RSS

Category Archives: Lenten Journey

A series of posts across the 40 days of Lent, 2014.

Journey – Getting to Town

JerusalemOur Journey is drawing to a close. We are now in Holy Week. Different religious traditions deal in a variety of ways with the “rhythms” of the Liturgical Year. But no matter the tradition, there are few who fail to sense the increasing intensity and background hum of the Passion of Christ as we approach Easter Sunday.

Jesus, just ahead of us, has just made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” [Luke 19:29-39]

It has been this last line that has captivated me in recent weeks. “Crying Stones”… “Talking Rocks”. I know that may sound strange, but that was what struck me about this passage. I mean, Jesus SAID that. I’m kind of used to just blowing past that in the text, but this time it stopped me dead. Usually, I just pass over it, unconsciously covering it with a “poetic license” or “hyperbole” label. But recently, I’ve learned not to do that. I’ve learned not to assume that Jesus could speak anything less than the truth.

So I found myself pondering how stones could cry out. To be honest, I haven’t figured it out. My brain, my mind, cannot comprehend how rocks… can speak. But there’s lots of things Jesus taught, that stretch my reasoning beyond the way words are typically used. Things like being born again, or dying to save one’s life, or worshiping in neither mountain nor temple. I believe Jesus utterly, but I also acknowledge that there are times He uses words differently than I do.

So I took this Truth, that stones could praise Jesus, and looked across scripture for other similar applications. In short, I came to realize that there are many times “inanimate creation” does “living things”. All the way back to Cain and Abel, blood can call out to the Lord. Many Old Testament passages state that the blood of the righteous call out to God. Balaam’s mount clearly spoke in defense of her actions. Trees and mountains will obey a command uttered in sufficient faith. All these thoughts and reflections blended together into what seemed a single truth.

That all of creation is a unified whole. Everything “lives” in God, and He is God of All. We, His children, are a PART of that, but we are part of a greater life that is all of creation itself. All of creation praises and worships Him, and while we are blessed to be graced with free will, we are not the only creatures who inhabit His Kingdom.

This scripture seemed to echo:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. [Colossians 1:15-20]

“In Him all things hold together…”

That phrase arrested me as well. He is Life Himself.

I still cannot say I “understand”, in the sense of “comprehending”, or being able to contain and constrain this truth by my reasoning and logic. Nonetheless, I KNOW that Jesus spoke the truth of creation praising Him. There are moments, like in the quiet of the night or extremely early morning, where I can almost hear the praises of nature and stars as they sing to Him.

And beneath all of this, there is great joy in knowing… we are not alone. We are never alone. Not only does God Himself wrap us in the arms of His embrace, but we are surrounded by a creation that is held together at each and every moment in and by Him. We are inextricably woven into the fabric of Creation, and all of that, is woven in Him.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Journey – Souvenir Hunting

Desert CaravanWhen I was a child my father engaged in business all over the world and took many trips. He would always bring something special back for me upon his return. Each was unique, quite characteristic of its country of origin, and often went with a story.

In recent days I have felt a need to assemble some “Pearls for the Box”. There are several things, simple things, gleaned from Scripture and from prayer and pondering, that I have discovered to be True and godly, but do not readily lend themselves to simple “proof texting”.

These are truths I should like to communicate, over time, to my grandchildren. “Souvenirs of my Travels”, so to speak. They are not scriptural texts, but insights synthesized and gleaned from text, prayer and experience of the journey.

I share them with you here, with the understanding that these are not scriptural texts themselves, and are not presented as representing what is universally true for all people. These are things I have discovered to be true for me, in my universe, to my conscience. Thus, if they bless you, wonderful! If you disagree, or they do not speak to your spirit, please cast them aside with my thanks.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pearls

God created man as His child, to love him.

Love Himself, Alone, transforms, changing what is not like Him, into Him, His very Self.

People are sacred… ALL people… altogether holy. Not because of who we are, or what we do, or what we believe, or how we live. None of that. But people are sacred because of the Holy God who fashioned us from, by, and with His Love… by His will.

There is no handy dandy crib sheet report card checklist of sin. Sin is to deviate from the will of God, to violate the conscience and act in defiance or disobedience to Love Himself. Sin expresses itself in dealing with any other, God or man, as less than sacred.

All of Christian life could be simplified to one verb and two virtues: “To Love”, “Righteousness”, and “Holiness”. To exercise righteousness is to love all others as sacred children of God. To exercise holiness is to love God as sacred family. To love, to receive grace from God Alone as Source, and flow it through onwards to ALL that surrounds us, is Life Himself. Anything other, whether thought, word, or deed, is death, illusion, shadow, empty and meaningless.

Words are transcendent, eternally begotten from the Mind of God, flowing through us and uttered into Creation, penetrating others.

We are judged and held accountable to God, by exactly the standard to which we hold others. The words we generate through our minds and hearts, return to us as we stand before Him in His light inescapably.

To recognize the need of another, to assess its magnitude in order to meet that need, is necessary in order to love one another as Christ loves us. To assign a “value” to that neediness, relative or absolute, positive or negative, is to “judge” In the manner forbidden to us by Jesus.

To desire to fulfill the will of God with what we do, to act in a manner determined to honor and love God, IS to fulfill and honor His will in love for Him. It is not whether we turn left or right at a fork in the road that gives God joy. It is pausing at the fork to ask Him which way He prefers us to go. The moment we ask, because His pleasure is our basis for deciding, we give Him the fullness of His pleasure.

Our adoption as joint-heirs with Christ is our investiture to exercise the authority vested in us by the head of Our Family, as we now function in the fullness of the authority of the Father.

God blesses, empowers, calls, and pours grace upon all His children identically… infinitely… which is the only way He can be. People sort themselves out along a continuum according to the degree with which they will relax, receive, perceive, experience and embrace that infinite flow. God is fully and entirely present, intimately connected, totally “wired in” to Himself. Spiritual disciplines, devotions, prayer, and worship are all exercises of “turning down the background noise” in order to allow us to perceive what is already there.

Every person on earth has the same call and mission in Christ, to be vessel for Him that He live within us and walk among us again building His Kingdom. We are all the same rank. But each of us play out that mission and call on a stage “uniquely set” for the single actor, with the singular background, that we have. It is all “perfectly redemptive”.

