The right slip of paper

handle eric-muhr-1611449-unsplashIn Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows’ Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart, Eckhart is described as a “14th century German mystic, philosopher, friar, priest and theologian.” He lived in “a time when original thinking and daring theological formulations were suspect.”

He must have been a remarkable man.

Eckhart lived when thinking and daring were suspect.  I fear we are living in such a time.

I am dubious about the unspoken but apparent claims that a few leaders of the faith promote: they have finally figured it all out. Finally. As if patting the heads of past leaders, reassuring them that they did the best they could – but they were wrong. And, thankfully, we now have it right.

Miraculously, a chosen few of this generation’s Bible scholars and preachers got to the bottom of it all and can finally explain God, and what He meant, and what He wants. They have determined which issues are culturally pliable and which are literal. Which controversies call for a heavy public hand and which are personal matters to be addressed in private.

And the rest of us should put on our Sunday best and count our blessings. They can explain it all.

Except for what they cannot explain.

And, for what they cannot explain, they solemnly quote a “scripturally-sound” God’s ways are higher than our ways. A simple and over-arching way to hide behind what makes us feel comfortable and safe.

No, I am absolutely not having a crisis of faith. I’m not questioning God or His sovereignty. I am not walking away from the Church or the church. I am not wavering one bit from my three Essentials.

I’m still convinced that Jesus made the foundations of truth simple and clear. He said…

…”I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
…”Love Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Luke 10:27)
…”Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33)

But now I’m rethinking that first one. Not that I don’t believe it’s true. Not that I don’t believe Jesus is the way. But it’s missing the second part of John 14:6 – No one comes to the Father except through me. (ESV)

“Through me.” As in: The only way you can get into this swanky nightclub is through Nick, our 350-pound bouncer. Good luck, Pal-ee-odle. You already have a picture of Nick in your mind. Very little of that 350 pound body is flab and he doesn’t need a clip-board to know who is in and who is not. Just looking at the line of hopefuls, he can tell who is the most beautiful and prosperous, who will make the club more glamourous, and who deserves a place on the dance floor. Yeah – go with your bad self. Just try getting through Nick.

Or “Through me.” As in: If you want to get into the building, you’ll have to go through Charlie, our doorman. Charlie has strict orders from management and high standards of his own. If there’s a party going on in Suite 305, you’d better have an invitation. If you are visiting a resident, your name better be on The List.

But Charlie knows people, too. He sees them every day as they try to scam their way into events at which they don’t belong. He sees them trying to get in with the bold and the beautiful just because they have on fancy shoes or a crisp $20-bill slipped inside a hearty handshake. He sees them for what they are – Doers. Players. Self-made con-artists who try to get by on good looks and charm. To whom Charlie says: Sorry, Mr. Pal-ee-odle – no can do. 

Yes, Charlie knows people. He can spot the hard-working, talented, and young entrepreneur ready to attend the upscale seminar for upcoming inventors and innovators. The young man whose shoes are worn but polished, whose suit came from the thrift store but had a trip to the cleaners, whose briefcase and collar are threadbare but always in place. The young man with a hope of a chance. Charlie knows: He doesn’t look like a winner, but he is. 

Or that young girl who, near tears, sweaty, and disheveled, claims to be a cousin of the newly-wed, throwing a local reception for those who couldn’t make the fancy destination wedding. I can’t find my invitation. I know I had it, but I dropped my bag on the subway and it must have fallen out. I came from Brooklyn Heights on the Red Line. But I have some pictures of me and my cousin – Here we are at my mom and dad’s 25th anniversary and here she is at my Sweet 16-see that’s me giving her bunny ears?… I can’t find my invitation. It must have fallen out…I can’t find it. Charlie knows: She doesn’t have the right slip of paper, but she belongs.

So, my lovelies, when Jesus says, “I am the way, truth and life – no one gets in but through me,” is he a Nick or a Charlie?

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, described by Christianity Today as “one of the greatest Christian writers of the twentieth century,” wrote “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ. We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.” (emphasis mine)

It seems the operative words are know and through.

We know that Christ is the One at the gate. We know He holds the power, granted authority by the Almighty God.

So, again, is he a Nick or a Charlie?

Please do not, not for one single solitary sliver of a second, think I’ve gone astray or, for a single solitary sliver of a second, question my salvation. Jesus and I are all good.

But, who am I to say that I understand it completely? And that I understand it for everybody?

We say that Mark 16:16 stipulates those who don’t believe are condemned. But, again, what comes before? When we back up a bit, to verse 15, Jesus tells the disciples to go and preach and for the people they reach, a decision must be made.

(v15) And Jesus said to them,
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
(v16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
but whoever does not believe will be condemned…”
(ESV)

So what about those who haven’t heard? those who haven’t been asked the question? I’m not sayin’ anybody else is wrong about The Way. I’m just askin’, “Are we completely sure we are completely right?”

Meister Eckhart was an original thinker and a daring theologian. He risked the deadly label of heretic because he didn’t think he knew it all. He kept wondering and asking.

I believe God put that wonder in all of us. I believe He wanted to hear our questions – it lets Him know we are paying attention.

Maybe He wouldn’t mind if I got just a little bit heretical, too.  Hang on to your hats… xoxox

Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

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