Summary: Part 7 in series Love Never Dies, this message looks at the mysterious sayings of Christ in this chapter and emphasizes the role of mystery in the life of faith.
Making Room for Mystery
Love Never Dies, prt. 7
Wildwind Community Church
May 16, 2010
Today’s message is for anyone who might have had any concerns at all that in the past few weeks I have somehow slipped into heresy! I want to assure you that has not happened at all. I can assure you that my faith in God is more vibrant at this moment than at any time in my life. I have never been as excited as I am now about all I am learning and how I see fruits of God’s Spirit growing in my life day by day. But today’s message is for anyone who has had those concerns. Because for me this whole thing has completely not been about rejecting Christianity -- it has simply been an increasing openness to mystery. Mystery is critical in spiritual understanding and if we lose touch with mystery, then no matter how devout we are in our practice of Christianity, we have lost touch with God – because God simply IS mystery!
Wildwind Church has always been about mystery! This is from our statement of core values on our website.
6. Mystery - We value the mystery of God by acknowledging that he is to be found as much in questions as in answers, seeking as in finding, and doubting as in believing. We will say and do nothing that portrays God as being without mystery. (Job 42:3; Eph. 3:2-9)
Emphasis on mystery is a core part of who we are. Now by this I don’t mean talking about abstract intellectual questions. When Nicodemus tried asking those kinds of questions to Jesus, Jesus said, “You are procrastinating with your questions.” Later in today’s message you will see how Christ responds the same way to some of his own disciples, saying, “You’re missing the point.”
Actual spiritual conversation engages us with mystery. Engages us –not just in our heads, but in our hearts. Actual spiritual conversation invites us in to that mystery – not as objective outside observers, but as participants in the mystery. We don’t like mystery. We like clarity. There’s nothing wrong with clarity. Wesleyan theology says that Jesus Christ is the best representative of God that has ever been on earth. That is a clear statement and we embrace that wholeheartedly. Clarity is great, and useful, but clarity can blind us from truth, just like the sun provides the light by which we see, but also can blind us when we look at it the wrong way. The very power of the light itself is what creates clear shadows, right? I do not reject the idea of clarity, but I am hoping today that we can get acquainted with mystery – mystery is what is left in the shadows – what is not known in spite of what is known. Mature faith needs both mystery and certainty. We cannot say that only certainty is appropriate for faith, because faith is actually most needed when we are not completely clear – when we do not claim to completely know something. I am not asking you to blindly agree with anything I am saying. I am asking you to think on it and compare it to your own experience. Tell me, from your experience is it true that the brightest light casts the darkest shadows? Why would that not be true in the spiritual life? From your experience, is it true that faith is most needed when things are not completely clear? None of this means anything unless it resonates with you – unless the Holy Spirit confirms in your own heart that what you are hearing is true.
So I want to talk to you about mystery today, and on the impact mystery often has on us. We’re into chapter 6 of the Gospel of John this week. Let me present this to you in a bit of a unique way. Kind of out of order a little bit…
John 6:28-30 (MSG)
28 …what do we do then to get in on God's works?"
29 Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works."
30 They waffled: "Why don't you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what's going on? When we see what's up, we'll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do.
Then Jesus talks for a while. Quite a while, actually. Thirty verses later here’s what we read:
John 6:66 (MSG)
66 After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him.
Now what on earth happened between verse 30 and verse 66? What happened is Jesus started saying things people didn’t understand and didn’t know what to do with. In other words, the mystery of God made flesh started talking all mysterious. And it turns out that most of his disciples were not interested in mystery. They got scared. They got freaked out. It turns out that, like many of us, most of Christ’s disciples in his own time wanted something predictable, something they could get their heads around – something they could own. Don’t we today? How many have felt their cheese moving in the last few sermons? How many have felt nervous and unsettled by things I have said? How many have actually found themselves angry about this, feeling like we actually have a right to absolute clarity and to not have to tolerate mystery and uncertainty? That’s a normal response. But my friends, it is a response that deadens faith, and again I say that simply throwing it out there and asking you to let God do with it what he will do with it. Jesus stepped into a world full of certainty – 613 rules about who God was, how God worked, and what our response was to be – and injected into it a new angle, new perspective, and quite a bit of uncertainty. He even spoke in parables – stories deliberately designed to be unclear – and in doing this, invited us into mystery with him. Mystery is not sitting around contemplating heady theological concepts, mystery is entering into something we know we cannot fully understand and letting it become part of us, and letting it grow and shape us. Paul dealt with mystery when he wrote: