Sola Fide

When did we give up on faith, exactly?

Since when is Faith, alone, not good enough and we had to send Assurance along to walk it to the corner market?

The anxiety gnawing at our innards; the spoiled children demanding to know what is in the package beneath the tree.  That peculiar drift from faith in Christ toward an insistence of an assurance of salvation astounds.

I’m still waiting for Calvin’s peer review to publish.

Faith does not satisfy like assurance. Faith is covenantal not contractual.

Assurance is binding; demanding. Our ways, human ways, like things strapped down.

Guaranteed.

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8-9

Leave it to a lawyer like Calvin to draft the closing argument for (his) justification before Christ in the divine courtroom. How clever to use sacred scripture to compile an adjudication; using God’s words against God to pronounce his own sentence, claiming  innocence on the merit of the Judge’s righteousness and demanding the inheritance of heaven!

So odd that among the Greekophiliac biblical scholars and their insatiable taste for tenses, that not one of them remember Paul saying we are “being saved”. Or, that not one has bothered to mention that assurance and faith are apples and oranges.

A witnessing believer declares, “Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Your sins are forgiven and salvation is sure!” when those magic words are whispered: Jesus, come into my heart and save me. 

Somehow, this statement declaring a final judgment is not blasphemy.

                                    Just saving Jesus some time at the end of all things

Yet, should a Catholic priest say to a repentant person:

May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy…God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This, we are to believe, is an act of violence against Divine privilege and authority.

Even though Jesus taught us to forgive one another. James teaches us to confess our sins one to another. Jesus delegates to his disciples the function of binding and releasing sin as a function of shaping church (community) culture.

But the sacred scripture is quite clear about one thing.

Christ alone was declared worthy to judge. You cannot declare me “saved.” No one can. Not you. Not Calvin. Certainly not myself. How could any of us make such a claim?  Would you care to know what the Bible actually says about our salvation?

Jesus decides. And only Jesus knows.

See, I am being saved. I am charged to remain faithful. I have the works Jesus began to carry on.

Well there’s an uncomfortable concept. A judgment.

A judgement conducted by the only worthy judge.

No assurance there.

–All that “Lord, Lord we did miracles and such in your name” business.

But there is hope (Paul’s language again).  Faith is more formidable.

Assurance is, well, assuring. But the gospels, and the apostolic teachings, read collaboratively don’t say we are assured of anything.

Faith is a work of trust; it is relational.  It is evidenced, not by a tract discovered in a bathroom stall, signed, and stuffed in a wallet, but by a life living out the works and words of Christ.

Assurance-speak must be the language of the insecure, the anxious and uncertain. Assurance defies mystery. It is the prodigal’s demand for an inheritance now. Those who fear judgment have not experienced a mature relationship; a perfect love.

Faithfulness is an enduring; a process; a growth.

Faith is the substance that substantiates hope.

Faith is the evidence of what is yet unseen.

Faith is found in sincere, personal relationships.

They do not say of a good, loyal husband, “He was assuring to his wife.”

Hearing those words, that he was assuring to his wife, implies he is yet trying to convince his wife of something she is not quite sure is believable.

Sola Fide.  It is enough.

I won’t depend on magic words to seal my salvation any longer.  I will no longer demand Jesus come into my heart and life. Instead, I will answer the call of Christ and follow Him. I will come into His heart and His life.

And working out that salvation, not by my works, but through His works which He began and continues through us, I will know Him better; hear Him better; trust Him more.

Then, on that day, I will trust fall backward into the arms of Christ, or else into just judgment. Who knows?

Jesus.

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Solus Christus

″For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.″ 1 Timothy 2:5

Today I begin alone-ness.  The first day in nearly 20 years I am a man without a church; a pastor with a congregation of one.

It is a good day.

All those years ago I believed I would be the pastor people wanted: Biblically savvy, Powerful preacher, Wise in counsel.

People didn’t want that pastor. I did.

I’m not even sure I was that pastor.  I think I just wanted to be.

Probably, I wanted to believe I was.

People wanted the Entrepreneurial administrator.

or maybe

People wanted the effective Proselytizer.

Well, whatever it was the people wanted, I wasn’t it.

There were so few baptisms in my pulpit days. Most weddings the bride and groom made me feel as if I were part of the ornamentation rather than the officiant. Why did it seem I was the only one excited about communion on any given Sunday?

Maybe the stole was stolen; an office that never was meant to be mine. It is quite possible that this call felt in my heart to pour out my self into the cause of loving God and blessing others was meant to find some other means of expression. It is possible that Christian formation, the art of discipling, has become so dumbed down that persons with an awakened inner passion can no longer be connected to any kind of diverse and creative ministry comprehensive of all the talents God gifts to us. Do the roles needed for the Church’s work today even remotely provide offerings as diversified and varied as those divine graces?

