When I was a theology student, one quote which stuck with me was “pastors are stewards of the mystery”. As a pastor, it, at times, is frustrating that I can’t explain all the ways of God. Take a step back and reflect on that concept for a moment. If we could explain all that God does and grasps His every moment, would He still really be God? As the Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck writes, “Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics”. In worship, we see those mysteries on full display on a weekly basis. We come to God’s house and should expect to be awed.
Embracing the Mystery
16Then I set my mind to know wisdom and to observe the business that happens on earth, even going without sleep day and night 17I observed all the work of God—that no one can grasp what happens under the sun. Those who strive to know can’t grasp it. Even the wise who are set on knowing are unable to grasp it.”– Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 (CEB)
A. W. Tozer shares this great insight. “When the Holy Spirit comes and opens heaven until people stand astonished at what they see, and in astonished wonderment confess His uncreated loveliness in the presence of that most ancient mystery, then you have worship. If it is not mysterious, there can be no worship; if I can understand God, then I cannot worship God. I will never get on my knees and say, “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I can figure out. That which I can explain will never overawe me, never fill me with astonishment, wonder or admiration….”
Tozer nails it. We accept that there are things about God and His ways we will never comprehend. The reality of this truth keeps us humble. At the moment we think we have figured God out, He surprises us. He remains a mystery.
Isaiah reminds us of this eternal truth.
“8My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans.” -Isaiah 55:8-9
As Charles Spurgeon says, “I worship a God I never expect to comprehend. If I could grasp him in the hollow of mine hand, I could not call him my God; and if I could understand his dealings so that I could read them as a child reads his spelling book, I could not worship him…”
The Elements of Mystery in Worship
The Power of the Word of God
17Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.
18The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18
“The world and words of Christ passed down in Sacred Scripture are never more alive than when prayed and proclaimed in the mystery of the Mass.” – Fr. Patrick J Winslow
What a joy to be invited by the Father to come and be fed with the life-giving words of Christ. In worship, we share this event with fellow believers and honored guests, as the Holy Spirit pours the power of God’s word into our hearts.
The Gifts of Grace in the Lord’s Supper and Baptism
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28).
These divine gifts of the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism are offered by God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins. We can’t fully comprehend how this side of paradise. Many have tried to explain how, when simple bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, but instead of focusing on understanding it we simply receive these mysterious blessings by faith. The water joined with the word and the bread and wine, becoming the body and blood of Christ have embedded in them a promise and power to save, guaranteed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Mystery in worship and faith is good because it allows us to have that sense of awe at the wonders and the working of our Almighty and power God. Embrace the mystery, be in awe of the wonders of His love and mercy, rejoice in the forgiveness offered.
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