Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

mother sacrificeSacrifice is a mystery. One of the many throughout the scriptures and human history. I believe people are wired for life. Oh, I know there is still large numbers of suicides, people who chose otherwise. But still, for now, the norm is to live. Our bodies work hard to keep us alive, sometimes under terrific stress and pain. Stories of torture, starvation, and deprivation abound with the resilience of human courage and yes, even faith.

For this reason, in my view, any story of life sacrifice for the sake of another is hero time: people who leap into rushing waters to save someone or, in broader terms, our first responders and military warriors who go into battle for the sake of others, or parents who die while covering their children from harm, or teachers in the face of murderers shielding their students. Something within causes them to act.

Why do they do it? Love, honor, commitment, and perhaps destiny.

In my faith tradition, the story of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) is a story of sacrifice for the same reasons, but for the sake of the many, not just the one. In the mystery of God’s story, humanity needed a reboot. And only by sacrifice would it work. This idea is foreign to our modern culture. And yet, for 2000 years, embraced and believed.

sacrifice2For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin. [Hebrews 9:24-26, The Message]

None of us know what we will do in the face of emergency. Will we rise to the moment? Will I? I don’t know. But I am grateful for the One who did die and rise, bringing the world full circle. And I thank the individuals who model sacrifice as a way of life, for their actions inspire.

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heart sunDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [Matthew :19-21]

What do I treasure really?

I cherish my family and feel very fortunate to have a nice home, a stable marriage, and three good kids who are growing up to be productive adults. I love my extended family and in general, they are also secure and in relative good health. But, are they my treasures. Really?

I adore my pets (all six of them) and I miss them terribly when I travel.

I have very few precious jewels, in fact, I’m pretty sure I only have one and I wear it every day on my ring finger. I have a few antiques of minimal value and I have some paintings that were done by friends and family which I would grieve if they were lost in a fire or whatever.

I have my manuscripts, still in progress, and that would be devastating, so much work lost. And yes, I truly do treasure these personal efforts, these collected words of heart. I think I should probably back those up.

I would hate to lose my good camera or the hard drive with all the pictures. I would hate to lose the things I purchased as mementos of my travels or the books I’ve accumulated over the years.

None of these things, not people, not things can I take with me into the next dimension, that other world, that heaven. It is only spirit that travels on and the strength and wholeness of my spirit is dependent on the care with which I have interacted with the Holy Spirit. My faith now will make a difference. The way I live in the Presence changes me. The Christ directs me . . . if I allow it.

It’s the surrender part that always gets in the way. And yet, I know, intellectually, how critical it is for this surrender to take place daily, hourly, and even minute by minute. It is surrender to the Spirit that builds treasure, an everlasting treasure. This is part of the mystery.

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This was a hopeful moment for me as I read forward from verse seven, that the angel would explain the mystery. Isn’t that what we all want in end? Don’t we want to understand the mystery of life, of pain, of danger, of sorrow, of hatred, of love? It’s all mystery.

Revelation 17:6b-7
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. . . ”

But alas, even if that angel would come into my office and sit next to me and hold my hand: I would have no clearer understanding of the “woman” or the “beast” or the heads or the horns. This is puzzle for the academicians, the students of the Bible, the prophets, the eschatologists. I don’t know about you but phrases like, “[the beast] once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction,” is not very helpful. Just more mystery.

I don’t think anyone can explain the mystery. If it was possible, then the mystery would stop being a mystery.

Oh, I know people read mysteries because they like trying to figure it out. And they are all so gratified when the story is wrapped up at the end. But then, what do they do? Go out and buy another mystery.

Like a small child, we keep asking “why” to questions whose answers cannot be fathomed.

It’s a mystery because it’s outside of time. It’s a mystery because it’s not human. It’s not gravity or E=MC2. It’s like wrapping our minds around eternity or the universe or a quantum. The scientists are working hard to “understand” the mystery and many religious are working equally hard to quantify what cannot be quantified, to “prove” creationism or “end-of-the-worldism.” It all falls in the same pot for me.

I believe God wants me to embrace the mystery. That’s all. So simple. Another way to do that is to live in the moment and accept it for what it is: now. God has me here now. I am in this chair, I am writing these words, I am tired, I am with God and God is with me. And isn’t that just as much a mystery?

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A promise: return to my First Love and I will be given to eat from the tree of life, the most profound symbol of healing, strength, longevity, stability, and faithfulness.

Revelation 2:7b
“. . . To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

I have always loved seeing naked winter trees at sunrise or sunset, golden colors spilling through the gaps between the branches. There is a “recognition” or buzz that resonates in my hart and soul. I know this image, I know its meaning, I know it value. There is peace in it, the tree and the light.

Painting by Hyunah Kim

And to imagine, there is a God tree that crosses all of time and all seasons without shame or worry, without demands or needs, carrying the abundance of both fruit and seed. The Tree of Life is self-rejuvenating, it is neither male nor female, it is both.

The Tree is protected by God.

The Tree requires my commitment, my engagement, the Tree is a Christ image, and it is further sustained by my love.

The Tree of Life is part of the symbolism of the faith and thereby, part of its mystery.

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Us. Not just Paul and not just Timothy, us. And just like those two followers of old, we can’t earn a place in the “holy club” either. If God has a purpose and a willingness, then there is also enough grace, because of the work of the Christ, we’re in. And all of this happens “outside of time.”

II Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, . . .

I know this verse doesn’t really say “outside” of time, but Paul does write “before the beginning of time,” and I ask, what’s the difference? Because if something is before time, then it’s beyond the control and increments of time. It could be happening “now.” Call is not part of time. That’s amazing!

And if call is not part of time, then service to the Christ is also unhampered by the march of the years of my life. I can be used by God when I am 15 or 90. I can manifest the holy life for a minute, a day, or a lifetime. Those moments are not about me and more than likely, no one will necessarily point at my life’s work or example and say, “oh look, a holy life.” My holy life is in the hands of God’s purpose and grace.

I have skipped the previous verse that articulates the importance of suffering as a portion of the call. This aspect is always a challenge to me. Is suffering a testimony to holiness? I know there are some I can attest it’s true, friends who have walked the suffering pain of cancer and many to their death. Their courage and their abiding love for God during their illnesses humble me still today.

Is that time still to come? I don’t know. Will I choose with courage? If I can just hold on to one truth: suffering in time is finite while the holy life is eternal.

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A lot of folks grab onto this set of scriptures in Corinthians and use to wax eloquently about the end times, the last trumpet and all that. But I’m much more intrigued by the mystery of change in the “twinkling of an eye.” The mystery is not when this will happen but the process and result.

I Corinthians 15:51-52a
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

A quick search on the Internet shows the “twinkling of an eye” is actually at the speed of light, compared to a blink (which is controlled and is generally between 300 and 400 milliseconds). But the twink is more like 1/6,000,000,000th of a second. This means, if you blink, you miss it. This means, in human terms, it’s instantaneous. This means it’s probably not of this dimension. You know what I mean? It’s “other time.”

Now, if that is not a mystery, I don’t know what is.

I wish Christians spent more time talking about the mysteries of their own religion. Instead, we are all grounded into habit and ritual and norms and the idea of mystery has become abnormal.

It’s in the mystery, in the things of twink, that anything is possible. Healings and love and transformations can happen that fast. God is outside of time. God lives in the twink.

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Odd passages about Paul “struggling” with the energy that Christ has given him for the sake of others. And that energy is for them to experience the two-fold mystery of God: Christ within (where our unique relationship is built with the Holy Spirit) and without, in our relationships with others.

Colossians 2:2
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ . . .

This idea of Christ within and Christ without reminds me of the various ways people get caught up in their own brand of Christianity. Some put all of their energy into good works and service, reaching out to the poor, developing community and building fellowship (all good stuff), while others put everything into those private places where contemplation, prayer, study, and various other personal disciplines expand their inner domains.

Paul’s work is on both fronts for his people that they might be “encouraged in heart” (interior work) as well as “united in love” (exterior work). The complete understanding comes from both sides of the equation. This reminds me of that well worn passage in James 2:14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

I don’t do well in this dual role. And yet, intellectually I know that both feed each other. I know that my interior life endows my walk on the outside with better choices, if I allow it to do so. And really, good works can draw a person into a deeper inner life, if permitted.

I am intentionally adding the proviso of permission here because I don’t believe I do it. I don’t give way to the power of the Spirit within. If I did, I’d be doing better (the fruits of that relationship with the Christ Spirit would be more evident). This is part of that “free will” concept. I can limit my relationship with God. I can have surface-only interactions. I can pick and choose. It doesn’t really serve me to do it, but I can. And unfortunately, I do become frightened and put on the brakes.

When the Toronto Blessing was in full swing, one of their most popular phrases was “More Lord, more.” I understand now it was a way to “allow” God in more. It was teaching self to let go and receive. It was not about God giving more, it was about the person opening the door wider to the flow of grace.

The mystery of Christ needs both arenas for full understanding. There is a “battlefield” both within and without. But the interesting aspect of these skirmishes is that I would do better through surrender–that is, surrender to the One who reigns over both and all.

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