If you sense a calling, it is the pulpit or nothing.  Well, maybe you can teach a Sunday School class.  There’s always a shortage of those…and nothing else in the “Help Wanted” ads of contemporary Christendom.

Today is a good day.  I overreached in my desire to grab hold of God’s will for my life.

Today I walk in Christ alone.  A great journey is just beginning.  Care to walk a bit with me?  Company might be nice.  This is a journey to discover my true vocation.  Is there a place in the Church for me? Does the Church even need people like me?    

Maybe.

Maybe not.

For now, I am extra Ecclesiam… and walking.  I think it’s going to be a long walk.

Better bring a jacket.

A Strange Dream

Last night I dreamed a dream.

In a cold room for general purpose  we were gathering.

Just a few.

No one was expecting much of  a crowd.

White clothed tables with pew-like seats began to give the room some character.

Purpose.

A small crowd appeared and sat; scattered

all across the room.

At my table was a young man with Italian dark hair.

I go to bring us the juice.

And now I know the reason we have gathered is Eucharist.

We  will break the Bread together at this table and I pray

O, I pray

Deep, pastoral, and full

I pray for him as he receives the communion juice.

But he slouches. Disinterested. Disconnected. Bored.

Now I am moving across the room to find the Bread.

But when I return he is gone.

Dejected, I go to where the Bread is.

Standing. Alone. I consecrate the Bread and receive its sacred power

nibble by nibble

and scanning the room which is emptying now.

I reach for the juice

but the juice is Wine now.

The trays of juice are being whisked away by the white waist coat type folks.

In its place platters of Wine in tulip shaped glasses.

It feels as if my time is up; my crowd has moved on.

A new party is moving in.

Quickly I take the Wine and complete this Eucharist.

And looking up I see more and more people at more and more white clothed tables with chairs like church pews.

And they love the Bread and drink deep the Wine.

And I know that I want to stay with them.

bread and wine

Broken

Mary arrived early at the tomb to clean up the broken body;

wrap it with soft cloth and spice.

Jesus forbad it.

       Hands off.        Don’t touch.

Broken punctured twisted bloodied naked shredded skin

A glorified body

presented to God in all its brokenness

visible to friends: see my hands, my feet, my side

Don’t hold on to me, Mary.

The world must see me just like this.

You cannot clean him up, Mary.

Let’s all stop trying to wash away the blood

and spice up the body broken.

Lest we all start believing the lie that people are basically good…

That the arc of human nature bends toward justice…

It is the disfigured figure of innocence savagedly razed to life

that testifies against the human race: a depraved race.

Holy Love embodied walks on calloused heels searching out the concentration camps of the soul:

unblinded eyes see the self-haters forgiven who embrace the leprosy-free as they dance with the lame-no-more.

Only one punishment to fit this crime against humanity:

Crucify Him.

No, Mary, you cannot clean him up.

      We must see Him as he is

as we made him

         or we will never believe it is true –

                        in denial

that we are the darkness we fear

               disguised as angels of light.

BrokenBody

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.*

*Revised Common Lectionary, Vanderbilt Divinity Library (online)

Source: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=87

To Kiss the Face of God

To be loved is one thing.

To be certain of love is something else.

Words,

Gestures:

Impotent.

Useless.

unless —

linked to a

  Truth.sunrising_holdinghands

Actuality.

Something so reliable it goes without saying:

like, “The Sun will rise tomorrow.”

 

Can I know that God loves me?

More –

Can I know that God loves me now?

God Gives me daily bread. Essentials provided.

Nice. But easily placed under the column heading: moral obligation

What about gifts?  God’s favor and blessing!

Sweet. But if it comes from the surplus of your power, resources, time…

it is only a hand-me-down of the forgotten, easily discarded at the outskirts of

your heart

your passion

your self

Well, what do you want from me?

Something that doesn’t part from you easily

Something that costs you something

Puts you at risk

Awkward

Endangered

A statement that I or they are worth the counter-intuitive, reckless, self denying

action

How do I know God loves me?

That God loves me even now?

Communion.  The  Lord’s Supper.  

True food.  True drink.

A broken body.

A life laid down.

Bleeding.

Broken.

Humiliated – publicly.

The sacrificial

act

of God’s unrelenting love for you

God loves  you.  Loves you now.

In this moment

this same crisis, failure, unlovable-worthless-wreck-of-a-life moment.

 

Don’t think too much on it:
this gesture that embodies the act

Just close your eyes

and receive it…

By receiving communion, we lean into the One who is already leaning in toward us.

God kisses.

We are kissed

with a sacrament that speaks louder than words.

 

communion