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A Tale of Two Birth Announcements

Look over Luke 1:5-25; 57-66.

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Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1490, fresco in the Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence) Public Domain

We all know the story, don’t we? Zacharias (an “official” “ordained-type” priest) goes in his proper time to offer incense within the Temple. The Angel Gabriel appears to him there, announcing the upcoming birth of John the Baptist, along with his role as forerunner and preparer of the way of the Lord.

Zacharias responds, objecting, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” [v. 18] Gabriel then identifies himself by name, and declares that Zacharias will be mute until his words were fulfilled.

Time passes and so things come about. Zacharias regains his voice finally upon naming his son “John” at his circumcision, in response to community objections because this is not family name of their line.

We all know the story.

Now, please look over Luke 1:26-56.

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The Annunciation by Pinturicchio (1501, fresco in the Cappella Baglioni, Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore, Spello) Public Domain

We all know this story, too, don’t we? We see this played out in Christmas pageants almost annually, no? The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary, declares her favored, calms her confusion, and announces that she will conceive the Son of the Most High and name Him Jesus.

Mary seems to respond much as did Zacharias, pointing out a physical incongruity as she says, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” [v. 34]

But far from punishing her, as it could seem Gabriel did to Zacharias, the angel answers graciously with not only the answer to her question (that the power of the Most High would overshadow her), but he gives her an additional sign declaring that Elizabeth (her kinswoman) is six months along expecting the birth of John. Their exchange ends with “’nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” [vv. 37-38]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, like, am I the only one who ever wondered, “what’s the difference here?”

Zacharias clearly ticked Gabriel off, while Mary didn’t. It’s one thing to point to the “rank order” difference between them. There’s certainly a difference of “graciousness” between them. Lots of flavorful differences, but I always sensed there was more here than that.

And… why should we care? What difference does, or should, it make to us… to you and me… here and now… why these two encounters went the way they did?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I think the answer to both questions is the same one… “Faith”.

The difference between the two encounters is “Faith”. And the reason we should care, is also “Faith”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It never dawned on me, until very recently, that Zacharias… even faced as he was with the terrifying countenance of an Angel of God Almighty… doubted the truth of his words. Even INSIDE the Temple, standing next to the Altar of Incense as he offered up incense to God!

Seriously?

All of Gabriel’s words spoke to FUTURE events, not present events. Zacharias was going to have to go from that place, be with his wife in the proper time, conceive John, and watch nature take its course for the next nine months.

But that wasn’t good enough for Zacharias.  He says, “how will I know this for certain?” (We know italicized words are inserted by editors.) So he wants to know, right here, right now, why he should believe Gabriel. Waiting apparently isn’t good enough. (We know for certain that the issue is doubt, because Gabriel tells us that.) Zacharias is rendered mute until all was fulfilled “because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” [v. 20]

Zacharias needed to know these things were true before he was willing to do his part. Clearly, his part in this miracle would be of crucial importance. It was he and Elizabeth who needed to conceive this child. But before he would go to that trouble, before he would dare go communicate this to Elizabeth, before he would risk Elizabeth’s heartbreak, disappointment, or disgrace… he had to have a sign. He had to KNOW this was true, before he could obey.

Gabriel gives him an unmistakable sign of his authority and power, using his words alone to stop all words for Zacharias until the truth was borne out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what is different about Mary? She, too, asks a “how” question.

The difference is that her question is one of “means”, not “verification”. She was perplexed at the appearance of Gabriel, not terrified. Gabriel declares the upcoming conception, birth, and kingship of Jesus, and Mary does not express doubt at the announcement. Rather, she asks how this is to come about, what is she to do? She knows she is virgin. Is that to change for this miracle? How should she obey the will of God?

Gabriel responds to the “how” of the question… that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” [v. 34-35] (By the way, that word “overshadow” only appears 5 times in the New Testament. Once here; then three times referring to the Cloud around Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in the time of the Transfiguration that came upon (and terrified) Peter, James and John, from which came the Voice saying “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”[Luke 9:34-35]; and third when Peter’s shadow heals the sick [Acts 5:15].)

