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Bloody Fingers?

Thomas 2

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” [John 20: 19-28]

I was recently in a conversation with a friend in advanced theological studies. It was pointed out that of the 14 student cohort moving through these studies in lockstep, 12 candidates do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Bear in mind, this is a Christian Seminary, whose students are career tracked to senior pastorate, denominational administration, and seminary faculty.

I’ll admit, I was a bit stunned. My overwhelming feeling was confusion, interspersed with some anger, sadness, and a healthy dose of frustration. The idea of pastoring a Christian church, when deep in one’s heart of hearts lies the belief that Easter is a fraud, left me a bit at sea. I felt a need to respond in some way, and yet quite at a loss as to how.

What does one do, teach, say, or even blog when God’s sovereignty over death itself is not only questioned (which is a healthy academic exercise — questioning everything), but utterly rejected as morality fiction? So… my adrenaline ran free… I talked with some friends, I emailed some friends, and settled… nothing at all. Basically, I looked towards the heavens, spread my hands, and felt like an ecclesiastical Chicken Little running in circles crying “the sky is falling!”

The next day, when the adrenaline rush had waned, and the Lord got to get a word in edgeways over my frantic (unidirectional) prayer…. I thought He’d be upset alongside me, and suggest some massive prayer campaign for revival and faith among the collective church, etc., etc.

Imagine my surprise when, in a FAR more matter of fact manner than I’d have imagined possible, He just slid up alongside me at my chair and said, “Um, Little Monk? What’s the problem? I’ve been through this. You feel all akimbo to realize that some of My servants don’t believe in My physical resurrection. I’ve been there before, you know… Thomas traveled with Me all three years, hearing everything I said, seeing everything I did. He knew Lazarus. He was at the Last Supper and with us in the Garden. He knew ALL the other disciples, and he knew the women who reported My rising and what the angels told them.

“And nonetheless, knowing ALL of that and ALL of them, still… his mind could not accept, could not comprehend, the possibility that I had risen from the dead. How in the world can you judge these students, or anyone, for struggling to wrap their heads around such a possibility?

“How did I handle that situation? I met his need. He made a straight up, bald faced, statement of what it would take for him to believe I rose from the dead. He meant that, and I took him at his word. The next time I came, I saw him, bid peace to him, and invited him to put his fingers in My wounds and his fist in My side. As it turned out, he found that after all, he didn’t need to do that.

“But Thomas had to see for himself. He needed to have a personal affirming experience of Me, to believe in My resurrection. Many people are that way, many people are skeptical of claims. Thomas was My disciple and friend before his faith was strained this way, and he was among the full Apostles, spreading the gospel thousands of miles after that day. He set Me a test, I met that, and he served Me faithfully and mightily.

“Nothing has changed today. I have many servants who love Me, worship Me, follow Me, and yet (perhaps deep in their heart of hearts) cannot comprehend or accept My resurrection. If they will do the same thing Thomas did… if they will encounter Me and set me a condition by which We, they and I, can experience one another by which they will believe, I will meet that joyfully. Just as once I did for you, by the way.

“Invite such people to come apart for a time, come find Me, encounter Me, and let Me show them My risen self in some way they can accept. It is vastly more comfortable to have faith in what one sincerely believes. Now, it is much happier and easier for faith to come by hearing, and hearing by My word. But those who doubt and resolve those doubts, can certainly be among My most mighty servants.

“Don’t judge. Invite and encourage. I’m always ready to encounter. Be at peace.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

<Sigh> So there we are, Gentle Reader. A bit of a confession, I guess. The Lord is just so much more patient, calmer, so much less judgmental than I am. I keep thinking I’m growing up, but so often He reminds me of such simple things.

Grace to you, and to all of us, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk

 

 

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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Persistence of Words…

Shamelessly I have stolen this fabulous video from Paulfg of Just Me Being Curious. But after watching it, I was struck with this story told by Jesus, and thought what an awesome illustration this clip would be in an average Sunday Sermon!

Here’s the Text:

18 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

We can trust… that He hears, responds, cares, and does not delay. Always! And even those who have no desire to hear, will hear nonetheless.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Sermon Seeds

 

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Knowing My Role

burnoutBurnout — A Near Miss

Sorry I’ve not written here as much recently as usual. A number of projects are currently in work, and I’ve not had my accustomed time available. But that’s what I wanted to mention here, because grace teaches (me) all the time.

A week or so ago, I had a bad day. Let me rephrase… I had a BAD day! I had one of those (rare for me) days where by the time the sun was setting I looked up towards the Lord and said, “OK, Lord… this isn’t fun any longer. I don’t want to play anymore… let’s do something else with my life, eh?”

Seriously, stuff that had been in work for months, all arrowed in with crisis traumas at the same time, none of which I could fix or do a blessed thing about but pray. These were people in terrible and traumatic situations for which:

  • I couldn’t DO anything helpful
  • I couldn’t SAY anything helpful
  • I didn’t KNOW anything helpful

All I could do was pray, which I did with intensity… feeling utterly exhausted and drained by the end of the day.

Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Well, if so… thank you, but I was feeling more than sorry enough for myself by then to cover all that was needed. I seldom succumb to much self-pity, but I guess this was my scheduled day. Know what? Self-pity and petty self-indulgence is exhausting, too!

