A Good Mystery

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No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  –1 Corinthians 2:7

My favorite detective show?  Scooby Doo. A gang of squirrely teens riding around in the Mystery Machine fighting crime.  Still love that show.  (Except, of course, for Scrappy).

Collecting clues.  Acting on hunches.  Dramatically unveiling the bad guys.  This is not just Hanna-Barbera material, there are dozens — maybe hundreds of different tv detective shows that have been on our TV screens over the last half-century.

What’s your favorite?  Dragnet?  Cagney & Lacey?  Twin Peaks?  CHIPS?  Murder, She Wrote?  Cop Rock?

I could fill this page with examples.  From Blue’s Clues to Sherlock, it’s a persuasive genre and people watch hundreds of hours of it.

People love a good mystery.

Which does not include, for many of us, the faith kind.  When it comes to faith, it seems we want certainty, instead of mystery.  Here, I think, is why:

Many detective shows follow a mystery – to- certainty formula like this:

  1. A mystery presents itself.
  2. Clues are discovered.
  3. False leads are followed.
  4. The main character has a hunch.
  5. A chase of some sort ensues.
  6. The bad guy is captured.
  7. All is explained
  8. Life is good.

Nothing better than that, right?  A satisfying sense of certainty, wrapped up in an hour.  It makes us feel that all is well with the world.  That problems are solvable.  That a good mystery is nothing that a couple Scooby snacks can’t conquer.

The problem is, faith doesn’t always feel like a good mystery because we tend to not get past #5.

  1.  We encounter a mystery (i.e. Is Heaven a real place?
  2.  We gather clues (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience)
  3. We follow false leads (bad teaching, cultural influences, our own unhealthy desires)
  4.  We get back on track, and have a hunch (Maybe Heaven is both a place and a way of life?)
  5. We chase down our hunch until…we get lost, or confused, or doubtful.  When no perfect answer appears, we give up, or take an easy way out.   We reject mystery.

And so, we turn to easy answers that only a literal, law-based Christianity can provide.  Or we convince ourselves we have too much to do on a Sunday morning and stop doing the work of faith-learning.  Or we substitute the satisfaction of the 1 hour cop drama for the ongoing reward that comes from a lifetime of investigating.

No, it’s not easy.  One question can lead to three more.  There is little room for “Just the facts, ma’am”.  Investigating faith stuff can feel unsettling and never-ending and elusive.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s the best.  The best kind of mystery of all.  For one thing, it’s not always so uncertain.  There are insights and A-HA moments and the kind of knowing that only comes from years of seeking.  There is measurable growth and maturity.  There are an infinite number of clues to find along the way.

But for all that, the Christian Life is still a life of mystery.  A life of wonder, and questions, and seeking, never fully completed.  Always more to know.  Always a deeper relationship with a never-fully knowable God, who knows us insight and out.

So keep searching! The very best of mystery awaits.  Remember, faith means being a detective on the longest, most rewarding case of your life…

even when things get Scrappy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Don’t Tell Anyone.

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After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this,and told them to give her something to eat.   (Mark 5:40b-43)

If someone were to read the Gospel of Mark without the Easter Sunday story, they might come to an interesting conclusion about Evangelism:

Maybe we shouldn’t do it.

That’s right.  Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone about Jesus!

Several times, like after casting out a demon, or healing someone,  Jesus makes it clear he doesn’t want people to hear about this stuff.

It’s like a refrain:  “Don’t tell anyone!”

Maybe we should take him seriously on this.

Let’s stop telling.

If someone asks about Jesus’ mighty deeds, we could say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Or, “I’m sorry, but that’s classified.”  Or, “Members only.” Or, “That Holy Mystery is above your pay grade.”

You know, it just might work.  Church is in a decline these days.  Maybe we need to add a little secrecy back into what we’re doing.  Instead of showing all our cards, we can hold back a few things.

Call it “Advanced Christianity”.

What do you think?  Should we stop spreading parts of the Good News, and let folks come to us for a change?

Here’s how we could do it:

On our signs out front we could just put a great big question mark.

And we could all adopt buttoned lips but knowing smiles.

Speaking of buttons, we could have buttons that say “2B1Ask1”.

Oh wait, that’s the Freemasons.

Scholars call these statements from Jesus the “Messianic Secret”, but I don’t really think Jesus was trying to be hidden or unapproachable.

I think he was trying to make sure people didn’t just point to his miracles, and miss the message.

He wanted folks to hear the Word, not just watch the spectacle.

I get that.  The world needs to hear what Jesus has to say more than ever.

So maybe we aren’t being commanded to keep the Good News silent.  The Gospel of Mark just wants to remind us to choose our words wisely.

And as for the healing and demon-casting?

That will continue to be a Holy Mystery…

Even for us Advanced Christians.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Mr. E and I

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I have a best friend, but I can’t exactly tell you what he looks like.

It is never a dull moment when he is around.

We’ll spend hours just reflecting on the things that we know, and don’t know.  We’ll wonder, lost in thought, deep into the night.

This is not to say we never argue, Mr. E and I.

Sometimes he can be frustratingly vague.  He is far more comfortable with uncertainty than I could ever be.

And when we talk about the BIG things– Life, death, God — he seems content to remain discontented.

There are times when I have all but pushed Mr. E out of my life, seeking a more settled circle of friends, like Sir Tenty, Sir Enity, and Dr. Abness, but frankly, I get bored.

I know there is more to life than the surface, than the self-evident, and it is Mr. E who reminds me of this.

He reminds me I don’t have to know everything.  I wouldn’t even want to know everything.

Around each corner and each twist and turn is the promise of more to learn, more to grow, more to explore.

So, it’s my goal that Mr. E and I remain lifelong friends.

Life is long, afterall.

I know it’s not always easy,

but it should always be an adventure.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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