We are frail. We are created to be loved by God, and it is His will that we come to enjoy that by returning that love in trusting relationship with Him. He knows our frailties and faults, and they do not limit His love or forgiveness or grace. He does not condemn us for our frailties. We need to learn to do the same, and embrace our frail selves as enthusiastically as He does.

We receive all good things from the Father without hesitation or qualification. We are to reflect those to Him, and focus those outwards to others, without expectation of return or condition from others.

We need not work to merit spiritual awareness or enlightenment. We need not “climb the mountain” to see the face of God, or persuade Him to bless us with His presence, or earn our way into His intimacy. He is already there/here. He already infinitely fills and pours all of that onto, and into, and over us, at each moment. The only “effort” needed is not to drag, or persuade, or beg Him to come. Awareness of Him does not depend on how effectively we can importune Him to make Himself known. Rather, awareness of Him depends on how effectively we can still the self, quiet the mind, calm the heart, quell the appetites, release our “stuff”, and calm our fears… that WE PERCEIVE and EXPERIENCE that which He has wrapped us in all along, from before the beginning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These are the items in my pack that I am to retain. Grace to thee, Gentle Reader — The Little Monk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Journey – Disposing of Shadow Words

camelWords… words… words…

I am a wordsmith. Teaching, preaching, counseling, writing, one way or another the Lord’s primary use of me and my life is through the use of words.

Quite a while ago, I sat in an evening working on something or other, and Jesus interrupted, saying… “Go get your License to Preach and your Ordination Certificate for a moment.” It was an odd request, quite unexpected, but it was easy enough to comply and so I did.

“Now look at what you are…”

And my eyes focused on the center of the two pages… at their most meaningful phrases… “Minister of the Gospel”, “Gospel Ministry”. Then, as I stood and watched, God began to change the words before my eyes. “Minister”, “servant”, “doulos”, “bondservant”, “My servant”… “Gospel”, “Good News”, “Word”, “Word of God”, “My Word(s)”, “Logos”, “Rhema”, “Jesus”, “Holy Spirit”… then all the permutations and combinations of those. “Servant of the Word”, “Doulos Logoi”… for several minutes this went on as within me came the growing awareness that I had been “Renamed”, just as certainly as Simon became Peter, or Saul became Paul, God had now chosen to “rename” me from “whatever I was before”, to “whatever I am now”, and that deep within that was the truth that I was now voluntarily bondservant to the Word of God.

When did that happen? How did that happen? There was this very special moment, in front of a church and congregation, when hands were laid on me, when breath was breathed on me, when sacred words were entoned over me, and something quite… inexpressible… happened. But while that was “IT”, yes… “IT” was not a lone, isolated moment. There were other moments, earlier moments, hands laid on me, words spoken over me, breath breathed on me… other moments as much a part of this one as this one. Very private, very sacred, very intimate, unspeakably powerful.

But whatever that was, whenever that was, however that was… here is now where we had come. Here is now where I stood. Here is now me, in my new and additional name… “Doulos of the Word of God, the Good News”. Yes. But… but… what did that MEAN really? I was stricken quite mute, nearly senseless, as all this unfolded before me, and God had me sit quietly while He continued with a remarkable tableau…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” [John 1:1-3]

In my prayer, in my mind’s eye, it was as though I stood in the vastness, the silence, of the Void. God the Father was present, though I could not see, or hear, or feel Him. I simply knew He was present. And then He spoke… a single word, but said in “God Language”… beautiful beyond description or music, and… while it was but one word, it said a multitude of things… the Word was…

“Son…”

The word echoed and reverberated, with tones behind it that spoke vast and wondrous other words… Love, Mine, Jesus, Thou… and so beautiful, rendered in God-Speak. As if a word sung, and painted, and dancing, all at once.

From that interchange, from that dialogue, from their relationship, from their harmony and Song, proceeds another… Another Word of God… the Rhema… the Spirit Between Them… Their Love.

THIS… THESE… are the Word(s) of God! Pater, Logos, Rhema, Love, Life!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But what is a “word” really? Does it “exist”? Now, wait a moment. Stop and think about that for just a moment. What does a “word” weigh? Can you measure it, hold it, feel it? How long and wide is it? What color is it? What does it smell like, taste like? So, I ask again… does a “word” exist? Is it “real”?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yes. Yes, “words” are “real”. They are transcendent. They emerge from ideas, which emerge from consciousness, which emerges from the Mind, Heart, Soul, Being of God Himself. God is ultimately the condition of all possibility. Words are amazing, in that they transcend time, space, and person.

Words express a unique human trait, our ability to express an idea from one mind, one person, to another, using words. Words, so uniquely human, are part of our legacy as created “in the image” of God Himself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

God rolled all of this through me on this incredible morning. I was overwhelmed with the Power, the Dignity, the Holiness of “Words”.

Scripture is replete with warnings. Jesus spoke movingly and pointedly about words and their power.

Words can penetrate and permeate the sacred soul and mind and heart of another.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where does this lead?

I have a choice of words.

I can use words, select words, release words… that penetrate another person with hurt, judgment, condemnation, false labels or accusations, abandonment… I can wound, denigrate, desecrate, devalue, and demean another. I can choose to do that, with words, if I choose to craft and utter words of darkness and shadow into another sacred person, diminishing them and taking life from them.

OR

I can use, select, and release words that penetrate another person with love, encouragement, edification, walking alongside them, growing them, treasuring and lifting them up into light, and fill them with increasing Life. I can chose to do that with words, if I choose to craft and utter words of Life, Light and Love.

I can utter words of darkness and the enemy, or words of Life, Light, and Jesus. My choice.

This was the challenge. And this was my choice. I go to the pack on my Journey, and separate the words of shadow and selfishness from the words of Light and Love. I leave in the evening fire, all the debris and words that take life from others, that judge and devalue others, that abandon and denigrate others.

I will keep only words of Light, Love, and grace. I will speak only the words that come from the heart of Jesus. I choose to let my voice express only the heart of Jesus. I release and forgive all “shadow words” ever spoken at me. I renounce and release all “shadow words” I’ve ever spoken at others.

