Tag Archives: mystery

Justus Hunter ~ Promising the Mystery of Wisdom

Has the promise been fulfilled?

“You will eat in plenty and be satisfied.”

Has the promise been fulfilled?

“My people will never again be put to shame.”

Has the promise been fulfilled?

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”

God fulfills his promises. We know this. But we often struggle to see how. Because the promises God makes and the promises we would like aren’t always the same. His wisdom is not ours.

My sons want me to build them a playhouse. So I’ve been sketching a few ideas, and we’ve been scavenging useful things around the neighborhood on trash days. I came up with a small 8×6 structure with a hinged wall that lifts into an awning for hot or rainy days. You’ll note a parent’s motivation here – even if it’s hot or wet, they can stay outside! I was proud of my design. But when I showed it to the boys, they looked it over and asked, “Where is the desk? Where do we sleep?”

My plans didn’t suit their purposes. There was a gap, a rupture between my plans and their goals. I had my wisdom, and they had theirs.

In today’s reading from I Corinthians 2, Paul also speaks of two wisdoms. There is the wisdom of this age and its rulers, and there is the wisdom of God. And because there are two wisdoms, when he came to Corinth, Paul refused to speak as if he were wise. “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom.” He decided to proclaim the mystery of God, but not in their words and according to their wisdom. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

This message, the very mystery of God, requires a suitable foundation. The wisdom of this age will not do. Why not? Because the wisdom of this age and its rulers is, in fact, no wisdom at all. As it turns out, the wisdom of this age is foolish, absurd, contradictory. Its conclusion is the crucifixion. “They crucified the Lord of Glory.” As the early church thinkers observed, such things are unthinkable. How can the Lord of Glory himself, the very one who gives all life, who is Life Itself, be crucified, and die?

But this is the very thing the wisdom of our age does: it goes on as if the absurd were true. It lives as if Life Itself could be crucified, and that be the end of it. It is wisdom that attempts to destroy the Son, who is true Wisdom.

This, friends, is the wisdom of our age. We hear it all around us. And sometimes we live it. We live it each time we imagine we can carve off some corner of our life, set it aside, keep it secret from our Lord of Glory. We crucify him from our plans, our hopes, our times, our loves. We absurdly imagine that he could remain in the tomb, apart from the promises of our own making.

But no eye has seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for our plans and hopes, our times and loves. No heart can conceive the promises of God. None, that is, except God himself. None except the very Spirit of God.

And so Joel prophecies, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.” “You will eat and be satisfied.”

The promise is fulfilled. The wisdom of God, the Son himself, has come to us. He has come, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. What else do you expect when the Lord of Glory is crucified?

The promise is fulfilled. The ascended Son pours out the Spirit. The Spirit has come. The Spirit that, “searches everything, even the depths of God” is shed abroad in our hearts. Thanks be to God, we have received the Spirit. And so, “we will eat and be satisfied.”

I’m redesigning the boys’ playhouse. I’m adding a multi-purpose bench; desk by day, bunk by night. And maybe, if I’m lucky, they can take a nap out there as well. But I’m leaving the hinged wall and awning. You see, I know the boys will enjoy it. Their eyes have not seen what I have planned for them. My wisdom is greater than theirs.

God has poured out the Spirit on all flesh. The Spirit is present. It is here. Just as Christ walked by the Spirit, so might we. And so might we have the mind of Christ, that mind which crucifies the wisdom of this age.

Make no mistake – something must die. There are two wisdoms. And no matter how well our wisdom imitates the Spirit’s – no matter how noble or well-intentioned our promises might be – no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.

And that very Spirit is offered us now, ready and eager to make bread and wine be for us the body and blood of Christ, poured out for us. Take and eat, friends. Receive the promises of God. Let them crucify your wisdom, the wisdom the Lord of Glory was crucified to take away, the wisdom the Spirit was poured out to overcome. Take. Eat. Be satisfied.

Carolyn Moore ~ The Mystery and Glory of Communion with God

My sister, after years away from the faith, came home to Christ in the Lutheran church. The transition back into the church world, while it was welcomed, still had its moments. She’d dealt with a lot in her life and carried a lot of shame. As a Lutheran she took communion every Sunday but she noticed that communion just made her feel more guilty. She often thought as she’d go to the altar, “I’m not worthy.” But Lutherans take communion every week, so every week she had to deal with what it means to be invited to the table as a person with a past.

Then one Sunday, something shifted. She was at the railing to receive the elements, but the person with the wine was moving slowly so she’d gotten the wafer but had to hold it in her mouth while she waited for the wine. Kneeling there with that wafer melting in her mouth, a memory floated forward. It was a moment she’d had with our father when he was in his last days on earth. He was home with hospice care and she’d been with him for days but was about to go back home to another state. This was the last time she would see him alive and they both knew it. They told each other good-bye and she left crying but before she could get out of the driveway, someone waved her back into the house. Daddy had asked for her again. He wanted her to bring him two pieces of ice. My father hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for days so this was sort of an odd request. My sister went and got the ice and took it to him and he took one piece and told her to keep the other one. And he said, “Now, you go on home but when you leave I want you to put your piece of ice in your mouth and I’ll put my piece in my mouth.”

That was it. He didn’t say any more than that but as my sister left the house with that ice in her mouth, she said, “I knew exactly what he meant. He meant that even if we were separated, if we were doing the same thing at the same time then we were still connected.” So it seemed to my sister that her daddy was saying, “Here’s something tangible to hold on to, and when you do this I will meet you in this act.”

That whole memory came to my sister while she knelt there at the communion rail with the body of Christ melting into the roof of her mouth. “That’s when I got it,” she told me. “Because if I’m holding this in my mouth right now, then Jesus must be saying to me that he’s here and I’m here in the very same space. The real Jesus. I’m in his presence and he is in mine. He’s saying, ‘I’m not leaving you. It might look like I’m leaving, but I’m not leaving. This is not the end.’”

Ever since, my sister tells me, she revels in the opportunity to take communion. Because she so wants to see Jesus.


Read more from Rev. Carolyn Moore at www.artofholiness.com.

Making Room for Awe

Last week, for the first time in years, a total eclipse was visible from the United States. While eclipses occur about every 18 months, they haven’t often been seen in the U.S. – particularly in the age of the smartphone. Now our technological devices allow us to capture all kinds of phenomena. 

The Monday of the eclipse, people gathered in small towns all across middle America for a chance to be in the path of “totality,” where a total eclipse would be visible. Millions of people were able to see a partial eclipse, either with special viewing glasses or via homemade contraptions. For a few hours, time seemed to stop as coverage extended from one end of the nation to the other. Radio stations broadcast crowds’ live reactions, NASA livestreamed the occurrence – racking up a record number of viewers ever for any NASA livestream – and news stations covered the event. 

In a culture known for keeping our eyes on our phones, for a few minutes, everyone looked away, glasses on, or gaze focused into a cardboard box, or attention on funny-shaped shadows cast by a partially obscured sun. 

More even then the accompanying “oohs” and “aahs” during fireworks displays, crowds would go eerily silent, or would break out in exclamation, or would let out whooping cries and applause. Observers stammered to attempt to express their emotions at what felt like the whole world’s lamp being dimmed midday as crickets began to play. 

For a few moments, crowds of people stood in awe. 

The Western world has plenty of hype – plenty of viral marketing campaigns – plenty of trending buzz. What we fall short of, frequently, is simple awe – child-like wonder. That is what awoke on the day of the eclipse.  

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” we read in scripture. It is humbling to witness the cosmic dance of heavenly bodies. It brings worship to our lips, it causes us to marvel. However much we study astronomy, witnessing the moon trail across the sun is an experience that ignites awe in our hearts. In the Information Age, awe reminds us how childlike we really are. 

Make space in your day for moments that will inspire a spontaneous, “wow!” of delight in your life. Choose to create space for wonder. You won’t be sorry. 



Ken Loyer ~ A Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

This is the final entry in a series of posts drawing from my recent book on the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion: Celebrating God with Us (Abingdon Press, December 2014). Part of the Belief Matters series edited by Will Willimon, this book explores the Lord’s Supper as a powerful means of grace for Christian formation, church renewal, and God’s mission in and for the world. I believe that a renewed emphasis on the Eucharist—that sacrament of unity and of love—is critical for our life in Christ, especially given the challenges and opportunities facing the church today.

You can read more about the book and order a copy by visiting this website. The italicized excerpt below (which is followed by some additional thoughts and commentary) comes from chapter 4, “A Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet.”

Up to this point, this book has explored the meaning of Holy Communion as a prayer of thanksgiving (chapter 1), an active remembering of Christ’s presence (chapter 2), and a celebration of the bread of life given for the world (chapter 3). Along the way, we have at different times focused on the past and present dimensions of this sacrament. There is also a third dimension, a third temporal reference, one that deals with the future. That future element contributes to a balanced perspective of not only what happens in Holy Communion but also what it demands from us, as we live into the kingdom of God that is, at once, already present and not yet fully revealed.

The Lord’s Supper is not simply a matter of past and present—a memorial calling us to remember what Christ has done for us and a means of grace and spiritual sustenance in the present. It also points forward to what is to come. God gives us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet here and now in this sacred meal, an anticipation of God’s promises ultimately fulfilled.

God gives us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet here and now in Holy Communion. Matthew 26 teaches us that Jesus will share in this meal with us in heaven. Jesus says, “I will never again drink of the fruit of this vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). In Communion we anticipate what is to come.

One Epiphany tradition involves baking a ring or figurine inside bread or cake. The ring or figurine represents Jesus our King. Predictably, when the time comes to eat this treat, there is a sense of anticipation about who will get the special piece. People bite into the bread or cake carefully so they do not damage a tooth or shift any dentures.

Jesus is in the bread of Holy Communion for us all; it is the sacrament of his body, and through it we all receive his presence by faith. Here and now we receive a foretaste of God’s promises fulfilled. Here and now we anticipate the heavenly banquet where we will feast forever with Jesus and with those we love. One of the chief tasks of the church is to bring as many people with us to that banquet as we can.

The idea of the future has a mysterious quality to it because it is always beyond us, in one sense not yet fulfilled. As you look ahead, what do you anticipate about the future? What concerns or fears do you have? Do you think that in the midst of the inevitable uncertainty regarding various aspects of our future, there is still reason to be hopeful about what lies ahead for you, for your family, or for others? Why or why not?

Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as a banquet in Luke 14:16-24. In Matthew 26:26-29, Jesus promises his disciples that he will “drink of the fruit of this vine” with them in his Father’s kingdom (26:29). What does this idea—of not simply being fully in the presence of Jesus, but also having him eat and drink anew with us—suggest to you about the extent of fellowship with God that awaits us? Have you ever thought much about heaven as a feast with both God’s people and also with Jesus himself? What images come to your mind as you envision that feast?

While the past and present dimensions of Holy Communion are surely important, there is also a future component to this sacrament that should not be overlooked. In this great feast of our faith, God gives us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet here and now.


This post includes material quoted from Holy Communion: Celebrating God with Us (www.abingdonpress.com/product/9781426796333).

Kimberly Reisman ~ The Strong Name of the Trinity

I’ve got a lot of Irish in me. Lots of Malone’s & Patrick’s and Lilly’s dot my family tree. Plus a good deal of English and even some Native American – two of my great grandmothers on my dad’s side were Choctaw.

It also draws me to Celtic spirituality. A while back I used a book, A Song for Every Morning by John Davies for my devotional time. The subtitle is Dedication and Defiance with the St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I’m thinking it was the Celtic influence that caught my eye when I bought the book, but it may have been that I’m just attracted to anything that has the words dedication and defiance in the subtitle.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a wonderful morning prayer. It was probably written about 300 years after St. Patrick’s time but no matter. It’s powerful no matter who wrote it or when. Soon we’ll be celebrating Trinity Sunday, so this prayer feels timely; but that very timeliness is unfortunate in a way; because this is a prayer that should start our days far more often than on a single Sunday.

Translated from the Irish the first stanza reads:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the Threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

In the early part of the 20th century it was put into hymn form:

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

Understanding the Trinity isn’t very easy. A little over two months ago Phil Tallon lamented that we don’t focus on the Trinity more than we do. He asserted – and I think he’s right – that if we thought about it more, it might not be such a confusing concept.

Yet, despite my (and Phil’s) desire to explore the Trinity more often, it remains difficult for most people and it’s definitely not something we start off with when we think about our faith. We usually add it on at the end, like a bow on a present after it’s wrapped – after we’ve talked about God as our creator and Jesus as our redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as our sustainer, we try to sum everything up by referring to the Trinity. In my mind, that just seems to make it all the more confusing.

A Celtic understanding of the spirituality the Trinity on the other hand isn’t as much a problem as it is a blessing. I like that. Not that it’s going to solve the whole mystery – why would we ever think our minds are big enough to get around the whole God thing anyway? Anyone who thinks they can give a complete description of God is either unbelievably arrogant or delusional. But the symbol of the Trinity hints at something wonderful. I like where the threeness in oneness takes me.

The problem for me is that our culture seems to be all about polarities. Everything comes in twos and each one is usually the polar opposite of the other. Or at least that’s what the culture says – male/female – young/old – rich/poor – liberal/conservative – extravert/introvert. If we don’t fit on one side or the other we at least have to find someway to fit on the spectrum in between.

But maybe life isn’t all about polarities. Maybe things come in threes? There’s space in threes. Instead of a line with two points, maybe we should think about triangles with three points. Maybe it’s not about locating yourself on a line between two opposites but about moving around a triangle.

In the Bible, the meaning of the names Joshua and Jesus is “Savior.” Davies points out that the underlying idea of savior is “one who gives space.” I don’t know how you feel about that, but it resonates with my spirit. I can bind myself to a God who’s spacious, who is a space-maker.

Early in my ministry I was told that I was “gender confused.” You can imagine how that rocked my world. What prompted the comment was that I was a woman going into a “man’s” field – ministry. The person who said this thought it was odd that I showed so many “male” traits; yet, was so “feminine” at the same time. Apparently the fact that I love to wear nail polish, am a sucker for the latest fashion, and can’t pass a shoe store without being sorely tempted didn’t jive with my assertiveness, confidence and tendency to move into roles of leadership – or so I was told.

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity, the Three in One and One in Three – the space-maker who is the source of my freedom, the one who empowers me to defy the forces that seek to restrict me to unbending characterizations or rigid roles.

Yet even as I bind myself to this God, I have to stay watchful and alert. It is easy to become complicit with and conformed to our culture. As Christ followers we are called to stand in opposition to such conformity. If it is wrong, we’ve got to stand in defiance.

But our spirituality can’t always be about opposition. Opposition isn’t nourishing in the long run. That’s the blessing of our spacious Three in One and One in Three. It may be mystery. It may only hint at a way of understanding God. But it’s a beautiful hint, a blessing of a mystery. A space-making understanding that leaves room for the divine yes.