the act of wanting to control God
or the art of waiting on the God who is in control?
The current ever so likeable Pope recently made or recognised two now deceased Popes as Saints. That was my background – Popes and Saints. You can imagine my surprise when I was transformed by Christ on my own little Damascus Road, some 20 odd (very odd) years ago. I quickly read most of the New Testament and there it was – jumping out at me in (Saint) Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus (modern day Turkey) –
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus ….
Wow! saints in Ephesus. Saints alive! In Ephesus. Wow! Turns out saints simply means ones made holy by what Jesus has achieved. He lives the holy life – he then lends & gives his holiness to the unholy (that’s me). Jesus said he came for the sick (that’s me) not the well (that’s not me). Honest read it for yourself.
Matthew 9:11-13 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This lending and giving happens by the sick just accepting and receiving the righteousness or rightstanding of Jesus as a gift. By believing it and in the One who provides it. Amazing. Amazing grace in fact. No striving to be good, earning brownie points, dying with despair because of enormously bad decisions, mistakes, sins.
Just (understatement) a transfer all of my stuff onto Him and all of his stuff onto me. Filled with humility and blown away by the kindness of a Holy Holy Holy God – I start to live for him and even begin to make some good decisions, other-centred decisions. Grace (undeserved kindness from God) gets to work on you and it changes you. Instantly and gradually-continually. Leaves you with less attitude and more gratitude.
So, ridiculous as it may sound, I am in fact a saint and Pope Francis doesn’t even know me. I recently spent the Easter Week on the English south coast and hung out at an Anglican Cathedral for most of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was founded in 1108 and is closely connected to one they call Saint Richard. Here is a wonderful prayer he wrote during his lifetime and this morning it is my prayer for me & thee.
Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits thou hast won for me,
For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly:
For ever and ever.
–St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)
I am thinking about what it means to say and believe – in head, heart and hand that God is enough. The enoughness of God is something that has become a stream of reflection for me. I will think some more and come back to you. Meanwhile, here’s where CS Lewis got to on the matter.
I previously mentioned (here) this valuable book Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith by Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosopy at Denver Seminary, USA. Here’s a piece from the introduction (p16)
We are all citizens of the universe – anxious travelers, much of the time, passing through our days and nights in uncertainty and confusion concerning what matters most. In one sense, we are alone. No one else will live our life or die our death. Each self is unique, responsible and indissoluble. Yet our fate is bound up with our world and our fellow travelers, each of whom has a particular way of coping with – or avoiding – these insistent immensities. We are alone – together.
What if the millenia of human cries echo only into the empty sky and no further? That possibility must be faced if the quest itself is to have any meaning. In the end, hope without truth is pointless. Illusions and delusions, no matter how comforting or grandiose, are the enemies of those who strive for integrity in their knowing and being. Statements such as “I’d like to think of the universe as having a purpose” or “The thought of an afterlife gives me peace” reflect mere wishes. These notions do not address the truth or falsity of there being purpose in the world or of our postmortem survival, because there is no genuine claim to knowledge; a warranted awareness of reality as it really is. A hearty, sturdy and insatiable appetite for reality – whatever it might be – is the only engine for testing and discerning truth. Truth is what matters most, particularly truth concerning our human condition in the world – its origin, its nature, its purpose (if any) and its destiny. Knowing the truth and living according to its requirements should be the hope and aspiration of the reflective person. Only our knowledge of truth – our awareness of reality, no matter how sketchy or partial – can help resolve the inner bickering between the claims of hope and the fears of despair.
In many ways, my own journey to faith in Jesus, has been through the question ‘What is truth?’. What is the truely true and the really real? The Father in drawing me into the truth of the Son by the Spirit practically destroyed me – literally. But on the battlefield between life and death I arrived at a precipice thought – If God is really there, I do want to know him. This was beyond wishful thinking, comforting ideas, childhood reminiscences. I had already visited those shrines and found them desolate. Life and the prospect of death had stripped me bare to my most real and now I was asking a question not solely as an intellectual exercise but I had positioned myself or been positioned to surrender to the answer. If God was not there – then futility would be explored to the maximum. If God was there – then I would live in the reality, beauty, suffering and life of that reality. Again to the maximum. For the first time ever I was falling without a parachute. When you are at your most real, your most true, when everything is stripped away – then the one who lives in unapproachable light just may approach you.
1 Timothy 6:11-16 *
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
So my prayer to the triune God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) for you is:
All this puts me in the mood for the serious and beautiful song Skin by Vigilantes of Love from their album Blister Soul (1995). Let the reflective beware this song rewards the repeat button.
* Scripture sourced electronically from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%206&version=NIV