AND A STATEMENT OF FAITH
Last June, voting members at the Northern Illinois Synod’s Annual Assembly were given a gift, a book titled The Word of Jesus. It is a beautifully made little hardcover book with a dust jacket and a sewn-in ribbon marker. The pages are heavy slick stock. The book contains 60 quotations of Jesus’ words from the Gospels illustrated with 33 lovely photographs. It was compiled by Douglas Koons and Gideon Devanasen. I had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Devanasen once when he visited the United States. At that time he was bishop of the Arcot Lutheran Church in India. The Arcot Lutheran Church has a companion synod relationship with the Northern Illinois Synod.
A charming and intelligent man, Bishop Devaesan had a stroke in 2008 and had to resign his position with the church. The book was, apparently, a project that he and Douglas Koons undertook while the Bishop was making recovery.
Which brings me to my confession: When I picked up my copy of The Word of Jesus, I thought, “This is an extravagant gift” and it crossed my mind that the Arcot Lutheran should be receiving gifts from us, not giving them.
As soon as I thought it, I realized I was wrong. I like to think I’m an enlightened guy, but my own thoughts convicted me of a certain bigotry, an unwarranted assumption of cultural superiority.
This stuff runs deep in us.
So to my note of thanks: I used The Word of Jesus as bedtime devotional reading for about two weeks, contemplating the quotations, getting lost in the photographs and praying that Jesus’ words might take flesh in my own life. I am grateful for this generous gift from the Arcot Lutheran Church. I intend to write thank you notes both to our companion synod and to Douglas Koons.
I won’t mention, but I am no less grateful for, the gift of having my eyes opened to the deep-seated flaw in my character, my assumption of cultural superiority.
And the statement of faith: At the end of the book there are two sections of “Commentary,” one by Douglas Koons and the other by Gideon Davenasen. This quote from Koons’s commentary struck me as particularly trenchant and insightful:
“Faith is a surrendering of ourselves unto God as God has surrendered unto us in Jesus Christ. It is not about sets of belief systems created by various Christian communitines that must be seen as correct ways to think of Jesus. For there is no idea or creed, doctrine or theology that can adequately express the grace that is faith. When we are scattered, disbelieving and distracted by all of life’s intensity, God is present in our lives. As there is light even in the shadows of the earth, God’s grace is present in our doubt. An early follower of Jesus was a man named Paul. In one of his letters to the disciples at Corinth he writes, ‘For now we see though a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but t hen shall I know even as I also am known.”
The illustration accompanying this post is a page from The Word of Jesus. The image was found at the publisher's website, here.