Dave Brisbin 2.28.21
Second Sunday of Lent. Why do Jesus and Paul teach the way they do? Why do they both tell us that the Way to new and abundant life is by focusing on what is invisible, conquering by yielding, resting under a yoke, becoming free by becoming a slave, reigning by serving, being great by being small, becoming wise by being a fool, triumphing through defeat, living by dying, being strong by being weak? Maddening for people focused on the security and control implied in single, accurate, even formulaic answers. But a true encounter with God, a momentary view of life through God’s eyes, is necessarily at odds with the view from a human vantage. God always presents as a paradox between what we think is true and what is now possibly really true. As long as we’re breathing, we will need our human point of view, and until we’re ready to wrestle with how God’s reality fits into human lives, paradox will simply present as a contradiction. And unlike paradox, contradiction needs to be resolved.

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A contradiction is a set of opposing elements of which only one can be “true.” A paradox is a set of opposing elements designed to lead to a deeper insight, a truth that doesn’t resolve the paradox, but makes resolution moot. A paradox is not meant to be resolved; it’s meant to be wrestled. Twenty years after a transcendent encounter with God—the vision of a ladder between heaven and earth—Jacob is still only half-baked, halfway through the fortyness of his journey. But when he wrestles all night with the spirit of God, he is wounded, but through the wounding of his own self-sufficiency, God changes his name from Jacob, the schemer, to Israel, the one who has wrestled with God. A good teacher like Jesus or Paul knows that any encounter with God can only be authentically expressed as a paradox, left unresolved, because any single answer is just a picking of sides in a contradiction. A full stop to further truth. A good teacher knows that the process itself is the goal, that the wrestling, not a resolution, is the Way through the fortyness of any paradox we face: especially the fortyness of Lent leading to the central Christian paradox of how Jesus has died, yet lives.

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