Unsolicited, Gabriel offers Mary the sign of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary yields unconditionally to God’s will and embraces Gabriel’s words, the hurries off to aid Elizabeth in her first pregnancy. Isn’t it interesting that Elizabeth had only “come out”, publicly acknowledging her pregnancy in the month before Mary’s arrival? No way was Elizabeth going to endure the risk of disappointment had she miscarried, or been merely deluded into thinking she was pregnant. She would not face either the jibes or the condescending looks of other village women as her face began to round and her figure became more full. She was an elder of her town, disgraced by the curse of barrenness perhaps, but nonetheless righteous and dignified of demeanor. She would not be mocked.

But by the time Mary arrives, Elizabeth KNOWS. She knows for sure that she carries life within her. The baby has quickened, and for the first time she has the glorious sensation of life moving inside her as he responds to her motions or sounds around them. No words describe the joy of hugging new life with your very self, as a woman can in this time.

Mary comes, calls out in greeting, and the Holy Spirit already filling John [v. 15] now fills Elizabeth as well, and her joyful encounter with Mary as they attend to one another’s needs for the next three months (Elizabeth’s third trimester, Mary’s first), offers blessing to them both. Even as I type those words, I can only pause and wonder in awe at what those months must have been like. What would evenings have been like in such a home? Zacharias silent (no choice there), Elizabeth growing ever more excited even as getting around gets more difficult and stilted, and Mary finding her appetite less predictable, perhaps napping now and again, and sensing the changes in her body as the Christ waxes in form…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What does all this mean to us, Gentle Reader?

Well, God does the impossible all the time. For those who are ready and seek Him, miracles are all around.

When they come, sometimes they are hard to believe in. That’s just the truth. But! When one is willing to yield to them, God grants. When one is willing if and only if there is a sign attesting to the truth… well, God accommodates and a sign will be given. We see this over and over again throughout the Scriptures (Gideon, etc.) However, as we see from this text, while faith that may be, it is a flawed sort of faith. (I, for one, have engaged in such flawed faith countless times, so no judgment here!)

But there’s another kind of faith. There’s a faith that takes a truth on the authority of the speaker, and simply says “Yes!” before it asks “How?”

There, I think is both the difference between the two Gabriel missions, and the significance to us today.

Zacharias wanted proof before he would act. Mary was willing to act before any proof was offered.

Both were engaged in astonishing blessing and miracle. Zacharias just had to go about it with a bit more inconvenience. That and, frankly, their lingering doubts certainly would have robbed him and Elizabeth of months of joy and consolation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Holy Spirit, the overshadowing Power of the Lord Most High, certainly wins out in every miracle. Let us simply say “Yes!” first, ask “How?” afterwards, and watch events unfold!

Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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What’s Your Name?

How often do we pray… “Dear Lord… thank You for [fill in blessing]… and please [intention, intention, intention]. We ask this in the name of Jesus… Amen.”

We say or hear this as often as Christians gather, do we not? Nothing wrong with this at all.

But lately, over the past couple years, my “prayer circuit” has been modifying somewhat. I sense far less call to “direct God and His grace” through the micro-management of my prayer, and far greater call to “ride the wave” of His love and care from the voice of the Spirit within my heart, as He expresses Himself back to the Father. I guess you could say I “amen” Him, far more than generating my own words.

I have become vastly less concerned with “persuading God” to move in blessing with power and grace, and far more concerned with simply “loving” the object of my prayer, and experiencing that love in real live-time, with a view towards opening the windows of space/time to admit the power and grace God already has available.

It is very difficult to find the right words to express the difference here.

But I think it’s more a change of perspective, to where the task isn’t to “move God”, but rather to “authorize, permit, allow” the universe, this material world of “stuff”… to “accept the grace”, the blessing, the expression of God’s will.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Does “praying in Jesus’ name” mean that we tack this phrase (“we ask this in Jesus’ name”, or “we ask this in Your precious name”) on to the end of our own mentally generated list or intention addressed to God?

or

Does it mean that we ourselves step into the persona, the authority, the identity, the Spirit of Jesus the Christ, when and as we address Our Father?

Jesus told the Companion Disciples:

23 “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. 25 These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” [John 16:23-28]

Now, up to that time Jesus had already taught the guys to pray, they knew the Lord’s Prayer, they’d been going out announcing Him, they’d been healing, they’d been casting out demons in His name.

Yet, He says that up to then they had asked for nothing in His name.’

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How is that possible?

I suspect that, just as so much of this discourse in John addresses the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost… so does this. What if, once one changes identity from “me in here, and Jesus out there” to “me in Him, and Him in me, and together we in the Father”… then the whole perspective, the nature, the authority of prayer itself changes?

What if one day we came to our prayer intentions with the attitude that when we put on our “prayer robes”, our “authority and identity of Jesus to pray”, that the Father has already said “Yes” to those intentions, and we apply our faith simply to move the material world to accept the blessings?

And… the world HAS to “move aside to accept”, simply because the universe must respond to the authority of Jesus, because He upholds it all within His will and His word?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These struck me as strange thoughts one day, when I started wondering about all this. And yet, the Lord seemed to be leading this ponder step by step. He was challenging me to “pray in His name”… to “pray from WITHIN His name”. Pray as though I had taken on His name, as a wife typically takes on the name and authority of a husband. The two become one, different than either alone.

I had this image of the parting of seas, or mountains moving. I thought, “prayer can be that powerful”. But I wondered “why” and “how”. How does faith make prayer that powerful?

And for some reason I thought about police officers… A law enforcement officer pins on their badge, straps on a weapon, and begins work in a vehicle with siren and flashing lights. They are still the person they were when they woke that day, but… when they do their “function”, when they do what only they can do as sworn peace officers, they act “in the name of” the Law… the state, county, whatever. They are not just Joe, Jane, Bob, or Betty… they are authorized to stop, detain, arrest, or use adequate force to protect society.

Why is this so? Because they have entered into this relationship with the people, and the laws people create. What token marks this incredible responsibility, privilege, and authority? Their badge, their shield. And when they raise that shield above their heads in a crowd as they chase someone, shouting “Make WAY!”, or when those lights and siren go off behind traffic on the highway… we part, we pull over, we yield right of way… not so much to THEM, as to the BADGE they carry. To the function they are discharging. To the authority with which they are (in those moments) exercising.

Suddenly, oddly, I had this image of prayer working something like that.

When we function “in the name of Jesus”, we exercise an authority in prayer to which the material universe itself, the world, must yield.

Anyway, it makes for an interesting prayer experiment to approach prayer with some preparation of “taking up one’s token of authority”, and exercising our perquisites, our duty and privilege, to alter reality and usher forth grace and blessing… simply because it is what we are called to do, in those moments when we take on His name and act in His name.

Prayer Experiment…. Question: How would you pray today, if you knew… absolutely KNEW, that TODAY your prayers are uttered in the fullness of Jesus’ authority? As if He sat right alongside you, and petitioned Our Father for whatever you ask?

Would you pray any differently? Would you expect any different results than otherwise?

Grace and blessings to you, Gentle Reader!

 

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About the Busy God

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474 Over the past several months… off and on for a couple years, now… I have found the Lord capturing my mind, my prayer times, by one or another single word. A single concept that He seems to draw me into with such intensity and clarity that it’s as if He were “teaching class” to a student body of one alone. And upon return to the here-and-now of IRL (in-real-life), the experience of this time just changes everything, changes perspective, changes the standpoint from which I live.

One of these words has been “Infinite”. Another has been “Kingdom”. Another, “Beauty”.

For just a moment, I’d like to look at “Infinite” with you, and see if sometime you, too, will ride out to this wondrous zone where we can experience what we cannot possibly comprehend or certainly explain. Our “prayer maps” should include a border warning that says… “Caution: Beyond here there be Mysteries”… knowing that while we may get there, while we may experience them and survive, upon return our most sublime words will sound like incoherent babblings.

Let us start with an obvious proposition as we consider “Big”… Let’s look at Douglas Adams’ statement in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that “Space is really big”.

Now, let’s try a thought experiment for just a moment: Think… “Infinite”… and “Big”. And then “Infinitely Big”. Just let your mind move to the Cosmos, and just keep expanding with the universe, and imagine all of that INSIDE GOD… no matter how far or how long you go outward. The mind will tend to numb fairly shortly, and that’s good.

But wait! There’s more! Now, think… “Infinite”… and “Small”. And then “Infinitely Small”. And let your mind move downwards in size, from Planets, and Stuff, and Mountains, to Hills, to Mounds, to Boulders, to Rocks, to Stones, to Pebbles, to Sand, to Grains, to Crystals, to Molecules, to Atoms, to Protons, to Electrons, to all those little oddly-named particle-wavy things we don’t know what they are, but they help hold everything together bits… and realize that God is on an intimate first-name basis with the smallest conceivable bit of reality that you can imagine! (And more than that…)

But wait! Let’s look at this another way! We’ve only been thinking of “space”… big and small. What about TIME?

