“Anders, it is not your sins that separate you from God, but your virtues. Or more properly: it is that you need to have something to bring before you step before God. This is why God has allowed you to be stripped of the shroud of holiness that you wore in Fröjerum. Not because you were zealous and pious. God grant that all priests would be as zealous as you! But because you made it into an article of faith and into your righteousness and put it between you and Christ. Now you are poor, destitute, and naked – like the prodigal son. Now the heavenly Father stand and waits for you. Now he wants to fold you in his arms and clothe you with the most precious garment, which is called Christ’s righteousness, in which not a single thread is spun by your hands, but for just that reason it lasts forever.” – From Faith Alone, page 243
Judah’s new first grade teacher played a game of “Hot and Cold” to help him find his seat in the classroom. “You’re getting warmer, warmer.” Yes, Jude was using his eyes and he can read well enough, but he still needed ears to find his spot. Sometimes there is so much to see that we can’t really see any of it.
Sometimes we talk about “walking by faith, not by sight” and think God is simply there to take care of the things we can’t see. If I can see it, I can figure it out myself. If I can’t see it, then I might call on God for help. One of the blessings of 2020 (a blessing we didn’t ask for!), is that there is precious little left in the world that we can see clearly or trust completely. I call this a blessing because when we are stripped of our powers or comforts or securities, we are in the market for a blessing. We are on the lookout (or in the hearing) for a gift from beyond us. Just one recognizable voice in the cacophony to lead us to our seat. The voice of our Good Shepherd, Christ Jesus.
A stunning historical novel by Swedish Lutheran Bishop Bo Giertz (1905-1998) tells the story of walking by faith alone when everything you see is in chaos, including your own sense of self and understanding of God. From the back cover of Faith Alone: The Heart of Everything: “Martin and Anders both studied to become priests before their paths diverged with the advent of the Reformation. Now, as Sweden emerges from anarchy into a pitched rebellion against tyranny these two brothers navigate fields of battle as they fight to maintain faith through a dark night of the soul. Civil war tears them apart, but the gospel brings them together when God’s word becomes a lamp for their feet and a light to their paths.” I highly recommend this book newly translated into English for the first time. I’ll share a climactic quote below without comment, but with a prayer that you, dear Bethesdian, would cling to Christ whose mercy is yours. God is good and His love endures forever. Blessed Reformation month!
Peace, Pr. Tom