The Lord, with His customary patience, just sort of stood aside watching and let me “play myself out”, before I actually NOTICED Him! I mean, after all, He was supposed to be sitting somewhere writing down all my desperate prayer needs and requests, right? Oddly enough, He seemed to be doing no such thing.

I didn’t criticize… after all, that wouldn’t be polite. But I wasn’t happy. And He knew it. (It sorta works like that.) It wasn’t like He was upset with me or my attitude, or that He was making fun of me. None of that. But I could tell from the look on His face that it was like… “He knew something I didn’t”, and I don’t mean that in the obvious sense. I mean that He wanted to say something to me that would help, but He knew I wasn’t yet calm enough really to HEAR Him.

The day had drawn to a close, I was starting to cook the evening meal, and over time the adrenalin receded. I wasn’t happy. He knew I wasn’t happy. I waited to see who would speak first, while we chopped onions. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. But it was hard to figure out what to say without being impolite (which I really didn’t want to do).

“I’m not happy, You know.” (the best I could do).

“I know,” He nodded. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Well… what about this? What am I supposed to do? Why don’t You do something? Why don’t You fix it all?” (Not sure if I SAID all of that, but it’s certainly what I was THINKING, and with Him, it amounts to the same thing.)

“I AM doing something, and I CAN’T ‘fix it’, in the way you mean. Neither can you, which is what has you so upset. That’s what I’m sorry about. Oh, and by the way… I don’t have to tell you this isn’t always ‘fun’. But perhaps I do have to tell you, um… no, you’re not going to go do something else with the rest of your life.”

At this we both laughed. “I know, I didn’t mean that. But really… today? Really? This was NOT one of our better days, eh? I couldn’t do a THING! I didn’t accomplish a THING! And all of those are situations with people hurting. So, what am I supposed to feel?”

Time passed as we cooked, and I continued to cool…

I’ve always been drawn to the scriptural image of the disciples and Jesus just sitting together at their fire, eating, after a long and trying day. I can readily imagine the conversations that took place as they shared experiences, impressions, questions, and answers. I always think Jesus just sat, enjoyed his fish or lamb chunks, wrapped them in some flatbreads, maybe spread with some hummus, or enjoying some dipped in honey for dessert, as He just encouraged them all to share… before He began to speak and sort things out.

Well, that’s sort of how things were at dinner that evening. The day kept replaying with my frustrations and concerns, and after a bit more venting I was able to calm down. He is so very patient.

Finally, He said, “I know you’ve heard this before, and you know what I am about to say. But sometimes, you just need to hear it again.

“You’re looking at this all wrong, which is really easy to do. But you’re angry because you’re setting the wrong goals, the wrong expectations. You feel like a failure because you couldn’t ‘fix’ everything.

“Little Monk? That’s not your job! That’s not even MY job! Both of us DID our ‘jobs’ today. The difference is, I recognize that and you do not.

“You are to hold an unconditionally loving relationship with these people. You did that. You are to embrace them and their experience without judging, with empathy and compassion. You did that. You are to share what words I give you to bring My grace into the moment. You did that. Sometimes, there are no such words, or they are minimal. And you are to lift them up to Me, wrapped in love, that My grace flow. You did that.

“You did your job today, and it was a very demanding day. Yes. When I walked, I often had very demanding days. But today, I did My job, too. My job is not to ‘fix’ as you think of it, because each of these people have their own free will and are making choices, and their lives are woven with others doing the same.

“You want to ‘fix’ everything, in terms of ‘making everybody happy’, and ‘relieving all pain’. Sometimes, beloved Little Monk, that is not possible. What I DO, and what you are committed to, is to lift up My presence and My grace in ALL the moments… painful, joyful, or otherwise. I ‘weave time with all the freewill choices’ in such a way that every encounter is perfectly ‘redemptive’. Every person you encounter and interact with, brings a gift of grace and growth into your life in that moment. And you impart such a gift to and for them.

“My ‘job’ is to uphold all things with the word of My power, given Me by Our Father… such that all things work together for good in Our Father’s love. Sometimes… what is truly ‘good’, is not necessarily ‘fun’ or even ‘painless’. That’s just the Truth.

“You say you had a ‘bad day’. Well, if you see it so… that’s up to you. But, in Truth, you had a Good day, doing precisely what you are called and gifted to do. I regret that you’ve felt frustrated about it, but that’s only because you’ve mistaken what you’re here to do. And that is in YOUR control, not Mine.

“But here is your bottom line, and maybe this will help. You’re upset because you didn’t meet your own expectations… you didn’t reach the ‘destination’ you set for yourself. But that’s not My expectation of you. That’s not what I intend for you to do. I want you to be a traveling companion, enjoying the journey and embracing and supporting your fellow travelers. If you will just do that… just focus on that… you’ll take a lot of pressure and frustration off yourself.

“I give you more than enough grace to travel these journeys, I am He who navigates the route and terrain in the first place. I am the only One who can bring you safely to your destination. So, quit mistaking your goals and worrying about that. Just bring grace in and to the trip, and embrace your fellow travelers.

“Just know your role, Little Monk. And embrace with My grace.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, yeah. I’d known that… but I forgot. Sometimes, I just need to hear it again.

Thank you for your prayers, Gentle Reader. I am ever a work in progress. Blessings and grace to thee — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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