When one is Infinite… how long is “a long time”? I mean, really… we think about the history of man, or the history of life, or the history of the planet we ride. And the mind boggles. But when we think of that against a backdrop of “Eternity”… really “Infinite Time”… that’s but an eyeblink. There is “no time” that applies to the Eternal. And, again, that goes the other way as well! How quick is “too fast” for the Infinite Eternal? I mean, a decision, a thought, an action, a movement, whether hours, seconds, nanoseconds… God can enter into any scale of time at all, even the pause between thoughts, decisions, aspirations in our own hearts and minds… as though they were separated by stops and starts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I’ve said all of that in about 500 words. And yet, I can assure you, God has patiently worked with me on those things time and time again over a couple of years. The implications of the Eternal Infinite God are a mine of jewels that can never be adequately plumbed or exhausted. Why? Because while WE are limited in myriad ways… He is not. While WE have boundaries and edges… HE does not. We, as human beings, use religion to find “the rules”, the “definitions”, the “theologies” that will adequately describe, contain, and constrain Him. While HE simply “IS”.

I invite you to enter this ponder at your own pace, in your own way…

And, as far as a “practical application” for the “take away” to this post…

How many times have we prayed, or we hear someone else pray, “Dear Lord, I know You are really busy running the Universe and all. And I know that I’m just a simple nobody (or simple child) here with this little piddling problem. I know I don’t deserve Your time or attention, and I don’t mean to interrupt or bother You… but… if You don’t mind very much… I have this need/problem/concern/want that I’d like to pray for. So, if it’s OK with You, please…” whatever… “Amen”

So many think God has so much “important stuff” going on, and that we just barely rise to the level of His patient tolerance. We hear preachers tell us that He seeks true intimacy, that He desires nothing more than our company, that He is always there for us and to “pray always”. But we’ve grown up in a world, in relationships, in families… with “limited attention and time”… with “time management issues”… where we have to compete or excel to merit attention, praise, or companionship.

What is my heart’s desire that you “take away” from this post?

An Infinite Eternal God has MORE than “all the time in the world”, and “all the attention in the world” to lavish on His children. When you seek Him out, when you speak with Him, when you share your concerns (big or little, important or piddling) with Him… He ATTENDS! He is fully, totally, infinitely PRESENT in every single moment (long or short) that you spend with Him. (Truth be told, He is present in each moment that you breathe and live, whether you attend to Him or not.)

So… live in the “As If”… world. “As if He really loves you. As if He is really there. As if He is really listening, responding, and attending to your every need and your wholeness and wellness.”

Because, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not… this is what it means to be Eternally Infinite God… and so He IS.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Your Grace Box: An April Pearl

Grace III-page-001(1)

 

How wondrous!


If the audio will not play, here is the YouTube of the original composition:

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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It’s Not the Feet and Hands, but the Eyes

earth beautifulHere we are in Lent. That’s a different thing for everyone. “Seasons”, Liturgical Seasons, are wondrous times, opportunities for the Holy Spirit to focus our interior eyes on a particular aspect of grace and our relationship with God. Such seasons as Lent, or Easter, or Advent, or Christmas, or the Pentecost… all allow us to concentrate our gaze on some facet of this “Crystal Rose” in our Garden of Prayer, the King of Kings. Generally speaking, the Lenten Season is somber, reserved, reflective, looking forward through the great trials and sufferings of Christ approaching the Crucifixion, as He draws to His climax in Jerusalem and the Cross.

What should Lent be like? Well, if the rhythm of this season resonates, the experience should be whatever the Holy Spirit calls for it to be for you in your own unique journey with Christ. For some, it is a time of recollection of our own need for grace; reminder of our frailty and fallenness, sense of responsibility for our wrong decisions, and awesome wonder at all the pain heaped upon our dear Lord in our place, in payment for our own regrettable actions and decisions. For others, it may be an intense awareness of Jesus’ passion, of His strength, courage, determination to do the will of the Father no matter the personal cost. Lent may generate the intense response of admiration and worship for so noble a Lord who struggled and overcame so much to honor the will of God.

