March 17, 2012

Lenten Meditation From Rev. John Willison: Knowing Beyond Knowledge



From Sacramental Meditations and Advices, by Rev. John Willison (1821). “Meditation XIII.”  Read or download the full text of Willison’s book here

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“O love that passes knowledge! How shall I think of it and not stand amazed! That the general should die for the soldier, the physician for the patient! That the righteous Judge of Heaven should come to the bar, put Himself in the malefactor’s clothes, and be condemned for him!

That the blessed Son of God should interpose his innocent breast to receive the moral stroke for us! That God all-sufficient should be exposed to hunger and thirst, to grief and weariness, and the vilest reproaches and indignities, for worms like us! Behold the Creator of the world wounded, mangled, and killed by ungrateful creatures, whom He came to save! ... Behold His heart burning with affection towards them that cruelly pierced it!

Surely a believing view of this love of Christ is sufficient to mollify (soften and warm) a heart more cold and frozen than ice itself! O love unfathomable! Who can measure its dimensions!

It has a height without a top, a depth without a bottom, a breadth without a side, a length without end. Astonishing love! That my exalted lord should stoop so low as to become a man, a dying man, and also a dead man, for such a wretch as me. No, more, that He should stoop to be made a curse, and lie under a dreadful load of wrath upon his innocent soul, infinitely more heavy that what is laid upon any damned soul in hell!

O what a sea of wrath did my loving Jesus swim through to save me from perishing.”
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There is something about Easter that doesn’t carry the warm fuzziness of Christmas. That something is pain, suffering, and death. After all of these, we celebrate life and resurrection.

But first things first. 

“According to the Scriptures, Jesus died for our sins.” How many of us learned a version of this in Sunday School or some other church school activity? Easter is a definite “in your face” moment, because we can’t escape this truth: without God, we are unredeemed sinners, people who love what is not right, people who don’t seek God on our own, and people who cannot recognize or appreciate good because of our own spiritual blindness.

God loved (and continues to love) us enough to make it right, at His expense, not ours.  This is a pride-killing insight, something that is not knowable apart from divine revelation. We cannot take credit for any of the goodness that emerges from Lent, Easter, and the Ascension. And yet, this is where all that is truly good and truly life begins.

On my own, I cannot appreciate or understand or even believe how deep, powerful and personal God’s love for me is. Miracle of miracles: I can know the unknowable, I can know beyond knowledge I can open my heart to see, feel, and enjoy the love of God. The way is open.  That is the message of Easter.

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