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.

Courage

courage1

An attribute of good character is Courage.

It is the stuff respect is made of.

Heart like this is not bravado

Real bravado is heart like this: risk takers and justice seekers who win over the mind of others because they conquered themselves first.

 

Today we practice courage:

 

When we are afraid, still we will act.

Fear and courage are brothers.

 

We will follow our heart.

To dare is to lose your footing for a moment. To not dare is to lose yourself.

 

We will continue on in spite of adversity.

Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person, but the hero was braver five minutes longer.”

 

We will stand for what is right.

From caring comes courage.

 

We will go farther and see more

No one ever sees new oceans without the courage to no longer see the shore.

 

We face everything with dignity.

There is no need to be ashamed of tears. Tears are courage packaged in suffering.

 

Today, we will practice courage.

Let the exercises begin.

And be stronger because of them.

 

Amen.

 

 

Adapted from the article:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/the-six-attributes-courage

Flash Flood

Gracious God,

When Spring rains are soft and the grass grows green, change is celebrated.

But not all rains are light. Some are harsh and heavy and cold.

And though we hated the cold hands and arms of winter’s embrace it is hard to cheer for rushing waters that wash away the hard work and good soil and flood the homes and streets once safe and quiet beneath the snowy sleep.

For change, both expected and unexpected; change hoped for and change undesired

Give us strength to manage, hope for restoration, and the joy of new life and same life awakening fresh to warmer suns and brighter days.

May the sunlight and the rain be reminders that God is at work renewing the earth. As a God of renewal, You are ever working in our lives, too.

So, open our eyes and lives to the necessary, unwanted, overwhelming, beauty bringing changes in our lives.

We are wide awake, walking in the rain, ready for whatever will fall from heaven for us.

Amen.

spring rain

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

The Dare

It is the brave hearts and bold minds who test God with a dare.

If you are real, come to my life in a real way.

So we pray with boldness that the healing presence would be revealed.

We accept that life is a gift; that health is a blessing;

that this new day is filled with awesome potential;

that we all have the capacity to bring something new and unique and good into the world we share.

lifting fog

Let the realness remind me to be kind and to be patient with people: not just the ones who love me but those who work with me too.

Let the realness teach my eyes to see all the beauty I ignore in anger

and teach my ears to hear that silent longing of my own soul.

Let the realness reveal you, God. Let this be a good day.

Reveal your healing presence; reveal goodness; reveal love.

They have been hidden from my sight for too long.

Amen

Combustion

bustle

Gracious and giving God,

We are busy and when we get busy we get bold: acting decisively, deciding quickly, quickly moving, to move the day’s business forward.

So guard our activity with wisdom and fill it with compassion.

If You give us only one gift this holiday season, let it be this: grant to us the blessing of stillness; some quiet, soul searching time. Let us have time to move slower, choose with consideration, and question what we do.

Give us rest.

May all the ways You are beyond us bring us comfort: You are able in all the ways we are unable.

May all the ways You are near us bring us hope. You understand us and love us: calling us by name and looking into our eyes even in this moment.

endofwick

In this season where Peace and Hope are anticipated, allow Your virtue which is both beyond us and near us to inspire us: like a candle at the end of its wick let malice, intolerance, hatred, bigotry and exclusion burn itself out to a sputtering, flickering end.

Instead, let us find within us love, acceptance, and peace.

Amen

.burning out

A prayer written to serve my agnostic friends

DSC_0603

A prayer inspired by the 63rd Psalm

 

To the God whom we suspect is present though unseen

because we have come to our limit, like one walking through an empty home

And yet, something acts outside and within.

Like the sound of children playing in the street and the phone that rings,

something beyond ourselves both causes and responds.

And though we believe we are masters of our own space

We find this is too small a power to be all there is to know.

Having put all our hope in our own self, we are robbed of better strength

And a greater love.

There is something which draws us from the lonely house to know who it is who lives beyond our walls.

So we confess, it is Your goodness that makes us alive to hope.

We confess that something we cannot name or explain makes us long to be with the others who live close and the One who created this community.

To the God whom we suspect is present though unseen

Help us. Protect us from the dangers we are unaware of that lurk outside our walls.

Save us from isolation. Rescue us from the arrogance that keeps us alone in an empty house;

An empty house which you must have built. For I live here, but I confess, I have no tools.

When we find the courage to call out to You, hear us. Help us.

In silence, we wait for your knock upon our lonely door.

Be our teacher. Be our friend.

Amen.

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.