There is no “right” way to experience Lent, and no “wrong” way, as long as the Holy Spirit is given free rein to prepare straight paths for the renewal of the Truth of the Resurrection, and the glory of Jesus’ triumph over Death itself on Easter. Traditions, customs, denominations, cultures, and eras are incredibly diverse in their observation of the Lenten Season. Across my own life, the experience has been tremendously different from one year to the next, one decade to the next.

So let me invite you, let me encourage you, to make way for the Holy Spirit to use this season to bless you. Let me invite you to enter into the Scriptural experience of these days approaching Easter, making straight paths for the Holy Spirit to show you whatever nurtures your relationship and awareness of the immediate and intimate presence of Christ in your life and spirit. Your experience doesn’t have to “look like” that of anyone else, as long as the focus is on Jesus the Christ, and the scriptural elements that so richly fill these days and these pages.

This one thing I would note in addition.

That there is no meaning to Lent, no meaning to the suffering, no meaning to even the “forgiveness of sin”, or the “payment for sin”, or the “satisfaction of God’s justice”, or even the “extension of grace and mercy to man”… if those are seen as merely “functions”. If those are seen as “things God did” or “things God does”… When we see these things as simple “extensions of God’s methodology”, we miss the point entirely.

All these things… ALL that we see of grace, of God’s workings…. is direct expression of His Infinite Love and nothing less.

Embrace the awareness, the sorrow, the contrition of knowing He took our own just punishment for our own willful and willing sin… yes. Don’t reject or resist that, if that is what the Spirit leads. Embrace the awareness of His suffering, His pain, His humility and obedience, His submissiveness to His destiny and the Father’s will, in the blood and the nails… yes. Don’t reject or resist that movement of your heart into His on the Cross, if that is what the Spirit leads. But in all of that, just don’t get so fixated on the blood, the scourge, the thorns, and the nails… that we neglect to look at His face, His eyes. They radiate with the reason for it all… His Infinite Love, Our Father’s Infinite Love, the Spirit’s Infinite love… for you, personally, individually… and every other child He has fashioned as well.

Let us not gaze upon the mysteries of Lent, these incredible 40 days, or Passion Week with its horrors, spectating like onlookers at the scene of a great train wreck. If we fixate, fascinated on the scourge, the thorns, the nails, and the blood, and we miss the wondrous theme playing just below that surface… we simply witness a deep drama of horror and cruelty.

Even in grief, we want to remember that undergirding all this… is unspeakable Infinite Love. That’s what all of this is about. This is the act, prepared before the foundations of the cosmos, that embraces all of creation in the arms of Infinite Love… by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amazing, isn’t it? Amen.

 
 

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To what shall I liken the Kingdom? — The Faberge Egg

egginside I awoke this morning with this phrase ringing through my mind, “To what shall I liken the Kingdom?”…

And I remembered, when I was a little kid, the fabulous Easter Egg Dioramas. Remember them? They were made of sugar, spun sugar (the expensive real ones), and then when my daughter was a child they were often styrofoam. But there was a little window on the end, and you would look in and see this fabulous scene!

Maybe it was a circus, maybe Disneyland, maybe an airport. The “eggshell” was thin white, or decorated some, but light would show through at this wonderful magical scene inside…

I may be showing my age here, because I cannot find any images of exactly what I mean, so perhaps you’ve never gotten to see or hold one. If that’s the case, just imagine with me a moment then…

As I woke, it came to me… One could liken the Kingdom to holding this fabulous Faberge Egg in their hands, looking through the window at all the tremendous joy, blessing, and promise contained therein.

But wait, there’s more… It’s as if, when we looked inside, we were drawn within. That all that joy, blessing, and adventure were there… accessible to us… merely by prayer. That when we “look inside the egg”, when we “pray”, when we focus on the things of Kingdom rather than the mundane things of our lives… we got drawn INSIDE, and could spend the entire day in celebration, in joy, in loving abandonment of all worries, concerns, anxieties, simply safe and celebrating inside the safety of that Egg, securely held in the hands of our Love Father and Jesus.

But wait, there’s more… It’s as if, when we get the the end of this day of celebration within the Egg… when sadly we reflect that it is time to go… it’s time to return to the mundane world of our everyday lives… Our Father and Jesus and Their Breath tell us the Most Wondrous Part! We get to take ALL this BACK WITH US!

