Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Word

John 1:1 -- Hebrews 4:12 -- Ephesians 2:1-11

Tonight, I'll be teaching confirmation students about "The Bible." So for the past 2 weeks, off and on, I've been thinking about scripture and it's relevance in my life. I've taught on the subject numerous times--at youth group, at camp, and even to confirmation students before, but each time there's a pressure to be sure I get it right. There's a pressure to make students "get it." I remember hearing talks about the importance of Bible reading, quiet time, study groups, etc. throughout my life, and yet, I don't remember every really "getting it." So what can I say that's different?

My mom read a Jane Goodall quote to me this morning that said, "What you do makes a difference. What you need to decide is what kind of difference you want to make." I decided to write it down, but I wasn't sure why. As I write this, it came back to mind, because it occurs to me that it probably doesn't matter what I say tonight or how I say it. Followers of Christ have to read it for themselves. We'll never understand the importance or the relevance of scripture until we read it. Until we decide to carve out time in our busy lives to rest and read in the presence of God, we'll never realize the power of transformation possible to us. Until we place ourselves in a Bible Study group, we'll never experience the love and grace that is available to ALL.

Father Liem from Our Lady of the Cove Catholic Church spoke at one of the Friday Lenten services, and he asked several questions about how we treat "the Word."
He asked questions like these:
--How do you treat the Word?
--Do you carry the Word around in your purse, pocket or backpack?
--Do you use it only in case of emergencies?
--Could you live without it?
--If not, how do you show the world that you can't live without it?

Then, he reminded us of John 1:1, and he began to talk about how we treat our cell phones. He said that when we forget our cell phones, we turn around and go back for them. He reminded us that we never want to be without them. Why? They are a communication tool, we might need them for an emergency--for us to call out but also for 911 to know where we are, we might want them for entertainment: taking pictures, listening to music, playing games. Whatever it is we use our cell phones for...we don't want to be without them. We check them for missed calls and text messages. We use them as reference guides for phone numbers, appointments, the calculator, the internet, etc. We use them to express ourselves--not only in conversation but with the kind of phone we carry, the embellishments we put on them, the screensaver we choose, the ringtones we buy. I had a student, whose parents took her phone away, tell me that her parents just don't understand what that does to her. That her phone is an extension of herself--like her right arm. I think she may be right.

Father Liem wonders if we treat our cell phones with more importance than with the Word of God. We walk out of houses everyday without recharging ourselves with God's Word. The life that we have so abundantly takes precedence over the Source of our abundance. We aren't so stressed about not being in the Word, as we are when we forget our phones or when our phones malfunction or when we lose service.

John said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."
So if the Word is Jesus, how do we answer the same, now more haunting, questions that were posed above?
--How do you treat Jesus?
--Do you carry Jesus around in your heart?
--Do you use Jesus only in case of emergencies?
--Could you live without Jesus?
--If not, how do you show the world that you can't live without Him?

Indeed, the Word of God is living and active...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

John 18:1-19:37 -- Philippians 2:3-8

It was about noon when Pilate said to the Chief Priests and the police, "Here is your King!" And they cried out, "Crucify him!"

Jesus did nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.
In humility, Jesus regarded others as better than himself.
Jesus didn't look to his own interests, but to the interests of others.
Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.

Jesus said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus bowed his head as a sign of submission to God and to prove that the cross was his choice. I read that normally, when people are crucified, they lift their heads to gasp for breath, then drop their heads when they die.

Jesus first declared his mission accomplished, then he bowed his head, then he died. Jesus chose us over himself. It's been a long day, but not nearly as long as it must have been for the disciples. They didn't have resurrection glasses. We do, and it gives us hope.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Thursday

John 13:1-17

"For the sepulchre was nigh at hand." I heard these words tonight at the Maundy Thursday service. In fact, the readings for the entire service were from the King James Version of the Bible. As I listened, I was really taken in by the beauty of the language and the way it was spoken. The strangeness of the language added to the mystery of God's great love story. And yet, I also found myself wondering if the King James language was the best choice. It seemed like language for the insider, for people who already know the story. I noticed people in the service I didn't know. I noticed young children sitting quietly at their parents side. And I wondered if what I was finding so beautiful...and haunting, fell on confused ears. For the sepulchre was nigh, in other words "the tomb was nearby" (so saith the NIV) or "the tomb was convenient" (so saith The Message). If the words aren't understood by the listener, can the story be experienced?

