Monday, December 18, 2006

Mystery


I shouldn't be surprised to find agreement with a Franciscan priest, since St. Francis has long inspired me. Nor should I be surprised that an appeal to faith in mystery would express quite well something that I also believe.

NPR has been airing weekly essays in a series called This I Believe. Today's was another gem. It was called Utterly Humbled by Mystery by I was struck by this quote, "We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of 'faith'! How strange that the very word 'faith' has come to mean its exact opposite.” Think about that for a minute; the contrast between the certitude of resolution (even about theological issues) and the nature of faith.

Father Rohr ends his essays with this profound paragraph:
People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is -- quite sadly -- absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion.

Musicians, storytellers, and artists of all types understand the value of mystery, it is their stock-in-trade. I also believe that the best preachers know this as well. As we try to prepare ourselves once again to peer into the lowly, dirty, cold and smelly stable to see if there really is a baby in that manger, may we all value mystery.

ADDENDUM: I discovered that Father Rohr is a Red Letter Christian when I visited Jim Wallis' God's Politics blog. Yet more reason to explain the kinship I felt with him. I also checked out his organization, Center for Action and Contemplation, a place I will definitely visit when I get to Albuquerque. Here is a wonderful prayer I found on their web site:

A Prayer for Prophets

“I will send them prophets,” the Wisdom of God says, “but you will kill them and afterwards build monuments to them.”

—Jesus according to Luke 11:49 (alternate translations)

God of the Great Gaze,
We humans prefer satisfying un-truth
To the Truth that is usually unsatisfying.
Truth is always too big for us,
And we are so small and afraid.

So you send us prophets and truth speakers
To open our eyes and ears to Your Big Picture.
Show us how to hear them, how to support them,
And how to interpret their wisdom.

Help us to trust that Your prophetic voice
May also be communicated through our words and actions.
May we practice a spirit of discernment
And a stance of humility,
So that Your Truth be spoken, not our own.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Prophet,
Whom we also killed and will always kill
In the name of our little truths.
We desire to share in Your Great Gaze.

Amen.

9 comments:

Hollands Opus said...

Ian,
I have found that the mystics provoke a sense of awe and devotion in me. I think of A.W. Tozer especially, St. John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, and to some extent Brennan Manning (contemporary). I think even the profound theology of Paul was at times cloaked in his sense of "mystery"..."Oh the depths of the riched of both the wisdom and power of God, whose ways are unserachable, and His judgements past finding out".

We also contemplate and awe within the limits of what God has revealed, for of course we cannot really contemplate nothingness and contradiction. SO I do not agree with all that Richard Rohr has said. After all, faith is never a blind leap, but a step of trust based on God revelaing himself.

I wonder if you have read anything by Dallas Willard, Ian. I have read "The Divine Conspiracy" and "Renovation of the Heart". Wonderful writing and thinking in these books. He wrotes of spiritual disciplnes and growth and devotion.

I know that we have had some heady arguments. But know that God has also siezed my heart, that He is able to excite my wonder as nothing else can. I should spend more time alone with God for that richness to develop further. But I also know that we need to be grounded theologically for defense of our faith against intruding spirits. If we are going to dance in the air with our God, we must know what to not bump into!!

David J said...

I have to say that this exposition from Fr. Rohr is as rich as it is compelling. I love the way he describes the journey. This was a joy to read! Thanks for the blessing, Ian.

mkz said...

I feel one of the biggest mysteries of my faith in Christ is, why would He condescend to save someone as unworthy of the Gift of Life as I am.
I know He has His purpose, and daily reveals it to me as He will, and for His Glory.
My faith however is not blind. As I search, read, and live the Scriptures to the best of the humble abilities God has granted me, I find all that He intends for me to know of Him in this life is given in His Word. He has in the Bible supplied everything we will ever need to know Him through His Son, the Livind Word, in our mortal lives on this earth.
I praise God that He has given us clear directions, a precise path to follow, and transparent instruction in how we are to walk the road He has set our feet upon.
While many of God`s wonders are a mystery, as His thoughts and ways are as far from us as the east is from the west, how we are to worship, witness, live, and believe are not.

David J said...

MKZ said, "I praise God that He has given us clear directions, a precise path to follow, and transparent instruction in how we are to walk the road He has set our feet upon".

MKZ, I'm not sure what you mean here by transparent instruction, as that term seems to imply that it's seemless or perfectly understandable. I think the element of mystery is the only certainty I've found in my faith journey thus far. I am actually relieved that I don't have to perfectly understand it all, and that God has made a way for me even though there are mysteries (like the Trinity) that are hard to fathom.

mkz said...

Hello Ian,
the instruction I am refferencing is the Word, and what we need to know of God and how we are to relate and worship and serve, are clearly laid out in the Scriptures. God does not give us more than we need to know at the moment, just as he never makes our trials greater than the strength He gives us to endure them.
While the Grace of God, Salvation, the Trinity, and why the heck He would bother to save me are certainly mysteries to me, His word gives me all the understanding by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit I need, to have saving Faith in Jesus. Whithout His Word, what is not a mystery?

David J said...

Again, Mkz, why is it so troublesome not to have all the answers?

mkz said...

Merry Christmas David!
I am not sure I understand the question. But since you asked, I am not troubled for myself in the least. Since my Salvation in Christ and having studied the Bible intently for the past 2 or 3 years and continuing to do so I find I have all the answers, complete and satisfying as nothing in the world could ever give. If I have a problem, a question, or a situation I do not understand, The Word of God is my guide, and as it is The Word of God, I know it is always correct. The only pain I find hard to endure is the suffering of the lost, disillusioned, and the misinformed who reject God`s soverienty and the Truth of His Word in favor of the influences of the world. But even in this, the Bible gives me solace, Truth and instruction. I pray for them, and by living my life as good a witness of Jesus Christ as I can before them, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God`s Grace can open ears, eyes, and hearts.

David J said...

mkz-"so I find I have all the answers, complete and satisfying as nothing in the world could ever give"

Wow, man, God bless you! To have that kind of faith and all the answers you need-that is amazing. It is also somewhat puzzling to a guy who's journey continues to be one. Whereas, I beleive the Bible can answer most of the questions we have, I cannot reconcile it to every doubt or curiousity that is raised. That is the beauty of mystery in all it's sacredness. It is also a relief that I need not make the Book do things it was never intended to do. God Bless, brother!

sojourner said...

Ian, We've missed you. Where are you?