I will leave them here, abandoned at the side of this trail, not to be encumbered by them as I move along towards Jerusalem, towards the Temple, towards the Passover, towards the Cross.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Journey – Why the Sword?

sunAnd He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”.  They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” [Luke 22:35-38]

So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.” Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” [John 18:4-11]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind?

Have you ever tried to change someone’s heart?

How, precisely, do we DO that?

How does change even happen in such things? Let me put this another way… how do we change our OWN minds and hearts? I could go into a discourse on this as long as a book, but I won’t.

If you follow this blog much, you know that I’ve learned it seems that all change of heart, all transformation, comes through the grace and power of God alone. I am utterly defeated when I try to change or transform myself. But, when I recognize a need for change, when I surrender in my own impotence to the will of God on that, when I contribute what diligence and attention I can to learning His will on the matter and meditating on the Truth of the matter, and then when I RELEASE it… and allow Him Alone to move in grace, to light up the dark or shadowy corners of my heart… BOOM! There it is! Change! Transformation! (See Romans 12:1-2). This is all I’ve ever found, in more than 60 years, that works with a mind, heart, and spirit as stubborn and headstrong as my own. But it does work!

And not for me alone. My ministry makes for strange bedfellows. I have been known to serve some severely “unlovely” sheep… including wife-beaters, child-beaters, child-molesters, thieves, arsonists, and even murderers. Their victims and survivors as well! The ONLY thing I’ve ever discovered that truly ushers change… is the assertive grace and love of God through the immediate and intimate presence of Jesus Christ. (No apologies for that view, Gentle Reader. It’s just the bald statement of my experience. Take it or leave it.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Which is what brings us to the point here, Gentle Reader and Fellow Traveller.

Everyone who loves Christ longs for change. I don’t know a single reader of this post who does not “hunger and thirst after righteousness”. My words just don’t appeal to others.

So we love. We pray. We teach. We write. We care. We embrace the broken and hurting souls around us and we weep… longing to see CHANGE! We want to relieve their hurts, pains, and emptiness. We long to “agent” for Christ, to “promote” Christ, or to “protect” Christ. We want to see hearts, minds, and souls change and transform… and we are willing to do or say almost anything to bring about such life!

And… truth be told… when we try our hardest… we fail dismally. It almost seems like the harder we try, the quicker and more dramatically we fail. The more intense and assertive we become, the further and faster we will see the object of our attentions flee from the presence of God and Christ.

Why? Why can’t the passion of our desire to do good, and the intensity of our efforts, succeed in bringing about change in the hearts and minds of others we want to help?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Take another look at the passages opening this post.

Have you ever looked at these really closely? Have you ever had the Lord stop you in your study and ask… “Why? WHY? Why in the world would I say such a thing here to the Disciples? At such a time? At such a strange time? Why would I tell them to find and take swords to the Garden, and then berate them for using a sword? Does that make any kind of sense?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, look at one other passage and see if the parallel lights up…

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. [Luke 9:51-56]

Now bear in mind that this chapter of Luke opens with the foundation of our Swords teaching…

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. [Luke 9:1-5]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, here in this post is this HUGE “Introduction”… which is about to come to a crashing conclusion. It may even seem anti-climactic.

There is a simple pattern here. Jesus is about to execute the most massive “change” in all of history, redeeming Creation Itself. He is about to execute the most incredible “conquest” of all time, conquering darkness, evil, and even death itself. He is about to rescue, to express the ultimate action of Love, towards all who are or shall ever be…

Jesus will hold all authority and power as He does that. He will proclaim that should He ask, the Father would send Legions of Angels to His protection. Even His mockers will cry out, “You… Son of God… Come down from the Cross!” And He COULD HAVE!!! But He DID NOT!

Why? WHY??

It’s all this same lesson. It’s all this same truth. It’s all this same realization and teaching that He shared with His Disciples, and with all of us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Unconditional love, delivered in the submissive meekness of Christ, transforms and generates change by His very power and authority.” (And nothing else does.)

“Meekness is not Weakness. Weakness is to lack the means or resources to defend oneself or to force someone to act against their will. Meekness is to HAVE those means, but to exercise the restraint and self-control to refrain from using them.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How does all this tie together?

Jesus empowered the Disciples with the authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and yes… even to rain down fire and brimstone on an inhospitable village for rejecting Jesus’ presence. When the affronted Disciples, James and John, pondered exercising their authority in this way, Jesus castigated them for the thought. He turned and rebuked them, declaring they didn’t know His spirit yet. They didn’t understand how He worked, what His mission was, yet. They had to know they HAD the power to destroy, but REFRAIN from its exercise. Only this restraint, this expression of unconditional love and acceptance, could ultimately communicate Christ and bring about true change.

Jesus told the Disciples to arm themselves just as He prepared to enter the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew exactly what was coming… His betrayal, arrest, abuse, trial, and execution. How strange, no? They all entered the Garden, Jesus was assaulted, Peter tried to defend Him and severed Machus’ ear. Jesus HEALED Malchus and REBUKED Peter! Why? Why all of this? Jesus needed for the Disciples to know that they HAD the weapons, the power to destroy and injure, but to REFRAIN from its exercise. Only this restraint, this expression of unconditional love and acceptance, could ultimately communicate Christ and bring about true change.

The Cross itself was coming. Jesus had the power and authority to save Himself and fulfill the desires He expressed that “this cup pass” from Him. He could have done all that. But He Himself laid down His life, none took it from Him, He submitted to death in order to conquer it. Jesus on the Cross is the ultimate expression that only this restraint, this expression of unconditional love and acceptance, ultimately communicates Love and brings about true change.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What am I to leave by the wayside on this Journey through Lent?

My right to “draw my sword” to effect change. I am to understand that “those who live by it, die by it”. To use aggression, assertiveness, adrenalin, “stuff” that imposes upon the will or dignity of another… only results in their defensive response, aggressive riposte, or snapping up of defensive shields. Worst of all, it may result in their being wounded or even maimed. At that point, the Lord Himself has to heal them, perhaps in a moment when He was trying to focus on far more important issues.

Are we to go “armed” through our Kingdom journeys? Yes. Yes absolutely. We are not to be seen as weak, powerless, or irrelevant. But, astonishingly, we are ever to constrain that “implied threat” by the power of our self-control, our understanding of our spirit and our mission, and by the power of our love and willingness to suffer.

We do not generate change and healing by our force of will upon another. We generate change and healing by our force of will in submission and surrender to love and suffering.

It is the force of that Love Himself that radiates outwards like the heat of the sun, and generates change… transforming that which is NOT like itself… INTO itself.

It’s Radiation.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Remember: The Path of Descent

Reblogged from: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

The Path of Descent

Sabbath Meditation

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Remember
: The Path of Descent

The Path of Descent is the Theme of Themes of the Bible. (Sunday)

Until we admit that we are powerless, the Real Power will not be recognized, accepted, or even sought. (Monday)

The Gospel was able to accept that life is tragic, but then graciously added that we can survive and will even grow from this tragedy. (Tuesday)

We don’t come to God by doing it right; we come to God by doing it wrong! (Wednesday)

We don’t break through and transform history from the top, but from the bottom. (Thursday)

Real transformation happens when people have lost their foundation and ground, and then experience God upholding them so that they come out even more alive on the other side. (Friday)

Rest: Falling and Failing into Union

In many ways prayer—certainly contemplative prayer or meditation—is planned and organized failure. If you’re not prepared for failure, you’ll avoid prayer, and that’s what most people do. Prayer is typically not an experience of immediate union, satisfaction, or joy; in fact, quite the opposite. Usually you meet your own incapacity for and resistance to union. You encounter your thinking, judging, controlling, accusing, blaming, fearing mind. So why pray?

Julian of Norwich, my favorite mystic, uses the word “sin” to mean a state of separateness or disunion. She writes that you become aware of your state of resistance or separateness, and then when you try to sink into the experience of one-ing—Julian’s word for unitive consciousness—you realize you can’t get there by yourself. You can’t make it happen. You can’t make yourself one.

Julian writes in Revelations of Divine Love (Chapter 78), “Only in the falling apart of your own foundation can you experience God as your total foundation and your real foundation.” Otherwise you keep creating your own foundation, by your own righteousness, by your own intelligent and holy thoughts. Julian describes this reality in terms of what God does: God reveals God’s-self as your authentic foundation.

What we’re doing in prayer is letting our self-made foundation (or False Self) crumble so that God’s foundation can be our reality. Prayer is a practice in failure that overcomes our resistance to union with Love. Let’s fall into and rest in that Love one more time. . . .

From an unpublished talk, September 19, 2011

Gateway to Silence:
When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

 

Tags:

Exposing the Ego

Here is another Wonderful Post by Fr. Richard Rohrer. I know I do not write to “follow” him, and I’m equally sure he does not seek to follow any lead of mine. But so often, I find we are saying the same things. He just seems to say them so much better than I! Lol. Please enjoy this!

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

The Path of Descent

Exposing the Ego

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Cross teaches us to win by losing. But the ego doesn’t like that. The ego wants to win by winning! That’s the nature of the human psyche. And when the ego is not exposed for what it is, which Jesus’ teaching does very clearly, it simply gets out of control.

In a masterful game of smoke and mirrors, the Christian church has focused for centuries on judging the shadow self, which Jesus never wasted time on. He put all of his energy into revealing the ego self. But we have spent most of our time making people feel guilty about their shadow self, that part of us for which Jesus has great pity and sympathy and compassion. Jesus is never upset at sinners; he is only upset with people who do not think they are sinners (i.e., those who have not faced their shadow and often project their evil elsewhere).

Look at Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee’s ego had him trying to engineer his own righteousness. He could not see the shadow of his arrogance and judgment. The tax collector saw his sin, and realized his complete reliance on God’s mercy. It was the tax collector who went home “justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18: 14).

The commonly accepted version of Christianity has largely developed in response to individual ego needs for worthiness and significance. But in the biblical tradition you do not see this self-made, autonomous “getting it right” agenda that you see in later images of Christian holiness. Biblical rightness is primarily right relationship! There are no Promethean figures in the Bible. With the possible exception of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Jesus himself, almost every other biblical character, whether in Hebrew or Christian scriptures, is shown as a transformed sinner, as someone who first does it wrong before he or she ever does it right. The Bible is full of flawed, wounded individuals.

Surprise of surprises, we don’t come to God by doing it right; we come to God by doing it wrong!

Adapted from The Path of Descent (CD, MP3 download);
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 136;
and Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, p. 59

Gateway to Silence:
When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Journey – Giving Up Gravity

Desert CaravanWe travel towards the Temple in Jerusalem with greater focus, as the middle phase of this journey draws into its close.

There seems to be less chatter now. All is just as friendly, all are just as kind. But perhaps we’re a bit more introspective. There’s a bit more gravitas than there was in our opening days.

Did the guys, the Disciples, experience this as well? As the days of Jesus’ last Passover approached, as He became more focused on the events of these last days to come, did they feel the tension? Certainly He did! Time after time in these last weeks, He would unexpectedly make some allusion to His approaching death. It concerned them, it worried them, it grieved them. Making it all so much worse, of course… the grief and mourning over something they by no means could understand!

Jesus was strong! Jesus was healthy! Jesus was at the absolute epitome, the top, of His power and authority! He had escaped death now many times. He had just raised the dead. He cast out demons so totally and authoritatively that it seemed old hat, nearly routine! And yet… and yet… NOW He spoke of death. He spoke of the end. It was… disturbing.

It all seemed so… so… so backwards!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Backwards… like so many things Jesus taught. So many things He teaches. So many things that He even taught from the very first!

Sermon on the Mount! “Blessed are those who”… appear the most accursed. How can this be? All those conditions… mourning, poverty, powerlessness, those whose circumstances are unrighteous… those are not GOOD conditions, but BAD! And Jesus called THESE people “blessed” and promised that because of where they were, and what they needed, and what they wanted… God would then provide and bless! This is upside down! This is backwards. This is like water running uphill. This makes no sense.

Simple justice… simple fairness… common sense. Love your friends and hate your enemy. Treat others as they treat you. Deal with one another with simple fairness and reciprocity! This is simple fairness and justice. This is the Law! This is the will of a Reasonable and Just God!

But NO! Jesus says, “NO!”… this is NOT the will of God. God is NOT reasonable, logical, or what common sense would tell us is “Just”! Get that out of our heads! We are to look towards God Alone as providing for us, as blessing us, as “treating us rightly”. We are NOT to expect that from anyone else! We are to receive our grace, as grace, from God Alone. We are then to dispense that same grace, as grace, to ALL who surround us… friend and enemy alike.

We are not to “score” or “sort” or “label” our encounters and relationships as “good or bad”, “friend or enemy”. Not even so simple and obvious a distinction as THAT… friend or enemy… between people we know. Later on in fact, Jesus even removes the label “family” from our vocabulary. (But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21 and Mark 3:33 and Matthew 12:48.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I mean… this makes no SENSE, does it? It’s all so upside down!

The last shall be first and the first shall be last… (Matthew 20:16 and Mark 9:35)

To live is to die, and to die is to live… (Matthew 16:25 and Mark 8:35 and Luke 9:24)

To be greatest in the Kingdom of God is to be the most powerless and servile… (Matthew 8:1-4).

That Jesus Himself is the Greatest of All because He lowered Himself to be the Lowest Servant of All… (Philippians 2:5-11)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How many times? How many times have we seen these truths? Read these truths? Studied these truths? Heaven help us… even TAUGHT these truths to others? And yet… yet… how hard do we yet struggle against them? I know I do…

Don’t we yet yearn for that recognition? That token of esteem? That “honored seat” at a committee meeting? That acknowledgment or applause at a community function? That satisfaction at sitting in the President’s Chair on the Platform during service, or that front pew for the Church Leaders? Do we grasp the edges of our pulpits as we preach, with just that flash of a moment of satisfaction that “this is MY church… MY pulpit”, and feel the accomplishment as we look among the sea of faces before us? Or, in other contexts, do we strive after that next promotion, that next raise, that bigger office?

Why? Why is this so? Because we are trained and conditioned from childhood that this is the “natural order” of things. We learn to measure our own value, to ourselves, based on the “value tokens” we receive from others… particularly our “judges”. We are conditioned to strain for the “good grades”, the “great report cards”, the “honor roll”, the “Dean’s List”. Then, the “good job”, the “high salary”, and “great perks”. We learn that the world and the authorities of the world (bosses, community leaders, church leaders), will “score and evaluate” us… and that it is Good to score high with great recognition, and it is Bad not to. To be the innocuous and inconspicuous servant, in terms of our conditioning, is to become an utter failure.

So we are trained, from cradle to grave… Amen.

It’s all as natural and self-evident as Gravity!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then along comes Jesus… and it all falls apart.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what, on this day of our journey, has Jesus pointed to for me to be rid of?

“Little Monk, if you are ready, I want you to let go of Gravity. It is so obvious. It is so THERE. It draws you towards its heart every moment of every day. But Little Monk, even though every fiber of your being screams out that it is real, it is meaningful, it is obvious, it is important and it is True…

“I tell you, it is NOT True. This gravity that you know, this natural force of ‘cream rising to the top’… is utterly false. It is an illusion of the Enemy that continues to delude My Children every day.

“Embrace the counter-intuitive Truth that I have told you, I have taught you, I have repeated to you and to all My Children innumerable times… Embrace that My Kingdom is Upside Down!

“Because as long as you accept the reality of Gravity, then every day your mind and your will are in conflict. You know and accept My Word(s), But you keep trying to accept that gravity is real as well, so you try to “bend your life” into some shape or configuration that makes them both work. You try to reconcile your identity as servant with your ambition to greatness and success.

“Give it up, if you are ready. You’ll find life more comfortable. What’s more…” as His voice dropped to a nearly conspiratorial tone, “once you truly let go of it, you’ll find that I can teach you to fly!

“Now, it’s your call…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have left Gravity by the side of the trail. (It was too big to fit into the fire pit.)

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Journey – The Jots and Tittles

Desert CaravanThese days of the journey have been fairly quiet and simple. Rather a humming along, gentle and reflective, rather than anything dramatic.

Ministry has moved along sedately. Bible study smoothly. Family and friends well and even the weather moderating a bit.

For me, on this journey, there’s been a bit of a growing sense of anticipation. Not quite yet “excitement”, but a steady sense of the Lord building up towards the Spring, and the Feast of the Resurrection.

If anything, I think the theme has been “simplification”. Lots has been written in various times and places about “simplifying our lives”… occupationally, financially, socially, lots of different ways. But these days on this journey, I’ve felt the gentle urging to simplify “spiritually”, simplify “theologically”. There’s been the sense that as we move through this last part of Lent, I’m to clean up some ideas and convictions, paring them down a bit, removing debris and fluffly lint from them, finding their vibrant living core of truth to set on lampstands for my Temple.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The first Truth is simple: “Man is created by God for the purpose of being loved by God.”

No ifs, ands, buts, howevers, or other conditioning prepositions or conjunctions to it.

“We love, because He first loved us.” [1 John 4:19].

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What I am to rummage through my pack for, and leave here by the side of the road, are all the little “unfaith qualifiers” I tend to tag onto such verses to rob them of their grace, authority, and power.

Stuff like:

“Well, yes, He created me to receive His love… but only if I receive Him, believe in Him, and behave properly…” I mean, that’s pretty well squashed as a view by the Romans 5:8 quotation, (I mean, really… the timing on that is pretty clear, isn’t it?) But still, it’s amazing how easily I can doubt God’s “Love Agenda” based on Him assigning some “condition for acceptance” grounded in my own will or works.

or

“Well, yes, He loves us and created me for that… but then I’ve got to return His love, and worship Him, and fear Him. After all, He MUST have made us to worship Him, right?” Well, if He dealt with us as transactionally as we tend to deal with one another… like “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”… then I guess this would hold water. But, well, this isn’t what scripture says, and Jesus was pretty clear through Sermon on the Mount that this tit-for-tat stuff isn’t really how God deals at all. So I guess that one’s out.

or

“Well, yes, God loves us, true… but He created us to work for Him, worship Him, and build His Kingdom.” (I’ve seen this one in a few places. I even bought into it for a good chunk of my life.) This one got me into a bit of hot water one day, when God finally confronted such foolishness with a healthy dose of serious reality check. It hit me like a glass of icewater dashed in my face… “Really? REALLY? Like God… Holy God… Omnipotent and Almighty God… NEEDS ME to manage His Kingdom?” Who was I kidding or trying to impress? How silly. He “needs” absolutely NOTHING that I have to offer Him. He created all of Reality perfectly well without man, and certainly didn’t “need” him in the Garden of Eden to tend it. He had other reasons, reasons of love, togetherness, fellowship, and growth in loving… for telling Adam to tend the Garden, but that discussion is for another time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Like peeling the husk and silk off fresh ears of corn, or shucking peas… my urging has been to find the core truth… “God created man for the purpose of loving him,” and remove all the other stuff, the jots and tittles, from it.

Now, does God DESIRE more for us, and from us, than that? Absolutely. There’s vastly more to growing in intimate and immediate presence and boundless love relationship with this King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He raises His children with tremendous attention to detail. But all of that, ALL of it, is expression of His love as Our Father. Our “house rules” are nurturance and formation, not our “purpose” or our “conditions of acceptability”.

For me, this is the most fundamental truth I know. Everything else builds from this. Nothing else makes sense until this cornerstone is in place.

God’s agenda is simple: “Our Father has created us, so that He can be Our Father TO us.”

Any questions? No? Good. We’ll move on then…

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Journey – Spring Cleaning

Desert CaravanAs we approach the halfway point of our journey, my packs are getting a bit lighter. It’s as if the smaller “easy stuff” has gone by the wayside, but the deeper encumbrances are more of a challenge to dig out.

It seems an appropriate time to just sit a moment and ask, “what are we doing here? Really?”

I mean, yes, here we are in “Lent” and all… and so we’re “giving up” stuff… Right… but… but really… WHY?

Is there anything innately “meritorious” about “giving up stuff”? I mean, are we supposed to “impress God” with our “strength of character”, by giving stuff up in this season? Is that what it’s all about?

Of course, when I was quite small I was in a part of the country where most of my classmates were either Roman Catholic or Jewish. (I was actually quite jealous of them… Catholic students got a “half day” of school every Wednesday for “Release Time”, when they went to Church for religious instruction. Jewish Students got like twelve additional “holidays” off school for a variety of their religious observances. It just didn’t hardly seem fair!)

I remember “Lent” quite distinctly, for as Ash Wednesday approached, one of the hottest of conversation topics was… “What are YOU giving up?” There were the “good kids”, from the “proper” homes, who boringly gave up really cool stuf… Ice Cream, Chocolate, Comic Books, one most heroic ascetic actually admitted he was going to give up Television!

Among my own personal CIRCLE of friends, more “creative” choices were likely. Friends who chose to give up things like… homework, liver, vegetables… And, my personal favorite, the young man who tried to swear off “baths” for 40 days. He regretfully reported that he could not sell his parents on this sacrifice.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Of course, my playmates and friends had rather missed the point of the exercise. Many of their examples are simply funny… and I tell these stories here (true stories, btw!)… to share the humor. HOWEVER…….. I’m not sure most adults, religiously sincere beloved people, who engage in Lenten Fasting aren’t themselves just about as confused regarding “what’s it all about?”

Now, I truly want to be careful here. I am NOT being critical of the theology or dogmas of others. I have mine. You have yours. God blesses piety as expression of love for Him. It is vastly above my pay grade, here or anywhere else, to engage in “comparative religions class”. That’s NOT what this is about.

But a meaningful point to look at here… is “Penance”.

Now, before anyone gears up for dispute… (we’re NOT going to go reaching for our spiders or scorpions here… lol)... I’m about to express some principles I have been taught and believe to be true in and of my own background. The fact that these may be principles of worship or piety, does not mean that they are “exclusively true”. That is, just because these may be valuable principles for me in my own prayer life, that does not mean that they are universal… or that if you live by OTHER principles, I imply that you and yours are wrong. Not at all.

Right…

So, I think one of the major “disconnects” among worship cultures such as the Liturgical and the Evangelical, is on this issue of “Penance”, and “formalized contrition”. This tension becomes apparent in consideration of “Confession” or the “Rite of Reconciliation” leading towards sacramental Absolution. It also emerges to a lesser extent in the issues of Fasting, or Lenten or Advent preparations for Easter or Christmas.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:9]

I’ve really struggled with how to say this next part without getting all bogged down in theology or comparative religion. I guess I’ll just say it, lay it out there on the table, let ya’ll poke and prod at it to your heart’s content, and have done.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The underlying and mistaken belief of my childhood friends regarding Lent was that it was a season to “do penance”, to suffer, to endure deprivation or perform a sacrifice, to pay for sin and wrongdoing in their lives. It contained a grounding principle that implied Jesus’ need for them to add something more, some degree of “punishment”, to THEIR lives… in order to be clean and purified from sin before God.

This SPECIFIC outlook was itself grounded in a broader worldview that because of our frailties, fallenness, and sins… we are not only unworthy, but UNABLE, to stand transparently and directly before Holy God. That we can only approach Him in a “grovelling, penitent” posture. That, therefore, if we hope to approach God in a near and intimate way at Easter, we must “purify ourselves” all the more strongly through Lenten sacrifice. So, the more horrid one’s Lent, the more joyful and blessed one’s Easter. This is a transaction with God.

THIS is grounded on an even more fundamental belief, usually left unspoken and  unexamined, that the experience of the Immediate and Intimate Presence of God… is to be dreaded as something that will fill us with fear, shame, and guilt. That we worship a “joyless” God, who cannot wait to catch us out and point to all our shortcomings.

Here’s a great commentary on that: A Mardi Gras Season Thought

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But here, today, at this “halfway point” of our Journey through Lent, I would like even to go a bit past that author’s point, past our typical understandings of Lent, past the usual views whether Liturgical OR Evangelical…

What if Lent… indeed what if ALL “Penance”… were nothing more nor less than, “The grand celebration of our freedom from tyranny… even the ultimate tyranny of ourselves.”

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” [2 Corinthians 10:3-6]

“Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”

HERE, it seems, is a meaningful reflection of “penance”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Penance is NOT “punishment for sin”. That was already taken care of, in vastly more capable hands than ours. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” [2 Corinthians 5:12]. “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” [1 John 4:17-18]

Often, Penance is a gestural representation of sorrow and repentance Like one may send a card or give a gift to represent love and esteem on a holiday, the gift given is a “token of representation”. The gift is not designed to “assign value”, or “pay for” the value of the relationship. It is a “gesture”, not the measure of one’s weight in gold or silver. We can affirm our entering into the joy of an occasion (say a birthday, wedding, or anniversary), through offering a gesture of gift.

Penance can be a “gift of godly sorrow”, in the sense that Paul says here…

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.” [2 Corinthians 7:9-11]

It’s important here, I think, to distinguish this from a very wrong type of repentance and penance… that which tries to “fix it all”, and “undo the wrong”. This is the repentance of Judas… which flat doesn’t work.

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to that yourself!’ And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.’ And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.” [Matthew 27:3-7]

See that huge difference? I mean, beyond Judas’ suicide, of course. Repentance for Paul is “FORWARD LOOKING”… it is to set a new and more loving godly direction for present and future action. One acknowledges failure of the past, but only for the purpose of present gratitude for grace and future increase in love and godliness. Judas’ remorse however, his “sorrow that leads to death” as Paul would phrase it, is “BACKWARD LOOKING”. It is fixated and obsessed with the wrongful act, seeks to reverse the act, to make reparation and restore the status quo ante. Forgiveness is sought from man, not God. And… bottom line… it doesn’t work. (Far too many Christians get themselves caught in this trap, by the way.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So right here, at what has been our halfway point of this journey, I wanted to state “why I am here”, and invite your comments to do the same.

It’s so simple….

A while back, I came to realize that “I am a Temple”. Not just my “body” or my “soul”, but my ME. My Life. My Being. My Self. I have been fashioned in the very Image of God, with a destiny to house Him and His love and authority in their fullness.

I am the “Keeper”, the “Custodian” of this Temple. I can choose to take into it what I wish, store it as I wish, and keep this environment orderly or messy, as I choose. I can “construct and configure” it as I choose. My free will manages this environment with little constraint. But there’s only so much “room”. I have only so much “attention” and “consciousness” to offer.

If I become a “spiritual hoarder”, an “emotional cripple”, clinging to every shadow and illusion that moves me deeply… I will have no room, no freedom, no space, no attention… with which to receive and house Almighty God in all His Magnificence.

For me, Lent is simply “Spring Cleaning”. Here is this wonderful time available to move through my House, room by room, finding “false treasures” that I thought had value for me… and sweep them away to make room for True Treasure.

Is this “Penance”? Well, I suppose… to the extent that I yet experience foolish desire and attachment to issues, feelings, habits, attitudes that have no truth to them… just by my own habit or willfulness. But if casting away that delicious poison tests my integrity… well GOOD! It’s a good thing for me to “flex those muscles” from time to time.

As I said… Penance? Token gift of affirmation, gratitude, and agreement with the grace and forgiveness of God. But ALSO, a grand celebration of my own freedom from tyranny… even the tyranny of my own appetites and foolishness.

I love being “free in Christ”! How about you?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Journey – Leaving Trust Behind

DisciplesBut the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:16-19]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For some, these have been “aversive verses”... (“averses”?)... for years. “MAKE DISCIPLES” can look arduous, peremptory, invasive, offensive, manufactury… as if we are to invade the surrounding enemy territories… like an infection… and remold sovereign people and consciousnesses into our own image! Hmmm… seems a familiar historical model, no?

Yes. Unfortunately, these verses were used as “syrupy theological veneer” to excuse and justify military, economic, cultural, political conquest for so many centuries… such atrocities have been committed and rationalized under the aegis of these verses… the very  nausea of cultural and physical genocide has created sincere crisis  of conscience for many.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But if you can set all that aside… if you can ignore all our human perversion and prostitution of these incredibly BEAUTIFUL Word(s) of God… just for a moment…

LOOK at this sequence, that we seldom consider as part of a “whole picture”…

Check this context as perceived and recorded by Matthew:

  1. Women arrive at Jesus’ Tomb to find an angel sitting atop the seal stone, after opening the tomb with an earthquake. The angel had appeared in his glory, and the guards fainted away from fear. The angel greets the women (first telling them not to fear him), then announces that Jesus is risen, invites them to come and see (where have we heard that before?), tells them to run ahead to the Disciples and where He will meet them.
  2. The women leave in great joy to do as the angel commanded and share the good news with the Disciples, and Jesus HIMSELF appears to them on the roadway. They are overcome with joy, and begin to worship Him, grasping His FEET. He repeats His instructions for the Disciples to them.
  3. While the women are traveling, some of the wimpy guards head back to their bosses in town and tell them what happened. They get paid off to lie, saying that disciples stole Jesus’ body… thus covering their jobs and reputations for failing at their task (guarding the Tomb).

OK, so the stage is set….

Now, check out this really cool thing… So often we “abstract” these verses from their setting, like cutting a rose blossom from its bush, or prying loose a gem from its setting.

But LOOK…

Jesus does NOT just say… “Here’s my orders! Go DO this thing!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No. Instead, these verses tell an entire STORY! Matthew 28:16-20:

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.

Jesus had “left orders” by means of the women, as first articulated by the angel. The women had doubtless told them the whole story. They needed to travel, trusting both the source(s) and the content of the instructions.

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

WHAT? Wait, look at that. REALLY? This says three distinct things: (1) They SAW Him! (Amazing). (2) They worshiped Him! (Understandable). (3) But some were doubtful! (Huh?) Just rest here a moment, Gentle Reader. It says “some”, not “one”, so we can’t just write this off to Thomas alone, huh? Now, they’ve had Jesus’ statements BEFORE the Crucifixion, His miracles at and around the Crucifixion itself, the testimony of the angel, the testimony of the women on the road (not to mention all the surrounding narratives of the other Gospels), they travel (in faith and obedience) to this mountaintop… and THEY SEE HIM. They worship? But some are DOUBTFUL??? Does that make you blink?