All of this has nothing to do with the scripture reading from John, it's just something I've been thinking about for the last few hours. This scripture is the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Have you ever had your feet washed? I have, and it's very humbling. Both times I've found myself very aware of myself, of my unworthiness. It made me nervous, and I felt totally out of my comfort zone. I can only imagine that what I experienced must have also been felt by some of the disciples.

This time when read it, I focused less on myself and the disciples. The text says, "Jesus knew that his hour had come..." and "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands..." and "he knew who was to betray him..." Jesus knew his time on earth was up. Jesus knew he had the power not to go to the cross. He knew that his time on earth was a gift. Jesus knew we would fail him. And yet, he got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself, poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He was very deliberate, and I sense that not only was he teaching us to serve one another but he was emptying himself of his power. In that simple act of service and that great act of love, our Savior was methodically humbling himself of his very being. And then he says, "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."

I know these things. I am blessed. But, I rarely do them. I'm more like Mac Davis singing the chorus of the old country song, "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble..." It is hard to be humble. Jesus set us an example, that we also should do as He has done to his disciples. Easier said than done.

Holy Wednesday (on Thursday)

Matthew 26:36-56 -- 2 Corinthians 5:21

The red letters:
  • Sit here while I go over there and pray.
  • I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.
  • My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.
  • So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
  • My Father, if this can not pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
  • Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.
  • Friend, do what you are here to do.
  • Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen this way?
  • Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

When I read these words, I am amazed by the range of emotions, the resolve, the deep understanding, and the love of Jesus. He wanted so desperately for Peter, James and John--of all his followers--to get it. To understand what was happening. To pray with him. The scripture tell us that Jesus was grieved and agitated. And his three closest friends, most faithful followers...slept. He urged them time and again to stay awake, to pray.

There is much debate about what Jesus meant when he prayed about the "cup" passing from him. Some believe that Jesus prayed for some other way to save sinners than for him to die. Others hold that Jesus, in his humanity, feared that Satan might kill him in the Garden. Thus, he was prepared to die there--if it was God's will. The other view is that the cup means separation from God. Jesus knew what suffering eternal death for sin meant, and he feared the experience of bearing the sins of the world, because he knew God would turn his face from him when he became sin for us. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21.)

I'm not sure which camp I fall into. I did notice this time a curious question Jesus asks when he's being arrested. He says, "But how then would scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen this way?" In the past, I always read that as more of a question that needs no answer. Like it was more a statement of resolve than an actual question. This time though, actually typing out the red letters, looking only at Jesus' perspective, I wonder if it was actually a question. I wonder if when he asked God about the possibility of the cup being passed from him and then this question, if his humanity wasn't
looking for an alternative route. One thing is clear, Jesus wanted to save us from eternal death. Jesus wanted God's will. But to want another way to get there? That seems reasonable. To want not to be separated from God? That seems like something to fear.

Notice Jesus' interactions with his disciples. To Peter, James and John, he understands--more than anyone else--that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. They can't stay awake while he is grieved unto death, and Jesus understands. Then Judas comes and betrays him with a kiss. And what does Jesus say, "Friend..." He still ate with him at the last supper, he still calls him friend. And finally, when Peter wakes up, realizes what's going on, he tries to fulfill his promise to be with Jesus even unto death. He pulls his sword, which is interesting in and of itself. Why did Peter even have a sword? Did he always carry one? He was a fisherman, not a warrior. Anyway, he pulls his sword and cuts off a guys ear, and Jesus rebukes him. Jesus reminds Peter of who he is and the power he has. Jesus subtly reminds Peter that this is his choice and that scripture is being fulfilled.

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

It's uncomfortable to read this story, because we know we wouldn't have done any better. We know that the story of the disciples failing is our story. But we can take comfort in also knowing that Jesus chose the cross anyway.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Tuesday (on Wednesday)

Matthew 26:14-35

What does this scene tell us about God? What does it tell us about ourselves? And what does it tell us about our relationship with God? These are three questions I often ask myself as I read scripture. (I think I learned it from Disciple.)