How incredible!

To find the Egg. To find the Treasure. To find the Pearl of Great Price… REALLY to FIND IT… is to realize that, however wondrous is our time INSIDE the Egg when we have the freedom to go and do that… We have the unutterable privilege, the unspeakable joy, to BRING ALL THAT OUT WITH US!

I woke this morning, laughing. Not derision, just pure joy.

We never have to “sadly return” from the Joy. We never HAVE to be “exiled to this valley of tears”. We have been given permission to BRING Kingdom here, into our days, into our homes, into our workplaces, among those we love, among family and friends, into the community among acquaintances and strangers… into our streets, among even the odd or the evil.

It’s an amazing truth of what Jesus did… But so many Christians… wondrous, loving, spirit-filled Christians, SEE the inside of that Egg and eagerly await being set free of this earthly tent and mortal frame of our bodies, that in heaven we may celebrate the fullness of Kingdom, once we die and go to heaven.

And yet… and yet… my heart so yearns. Jesus has brought it HERE. That we HAVE Life, and that more abundantly! That God so loved the ENTIRE WORLD that He gave Jesus to bring “the life of heaven itself”… HERE!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where do you keep your Egg, Gentle Reader? Take a moment, get apart, go find it. Find the box, find the sock, find the old briefcase, find that hiding place in your heart where you hid the treasures “too good, too fragile, to share with anyone else… lest they get broken”. Go, just for a bit, and pull out your Egg. (I know you have one. Our Father has given each of us one.)

Go find your Egg for a bit. Stare in that little hole/window. Let Him pull you inside to play for as long as you need to. Laugh, play, be His child… no work, no worries, no hassles… (just for a little while).

And then, when He says, “It’s time to go  home now,” and stretches out His hand to leave for the day… When you feel that moment of childlike “heart sink”, thinking you have to leave all this and return to the drudgery of “the world”…

Watch Him turn and ask, “Would you like us to take all this back out with us?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What do you say?

Grace — LM

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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God Is Eternally Giving Away God

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Grace: Week 1

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National September 11 South pool, New York, New York, April 2012. Photograph by NormanB.

Monday, January 25, 2016 – (Feast of St. Paul, the Apostle of Grace)

It is by grace that you are saved, through faith, not by anything of your own, but by a pure gift from God, and not by anything you have achieved. Nobody can claim the credit. You are God’s work of art. –Ephesians 2:8

By grace you notice, nothing to do with good deeds, or grace would not be grace at all. –Romans 11:6

Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake. I tell you he will put on an apron, sit them down at table, and wait on them. –Luke 12:37

I think grace, arising from God’s limitless love, is the central theme of the entire Bible. It is the divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired. This grace was defined even in the old Baltimore Catechism as “that which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself [sic].” [1] We always knew it on paper, but much less in experience and conviction.

In the parable of the watchful servants (Luke 12:35-40), God is actually presented as waiting on us–in the middle of the night! In fact, we see God as both our personal servant inside our house and the divine burglar who has to “break through the walls of [our] house.” That’s really quite extraordinary and not our usual image of God. It shows how much God–the “Hound of Heaven,” as Francis Thompson says–wants to get to us and how unrelenting is the work of grace.

Unless and until you understand the biblical concept of God’s unmerited favor, God’s unaccountable love, most of the biblical text cannot be interpreted or tied together in any positive way. It is, without doubt, the key and the code to everything transformative in the Bible. People who have not experienced the radical character of grace will always misinterpret the meanings and major direction of the Bible. The Bible will become a burden, obligation, and weapon more than a gift.

Grace cannot be understood by any ledger of merits and demerits. It cannot be held to patterns of buying, losing, earning, achieving, or manipulating, which is where, unfortunately, most of us live our lives. Grace is, quite literally, “for the taking.” It is God eternally giving away God–for nothing–except the giving itself. I believe grace is the life energy that makes flowers bloom, animals lovingly raise their young, babies smile, and the planets remain in their orbits–for no good reason whatsoever–except love alone.


Gateway to Silence
Open me to grace upon grace upon grace.


References:
[1] The New Baltimore Catechism of yesteryear; the more recent catechisms say essentially the same thing.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 155-156.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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