IV Press Article 4-12-19 ### The power of mystery

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The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.

—Albert Schweitzer


I remember reading about the life of Albert Schweitzer, a remarkable person of many talents. He was a well-known organist, theologian, physician and author. His book, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus” was on many seminary professors must read list. The interesting thing about the book, which was Schweitzer’s doctoral thesis, is that, in the end, all Schweitzer could say about the historical Jesus is, “He comes to us as one unknown.”

Albert Schweitzer had read every book ever written about Jesus, had read Scripture throughly, and concluded that the historical Jesus was difficult to pin down. One of the characteristics of religion, of any religion, is the practitioner’s sense of mystery. The element of mystery is what draws us into relationship with the divine.

Another early 20th Century theologian, Rudolph Otto, in his book, “The Idea of the Holy,” wrote that any encounter with the divine is both terrifying and fascinating. We want to run away, but can’t because we are so drawn to it.

The ineffability of God is what draws us to God. The mystery of God is what draws us to God.

I mean, if we knew all there was to know about God how exciting would that be? Some of you might be saying, “But we do know all there is to know about God,” or at least our preacher does! If that is the case, let me ask you a question. We just read or heard about the first photo of a phenomenon in space called a black hole. Einstein predicted they were present, but we never had visual proof until now.

We know a lot about the universe, but we don’t know all there is to know about the universe. So if that is the case, and God created the universe, how can we claim we know all there is to know about God, but can’t say the same about the thing God created?

And what about the fact that God says over and over again, “See, I’m doing a new thing.” How can we know God completely if God is always doing something new, something we didn’t expect?

Jesus is a great example of God doing a new thing. No one expected Jesus. Oh there were clues scattered throughout the Scriptures. But no one expected Jesus.

That is why this next week is so important for Christians all over the world. It’s the week we call Holy. In fact, early Christians thought it so important they took 40 days to prepare for it, took a week to enter into its mystery, celebrated it for three days, and reflected on it for 50 days beyond that. Almost one out of every three days each calendar year is spent on Easter, whether preparing, or celebrating, or reflecting on.

But sadly, in our hyper-busy, overly networked lives we Christians might barely spend one day, Easter Sunday, celebrating the most significant event in human history. And that event?

God has entered into human history, revealed to us that death is not the ultimate power in the universe, showed us how to be truly human, gave us the opportunity to participate in the work of creating communities of agape love (agape love — a love for, and active work on behalf of, the least and lowest).

The mystery of this all comes to us in the actions of washing each other’s feet, sharing a meal of bread and wine, standing in the presence of the power of death, a death we enter into ourselves in order to experience the fullness of life as God intended for us.

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!