three great mysteries of our faith, the Incarnation (life) of Jesus.
God has decided to leave us with mystery that we're expected to embrace—even when we don't fully understand. But mysteries are difficult to control and grasp, and so we try to make sense of them all.

While a rationalized approach to reading Scripture makes us feel better because we have everything "figured out," this approach reduces the meaning of Scripture to the human limitation of "sense." In the end, it doesn't make God more knowable and it risks his nature, character, and will. So although it may make "sense," it negates Scripture's authority because it's superseded by our limited reason.

No comments: