The Waiting

The Waiting

waiting

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”

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This past Sunday was the first day of Advent.   Advent is the New Years Day of the church calendar.  The church calendar, a Christ formed calendar brought to you by the same people who gave you the Bible!!  The church calendar is a  creative way of subverting secularism by marking time according to the Christian story.  The Hebrew people have been doing this for millennia, marking time according to the feasts, festivals and holy days according to their story of being delivered out of Egypt, the Exodus.   We have our own story centered in Jesus Christ.  We mark the year telling the story of Jesus Christ.  The church year begins first Sunday of advent, so Happy New Year!!!   We are no longer in “ordinary time”, but a special time.  We are in the season of advent.   Advent means “the coming” or the “appearing”.   So in this season of advent, we are patiently waiting for the birth of Christ, but we are also waiting for his coming again.

luke

Looking today at the gospel of Luke, which begins 15 months before birth of Jesus.  Luke was a physician, which in those days meant he was trained in both medicine and philosophy.   Luke was also a Gentile, which is very significant because he is the only Gentile contributor to the holy canon of scripture.  Every other book in our bible was written by a Hebrew writer, but Luke is one of us, a gentile.   He was an associate and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, and wrote both the gospel which bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles.

advent

The Gospel of Luke was written about AD 70, give or take a couple of years either way.  Luke was very painstaking in his research for his Gospel.  He used the writings of both  Mark, Matthew, and some other sources we don’t know about anymore.

love and the cross metaphor

Luke dedicated both his gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts, to a man named Theophilus, which means “Lover of God” or “God lover”.  He addresses him here as most excellent Theophilusso it’s possible this man was a high Roman official or someone else of some distinction.  But probably Luke here is simply using a literary device.  You could say his Gospel is written to “Mr. Love God”.  Do you love god?  Then This story is for you.

god saves the world

This is the story of how god saves the world.  The story of how god was born as a baby, lived as a man, died as a mortal, and was raised Lord of all.  We tell the story beginning in advent.  The annual re-enactment of  waiting for god to act in history and do what only god can do.  The story begins with a birth.  Not the birth of the savior, but the fore runner.  Not Jesus the Christ but John the Baptist.   We begin with an elderly righteous couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth.

zechariah and elizabeth

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 

king herod

It begins during the time of King Herod, Herod the great.  Cruel,  maniacal, megalomaniac, and a genius architect.  Herod was rewarded for faithful service to the Roman Empire, he was also a military genius and had won many great battles on behalf of Caesar.  He was given the official title “King of the Jews”.   Upon receiving this  title, Herod proceed directly to offer his sacrifice at temple of Mars, the great god of War.

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Herod has been king for about 30 years.  He is 70 years old, coming near the end of his life.  Brutal and barbarous, Herod was most definitely not the king the Jews had been looking for.

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There is a great juxtaposition in Luke’s story – we have brutal, powerful king in Herod on one hand, and a pious, elderly, humble, righteous old couple, a priest and his wife living in hill country on the other hand.   They’ve been faithful to god, had wanted children, prayed for children, waited for children, but have reached a ripe old age and alas, no children.  Advent is about waiting.  Waiting for God to do whatever God will do.  We have our own expectations, our own demands, our own timetable for what we want God to do, Amen!  But Advent is about abandoning  that and saying “God, you will do what you will do when you want to do it.  I trust you.”  But do it soon please…

advent-wreath-nativity-figures

That’s advent,  that’s Zachariah and Elizabeth   They had prayed, were pious, righteous, a priest and his wife entering old age childless.    It’s a picture of Israel itself.  Israel has been waiting through a long season of disappointment.   They’ve been for 600 years with no real king.  Wasn’t there a promise?  Wasn’t there a promise that there would always be a son of David upon the throne…yet there hasn’t been a king for 600 years.   Now they have this imposter Herod?  Living that that whole time under gentile domination.  Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome.  They’ve been an oppressed people without the promises of God seeming to come to pass.  How long???   They’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting…how long will they have to wait???

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How long have we been waiting for Christ to come again?   I guess we are coming up on 2000 years now, aren’t we?   How long, O Lord, will we have to wait??   How long before you do something Lord?

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How long have you been waiting?   How long have you waited for Christ to do something in your life?   What are you waiting for, what are you praying for?   Advent is the season of waiting.  We patiently (or not) wait for Christmas morning, for that feast and that celebration and the gifts and the joy and the love.  It always seems to come, doesn’t it?

waiting1

But we also wait for Christ to come again.  This we are not so patient for.  This, it seems, may never come.  By never, we mean not in our lifetimes.  This is the hardest wait.  There is no date on the calendar (and no, it’s not next Tuesday.  Or whatever the next date the apocalypse “experts” try to tell us).  We want God to come, we expect Him to come…but we want it to be now.  It should be now.   We want to know, we want to see.  Faith is just so hard.

But wait we must.

John Lewis

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Change The World

change the world

Change the world.   Isn’t that really what we want to do?   Don’t we see so much evil, so much wrong in the world?  There really is so much we would want to change.

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Jesus referred to James and John as the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).   Why?  Because maybe more than any other disciples, these two brothers believed that the way to power, the way for Jesus to overthrow Caesar and establish his throne forever, was through the taking of the sword of Caesar.  They believed, as we still do, that political and military power was true power.

cross of glory

This is what we see here in Mark chapter 10 as these brothers begin jockeying for position in the new kingdom they believe Jesus is bringing in.   And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”   Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Jerusalem.   They all expected something great was about to happen.  They expected Jesus to be crowned King (which, indeed, he was).    “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,” Mark 10:32 ESV.   They are headed to Jerusalem, to the coronation of the True King, and his followers are both amazed and afraid.  Amazed that they are about to change history (This is really happening!).   Afraid because they knew that this crown would not be won without a fight.  Some of them might very well lose their lives.  The only one who could not lose his life would be Jesus….

glory

Jesus was about to come into his glory, and the Sons of Thunder wanted in.  Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.   They have imagined Christ as Caesar, and they want to be vice-Caesar and Secretary of the Treasury.  They see the endgame in sight, they are willing to fight for the revolution, and they expect to enjoy the fruits of the last 3 years of walking with Messiah.  They expected, they wanted, to fight fire with fire.  They expect to fight political power with political power.  They are willing to die for the cause if need be.  They expect their Messiah to overthrow the military might of Rome with the power of God.  Jesus is about to lead the revolution into Jerusalem and finally set things right!!!

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Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”   Only Jesus knew what was coming.  He tried repeatedly to explain it to them, but they just could not hear.   They could not imagine any other way.  They could only understand the world as it was, not as it could be.   But Jesus was doing something new and truly beautiful.  He was not imitating the ways and means of Caesar, but bringing in the Kingdom of God.

not to serve

And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.   Jesus came to change the world.   But he did not, he does not, imitate the ugly ways of Caesar fighting over power and dominance.   Instead, we work in His kingdom by the countercultural means if humility, service, and sacrificial love.  These things are truly beautiful.

carry-cross

When we follow Christ, we are choosing the path of humility, service and love, not political dominance.  Political dominance is not the way of His kingdom – You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.   We have forgotten, or simply ignored, that Jesus brings in His kingdom by refusing to oppose Caesar on Caesar’s terms.  He did NOT fight political power with political power.   As He was submitting to His state-sponsored execution he tells Pontius Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…” John 18:36 ESV.  We share a beautiful Gospel.  Part of that beauty is that the Kingdom of God comes not by the sword of political power, but the cross of self-sacrificing love (Take up your cross and follow me).  Jesus didn’t ride the war horse into Jerusalem, he didn’t swing the sword for political power (All who take the sword will perish by the sword), instead he absorbed the blow of the injustice brought upon him, and committed his fate to God.

kingdom

In the words of Pastor Brian Zahnd, we cannot fight for the kingdom of Christ in the same manner that the nations of the world fight, for the moment we do, we are no longer the kingdom of Christ but the kingdom of the world!

white house

We live in a broken world.  But what is most wrong in the world is not our politics or who runs Congress or lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  What is most wrong with the world is the distorted face of humanity brought about by the dehumanizing forces of lust, greed and pride.   We are not called to protest, or campaign for political solutions, but to live an authentic Christian alternative.  We advocate another way.  We do participate in the political process, but we do this mostly as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, teaching and showing the virtues of that Kingdom.  We show what it means to be Christ-like in what is still a Caesar-like world.  But, this requires us to take up our cross, put down our sword, follow Jesus, and trust in God.  It’s not meant to be practical.

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

Mark 10:35-45 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mrk.10.35-45.esv

John Lewis

Denial University

University

Human pain is the great unifier.  We all have pain in common.  It’s a part of our solidarity.  To be human is to hurt.   But in our pain, we always look to find our way to Jesus, because if you can get to Jesus everything is going to be alright, amen!!

emmanuel

God in Christ is “Emmanuel“.  GOD WITH US.  God with us in the solidarity of human suffering.  Beginning at Bethlehem, Jesus entered the world of the wounded, and was himself wounded.   But here’s a beautiful and sacred mystery, “By his wounds we are healed“.  If we can bring our own wounds to the wounds of Christ, it does not multiply woundednes but produces healing.  But first we must acknowledge our own woundedness.  This is hard for us as American Christians.  We are raised on John Wayne, Bruce Willis, and pick yourself by the bootstraps.  We are very slow to acknowledge our woundedness and pain.  In many cases, we never actually do.  In the words of Walter Brueggemann, we are schooled in denial.

wounded

The wounded in our society are everywhere.  The hardest task is to break through denial so people can get in touch with their own pain.  Our zeal for certitude and absolutism is an anxious, frightened response to the reality of pain.  We think we can not bear the pain, so we protect ourselves by pretending we don’t know about our own pain.  What we discover is that if we can get access to our pain within our community which we trust, then our pain is almost always bearable because the trustworthiness of our brothers and sisters will hold and not let us fall through.  Sometimes we need to be helped to see or hear that our certitudes are mostly phony, that life does not conform to our certitudes, and our absolutes are much less than absolute.

So what do we do about a people schooled in denial?

lamentation

Lamentations, that little book between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, was composed in response to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  It was end of world for the Jewish people.  Imagine  September 11 times 1000, that’s 587 BC for the Jewish people.  It was a great national humanitarian and economic crisis.  But it was also a great theological crisis.  It caused them to question everything thought they knew and believed about themselves.  Are we the people of God or not?  We’ve not been rescued, we’ve not been delivered.  This pagan nation has destroyed our great city and burned our temple.  Everyone but the poorest of the poor have been carried off into captivity and exile.  We don’t even have a land to call home anymore.  That’s context for the book of Lamentation.   It’s the Jewish hymn book of grief and sorrow.  And the Jewish people have had plenty of opportunities to lament.

lament

Lament brings pain, sorrow, and anguish out into the open where it can be acknowledged, shared, and eventually healed.  What the book of Lamentations does is make it possible for the Jewish people after the destruction of the temple to be able to get past their certainties and absolutism and allow God to come in and bring true comfort.

Look at how the Lamentations opens.

lonely sits the city

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly.” Lamentations 1:1-4 ESV

Now look at how the book closes.

how long

“Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.”

Lamentations 5:20-22 ESV

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Always, always, the question we want answered is “How long, Lord?”  Notice how Lamentation reaches no nice resolution.  There is no happily ever after.  It hangs there in ambiguity.  Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.   Restore us Lord, renew our days as of old…unless you are just going to be angry with us forever.   No certitudes or absolutes to be found, even inspired by the spirit as this was.  There is no happily ever after.

everything's going to be alright

Leading up to the great catastrophe, all the prophets in Jerusalem said everything is gonna be alright.  We have the temple, we have the promises of god, God is on our side.  God is our defender.   There will be peace.  We have the covenant of god and the promises of God.  This city will not, can not fall, because after all we have the temple of the lord!!  All the prophets, that is, except for Jeremiah.  “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’” Jeremiah 7:4 ESV.  Jeremiah brought a minority report.  Jeremiah said there is idolatry in that temple.  He said the city and temple will be destroyed.  The people will be carried into Babylon   Jeremiah warned, as all the other nations in the area fell, that they would fall too.  Jeremiah warned them Do not trust in these deceptive words. “Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.” Jeremiah 7:4, 12 ESV.  Jeremiah warned them to remember Shiloh, the place where the ark of the covenant itself had been kept.  The original dwelling place of the lord had been wiped off the map, what makes us think we won’t be is the warning.

jeremiah in the well

Jeremiah’s message was not very well received (go figure).  He was arrested, censored, his prophesies were burned, he was even thrown into a well.  At least they didn’t kill him…

587 bc

All the other prophets said everything’s going to be alright, but it was Jeremiah’s prophecy that came to pass.  In 587 BC, the city fell, the temple was burned, and the people were carried into captivity and slavery.  The moon was red as blood, the sun refused to shine, all the stars fell from the sky.  It was the end of the world as they knew it.  And they could no longer take comfort in false promises of what turned out to be the false prophets.

noweapon

Lamentations is about preparing a place for comfort to come by doing work of lamentation.  It is a primer in overcoming our denial and false certitudes.  What is meant by false certitudes?   Isaiah 54:17 says that ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper…”.   There is a time and a setting, a context, where that is the word of the lord.  But we grab hold of that verse (and others like it) and carry it around with as our own personal badge of bravado, we tell everyone who will listen how no weapon formed against me shall prosper, we carry on in our certitude and absolutism.  Until the day comes when it seems every single weapon being formed against you is totally prospering.   Then what do you do??  Just keep denying, keep on the brave face, never let ’em see you sweat, never show weakness, amen?

grim

When the diagnosis is grim, the bankruptcy is filed, the divorce is final, our loved on has died, our certitudes go out the window.  Lamentations was born at this point, at the pain point of 587 BC. Even the book of psalms, which we mostly see as the praise songs of the Bible, is full of lament.  One-third of the psalms at psalms of lament.  Israel is famous for its psalms of lament.

jerusalem-destruction

We need to really understand where Lamentations fits into the Bible.  If you look at the book of Isaiah, it is divided into two parts. The first 39 chapters are warnings and prophecies of dire consequences which are coming.  This part is pre-587, before the destruction of the temple.  Chapters 40-66, that is all after the destruction of the temple.  This us where most of our liturgies from Isaiah are actually from, from chapter 40 on.  So we have Isaiah 1-39, warnings and prophecies of what is to come.   Then August 587 BC comes, and the destruction of the city of God, the burning and destruction of God’s temple, and God’s people being carried off into exile.

none to comfort

This is where Jeremiah’s (we believe) lamentations come in.  There is phrase that appears 5 times in the Lamentations,  she has none to comfort her.  There are none comfort, there is no comfort, this is said five times during the book of Lamentations.   Bu5 what happens in Isaiah 40?   “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 ESV.  It’s no longer none to comfort, it’s comfort, comfort my people.  The work of Lamentation that’s been done has opened the people up to real comfort, the comfort of God given by others.

Blessed are those who mourn

Jesus himself says what about this?  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 ESV.   Mourning, laying down our false certitudes, being vulnerable, opening yourself up to the comfort of a God carried by another.  Grief is not a reality to be denied, but work to be attended to – Pastor Brian Zahnd.  The work of grief and lamentation must be done if we are to allow true comfort into our lives.  But we would rather anesthetize ourselves with entertainment…

thepursuit

We so crave happiness.  You might say we are a happiness obsessed culture.  We’ve even got a constitutional right to pursue it!!  (I know, it’s not actually in the constitution.  But we believe it is…).   We think we can just whistle past the graveyard and forget that death is the very backdrop of human existence.  We actually believe we can get out of this alive.  We are so like the great whore of revelation – ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ Revelation 18:7 ESV.  We think mourning we will never see, we can just whistle past those graveyards, but it’s all just a lie.  It’s propaganda we so want to believe and live our lives based upon.

stay miserable

But when we are schooled in denial, we earn our degree in just staying miserable.  We have become a people addicted to entertainment, and we earn degrees from Denial University.   When we experience loss and the grief and pain that accompanies it but will not acknowledge it, it us simply internalized and begins to poison our soul.  The effects of the poison can be seen in things like depression, anger, addiction, physical disease, other types of things.  When we go off to Denial U, we earn our degree in how to stay miserable.

A_twelve-steps

This is what is so powerful about our 12 step programs like AA, NA, SA, or my favorite Celebrate Recovery.  It is through these programs and living the 12 steps that we can be unschooled in denial and begin road real recovery.

funeral

School of denial belongs to the empire that can not bear to face reality of death.  You know someone’s been schooled in denial when they refuse to attend funerals.   “I don’t do funerals“.   Some say this like it’s  a virtuous thing.   We are so selfish, are we not?   But what this really is just someone so schooled in their own denial that what they’ve told themselves is some virtuous decision not to attend funerals is really just away for them to face the reality of the one funeral they will be required to attend.   Because we are all required to attend at least one funeral in our lives, are we not?    We’ve turned funerals these days into an exercise of trying to cheer someone else up when the real purpose of a funeral is grief and lament as a community.   We grieve together, we share in the loss with those closest loved ones.   Because lament purges the soul.  It does not add to the problem, it is a part of the healing process

denial

One last bit here.  Consider this prayer, tucked away right in the middle of the book of Lamentations, starting with verse 3:16.

“He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Lamentations 3:16-26 ESV

love of christ

When we are honest enough about our pain and grief to share it with our brothers and sister, we can then be opened up the love of God carried to us by another.  Because, really, how are we to receive the love of God in this world except through another made in his image?  God almost always works through people, does he not?   So the beginning of healing and recovery comes through sharing that pain, sorrow and grief, not covering it up.  Become a Denial University dropout and experience the love of Christ the only way we know how – by being opened up to receive it through another human being.

John Lewis

The Price of Admission

The Price of Admission

man of sorrows

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

world of hurt

We inhabit a world of hurt.  Pain is an ever present possibility.  Grief stalks us.  We are haunted by the specter and possibility of sorrow.  We know it can strike at any moment.  This reality is not restricted to third world nations, it is not present only for those living under violent dictatorships and backward regimes.

This IS the human condition.  Pain is no respecter of persons.  It comes to all of us.  Most people know this instinctively.  And most, at least to some degree, accept it.

very powerful

But there are three kinds of people who struggle with the real occurrence of pain in this life.  These are the very rich, the very powerful, and the very religious.  There are people in this world, perhaps you are aware, that believe that if you have enough power, enough money, and/or the right religion, you can mostly avoid pain in this life.

very powerful 2

Throughout history, the rulers and citizens of the richest and most powerful nations have been especially susceptible to this particular line of propaganda.  With enough money, enough might, and the right kind of religion, we might be able to get out of this thing alive.  Rich and powerful nations feel as though it is their birthright to live above the pain and sorrow that falls upon the rest.   We just need a big economy, a big army, and a big God on our side.  Get enough gold, guns and God, and you can avoid all pain.

I sit as a queen

This is nothing new.   This is exactly what the rulers and citizens of the Roman Empire thought.  This is what John the revelator mocks in Revelation 18 – ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ Revelation 18:7 ESV.  But of course she sees mourning, it’s all just empty propaganda.  The Romans sat on top of the world, the playground bully, they believed pain and suffering were for the rest of the world, to be doled out by themselves upon others as necessary, but never for them to suffer through.   The problem is, they were still left with their own real world hurts and real world pain, but their own propaganda added the additional burden of keeping up appearances…

big economy

Modern Americans are tempted to believe the same propaganda, and propaganda it is.  We have a big economy, big guns, and a big God on our side, Amen!   Things should be different HERE.  We are, after all, the wealthiest, the most powerful, and one of the most religious nations on earth.  But, unfortunately, that is no guarantee (and we do like our guarantees).  But there is no guarantee that tomorrow we won’t face a terminal diagnosis, financial ruin, crushing bereavement, bitter betrayal, personal rejection, or some other event that can cause us to take up residence in the house of pain.

big god

Understand this – the idea that if you can become rich enough, powerful enough, and religious enough then you can make it through this life without pain is a pernicious lie.  We try to live without pain, do all we can to avoid pain.  But to try to be without pain is to attempt to be superhuman, and when we attempt to be superhuman, we wind up being less than human.  We wind up as less than human because those that use power, wealth and religion to avoid pain only end up inflicting that pain on other people.

Syria

Look at what happened in Syria a couple of years ago.  A powerful man who wanted to avoid all pain, inflicting it en masse on others.  How about the financial crisis of 2008?  Very, very rich people acting very irresponsibly in an attempt to avoid pain.  And we don’t even need to start talking about how much pain religion can and has inflicted upon the world.

Las-Vegas-shooting

Or how about the Vegas gunman?  An extreme example, but the last article I read about him talked about how, for the past two years, he had been on a bad losing streak in the high stakes gambling rooms and had lost much of his wealth.  He was at a point where he was about to feel the pain of the loss of his status with family and in those high stakes gambling rooms.   A pain he was not prepared to bear, and so 59 people had to die and hundreds more severely injured and otherwise scarred.  I know, it makes no sense, but the portrait we have is of a man who couldn’t bear even that pain of losing his image.  That burden of keeping up appearances

The-Passion-of-the-Christ-1

Look at the passion of Jesus Christ.  Here you had the whole gathering of the very rich, the very powerful, and the very religious.  Pontius Pilate had the military might of the worlds most powerful army.  King Herod was the wealthiest man on earth.  Then there was Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest, at the top of the great religion of the world.  It was these three who were directly involved in the crucifixion of the Christ, it was these three who controlled the money, the guns, and the temple.  And their whole lives , not just in relation to Jesus, were spent dealing out pain to others to insure they never had to experience pain themselves.

superhuman

Attempts to live without pain do not make us superhuman, they make us subhuman.  When we try to be inhuman, we wind up inhumane.   Because pain is the price of admission…

desspised and rejected

In a meditation on the nation of Israel and the expected Messiah, Isaiah wrote He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.   We know this now to be a vision of Jesus.   The word made flesh, God incarnate.  He came and joined us in our humanity, pain and all.   He did not come and take up a partial share in what it means to be human, he took a full share.  He was fully immersed in all that it means to be human, pain and all.   Because pain is the price of admission.

AdmitOne

The price of admission to what??  It is the price of admission to life, to existence, to being.  It’s the price of admission to being real, authentic beings.

Baby being born via Caesarean Section

Have you ever seen a newborn baby?   Not a week old newborn, not even an day old, but two minutes old?   It’s our welcome into this world, but sometimes the poor baby looks like they’ve been in a fight.  Because they have.  We cry tears, but they are tears of joy, because it’s a joyous thing, the birth of a baby.  We want to cry out “Welcome to the world!!”  But the baby just wants to cry out.  Because pain is the price of admission.

pain

It is a traumatic experience, being born.  Maybe that’s why it’s the picture Jesus paints for fellow rabbi Nicodemus in John chapter 3, that you have to be born again to see the kingdom of God, because sometimes rethinking a lifetime of knowing can be a traumatic experience.   But as we say to the newborn baby, welcome to our world!!  The introduction is pain.   Because if there is no possibility of pain, there are no possibilities at all.

Think about this – if you take away all possibilities of pain, then you take away all possibilities.  For God to create beings in his own image involves real risk.  It’s the risk inherent with freedom.  The freedom to be real, authentic beings, the freedom of real choices in life.

let there be

In the beginning, God said “Let there be…”.  And he created the stars and the sky and the light.  He created the seas and the land.  He created the plants and the animals, but something was missing.  There was creation, but it was a creation which, maybe, was missing something.  So then God says “Let us make…man in our own image,”  now He has risked something.   Because God made man, creatures, in His own image and yet distinct from Him.

image of god

He made man, created beings with true freedom, real choices, and now there is the real possibility of sin and death, pain and suffering.  God always knew this was the chance he was taking, but He made us anyway.  Not only did He create man in His own image, making possible for pain and suffering to enter the world, but He comes and meets us in that world right at the intersection of pain and suffering…

every tear

But there is a hope, after all.  As Christians, we do have a great hope for the world, do we not??  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…””  Revelation 21:4-5 ESV.  Christ will come again.  This is our hope.  It is what we confess by faith.  There will be no more pain, no more mourning, no more sorrow, and all things will be made new.

all thing made new

So, how will this happen?  How will all things be made new, and now mankind, with all of our freedom and authenticity, be able to live in that freedom and authenticity without pain??   I don’t know.  I don’t know how the plans and purposes of God are being and will be played out.  But this is what I hope and believe will ultimately happen.

risk

But why risk in the first place?   Why do we take risks?  Why did God risk making us in His own image?    What risk is acceptable?  Do we really even want to live in a world without pain and without risk?   Do we want to live in a world where we could all just live as couch potatoes, fingers on the remote, doing nothing but eating potato chips and drinking beer, then step on a plane, fly to Nepal and scale Mt Everest without any problems?   Seriously, is that even worth it?  Again, without the possibility of pain, are there any possibilities at all?

traumatic

We live in a world where the former things have not yet passed away, of that I am sure.  Maybe we are only in the first stage.   Maybe this first stage was always necessary, something mankind had to go through to get to where God wants us to be in our journey.

christ

The great Christian mystic Julian of Norwich once said “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God…” Sometimes (maybe every time), we have to fall down before we can look up.  But those of us who have fallen, if we can stay the course and not jump off the ship when we feel it sinking, can look back and say “It was good to fall in the first place.

We have hope for our world beyond hurt.  But we are not there yet.  It is pain that remains the price of admission into God’s good creation.   We do cry tears of joy at the birth of an infant even though we know that baby has just been through a traumatic experience – with many more to come.

“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”

Isaiah 53:3 NLT

http://bible.com/116/isa.53.3.nlt

“As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’”

Revelation 18:7 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.18.7.esv

John Lewis

What Will You Do??

What Will You Do??

good-samaritan

The parable of the Good Samaritan, a story so powerful the we still us the term “Good Samaritan” to describe someone who goes out of their way to help another, expecting nothing in return.   2000 years later, this story still inspires to us to become better people.

love-your-enemies

But, as with so many if Jesus teachings, there is another level, another dimension that is not apparent to us at first glance.  We read this and see it only as a challenge to us to do good to others, regardless of our opinions and thoughts about that person.  We are to do good for others even if we don’t like them.  Even if they are our “enemies”.   But this may be even more challenging than Jesus’ call to “love your enemies“?

Love-Your-Neighbor-As-Yourself-620x461

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”    Of course, it’s a lawyer trying trap Jesus and see how he can tear him down (I know, lawyers are my neighbors too).   But this lawyer defines pretty well for us our own conditions, even to this day.  We know we are supposed to love our neighbor.  But we are much more interested in defining who is our neighbor (or more to our point, who is not our neighbor).  We are far more interested in defining our neighbor than in loving our neighbor.

a-man-fell-among-thieves

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.    So, to the point, the man going down from Jerusalem would have been a Jew.   Jesus is speaking to Jews here, the lawyer asking the question was a Jew, this man going down from the city of God was meant, clearly, to be a Jew.

good-samaritan-clipart-4

Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.    So we see a Jewish man left bloody, stripped, robbed and near death.  And we see the priest, from the Jewish temple, can’t stop and help the man.  Maybe he feared being made unclean and therefore unable to serve in the temple for a time.  Or maybe not, since he was leaving Jerusalem and the temple, not on the way up to Jerusalem. indicating his temple service may have already been finished.  Maybe he just figured no one was looking and he just didn’t feel like it.  After all, he had just served in the temple, he is good, right?  Either way, we have our command to love our neighbors, but we do also have our priorities…

cropped-bigcross

 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.   Another prescribed to the service of the Lord.  He loves God.  His neighbor, not so much.  So the two Jews in the story, both closely associated with the service of the Lord in the temple, can’t be bothered to help their fellow Jew, their brother, whom they see possibly dying in the street.  It’s no skin off their backs, is it?

good samaritan

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.   The Samaritan, the one who is formally excommunicated from the temple and all worship associated with it, the one hated by all 3 others in the story.  Hated by the priest.  Hated by the Levite.  Hated by the beaten man.  Hated by all Jews.  Remember what John told us about Jews and Samaritans –  “The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” John 4:9 ESV.   Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.  But the priest, he would have no dealings with bloodied, beaten brother.  The Levite, he walked by as if his fellow Jew was just another dirty Samaritan.  But this Samaritan, the one hated by all Jews, he had compassion.  He didn’t walk by thinking “It’s not safe for me to stop.  I’ll be beaten too.”   He didn’t give himself the excuse “He’s already too far gone, I can’t do anything for him.”   He didn’t shake his fist and say to himself “He’s a Jew who would have no dealings with me!”   No, he had compassion on the man and wanted to help.

scene of samaritan

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.    He doesn’t just stop to help, he takes personal responsibility for this man’s well being.   He became personally invested in the healing of this beaten, broken man.  You might even say he loved him.

jesus-compassion-4-638

And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’    Now he’s spending his own money on him!!  He’s promising to the innkeeper he’s willing to go beyond this if need be, just to see this Jew, who would have had no dealings with him, healthy again.   Do you see what Jesus is doing here?   He is speaking to a group of Jews, responding particularly to a “smart” lawyer (smart enough to figure out all kinds of way to get out of loving his neighbor).  His response is a story that does not just show us how we should love our neighbor.  He’s not just showing this man what it means to love his neighbor.  No, Jesus is cutting much deeper into the innermost being of this smart lawyer.  He could have crafted a story showing a good Jew stopping to love a hated Samaritan, but he didn’t.  He gave a story of the one the Jews hated most having compassion on a man most of them would have avoided contact with themselves.

cats and dogs together 3

So here’s how Jesus really turns their world upside down with this parable – What do you do when your enemy, the one you hate the most, loves you?   How will you react when the one you hate, someone you would under no circumstances have dealings with, is the one to step up unmistakably in love to help you or save you when everyone else, including all those you expected to be there for you, crosses the street to get away??   When those you thought were your friends leave you for dead, but that one is the one who has compassion?

mercy

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.

mercy not sacrifice

What will you do?   “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matthew 12:7 ESV

guiltless

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.””

Luke 10:25-37 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.10.25-37.esv

John Lewis

What Does This Have to do With Me?

What Does This Have to do With Me?

Backyard-BBQ-Party

Keeping it simple today (I hope). A question I have asked previously is “Does God resent human pleasure?”  Was the pastor/father from the movie Footloose (at least the 80s version) right?  Does all partying and dancing make God the Father angry, and risk hellfire and brimstone crashing upon us?

hellfire
I know where that picture of God comes from, but what I do not know is how those who believe in that angry, hellfire and brimstone God reconcile that with the picture of Christ Jesus in the New Testament. The same Christ of whom the apostle John says “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”John‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The same Christ of whom the writer of Hebrews says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Because it is of this same Christ that this same apostle John chose to make his first recorded miracle the turning of the water into wine, which seems to be very deliberate on the part of John, the apostle of love, to blow to bits all of our angry God pictures and ideas.

Wedding at Cana
You know the story. On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.Interesting they invited Jesus to the party. Must have been before Christians came along and gave him a bad name. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” To which I say, EXACTLY!! What in the world does this have to do with Jesus? No one is sick, no one’s life is in danger. There is no healing to be done. There is no sin to be forgiven (unless you are of the opinion that running out of wine is a sin). They are just out of booze. So, why, exactly, is this the miracle John starts with? And seriously, why include this at all?

Mary-wedding-at-cana-4
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.How many people, exactly, were at this party? Six jars at 20-30 gallons each, that is 120-180 gallons of wine. I’m just saying, that sounds like a lot to me. But then again, I don’t drink, so what do I know…

007-wedding-cana
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. So, the water is turned to wine, good wine. This is the miracle Jesus used to get his disciples to believe in Him. This is the first manifestation of his glory, according to John. Not raising anyone from the dead (except for this party, which was apparently about to be dead). Not healing, not giving sight to the blind. Not making the lame walk, or the mute speak. But turning water into wine, just so the wedding party could keep going.

jars
Which is entirely the point. Jesus is the one who turns the water into wine, for no good reason other than to keep the party going, and save the host a major embarrassment. And wherever Jesus goes, the party never stops. No one goes hungry, and no one is thirsty. We may try to kill it, but the celebration goes on.

jesus-and-his-family
Christianity is always one generation away from being extinct. Yet, eighty generations later, the party goes on. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what we do. Either way, we will be condemned. “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”Luke‬ ‭7:33-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

footloose_6
So back to my original question – “Does God have a resentment toward human pleasure?” Not the God as revealed in Jesus Christ. He just turns the water into wine, and the party keeps going…

party goes on

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭2:1-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.1-11.esv

John Lewis

Chasing Waterfalls 


When I first started writing and sharing my thoughts and discoveries in my own faith journey, my search for spiritual progress, I was in full recovery mode.  Recovery from my own addictions, recovery from the consequences of my own sin. Most of my writing and thought was focused on recovery and hope found in the Bible.

As I’ve gone on, I have gotten away from the recovery focus. It has been nothing intentional, no conscious decision has been made, but the farther I go into the words of God and the discovery of who God is, the farther my own spiritual and faith journey has gotten away from the recovery focus I once had. Because, simply, I’m just not in the same place anymore.  


But today, I am going back to my roots, so to speak. Back into my recovery and the message of the hope and love that only comes through Jesus Christ.



Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
Sometimes, it feels like life is just a waterfall. A waterfall of pain, washing over us. As in this song from the Sons of Korah, which we know as Psalm 42, we are just caught in the waterfall of pain, those waves just keep washing over us. Can we ever stop the waterfall?? The power of the waterfall as a metaphor is that it Just. Keeps. Coming. Sometimes it feels to us that this is how life is. It just keeps coming, one pain, one hurt cascading upon us after another, a never ending waterfall of pain, hurt, and emotion. We can stand under the waterfall for a time, a period, but eventually, the waterfall will always beat you down if you can’t find a way to stop it.


How then, do we stop this waterfall of pain? As much as we would like to, we can’t just stop all the painful experiences. But there are two things, two secrets, I have found about the pain in our life.


First, MOST of the pain in our life us either retrieved from the past or borrowed from the future. Most of our pain resides in our memory or our imagination. It either comes from recalling some bad thing that happened in the past, or it is borrowed from a future which we have not even realized or attained yet. A future, by the way, which is totally out of our control. Our pain mostly comes from our memory or our imagination, not from our present.


Second, and maybe more importantly, we STOP the waterfall of pain by learning to live in the present moment. We stop the cascading waves from rolling over us by living not in the past, not in the future, but in the present. Or, as we in recovery like to say, by living one day at a time.


This is not exclusive to Christianity. Many of the wisdom traditions had discovered this, which makes sense, because before there was wisdom, there was human pain from which that wisdom could be hard won. But the important thing for us is that Jesus confirms our discovery. “”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  


Jesus confirms the wisdom that we should live in the present moment, and he takes us further in. As always, he pulls back the curtain to reveal more. He teaches us that God is our Heavenly Father who loves us. He is not an angry or retributive God, but has one stance toward us and that is love.


Jesus suggests to us that the rest of creation enjoys the peace of being present in the moment with God. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  


The birds of the heavens, the lilies of the field, they aren’t anxious, worried, or troubled. They live in the present moment. They are not retrieving pain from the past or borrowing imagined fears of what could happen in the future. But we humans, we are always a special case.  


We need to learn that we stop the waterfall of pain by being open to the love of God in the present moment. There is great wisdom in that statement. In fact, it’s the only thing that I know that works. It’s the only way.


Most other ways of dealing with our pain are simply trying to distract ourselves from the pain or numb ourselves to it. Both of these are destructive. In psalm 42 verses 7 and 8, the sons of Korah use the metaphor of the waterfall. But they find a way to stop the waterfall. “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalms‬ ‭42:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Each day the lord pours out his steadfast love upon me…they discover how to live in the love of God in the present moment.


If we can stop the waterfall of pain by learning to live in the present moment, good things can happen for us. And we can stop the waterfall from cascading upon us, if we can open ourselves in the present moment to the love of God.  
Our future is absolutely unknown. But that doesn’t stop us from our prognosticating. As the Danish physicist Niles Bohr once said, “Prediction us very difficult. Especially about the future.” We waste time and emotional energy, and cause our very own pain, worrying about the future.  


How do we stop? You stop by opening yourself to the pervasive love of God. Here’s a truth we all want to hear – you are loved right now. Don’t forget what Paul tells us – “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. No mater what happened in the past, no matter what might happen in the future (What if I stumble?), God loves you. The only REAL truth you need to know is that God is loving you right now. The love of God is the OTHER waterfall, even more ceaseless and relentless than the pain in our lives.


The love of God is not a waterfall of pain, it’s a waterfall of love and peace. The trinity is eternally generating self giving love. God is Love. Not self-centered, selfish love, but self-giving love. By this I mean, the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Holy Spirit is that love. BUT – primitive concepts of God, bad theologies of an angry God, can dam up that waterfall of love.


God us pouring out love into you, your life, right now, but bad theologies can act as a dam to block the flow of love into your experience. IF we can remove those dams of wrong thinking about God, it’s then only a matter of being present to God’s unfailing love and never-ending song.


Blow up the dam, restore the river to its natural course, then it’s just a matter of learning to be open to that love in the present moment, right now. Just imagine, knowing that God is loving you, right now. Just imagine basking in the love of God.


What about the past? What about tomorrow? I don’t  know, I’m just here, right now, just being. Being watched over by God, knowing everything is gonna be alright.


Well, ok. HOW??? This is a chief value of using formative (aka liturgical) prayer, that it can lead to a God-filled present. Without the help of a liturgy of prayer, I CAN NOT ever get my mind quiet enough to live in the present moment and thus be open to God’s love. In fact, it’s what I struggle with more than anything right now. I have victory over many problems, many addictions, but what I struggle with most right now is 1) fear and 2) anxiety. Or vice versa. I don’t know about you (but probably I do), but I know it is only with the formation of a good liturgy, the practice of a formative, well crafted liturgy of prayer that I can get my mind quiet and find myself in the present moment. Not in the past, or always in the future, which is where we always tend to live. This is why we need to be formed in prayer, to have a consistent liturgy of prayer.


If we try to be still (Be still and know that I am God…) in prayer in order to experience God’s love without a liturgy of formative prayer, we generally fail to be present in the moment. It doesn’t work, not much happens, so we generally get discouraged and give up altogether.


In other words, it’s not something you’re going to be able to figure out on your own. We all need help (like anything else). We need teaching. We need someone to help form us in prayer. Learning to be present to God in the present moment does NOT come naturally to most of us. There are rare examples, those natural born mystics. These are those who’ve been used by God throughout history to teach the rest if us. You are not one of them.
For the rest of us, this is a skill, kind of like riding a bike, learning to swim, or learning a new language. When you start, it is not a natural thing. Once you have the skill, once you learn it, it becomes super-natural for you. It just becomes a part of you. You never forget how to swim, how to ride a bike. Once you achieve fluency in a new language, and you are just speaking and not translating, it just begins to flow. You’re not thinking about it anymore. But you have to learn first.


You have to deal with fear, pain and confusion. Learn to ride a bike you might skin your knee a few times. You have to ivercome fear to learn to swim, overcome confusion to learn a new language. But you can do all if these things. We can also learn to be present to God in the present moment. No longer retrieving from the past or borrowing from the future, but present in the moment and aware of God’s love for you.


Learning to be present to God in His love in the present moment, present enough to stop the waterfall of pain from the past and future, is a spiritual skill that takes time to develop. Impatience only increases the delay. Take a breath, take time, be patient, learn how to do this. Stop the waterfall.


But I remind you, most of your pain is retrieved or borrowed. What you will find, if you can be still enough to find the present moment, is not the waterfall of pain and anxiety, but the ocean of God’s endless love.


“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/psa.42.7-8.esv

“”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.34.esv