During Lent, I’m leading a small study of the Augsburg Confession. It takes place at a lovely apartment on Monday nights in a fantastic apartment looking down on Harlem (making me, inside, not-so-secretly jealous) and we’ve had a great group of participants. In our first week, I set out the historical context for the document and then we dived straight into Article II and IV. Yesterday, we continued with Article III and V. The great thing about this group is how open they are. Groups have personalities above and beyond just the individuals inside it and this group has a great personalities. Opinions, thoughts, concerns, questions, all can be shared in this little safe space. We have lifelong Lutherans, Missouri Synod confirmation kids, pastors, theologians, and even the-about-to-be-baptized, enjoying popcorn together and digging into a 500 year old piece document. It’s really great.
All day, I’ve been thinking about some of the things that were said last night – specifically about the idea of God meeting us/loving us where we are at. It was raised specifically in regard to the concept of Christ as satisfaction for our sins – i.e. Article III and IV to some degree – and I’ve been a tad stuck on it all day. I think what bugs me about that phrase is, at least to me, it just sounds so…static; time-sensititve; historical, momentary. I think, in a lot of ways, I project into that statement a time boundary. My next question is, always, what about next week? Or tomorrow? Or next month? If I’m a dynamic individual, who changes, then what does that phrase “God loving us where we are at” mean? I think an easy way is to merely expand what “at” means – God loves me at this point, and at this point, and at this point. But, in a lot of ways, that makes God a static character. Or, at least, God becomes a static character in God’s relationship to me. I think what really bothers me about that phrase (a phrase I’ll admit that I’ve used all the time) is that it loses the “for you” aspect of Lutheran Christian theology. Without the “for you” being explicit, laid out in concrete terms, I can easily not include myself in that theological phrase of what God does. Maybe, as Luther would say, that’s the old creature in me, trying to figure out how I can, through my own mad skillz, include myself in the sphere of God’s love. But when that phrase is changed, when Christ is made explicit, when the “for you” gets said and done to the point where I can’t even exclude myself out of that relationship…where it’s all a gift? That does it. It’s something I can’t fight even though I do all the time. And, in my mind, it lets God be dynamic, expansive, bigger than me, and I actually feel like, oh hey, God actually cares about me. It’s less “it’s not all up to me” and more “God made it not up to me.” That, that I can get behind. At that point, the phrase actually does something to me. Something happens; an action takes place; things move. Otherwise, I feel like I’m allowed to draw my own boundaries and, if that’s true, why do I get up so early every Sunday?