What does this scripture tell me about God?
God has a plan. "Go into the city to a certain man..." "...after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee."
God is all-knowing.
God knows the future. "One of you will betray me."
"Woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." Remember what happened to Judas after the betrayal? "You will all become deserters because of me this night..." " will deny me three times."
God desires to spend time with us.
"He took his place with the twelve..." How many places were there? Who else was at the last supper? "...Jesus took the loaf of bread...then he took the cup...he gave it to them...when they sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

What does this scripture tell me about myself?
I think I know best. "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" Don't you think Judas was trying to force Jesus into being the revolutionary, the King, that Judas knew he could be? Maybe I'm a sucker, but I have compassion for Judas. And if Judas hadn't betrayed Jesus, how would God's plan have been fulfilled?
I like to have a know the plan. "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" I don't always follow a plan, but I like to have one. I like to know what's going to happen next.
I know that I have good intentions, but I don't always follow through. "Surely not I, Lord?" It's interesting to me that all of the disciples asked that question. I think to ask it, is to know that it is possibly you. "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." "And so said all the disciples." And so say I, and yet...

What does this scripture tell me about my relationship with God?
God and I love each other. God's love is pure, unending, unchanging. The fact that Jesus took his place with the twelve, that he broke the bread with them, that he told them what was going to happen--even though he knew they would betray him, they would scatter, that they wondered aloud if they were the one, Jesus stayed. That's a love beyond comprehension. My love for God is less. I paused there with "My love for God is" for a long time. The only thing I can come up with is less. I want to love like Jesus, but I'm not there yet. Thankfully, that's not a condition on the love that God has for me.

My favorite line is from Matthew 26:27..right at the end. Jesus says, "Drink for it, all of you..." ALL OF YOU. Friends, disciples, deserters, betrayer...all of you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy Monday

Matthew 26:1-13 -- Mark 14:3-9 -- John 12:1-8

It was just before Passover, and our Savior was headed toward Jerusalem--fully aware of the plot against him, fully aware of the failures of his disciples, fully aware that the road led to the cross. Today we read three accounts of the same story--Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus with perfume, and the disciples (not just Judas) were indignant. It is said that the cost of the perfume was a year's wages. Can you imagine buying something that cost a year's wages? Something that you can hold in your hand that would cost an entire year's salary?? And then, to pour it out onto someone's head?

It seems to me that the disciples made a good point about the perfume being sold and the money being given to the poor. After all, isn't that the kind of sacrifice Jesus had asked of others? To sell their possessions and give to the poor? It's hard to balance, to comprehend, to live out our lives in the way Jesus taught. One thing, however, is clear. We're to put God first. God before our costly perfumes. God before the poor. God before our families. God before our sports and our scholarships and our jobs and our bills and our friends and our cars and our favorite tv shows. God first. And that is what Mary did.

Three stories come to mind when I think about the person: Mary of Bethany, and three times she shows us what is most important. When she sits at Jesus' feet, while her sister, Martha, prepares and fusses and worries about many things. When she falls to Jesus' feet weeping over the death of her brother, Lazarus, and Jesus weeps with her. And in this beautiful story, when she anoints Jesus for his burial. It seems like Mary is the only one who gets what's going on...what's going to happen to Jesus. It seems like Mary is the only one who understands the choice that Jesus makes. The disciples are dense. The people are dense. Everyone is looking for a political king. But Mary. There is indeed, something about Mary. Mary knew Jesus. Mary isn't anointing Jesus with costly perfume because he's valuable, but because he's everything. Mary anoints Jesus' head because she knows that Jesus is her King. Mary knows that Jesus is her God. Mary knows that Jesus loves her. Mary knows that Jesus is going to die to save her. Mary knows. Mary gets it. Mary shows incredible courage and extravagant generosity, because she knows.

Jesus says that everywhere the Gospel is told--in all the world--that Mary will be remembered for what she did. I wonder how you and I will be remembered? I wonder if I will I ever learn to love God more than everyone and everything else? I wonder if I will ever trust God enough to give everything?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why the Cross?

Isaiah 53:10-12 -- Jeremiah 20:10-13 -- John 10:31-42

The answer to the question posed in the title is one of the mysteries of God that I suppose will never be fully understood. The Isaiah text answers it, yet because we can't really wrap our minds around it we continue to ask. There is a great song by Nichole Nordeman called Why?, here are the words:

We rode into town the other day
Just me and my Daddy
He said I'd finally reached that age
And I could ride next to him on a horse
That of course was not quite as wide

We heard a crowd of people shouting
And so we stopped to find out why
And there was that man
That my dad said he loved
But today there was fear in his eyes

So I said "Daddy, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?
Why is He dressed in that bright purple robe?
I'll bet that crown hurts Him more than He shows
Daddy, please can't you do something?
He looks as though He's gonna cry
you said he was stronger than all of those guys
Daddy, please tell me why
Why does everyone want him to die?"

Later that day the sky grew cloudy
And Daddy said I should go inside
Somehow he knew things would get stormy
Boy was he right
But I could not keep from wondering
If there was something he had to hide

So after he left I had to find out
I was not afraid of getting lost
So I followed the crowds
To a hill where I knew men had been killed
And I heard a voice come from the cross

And it said, "Father, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?
Why are they casting their lots for My robe?
This crown of thorns hurts Me more than it shows
Father, please can't You do something?
I know that You must hear My cry
I thought I could handle the cross of this size
Father, remind Me why
Why does everyone want Me to die?
When will I understand why?"

"My precious Son, I hear them screaming
I'm watching the face of the enemy beaming
But soon I will clothe You in robes of My own
Jesus, this hurts Me much more than You know
But this dark hour I must do nothing
Though I've heard Your unbearable cry
The power in Your blood destroys all of the lies
Soon You'll see past their unmerciful eyes
Look there below, see the child
Trembling by her father's side
Now I can tell You why
She is why You must die

Even reading those words again gives me goose bumps. (By the way, Kelsey Kukal-Keeton will be singing this song at our Good Friday service at noon. I'm so excited!) Back to the question at hand. So there are Biblical scholars, and songwriters, and Sunday School teachers, and children, and atheists, and agnostics, and a whole lot of others continuing to ask this question. The answer is simple to state and unbelievably difficult to comprehend.

The word "righteous" shows up in twice in our texts today. "The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:11) And again in Jeremiah, "O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind..." According to, righteous is "morally upright, without guilt or sin." That definition definitely describes Jesus. However, to know that Jesus' death makes me righteous, is definitely hard to believe, comprehend, and claim.

To be tested by God, for God to see my heart and mind...that is something that I don't even want to think about. It makes me wonder if God, when he surveys the hearts and minds of the believers like me, finds the question Why the Cross? a good question as well. It would be so easy for God to ask:
What was I thinking? These people are so dense. Why can't they believe that I love them? Why can't they understand that my son died for their sins? Why do they keep carrying their sins around? Why can't they get past their guilt and shame? Why don't they live as forgiven people? Why don't they realize that until they can accept the love that I've given them, they can't share it with others? Son, please tell me why? Why did you have to die?

Fortunately, our all-knowing, all-loving, all-forgiving God understands, can see past our failures, and has a plan. Our God knows the answers. Our God chose the cross.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Only Asleep

Mark 12:30 -- Matthew 16:24-26 -- James 4:6-10

Although the title for the day is supposed to be Glory in the Highest, I thought Tuesday's title was more fitting...since I've been MIA since last week. I started this thing with a plan to read scripture and to share my reflections daily. My intention was that we might read together. That we might listen for God's still small voice together. It was also about accountability--which is strange because unless someone comments I don't know if it's being read or not. Then, when someone does comment, it's so exciting--like we've actually shared a moment together at different times and in different places. When I haven't blogged in a few days, a comment is a great wake up call.

Robert Hereth said in Listening to Lent, "Jesus has the power of death that we have over sleep...someday, as a mother says to her child, 'Come on, honey, get up,' God will say to you, 'My child, wake up.' And you will." Hereth was speaking in the context of physical death. He reminds us of Jesus saying that Lazarus and Jairus' daughter were "only asleep." And for Jesus, they were, as is evidenced in their resurrections.

In today's reading, I don't think Jesus is talking about physical death--although, He might be. It would certainly be true of physical death as well. However Jesus intended, this Matthew text is difficult. Jesus says, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?"

I want to be a follower--that's not difficult. Denying Taking up my Following...I believe is only possible when I'm more immersed in Jesus than in other things--things like church meetings, follow-up phone calls, fund-raisers, newsletter articles and, of course, American Idol. I don't want to save my life, I want to give it up...and yet. And yet, there's comfort in the known. Comfort followed ever so closely with discomfort, nagging guilt, and frustration--which, by the way, isn't comfortable at all. I love Jesus' questions. Where's the profit in saving this life? And better still, "What will they give in return for their life?" What's the price? What's the cost of hanging on?

James gives us this wisdom. Submit. Resist. Draw near. Cleanse. Purify. Lament. Mourn. Weep. Let. Humble. As I consider each of these words imagining what they feel like or what they might look like in my life, I realize their perfect order. When I submit and when I resist, I draw near to God and I experience the joy of God drawing near to me. Then as God draws near, I am cleansed and purified and I lament and mourn and weep over the things in my life that are now missing--which doesn't make any sense, yet is so true. We miss our old lives, and like Gomer, we run back to them. Because it's what we know, and it's what we think we deserve. And, like Hosea, God runs back for us. My favorite word on the list is "let" because "let" is a choice. God tells us to let our laughter turn to mourning and to let our joy turn into dejection. Let it happen. Then, only then, can we "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt..."

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning. (from Psalm 130)

Even now, let us wait and hope and watch for the Lord.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Walk in the Light #3

Matthew 5:16 -- Matthew 16:21-28 -- Mark 8:34-35

Have your parents ever said something like, "Your behavior reflects poorly on me," or "I'm so proud of you," or my personal favorite, "Smile, so people think you have a good mom." (That last one is a quote from Brian Broadway, and it still cracks me up.)

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commands, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." So that...don't miss the so that. So that by seeing your good works God is glorified. Not so that you'll get to heaven or so that you'll be a "good Christian." (whatever that means) So that God gets the honor. So that people want the relationship with God that you have. So that your life matters because God loves you.

So that you deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. So that those who lose their life for Jesus' sake and for the sake of the Gospel will find it.

So that we set our minds on divine things and not human things. So that we're not a stumbling block. So that we are a light to the world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Walk in the Light #2

2 Timothy 3:14-17 -- John 10:22-30 -- Exodus 4:10-12

"To the agnostic in all of us, who wonders if there is a God..." (Hereth, Listening to Lent) That's a great line. I never thought about an agnostic living in all of us. Certainly I've wondered if there is a God. I've wondered if the very thing I've built my life upon is true. I've wondered if faith is for the weak and hope for the fool. But I've never acknowledged that that is the agnostic in me.

Merriam-Websters Online says, "...
one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God..." That's a person unsure of anything. On the fence. Neither hot nor cold. Ewwww. That's not who I want to be. I want to be decisive, yet I sometimes find myself the Queen of Indecision. I want to be certain, yet I often find myself with more questions than answers. I want to be confident, yet I can find myself doubting.

Moses also lacked confidence--to the point that God got a little ticked off at him--on more than one occasion. In the Exodus text we find God calling Moses and Moses doubting himself or doubting God. He points to his flaws--wondering if God knows about them. Turns out God does and God provides.

In John we find the followers getting a little annoyed with Jesus asking, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you're the Messiah tell us plainly." They're doubting that Jesus is who He says He is. They're blind to the miracles around them because Jesus isn't coming according to plan. Hmmm. I heard recently that sheep are so dumb that they go into the water to drink, but end up drowning because they can't get themselves out without a shepherd. Jesus tells them, "You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish." Knowing how dumb sheep are and comparing them to us makes Jesus' words "they will never perish" even more miraculous.

In 2 Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to "...continue in what you have learned and firmly believed..."
Timothy needed reassurance. Timothy doubted. Timothy needed to be reminded of the power of God in Christ. He needed to be reminded that he's been trained in righteousness, that he's proficient, that he's equipped for every good work. We too need such reminders.

Be assured. Be convinced. Be confident. Be faithful. Walk in the light.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Walk in the Light #1

Psalm 36 -- John 10:22-30

"For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." -- Psalm 36:9

I'm fascinated by this scripture. I can't seem to grasp it's meaning, and yet I'm drawn to it. With you is the fountain of life. In your light, we see light. Sometimes when I'm drawn to a scripture, I read it over and over again--emphasizing different words each time. To emphasize
with and in, it becomes about location, geography. With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. This time it's about God and us. It's about relationship. With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Here it becomes about truth and about our response to the truth. With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. To emphasize the is to change the pronunciation of the, to say this fountain is the only fountain--or at least the only fountain that matters. With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. To focus on fountain brings forth all sorts of images of fountains--an eternal flow of water, springing up, falling on the water below, creating waves and movement and beauty. Bringing about a sense of peace in the midst of rhythm and chaos and noise. With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Life. It's the stuff we're made of--breath and blood and creativity and conversation and contemplation. With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. In this light, we get it. In the light of God, we see it. We see light. It's an epiphany. When we see things through the filter of God's light, we see light.

John Wesley said of this scripture: "Life - It is in God as in a fountain, and from him is derived to us. But - Of that glorious and blessed, and endless life, which alone is worthy of the name. Light - In the light of thy glorious presence, which shall be fully manifested, when we see thee face to face. Light - Joy and comfort, and happiness: the word light is elegantly repeated in another signification; in the former clause it is light discovering, in this light, discovered or enjoyed."

We can become overburdened by everyday, ordinary life--deadlines, expectations of others, commitments, poverty, injustice, dreams and goals. Yet when we begin to filter our world with the light of God, we are no longer living in darkness. "In your light, we see light." That's hope. That'
s the fountain of life--the moving, constant, eternal, life.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tight with God

Hebrews 2:1-18 -- Micah 6:6-8 -- Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Tight with God. I would not have titled this--or anything else, with that. Yet that's the title Hereth uses in Listening to Lent for today. A few years ago students were calling things that were cool or nice, "tight." "That's tight." I never really got that. When I hear the word tight, I imagine tight pants on Thanksgiving, or tight shoes on a long walk, or tight spaces and too much stuff, or perhaps a tightwad. The word tight doesn't often have pleasant connotations, so I wondered about saying "That's tight" about something that is good. However, when I consider being tight with someone--being tight with God, that seems to have the potential for good. Tight would be closer than close, right? You're not just close to someone, but tight--really bound together--so close that you make impressions upon one another.

Imagine the tight pants again. The person causes the fabric to wrinkle and contort, while the pants leave marks upon the person.
Both parties are shaped by the other. Now, I must say that to put on warm, freshly laundered, tight pants feels good. I like the beginning. But as the day goes on, the tightness can be uncomfortable. I can tug and pull and rearrange, but truthfully I just can't wait to be in my pajamas again. Of course, if I hold out. If I continue to wear the pants for hours and hours they start to loosen up and wrinkle and become softer, and maybe I'll wear them a 2nd time before laundering them again and this time they're much more comfortable. But after a while, I long for them to be laundered again. The fresh, clean scent. The close, tight fit. It feels the beginning.

Until this moment, I've never compared my relationship with God to tight pants. But it makes sense, at least for me. To be "tight with God," feels the beginning. But then, when I'm really listening to God, it gets uncomfortable. Those nagging marks and impressions left on me. I can tug and pull and rearrange. I can escape to my pajamas for a time or I can relax in different scriptures. I can savor the sweetness of my salvation, the grace of God, the mercy of God. But after a while, I long for transformation. I long to be marked by God...even when it's painful or uncomfortable. John Wesley's covenant prayer comes to mind: "...put me to doing, put me to suffering...let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal.."

The Deuteronomy text reminds us, as Jesus did when he was in the wilderness, that one does not live on bread alone. In each of us is a longing for something more. There has to be more to life than eating and working and sleeping and going to Wal-Mart. The Hebrews text reminds us that Jesus made himself like one of us, truly human. "Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested." And, the Micah text, some of my favorite words in all of scripture, remind us that God does not desire our offerings of wealth for our transgressions--"the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Our Lord requires that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Four requirements: justice, kindness, humility, and being tight with God. Sounds good...