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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Your Package Has Arrived

Package-Delivery

Gracious God,

Today is a long awaited package that has just arrived.

The return address tells me this gift is from You.

That’s the thing about packages from far away.

When I open it, I find the sender is very near.

 

Inside this day will be

each person that I meet

every moment that decides what the next will look like.

 

Inside this day I will learn

when to speak

when to listen

when to linger with my thoughts

when to share my ideas and feelings

 

This package has challenges and decisions

carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

I’ll be cautious with those.

 

Inside this gift I also hear the whisperings of your Wisdom.

 

And I find beneath the packing paper ordinary and unnoticed tasks,

that were nearly overlooked.

 

I’m glad I didn’t miss those! They are the simple joys.

 

Inside this package I am also unwrapping

New possibilities

And

Sabbath moments

 

It’s very clear to me, gracious God,

That what you have sent is a care package

To restore my Peace and Harmony.

 

In this day you have given as a gift to me,

My long awaited package,

I find your Goodness.

Thank you.

 

Amen.

package delivery

Adapted from “Morning Prayer” by Pat Bergen, C.S.J. (Xavier University)

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

It Was the Singing

Muni-bus-packed-with-kids-by-Alie-Slavin

There is a poem by Ian Crichton Smith

TWO GIRLS SINGING

It neither was the words nor yet the tune

Any tune would have done and any words.

Any listener at all.

As nightingales in rocks or a child crooning

in its own world of strange awakening

or larks for no reason but themselves.

So on the bus through late November running

by yellow lights tormented, darkness falling,

the two girls sang for miles and miles together

and it wasn’t the words or the tune. It was the singing.

It was the human sweetness in that yellow,

the unpredicted voices of our kind.

Source: Scottish Poem Book

May you find yourself, this day, together with another – singing.

Singing with raucous voice released by darkness and adventure and the courage that comes with company,

In the human sweetness, with the unpredicted voices of shared struggle and shared hope.

Amen.

bus-etiquette-300x157

Hospitality

Welcome Mat

In my tradition

wrong or right

we teach one another to

invite Jesus into your heart

or

into your life.

(Though it might be better said

that Jesus invites us all into His life

is a blog post for another time.)

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. ~Luke 10:38

Hospitality was the first virtue of Christendom.

It is really quite simple.

Make the stranger feel at home in your home.  Put the tired traveler at ease.

But today we are terrified. Paranoid. Worried over many things.

All the doors are bolted; even the ones to our heart.

Convinced that the stranger is only after what is ours we build motels and hotels for our peers

and with our imagination play “pretend like -” to create fairy tale make believe shelters big enough for all the homeless people where taxes and charities and 1 per centers dig deep to provide food, clothes, showers. Then sleep easy in our dreamland.

The art and practice of hospitality has been lost.

 the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. ~Luke 10:41 

The service of hospitality.

All that was needed was for one to welcome Jesus into their home: this is heart and life.

Welcomed into the vault where we lock up all our treasures.

A beautiful sentiment lost on a generation far away from all things hospitable.

Because, how do we tell ourselves: our friends and children

Invite Jesus into your heart!  Welcome Jesus into your life!

when we no longer know how to entertain a guest? what to do with the stranger?

They have no idea what inviting anyone into their life should look like.

So…

Would Jesus even feel comfortable in your life?

Does He feel “in the way”?  A bother?  “Asking too much?”

How often is this guest attended to, and what is not provided or offered because of the silent politeness of the visitor?

What would a heart and life look like if we actually tried to make Jesus “feel at home”.

I think we’ve left Jesus on the front porch.

Don’t worry. It’s screened-in. The mosquitos won’t get him.”

We’ll bring him some iced tea and a few magazines.”

Make yourself at home” isn’t hospitable. It’s neglect with a polite smile.

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying…”there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10:39,42

Hospitality

Change

It is a beautiful Thursday on this 17th day of July.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 44. A few days ago I was 43.

Funny, I don’t feel any different. The calendar tells me something significant happened but if I didn’t have a calendar I wouldn’t have known there was anything special about that day. It just felt like another day.

Shadow_Birthday_Cake_medPrayer is like that.

Something life shaping slowly introducing changes to your life and body happens. You may not feel the difference. You might not immediately feel the change.

In prayer, a movement from this moment to that moment happens. We expect something significant is going to happen. But maybe, after the prayer has left our lips, it still just feels like another day.

When I started this week I was 43. Today I am 44. Whether I feel the change or not, something important is happening. At the very least I must introduce myself differently when asked: how old are you? In the tiniest way I am not the man I was. I am becoming someone new: new experiences and new challenges with each passing day and every passing year.

Prayer, though sacramental, is significant for us in incremental ways too.

Please receive this morning prayer for you

God who inspires change,

You know my weakness and failings, and that without Your help I can accomplish nothing for the good of souls, my own and others’. Grant me, therefore, the help of Your grace. Grant it according to my particular needs this day. Enable me to see the task You will set before me in the daily routine of my life, and help me work hard at my appointed tasks. Teach me to bear patiently all the trials of suffering or failure that may come to me today. And when I hear your voice, may I know it, listen closely to it and love it with all my heart.

In Your sacred name may it be so.