Monday, December 26, 2011

Receiving...or being Received

This morning as I was spending time with God, I read this in Thomas à Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, "I desire, Lord, to give myself to You as a voluntary offering and to be Yours eternally. With a sincere heart I give myself to You this day, as Your servant forever, wishing to serve You in obedience and as a sacrifice of endless praise. Receive me..."
Receive me. These words jumped off of the page at me. The text from à Kempis was in the context of the Eucharist. So, I can see how 'receiving' is related to sharing the Body and Blood. Receiving the elements in a manner that brings a reality to Christ's offering himself on our behalf. But, something else also caught my brain. In many religious circles people are taught that they must 'receive Christ.' Receive him as Lord and/or Saviour. This concept is taken directly from the Gospel according to John 1:12, "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (2011 NIV). This is one verse. One verse that has been used to define an entire generation, or more, of church-goers. But, does it accurately reflect who we are to become in Christ? Reception of something infers the conferring of ownership and control. When I receive a gift, it becomes mine. I own it. I can control it. Now, I am confident that when pressed no one would acknowledge that this is their motivation. I'm sure that they would say that the idea is more about sharing in the life and mission of Jesus in a personal way. But, I've heard way too many speak of Jesus in manner that indicates otherwise. There is a sense that I am in control of my faith and destiny rather than fellow-workers with the Holy Spirit.
I see, rather, a sense in the Scripture that we have been, and are being, received by Christ. The Gospels are full of stories about Jesus searching, seeking, turning things upside down to find a lost coin, leaving the herd in search of the one. This so he could receive us brothers, sisters and mothers. John continued by stating that no one could snatch those that belonged to him, (re. those he had received), from his hand. It appears that Jesus is the One who desires to be in control. By 'receiving' all things, he is claiming His rightful place as κύριος, Lord, over all. Paul got it. Throughout his epistles he wrote of Jesus being Lord over all things. In 1 Cor. 15: 25 he wrote that all things would be subjected to Christ, who would be himself subjected to God. Then all things would be "all in all." I don't get the sense that God is taking anything other than dominion over enemies. All other things seem to have been received. I know this is a stretch, but I want to make the point that it is we who are received by God through Christ. We who are subjects of the Divine reign. We who have been found and secured by Jesus. We, who together with the rest of creation, are held in God's hand, protected, nourished, loved on, cared for because we are God's. Not because God is ours. As I reflected on this, I was compelled to join with the Apostle Paul and exclaim, "For from him and through him are all things. To him be the glory forever? Amen" (Rom. 11:36).

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