There’s a reality that goes far beyond the one that we are seeing and experiencing right now. We live in that reality, even if we don’t see or experience most of it. And that reality is ruled by one infinitely powerful entity who created everything we see and experience with simple words. That entity has set standards for what is good and righteous behavior. Everyone who lives up to those standards will inherit a place in eternal paradise alongside Him, everyone who doesn’t will be stuck in the worst place imaginable. Here’s the kicker though, no one in the world lives up to those standards. That’s a bear ain’t it? But the infinitely powerful entity had a solution. He would enter into this limited part of this greater reality and let people put Him to death, and after that anyone who trusts in Him will have the requirement waived for a place in eternal paradise.

. . . because that makes sense.

Now hopefully you picked up on the fact that I was describing, in broad strokes, our faith. And most of us would probably nod along and say “yeah, that makes perfect sense.” And it does, if you believe it does. But if you approach the truths of our faith from a stance of unbelief - it doesn’t make sense. All powerful God making flawed creations and then making up for those flaws with a personal sacrifice that somehow makes it all better? By the standards of humanity, that doesn’t make a ton of sense.

That’s exactly what Paul is writing about in the passage out of Corinthians. He writes “in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” He goes on later to say that God chose what is foolish and weak and low and despised to shame those who imagine themselves wise or strong, to bring them to nothing. And if we think about it for a second, who do we think we are to question how God does things? I mean, the preposterous audacity we must have to think that God would operate within the limits of our understanding! It is like a kid making a decision that they think is a genuinely good decision, until an adult with more knowledge walks into the room and has to fix the situation because the kid just didn’t have the knowledge or the foresight to do any better.

If you look through the lens of human reason or wisdom, a lot of what God does makes no sense.

If you look through the lens of faith, it gives us the freedom and ability to kinda just shrug and say “God can do what He wants.”

What lens are you looking at things through?

Mind Blowers

I bring all of this up because for the last sermon in this summer series I was invited to do a “Sampler Platter of Theological Difficulties.” To spend a little bit of time talking about parts of the Bible, parts of Lutheran theology that we can’t resolve easily. And this is actually one of the places where I am especially appreciative for Lutheran theology, because it has the humility and the courage to say in the face of some things “I don’t know, and that’s okay.” So what I’d like to do is just to run through some of those topics that we can’t really resolve and share what insight I can on them.

Earlier in the summer we talked about heaven and hell. We believe that if someone is saved, that is 100% the work of the Holy Spirit. Human logic would say that if the Holy Spirit is the one who saves, then God must also be the one that causes people to not be saved. But we teach, the Bible teaches, that those who are not saved are 100% responsible for their own situation. So there’s a little bit of a paradox there, but there’s also the unknown of why the Spirit works so powerfully in the lives of some people and not in the lives of others. And I don’t have an answer for you other than, God does what He wants.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

Or what about Communion? This meal that we share every week. In His earthly ministry, Jesus instituted this meal saying “this is my blood” and “this is my body.” Human reason would take this to a lab and determine that the chemical composition of these things remain bread and wine, so it must just be representative or symbolic. But Jesus says “this is my body and blood,” so we know that it is His body and blood - no idea how though.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

Even God Himself. God is three persons, but God is just one God. They’re different but they’re not. They’re separate but they’re not. Human logic goes right out the window.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

God knows everything. He knows what we need. He knows what we want. He knows what we’re thinking before we think it. But for some reason we’re supposed to pray and ask Him for what we need and want? Human logic would say that’s a waste of time, that it’s totally unnecessary. But God told us to pray.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

Here’s one that I still struggle to be at peace with. The devil belongs to God. He’s never been and never will be able to do anything without God allowing it to happen. Human reason would ask why He allows the devil to do any of the terrible things he’s been behind.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

And then there’s the whole “free will” thing. We can make decisions, but God can also situate and influence us in a way that can completely control the outcome of those decisions. And when bad things happen to us, when is it a result of our bad decisions versus God shaping us versus God allowing consequences to shape us? And if God already know exactly what our decisions and actions in life are going to be, isn’t everything futile somehow.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

All of this makes me think of the cell phone that so many of us have in our pockets right now. How many of us actually know how all of that technology works? There are the circuits that make everything work, there’s the material science that created the case and the touch screen, there’s the chemical reactions that make the battery work, there’s the radio wave technology that allows signal to go back and forth, there’s the coding on the apps, there’s the network engineering that allows phones to connect to the internet, and I’m sure dozens of other things that make it works that we don’t understand sitting here. But each of us can pull out our phones and make a phone call right now.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

And maybe the pinnacle example, the example that Paul talked about in our reading, is our salvation. Jesus died on the cross, and in that experience He somehow was able to pay the price for all of our sins. We don’t have to do anything to earn it, we just know we are saved through faith in His promises. Human reason says that doesn’t make sense, human logic says that there’s no justice in that. But we believe that all our sins are forgiven and we will receive eternal life because of what Jesus did on the cross.

We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves.

You don’t have to know how it works to know that it works. We don’t know exactly how God works, we don’t fully understand the reality that He has established. And as crazy as it might sound, that’s okay. Our challenge is to be at peace with the paradoxical, to be at peace with the unknown. We trust God, we trust Him when He tells us how things are - even if that doesn’t make sense to us, we trust Him when He doesn’t tell us how things are - even if we want to know. All we know is what He has revealed to us, and He has revealed to us everything we need to know. We can’t understand everything, but we’re told enough to know that Jesus saves. Amen.