Connections 04.17.2022: The Mystery of Faith

Romans 6:1-14

As we edge toward Easter, the coming springtime and the celebration of new life seems almost absurd alongside the constant barrage of disruption, distraction, and disunity in the world around us. When we profess belief in the God who brings all things together, who makes all things new, and who defeats death itself, we raise our voices in spite of—perhaps because of—all evidence to the contrary. Everything feels torn apart. History repeats itself. Death is still with us.

Still, as a communion liturgy says, “we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

The mystery of faith.

When things feel upside-down, we tend to cling to certainties. We dig in our heels and insist that we absolutely, 100% Know what is absolutely, 100% True, because being sure feels like being safe. But there’s no time like Easter to remember that faith is an experience of the unknown. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. These deceptively simple statements are breadcrumbs on the trail, clues we piece together in hopes of getting just a glimpse of the whole inconceivable mystery of faith.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, though he sounds awfully certain, he is really trying to put this very mystery into human language. What does it mean to be “baptized into Christ’s death” (v. 3)? How can we be “united with him in a resurrection like his” (v. 4)? If the life Christ now lives is to God, then how are we to live as if we too have come back to life (v. 11)? Paul’s teachings may seem deceptively simple and his certainty may feel reassuring. But it is not certainty we proclaim every Easter, every Lord’s Supper, even every Sunday. It is this mystery. Paul proclaims it just by trying to put it into words; we are still trying today.

There’s no time like Easter to remember that this mystery is to be proclaimed—not solved, not Sherlocked—but proclaimed by our very lives when our words are not enough. Every single day that we live, we experience and express this mystery. Every time some part of us dies, we have a chance to die with Christ. Every time new life catches us by surprise, we have a chance to experience Christ’s resurrection. With every breath that links us to God’s whole creation, we have a chance to live as Christ’s body.

And so we proclaim the mystery of faith, of Easter, of life and death—of Christ’s life and death, and our own in him:

Christ has died—and we have been united with him in death. Christ is risen—and we will share his resurrection. Christ will come again—and in him, we too are alive to God.

Discussion

  • Are you more comfortable with certainty or with mystery in your life and in your faith life? What are the benefits and drawbacks of certainty? What are the benefits and drawbacks of mystery?
  • Have you ever struggled in your faith life because you did not feel as certain as you thought you should? Have you experienced people or places who allowed space for you to question, doubt, wonder, or just express unknowing?
  • How could you practice “uncertainty” as a faith discipline? What might it look like if you engaged with God as an experience of mystery, wonder, and asking questions instead of certainty, dogma, and seeking answers?
  • Think about ways we encounter mysteries in our culture: in books and movies, escape rooms, “Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe,” and so on. The goal of all these is to solve the mystery. How does this differ from the “mystery of faith”? How might you come to rest in faith as a mystery to be experienced and proclaimed, not a puzzle to be solved?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

  1. Could someone explain why, on Easter Sunday, the editors did not use scripture from RCL?
    Why should we study the experiences of baptism on the day we celebrate the Resurrection?

    • Katie Cummings says

      Hi Craig,
      Romans 6:3-11, contained within the Connections lesson text of Romans 6:1-14, is the New Testament reading for the Easter Vigil in the RCL, Year C. The full listing of Easter texts can be found here. We endeavored to explore the connection between Christ’s resurrection and baptism in the study and teaching guides as well as the commentary. However, the short answer as to why the experiences of baptism are relevant as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection may be found in verses 3-4: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” We pray you and your class will have a joyous and meaningful Easter Sunday, regardless of what passages you choose to study.

Leave a Comment

*