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

I’m really not sure how or why, but these words are usually divorced from the rest of what is often called The Great Commission. Why is this particularly important? Well, first off… because it’s like… *cough*… HERE… and HE SAID SO?! But also, because the next two words to follow are “Go THEREFORE”!!!! So… all the REST only works BECAUSE… OF… THIS!

Huh? So, like… what’s so important about THIS, eh? Well, it’s really a pretty massive statement, and it follows because of and consequent to… all of the Redemption. The whole Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion Thing. The Father has chosen to give to Jesus ALL Authority, in heaven and on earth. NO ONE ELSE holds that authority… not the Father (any longer, He has given it over)…. not the Enemy, Darkness, Satan former ruler of this world… but only Jesus. This is a progression even beyond the promises of the Garden, even beyond John 17.

This… is a massive…. statement.  Jesus has pointedly and specifically ordered the Disciples to come up on a mountain so He can announce to them that… HE ALONE is now LORD of ALL.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

And HERE, at the kernel of this whole discourse… Jesus uses a “THEREFORE”!!! Jesus does NOT simply “issue these orders” to the Disciples, and (derivatively) to us! He issues these instructions as a LOGICAL CONCLUSION of that which has been said before… He says, “Now that the Father has invested all authority over heaven and earth in Me… NOW this Chain of Grace continues and I invest this authority in you, to continue My Kingdom. GO! Love as I have loved! Speak My word(s) as I spoke those of the Father! Touch with My love and healing and wholeness, doing My work(s) as I did the Father’s. Lift Me up that more may fall in love with Me, as you fell in love with Me! Call them, show them, walk with them, live with them, and cover them up in the Father’s Love, My forgiveness and cleansing, and the Holy Spirit’s infinite and intimate Presence.”

Beyond all this He adds only one more revelation…

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

He’s said it before. He will say it again. He whispers it in our hearts and minds every second of every minute of every day… because here is the ultimate fear, the ultimate torment, the ultimate terror… the be Utterly Alone in the Void. Here is the darkness that drives otherwise balanced people to take their own lives. The sundering of abandonment, betrayal, alone-ness. HE WILL NEVER DO THIS! He does not, and will never, cut you off and abandon and forsake you. The ultimate assurance… whether we feel Him or not, whether we welcome His presence or not… He promises…. “with you always, even to the end of time.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Essence of Discipleship

An endnote I would leave here is that a disciple is a living testament to a Master. Whether the master is Jesus, or Socrates (who discipled Plato, who discipled Aristotle), or otherwise… a disciple is a field into which a Living Presence is planted, and lives on. Jesus, Living and Very God, is immediately present and not subject to “generations” and “adulteration” over time.

The Key to Discipleship is Living Presence, and Immediate Love. Oddly enough, the Foundation of the Great Commission is in the LAST statement. It is the: “Lo, I am with you always!”

Know this… we can UTTERLY TRUST Jesus in that statement, and it is the hardest statement for us (as humans) to believe of anyone else.

Most if not all the suffering and insecurity in the world is based on the fear that, “If I don’t have… if I don’t show… if I don’t act… THUS, then this person or these people (who I need in my life)… will cast me out and abandon me.” Doesn’t matter if what we must have is money, power, status, control, authority, respect… doesn’t matter. Insecurity is the fear that if we do not possess those things or attributes, then those we value will not find us acceptable.

People then live out their lives trying to accumulate “insurance” against abandonment. They (we) can never fully rest with true peace. They (we) can never truly trust.

Now, it would be nice to say simply, “this isn’t true! People will not abandon you because you do not have or do whatever.” But, truth be told, I, for one, cannot say such a thing. I cannot say, “Trust people not to abandon you. Trust that people will not measure and judge you for what you have and what you do… Trust people to keep their word… Trust that those who say they love you, or treasure you, or will always walk with you… will keep those promises.” I cannot say that. I have experienced too many liars, too many oathbreakers, too many who speak such words falsely… no matter how sincerely they may once have been uttered.

In fact, it has been my experience that the more closely the Lord and I walk, the more truly His word(s) speak, the more like Him I love and touch… the MORE frequently I (and my words and touch) will be abandoned and cast out. He was clear about it. I’ve asked to be blessed, and He has declared this to be blessedness… that to speak His Truth means that it is RIGHT that some I never thought possible have called vile names, found me unworthy of ongoing friendship, or even rejected me from presence in public worship.

People… will DO that. No matter how sacredly you treat them, how deeply you bless them, how truly you deal with them, or how intensely you pray for them. Sometimes, to speak truth to someone… is to sacrifice their very friendship to the Truth. For they will sometimes betray you. He promised it. That should be no surprise.

BUT NOT HIM! NEVER HIM! JESUS DOES NOT, and WILL NOT, DO THAT!

And, by the way, how do you treat the betrayer after they break their word? How do you deal with them after they declare you “unclean”? How do you ever “trust” that oathbreaker again?

Lol. You treat them, love them, speak to them, pray for them, and even TRUST them… EXACTLY AS YOU DID BEFORE! It makes NO DIFFERENCE! All that “Stuff”…. is THEIR “stuff” to deal with before God. It’s not your (or my) “stuff”. The ONLY standard we have for relationship is the standard the Father holds towards and for US. It’s the same old lesson from Sermon on the Mount!

Jesus taught: “The Father deals with you as a sacred person, thusly. THEREFORE… you will treat other sacred people, the same way.” Period, full stop. There is no “transaction” to relationship. You treat “enemies” with the same love as “family”. No difference.

I love, trust, speak… to/for others… because and as God treats me. At least that is the standard… and I (of course) have my own “good and bad days” with the challenge of that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Disciple others? Yes… simple… love them, bring the Living Presence of Christ… in you (in us)… to them, and walk with them thus.

Live, each moment, as though “He were with us, even to the end of the age.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From my pack, I remove all “Trust” for people… lay it reverently on the fire… and watch it slowly burn to ash. My heart is lighter by the weight of its fear.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: