The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

March 14, 2010

Church - A Response to Jaqueline #1


As always your questions are so thoughtful and challenging, that they are worth a post all on their own (actually two posts).

struggle with no reward? Is God asking that of us?

In Matthew 6:6 Jesus is reported to have said, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” - so, no we are not called to struggle with “no reward.” But I think we need to be careful here.

The really important word in this verse is the word “secret;” it occurs twice. In ancient Christian tradition it was understood to mean, “not apprehensible by our normal sensual faculties.” God is “in secret” – ie. we cannot see, smell, taste, touch, or hear God in the way we normally experience things using these faculties.

There are certainly blessings God gives that function on the sensual/physical plane. Creation, art, music, poetry, friendship, love are all blessings given by God and perceptible by our senses. But they are not rewards in the sense that we have earned them or received them by virtue of our effort, hard work, spirituality, or righteousness. These things are gifts, pure gift.

But there is a “reward” God gives; but it is given in secret, that is beyond our normal faculties. The rewards we receive from God function on a level of being that is deeper than the material or sensual dimension. They are not directly apprehensible through our feelings. They function on the level where we just know that we know that God with us, is in us, and sustains us. This is the faith dimension. It is deeper than rational knowing and deeper than emotional feeling. This is where we perceive the “reward” God gives.

The problem with thinking of “rewards” in any other way is that then we start to pursue the reward rather than God. And anything other than God that we pursue will always let us down. If we do church for the reward of warm fellowship, ecstatic worship, or great preaching, the day will come when the fellowship starts to hurt, the worship falls flat, and the preaching is boring. If we do church for the reward, we will not stay long in the same church because it will let us down. We will eventually walk away in search of more tantalizing rewards.

Which brings up your second set of questions (and Rob’s comment) that I will deal with in a later post.

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