Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Faith is by nature wild. . .
That said, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as the God who meets us in His incarnate Son is not this God. He is wild and scary -- not because He is unpredictable but because He is. He is a God of promise who keeps His Word. He is a God of power -- not because we have no idea where that power will be shown but because we see that power displayed shockingly upon the cross. He is a God of mystery -- not because we must unpack Him and engage Him to get to know Him but because His nature contradicts and confounds our sinful nature. We meet Him on the ground of faith. It is not where we would want to find Him but it is where He has come to us -- this wild and untamed God who bids us to depart from the safety and security of our senses, our reason, and our experience and then delivers to us His Spirit to lead us where we are not at all sure we want to go.
The Word of God is not tame -- it is wild. It does what it says! It is the living voice of the ever living God who died that we might live. It is the address of a Good Shepherd who does not disdain His sheep but loves them even to His death. It is no mere truth proposition but a lively Word that speaks and in speaking it acts to deliver the result the Holy Spirit speaker intends. That God's Word is true is an easy enough thing to believe. That God's Word is efficacious, that it delivers what it says and does what it promises. Well, that is harder to believe. Only the Spirit can bid our reluctant and fearful hearts to believe this.
Consider the ancient prayer before communion. Lord, I am not worthy to receive You but only say the Word and I shall be healed... Yes, only say the Word. This is no tame God or toothless Lion but the God whose Word truly is a two edged sword and it does have the power to heal the sin sick soul and restore the lost to the life God intended. The shocking thing in the Sacrament is not that the flesh of Christ is present in the bread or His blood in the cup but that it is given to us to eat and drink. We repulse against this not because we have an aversion to flesh and blood but because no reasoned mind or thoughtful soul can comprehend a God who does this.
We speak of faith but it is not faith we seek. We seek something that is weak and impotent but makes us feel better -- a creation of sentiment and sincerity. That is not faith. Faith always wavers on the balance beam of trust and doubt; it always requires the Holy Spirit and the infusion of God's grace and power to secure the fragile and weak trust. Faith is always "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief." Faith knows no other way. Only whole and complete dependence upon the Lord. Nothing in our hands we bring.
Our age is not so much troubled by the fear of God as it is the fear of faith. We want a God, a deity who knows how to be a God. We do not want a God who behaves contrary to expectation, who desires mercy and not sacrifice. We do not want to believe if believing means that God is acting in His Word, if water is more than symbol or sign, or if bread and wine really convey the mystery of His flesh for the life of the world and His blood that cleanses us from all sin. We want a tame God, to be sure, but we want even more a tame faith -- one that does not require too much of us, that conforms the things of God to our reasonable expectations, and that does not require us to only believe.
The task of preaching is not simply to call us to faith but to remind us faith is wild and not tame, explosive and not quiet, transformative and not comfortable. If only we had the faith the size of a mustard seed! Even that is too much for a people afraid to risk all on mercy, on the God who suffers for His suffering, dies for the guilty, covers the shameful with righteousness, and rises to lead them beyond imagination into the heart of the mystery of God. No, this kind of faith is even more frightening to the sin shaped heart that God Himself.