“Blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
What? What’s John 20 doing here in a meditation on 1 Peter1? Is it so surprising that John and Peter (2 of the inner group of 3 disciples) should converse with each other?
“Blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed.”
1 Peter 1 is filled with delicious (because the Bread of Life is sandwiched in these verses) tensions and ironies – the kind of thing every student and especially teacher of literature can sink his teeth into. All throughout 1 Peter 1, I feel as if I have been put on the rack of faith, a faith that pulls at me because of the kingdom of heaven that is here and now but not yet, lived in a life that is the temple of the Holy Spirit and yet is not yet completely holy.
Verse 4 speaks of an inheritance reserved in heaven for me (but I’m stuck here on earth).
In verse 5 I’m told that I am kept by the power of God (but that my faith and salvation will only be fully revealed in the last time).
In verse 6, I am to greatly rejoice (but now on earth I am grieved by various trials).
Verse 7 rejoices me because my trials may lead to a faith more precious than gold and be found to praise, honor, and glory (but only at the revelation of Jesus Christ).
Him, I love, in verse 8 (but now I do not see Him).
In verse 9, I am receiving the salvation of my soul (but this is the end of my faith, and it is still in process).
Grace has come to me by verse 10 (but the prophets inquired into it, not seeing it).
The suffering of Christ is past by verse 11, and even His glory (but the prophets could only testify to them beforehand).
The prophets, suspended on the crux of time in verse 12, have ministered unto me (but not unto themselves).
The gospel has been preached to me (and even the angels desire to look into them).
You shall not crucify me on a Cross of Time!
How seemingly unfair of God, to set me on this cosmic merry-go-round called Earth and place the brass ring always just out of my reach until I lunge and plunge and exit this merry-go-round.
How excruciating it is sometimes! To try to believe in God and not see Him. To desire to see Him, and yet not to see Him. To be distracted by the things I see from Him who I cannot see but must. The evil things in my life persuade me there is no God, and the good things in my life persuade me that they are gods or that I am a god.
All the good stuff seems in the future, all the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, and joy and heaven and His blessed presence. It hardly seems fair. There’s a small consolation in knowing He’s been doing this to His prophets for millennia.
Why? Why, if He’s sent His Son to save the world, am I still able to be so blind and still hurt so much? One answer is that very Cross of Time I have been talking about. It was into this Cross of Time that He sent His Son, that self-sacrificing Lamb of God that offers Himself for the sins of the world. It hurt Him to enter time, and so it must hurt me. He entered time, the One beyond time, to redeem time and take it into His eternal present. He, too, He, especially, has felt the Cross of Time, and hung on it but also escaped it.What is it that can possibly unite the glorious future that He promises because He’s seen it and dwells in it, with me, who am still in my suffering present?
Faith. It is faith that bridges the Cross of Time and not only hangs on it with Christ but also escapes it, not meaning that we escape time itself but the Cross of Time in which what is perfect and promised is not yet here, the Cross of Time in which the gravitational pulls of earth and heaven threaten to tear me apart.
It is faith which brings me into the presence of God and His ever-present life.
Verse 5 also speaks of the faith by which I am kept by the power of God for salvation. And in verse 9 I am receiving the end, the goal, the completion, the fullness, of my faith. Though I am stuck here on earth, I am in the process of receiving heaven: I am not stuck after all. I am here in the present with God, by faith. I am not alone: there is Another bearing my Cross with me.
C.S. Lewis had Screwtape say this about time: “For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.”
In the present alone, Screwtape reminds us, and there alone, dwells all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure.
And so I will not lament being here in time or being here and now on the earth, for I am not alone. The God I hope to meet and experience in heaven is here, too, with me in the present. Here on earth, here in my suffering, and here in my faith.
And though I don’t see Him as I shall see Him in heaven, I see Him by faith, and He is here.
For the moment, that is all I know on earth, and all I need to know.
Prayer: Lord, I believe; I wish to believe in You; help me in my unbelief. Let my faith be full and unreserved, and let it penetrate my thought, my way of judging divine things and human things. Let my faith be joyful and give peace and gladness to my spirit and dispose it for prayer with God and conversation with men, so that the inner bliss of its fortunate possession may shine forth in sacred and secular conversation. Lord, let my faith be humble and not presume to be based on the experience of my thought and of my feeling; but let it surrender to the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
How much have you allowed earth to crowd out heaven? How much have you been attempting to live without the presence of the Lord? How much has pain from the past or fear for the future crowded out the present presence of God He wishes to share with you?
Resolution: I resolve to plan during one event or moment of time today to make a conscious attempt to turn to God and experience Him now. I resolve to allow His presence transform my present at that moment.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson