Monday, July 7, 2014

Hidden from the Wise and Understanding

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mat 11:25-30
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”
“My heart is restless until it finds rest in thee.”  The words of St. Augustine, the fourth century bishop of Hippo, which is in modern day Tunisia. A man who for most of his young life was too wise and understanding to receive the Grace of God as a little child, and who instead sought to find peace for his soul in the ways of the world. But later in life the prayers of his mom would prevail through the sermons of St. Ambrose while he was in Milan trying to make a name for himself teaching law and rhetoric. It happened late one night when plagued in conscience and restless in soul, the sermons of Ambrose swimming in his thoughts, he began reading the book of Romans and was converted. His conversion amidst the turmoil of the fourth century, in which Rome was sacked by barbarians, and the empire was fragmented, a time in which the so-called dark ages dawned, well his conversion at that time would change the history of Christianity and western civilization forever, as this man who found rest in the yoke of Christ, and humbled like a child, would employ his great learning and understanding to defend the faith, and preach it to the people and give them rest amidst the chaos knowing that what ever happened God was in control also of their lives and would work everything for good for those who love him.  And a thousand years after his death, he would even be a chief theological influence for Luther himself. But his heart was restless until it found rest in the Lord, until he could humble himself like a little child to realize that he did not know more than God, but that Christ would give him what he needed most to know, the love of his Father, the grace of God, justification by faith alone.
Jesus himself thanks his Father that he has hidden these things from the wise and understanding, but has revealed them to little children, for such was his will. And for many today the Christian faith seems just that, childish. Faith in a benevolent Father in heaven who loves justice, who cares for the poor and the oppressed. It seems as childish as Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. And despite the fact that some of the most intelligent men in Western history and giants of Western Civilization, and not just theological giants like Augustine who even influenced modern western thought in men like Descartes, but also scientific men, giants like Newton and Copernicus, for instance, were devout Christians, today people think they are smart for being anything but Christian. So it is that God hides these things, hides grace, mercy, faith and salvation from the wise and understanding, and their souls are given to restlessness, labor and a heavy burden.
Their souls are restless as they labor and are heavy laden. Restless like our souls are so often when we lose our focus from the cross, when we start trying to prove ourselves in the world and to the world, and succumbing to its judgments. When we start not only living in the world, but also start becoming of it.  We all know this restlessness, the labor, the heavy burden. Work, home, school, and at play, keeping up with the Joneses. Are we ever done? And everyone looking over your shoulder, ready to judge. They constantly judge clothes you wear, the language you use or don’t use, your level of education, how much money you do or don’t make. As one comedian I heard said, “Don’t judge? What does that mean? Don’t take my hobby from me. If I want to judge I’ll judge.”  There is sort of an irony to it all. The world fears God because they don’t want a judge, they don’t want to be judged. The world, the atheists when they are pressed, it is fear of God that drives them not to believe. A few years ago a humanist society paid for a bus campaign in England that said, “There probably is no God, now stop worrying and enjoy life.” There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of certainty in that phrase to hang your hat on. But believing there is no God doesn’t help anybody to stop worrying or to enjoy life.  No, quite the opposite. “My heart is restless Lord until it finds rest in thee.” For so many of them, they know only this restlessness. For so many of us, we too know this restlessness, but we also know this rest that Christ speaks of. Our faith in God, it is precisely that which in the midst of life, in the midst of turmoil, in the midst of the pain of death and loss it is precisely then that our faith and hope brings profound joy to life, when we come to Jesus and find rest for our souls in the forgiveness of sins, knowing that our judge is the same Lord and savior that died on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and has already pronounced judgment upon us declaring us innocent.
And without God there is no rest, and life isn’t near as enjoyable. It just isn’t. Because without God we exchange the judge of forgiveness with the judge of popular opinion, one judge who forgives, with six billion judges as finicky with you as a child is before a plate of Brussel sprouts. They will judge you for not conforming, and ostracize you for conforming too much. No, if you really want to stop worrying. If you really want to enjoy life, then come to Jesus, see the Father, relieve your burden and take his easy yoke. Know that there is a God who is love, and has given you this life to enjoy as a fatherly gift, and he has redeemed it from your sin with his blood for no other reason than that he loves you as a Father loves his children.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 


John Flanagan said...

I am not a pastor, just another lay person, a Lutheran with the LCMS. This was an interesting topic, and I like the perspective of the word of God in this regard.....keeping ourselves humble and holding on to the Bible truths at all times as a guard against the kind of pride that comes with too much theology, dependence on our own intellect, and the resulting self righteousness which wars against the plain Gospel. I see a bit of the Pharisee approach in some Lutheran bloggers, even pastors, who seem embroiled in controversy or new ideas and have forgotten the fundamentals of the faith. I think each of us must avoid this trap, by reminding ourselves that understanding our need for salvation through Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit to a place of faith and gratitude for God's grace is far more useful than focusing on our theological gifts.

Bror Erickson said...

Yes, John, every morning I pray the words of Paul to Titus to keep me from useless controversies regarding the law for they are unprofitably and worthless.... then I log on to the internet and often find myself embroiled in one.