Filed under: Christianity, Church, faith, God, Grace, Inspiration, Jesus, Religion, Sermon, Spirituality, Wholeness
As I kid I loved mysteries. I loved the feel of a dime store paperback in my hands. I even remember the first mystery novel that I read. It was At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie. I bought it at a thrift store because it had a skull on its cover. I loved it and one after another I read about the exploits of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I must have read almost all of her 80 mystery novels. When I had exhausted the libraries copies of Agatha Christie I moved on to Sherlock Holmes. At a country auction I had obtained Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Cases and Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle in three hardbound copies. On their binding was an embossed picture, in profile, of that famous detective with a pipe in his mouth. It was not long before I had read through each of these musty, brown edged mysteries.
So, yes I was that sort of a geek. I spent hours in the library section where a little red skull had been attached under the Dewey decimal system numbers so that patrons would know immediately that they had grabbed a crime novel or mystery. At one point I had a subscription to Ellery Queen magazine so that I could keep up on all the most current mystery writing.
That is why at the age of 16 I fell hook line and sinker when a series of advertisements appeared on television promising to reveal one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. Was it the lost 18 1/2 minutes on Nixon’s Watergate tapes, another cache of King Tut’s treasures or maybe it would reveal what was on that blurry photo in Loch Ness? No, the promise was that one of the greatest mysteries would be solved in a two-hour special report. What would be revealed was what exactly was hiding under the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, Illinois in a hidden vault owned by the notorious gangster Al Capone.
Evidently I was not alone in my fascination of this mystery. 30,000,000 people tuned the evening of April 21, 1986 to see what glorious loot Capone had stored away in the hidden passages of a hotel he had used as his gang’s headquarters. A medical examiner was close by in case it was filled with the corpses of Capone’s rivals. Even agents of the Internal Revenue Service stood by to take any of the treasure found to pay for Capone’s back taxes. A concrete wall was removed and Geraldo Rivera stood with a microphone in hand eagerly waiting what would be behind that wall. When the camera crew entered that crypt the mystery was finally solved. Capone’s treasure consisted of an old sign, empty bottles and a pile of dirt.
Ah, mystery! It is what we find both revealed and hidden in the scripture when it comes to our relationship with the divine. Paul reveals the mystery! Like Geraldo at the vault Paul is peering inside to have the mystery peeled back, but another mystery slides into its place. What is revealed to Paul is that we are included in the grace of God through our relationship as followers of Christ. Surely, a God who is liberal enough to include us in salvation will clearly make the divine presence readily apparent to us who are following Christ’s way?
I would like to think of myself as a master of deduction, the perfect spiritual guide leading you directly to ecstatic communion with our God. Yet, I would be leading you astray if I didn’t point out that divine inclusively is only the beginning of our spiritual quest for the divine. There will be many times you will feel like the 30,000,000 viewers gathered with anticipation and left staring into the dark emptiness. Every mystic or spiritual pilgrim worth their salt has encountered the silence, the absence, the long loneliness of a relationship with the divine.
Some believe that God is like a commodity, something that can be bought or sold on the open market. They believe that if they embark upon a relationship with the divine they will instantly and permanently be rewarded with the overflowing presence of the creator in every aspect of their life. The divine is not limited by our capitalistic systems of exchange, nor are we promised everything will start turning out well as soon as we turn to God. Through our prayer and praise we are brought closer to the divine mystery.
What a sweet longing this mystery can be. It is the ache of a lover for the beloved, it is the hope in the consummation of all creation, a desire for our planet’s recovery, the understanding of a new life full of purpose, the realization that the divine is present in our actions done in community, a surprising growth in our wisdom over time and own acceptance of ourselves and others. These may not always be a pillar of fire and we may continue to pray, “I believe, help me with my unbelief,” but over time we will be able to rest secure that the mystery which reveals our acceptance is still an unfolding and inexhaustible mystery. It will be the type of mystery that will take our lives to solve.
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