Puzzling It Out

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Today’s readings:
Psalms 18:1-20; 147:12-20, Isaiah 2:5-22, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13, Luke 20:27-40


Under ancient Jewish marriage laws, a widow was instructed to marry her late husband’s unwed brother. Theoretically, if that brother died, and there was another brother, she would marry him. And if he died … on down the line.

The Sadducees, who did not even believe in resurrection, tried to trip up Jesus with a hypothetical question about who in the resurrection would be the husband of a woman who’d married seven brothers. Jesus told them nothing as we understood it – including marriage – would be the same.

On one level he was specifically addressing the Sadducees, but on another (and when is anything Jesus says not multi-layered?) he was pointing out the futility of trying to cram God and God’s kingdom into the tiny fragments of human understanding that describe and limit our faith. If we treat them like pieces of a puzzle and try to force them into a single picture, we soon learn that not only are we missing countless pieces, the ones we have may be from different boxes. The only way to fit them inside our desired frame of reference is to tear off the inconvenient bits and pound them flat.

No wonder the picture of Christianity can often make so little sense, especially to outsiders. Not knowing is uncomfortable and scary, so we can waste time rearranging the pieces. This obsession disengages us from the “God of the living” – from life and all its blessed messiness.

An insistence on theological tidiness, especially about unknowable things, doesn’t make us better believers. Mystics of all faiths describe the moment of divine revelation as a surrender to mystery. The wisest people admit to knowing nothing.

Getting stuck in “head” religion ultimately leads to frustration. Thinking you lack spiritual wisdom because you don’t know the right terms or scripture quotes is just not true. God is found in living hearts, not dead paper. Christ is the Living Word not because he appears on Bible pages, but because he rewrites the world.

Rather than “bow down to the work of [our] own hands” by stuffing God into ideas we’ve created, let’s trust that God is present with us in the glorious chaos of life.

Comfort: You don’t have to understand everything – as a matter of fact no one does!

Challenge: Try to give up finding the answer to one question you wish you knew.

Prayer: Infinite God, Lord of all Creation, I am open to your mystery and majesty. Amen.

Discussion: What’s the longest you’ve ever worked on a puzzle before giving up?

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Blind Faith

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 148, Job 19:1-7, 14-27, Acts 13:13-25, John 9:18-41


Author G.K. Chesterton asked why anyone would attempt to defend Christianity, since to defend a thing is to discredit it. What might he have made of the hundreds of books dedicated to apologetics which fill the shelves of almost any Christian bookstore? Of course we want to be able to talk intelligently about our faith, but is the truth of our faith ever adequately expressed in argument, no matter how well-reasoned?

When the man cured of blindness testified to the Pharisees about the impact Jesus had on his life, he didn’t construct a theological argument. He stated the simple truth: “I was blind, now I see.” Not much arguing with that statement, is there? The obvious changes faith has produced in our lives communicate the Good News more effectively than any appeal to reason or logic. Each of us has a different spin on the blind man’s truth. Maybe it’s “I was addicted, now I am recovering.” Or “I was in despair, now I am full of hope.” Or “I was angry, now I am at peace.” The reality of our story is its own defense.

A history professor once told me history shows us rationalism is not the only way of knowing about the world. In a culture demanding we reason our way to faith, this thought frees us from the need to understand everything in terms of pure intellect. This doesn’t mean science is out the window and superstition rules, but it does help us accept the untestable truth that putting our faith in God forever alters our lives.

Just as a strong faith doesn’t depend on a steady supply of supernatural signs, it also doesn’t rely on an unshakable foundation of logical proofs. They are two sides of the same coin. A lack of either should not derail our faith journey. The signposts that best help us find our way are the changes we experience in our own lives and see in the lives of others.

Perhaps another thought from Chesterton best summarizes today’s reflection: “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

Comfort: Reason is compatible with faith, but faith does not depend on it.

Challenge: When you discuss the Christian faith, have confidence your own experience is a powerful testimony for the Gospel.

Prayer: God of life, thank you for the mysteries and realities of faith. Amen.

Discussion: Have you struggled to reconcile reason and faith?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!