Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV)
“For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself.” (1)
“It is a great thing to know oneself to be nothing before God, because that is how things are.” (2)
A few years ago, at the request of a friend, I taught a master’s course on World Religions at my alma mater, to a bunch of seminary students. It was a course which we had about 50 minutes to cover each of the religions and divisions of those religions in the class. Because even when you take just the big religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Budhism, there are differences in each of them, different focal points. FOr example – in Christianity, you have the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and some 40,000 different protestant groups. In Isalm, you have Sufi, Shia and Sunni, In jUdaism, there are Reformed, Conservative, and Hasidic branches.
And of course, how one group defines themselves is different than how others describe it. Sadly to say, most people are rarely aware of what the differences are, and why they exist, and whether or not they are even relavant to their daily lives, the burdens they carry, or their eternity. We have failed to do that which Socrates advised, “Know thyself”. For in every religion ( and those religions which claim to not be religions, or even opposed to the idea of religion) there is a basic question that attempts to be answered.
Who Am I and how do I fit?
In the course, we tried, as best as we could, to enter into the religion, or the branch of a religion, to find those answers.
What I found, personally, was a lot of despair. For in each religion I would be considered a failure, I would stand condemned, simply because I cannot keep the moral and ethical standards that underlie and are taught through the rites, rituals and teaching. Which is pretty much what Luther wrote in the quote above. Whatever the system, I cannot perceive the heart of God (or the equivelant to God) as anything but my judge. Even though we are diligent, even though we strive with everything we have for a moment or a decade, there is a point where we fall short, where we cannot maintain the standard.
I would say that is the point where religions differ. What happens when we can’t do what we should, Or we do that which we know we shouldn’t.
That discovery is the best reason for why I find myself as a Christian, in particular a Lutheran Christian, and why I am a pastor trying to help others on their journey and having the patience (well most of the time) to realize it is a journey – their journey.
You see, when it comes to the humility that all religions advise us to have, I realize that I am beyond being good on my own. There is where I find my hope, why St Josemaria Escriva (A Roman Catholic) says it is such a good thing to know we are nothing when we stand in front of God.
Because God’s plan is so simple, it is beyond our ability to understand. simply put. we find ourselves in need, and when we do, we find God there. Not in our perfection, but in our brokenness. Not there to judge, but to heal us, deliver us, make us His own, to care for us, provide for us.
As a friend says, if religion is a crutch – that’s a good thing – because with a crutch someone as broken as I can get around.
Can we comprehend all that God is? Can we discover it, either under a atomic microscope or plunging through the depths of the universe?
Nah… let’s face it – we aren’t that good.
And in facing it, let’s realize that if there is a God, He would make Himself know to us. And He has.
The journey is hard, as we try to discover God, and our relationship to Him. THe choices are beyond the number to count. So where do we start the journey? What happens if we find ourselves on the wrong path?
You know, that too is a part of the journey. Believe me, I’ve been led to make a few course corrections, because questions were asked.
You are welcome to come journey with us, or ask questions about our journey, or have us ask questions about yours. But examine your beliefs, examine the life, for the unexamined life is not worth living. Nor is the life that is based on unexamined faith… (or lack thereof.)
Start by asking God to show you His mercy… for we need it.
(1) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1272-1273). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.