The Hidden God……

by Edie Wadsworth on December 21, 2008

I’ve been reading a lot about the topic Christless christianity and how our inborn sinful nature is always bent towards self. We are by nature self-centered, self-focused and our perspective is always self oriented and is always distorted. Man’s natural theology is, in Lutheran circles, called a theology of glory. The rich man and Lazarus would be a good example. The rich man seemingly had everything……the world by the tail. He wore the finest garments, drank the finest wine and ate gourmet food. Lazarus in contrast seems to be a poor beggar who waits for the crumbs to fall from the rich man’s table. Based on just what you know on the surface, who is favored by God? We would often naturally conclude that the rich man must be favored by God. And we would almost always at least in our minds say “Well surely Lazarus has done something to deserve this”. 

A theology of glory likes to ‘figure God out’ and likes to use logic to determine how things are between God and me. Don’t we often think this about those who do not seem to have God’s favor in this life? “Well, God must be trying to teach them something.” If we’re blessed and making moral improvement, we must be ‘right’ with God. And if not, well then the opposite must be true. But as you know, in death the rich man finds himself in hell and Lazarus is comforted in the bosom of Abraham. So can I look at my circumstances in life and tell how it is between God and I? How does God show His favor to those He loves? And how can I know if I have His favor? God hides His glory behind the weakness of the cross. And he shows His favor to us through the death and resurrection of His own son for our redemption. And I know I have His favor because I receive the gifts He has given in faith and thanksgiving. I am favored by God because of Jesus. Thus, a theology of the cross……interprets everything in my life……the blessings, the suffering, every circumstance through the perfect suffering of Christ on my behalf.

God’s ways are hidden and paradoxical:

1. God hides His glory in the mundane elements of bread and wine. Jesus has withdrawn His visible presence from the earth. He is now the hidden God and we must depend on His word to know what He is about. So when God says “Take eat, this is my body”, He is hidden, in-with-and under the bread. We don’t ‘see’ Him there and it seems impossible to me that He is there. So I must trust His very own words and find comfort in His hidden presence in His Word and sacrements.

2. He hides His glory in the weakness of a baby. When He comes to earth, He does not come in glory but in the flesh. The very incarnation of Christ is so incredible to me. How can this be? It was scandalous then and seems scandalous now and so unlike how I would have chosen to reveal myself to the world. The smallness of God in a lowly manger on a lonely night greeted by mere animals and born of the travail and sweat of childbirth. This is God? Yes, this is the very essence of the truth of God. Humbled. Lowly. With His glory hidden. To bring to us our very salvation.

3. He hides Himself in our vocation. God achieves His means of serving and taking care of us through the hiddenness of others doing their vocation. So God hides himself in : a mother making dinner for her family; a father going to work everyday to provide; a doctor using his skills and knowledge to effect healing; a teacher teaching multiplication to her students; the garbage man collecting the trash. It all ‘looks’ and ‘seems’ so mundane…..but that is God at work in the world. Serving and taking care of His people.

So we must take heed to let the theologian of glory in all of us be crucified with Christ. We must accept His ways as mysterious and hidden….. as not yet revealed. Whether our circumstances bring us joy or suffering, our posture to God should be one of repentance; a lensing of all of life through the cross of Christ. For in him are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3) He will come in glory someday and we await that day with great anticipation.  But until then, He has hidden Himself in things that might seem ordinary and even mysterious to us: words, water, bread and wine.

 Luther said that Our Lord does not want to be found outside Christ….so he hides Himself in order to be found only in the grace and mercy of Christ. He seldom comes where we expect or look for Him: in victory and glory and glitz. He comes where we do not expect him: in suffering, in shame, in humility, as a baby, in His word, in the water of baptism, in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. God wants to be found in the words of the promise in Christ that give new life.   If we find Him outside of Christ, we find Him in wrath.  
The ‘hidden’ God is hidden in Christ….come to us in the flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior and who says “I am the way, the Truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except through Me.”

Much of what goes on in modern Christianity seems very Christ-less; alot about ‘me’ instead of Christ ‘for me’.  We are favored by God because of Christ alone. 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica December 21, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Edie,

OK so I know I said “you always say what’s inside my head” but I lied. You have a lot more goin’ on up there than I do. You are brilliant and I heart reading your posts. I only wish they didn’t fly so high over my head, but I’m trying! :) Have a cozy and restful sabbath day.

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2 Sandy Toes December 22, 2008 at 3:59 am

E-
Great words..wow!!!
-sandy toes

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3 Hi! I'm Kirsten... December 22, 2008 at 4:56 am

Oh man Edie, got me crying again.

My friend Sarah is dying of cancer. They only discovered it one month ago and already she is in the treatment of Hospice. She is so so young, leaving behind 3 small kids and a devastated husband. I’ve heard more than one person lately mutter over what she must have done wrong and it’s just angered me to the point of exhaustion. I don’t believe God works like that either, but it’s good to know someone else understands that too.

It’s been a rough few weeks here Edie, but I find joy in your blog. Love and peace to you in the week ahead.

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4 Denise December 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Trying to figure things out and add things up one way or the other is the natural way of man. Guilty here! It does make us feel better to be able to justify the bad. Don’t we say to our kids when they get hurt after doing what we tell them not to, “Well, you got what you deserved. Maybe next time, you’ll listen to me.” YIKES!

Aren’t we glad that God doesn’t respond to us that way and give us what we deserve?

I struggle with the whys everyday, but am certain that all things work together for good. In that I find rest and peace from time to time–at least when I am not kicking and screaming over the injustice of it all! ;)

Thanks for another thought provoking post to get my day going.

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5 Jennifer December 23, 2008 at 6:13 am

This was a WONDERFUL post and one that I will print and read at leisure. Have you been listening to White Horse Inn, by any chance? They have spent the year discussing Christless Christianity…and Mike Horton has a new book out with that same title. Have you seen it?

This must have taken a lot of thought. Thanks for taking the time to share it, I look forward to reading it more thoroughly – and I think I’ll link to it on my blog.

Grace and peace,
Jen

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6 Denise December 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm

these words are a breath of fresh air today. this has been my desire for a while now..eyes on jesus and off me.
with the go, do, get, do more, of christmas… well i need(ed) to refocus. thanks for these words today.

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