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The Child at the Back…

Once upon a time, a small troop of people drudged along an uphill road, and found they’d arrived at their destination. They sought the Kingdom of God, and had reached the front gates.

Together they paused in silence, rapt in wonder, awe, worship, gratitude, and… honestly… fatigue, yet aglow with their sense of accomplishment. Most, but not all, were middle aged or older. Most were well dressed, some in ornate robes, others in business attire, some in Sunday best. There were both men and women.

An ancient man, apparently the porter, appeared outside the door and greeted the group cordially.

“Welcome to the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is wonderful to see all of you. Now, why have you come?”

At this, there was some milling about and muttering. None was quite sure what to say. Finally a man stepped forward and said, “Sir, we seek to enter. We have have traveled long hard roads, seeking to enter in to the Kingdom of God.”

The old gatekeeper nodded, “that’s marvelous. Well done. Now, good sir, why should I admit you? What is your qualification?”

The man pulled out a neat scroll and handed it forward. “I have sought this gate all my life. I have lived a righteous life, always doing right as I could. I’ve never lied or defrauded anyone. I fear God, and seek to obey His commandments with all my heart.”

The old man nodded approvingly, took the scroll, and said, “Well done, my son. You are very near indeed to the Kingdom.”

Turning to another petitioner, he asked the same questions. This man was mighty in worship leadership and had led thousands of believers in singing the praises and glory of God. He, too, was congratulated on his efforts and assured that he was very near.

The next was a woman who had spent her entire life in prayer and encouraging others to spend time with the Lord. She offered up all sufferings to the glory of God, and sought His will in all things. She had raised her children to fear and reverence God, and do what was right to honor Him. She too was congratulated, encouraged, and assured of her nearness.

This went on as one after another, everyone named their accomplishments and sacrifices in God’s name, and declared their honor and worship of Him. Each had done wonderful things, including one who had studied their whole life acquiring great academic honors and mastering all the sacred languages. He sought admittance through his efforts to teach the world of the wonders of the words of God. The last, or nearly last, conversation was with a mighty pastor who had built a magnificent cathedral, led many thousands to relationship with God, and trained many hundreds in their own lives of ministry and service. When asked why he had done all this, he said that Jesus was his Lord and his model, and he sought to live as Jesus had lived, in honor of God.

Everyone thought, “Ah, certainly THIS man… with all THAT to say…. all THAT he has done…. surely, this man, will pass through the gate.”

Yet, he received the same response, including the great approval and encouragement, from the Porter.

A quiet scuffing sound was heard from the back of the group, as a small child in quite nondescript clothing had turned around and began to shuffle back down the road away from the gate.

The Porter stepped forward, raised his cracked voice, and addressed the child. “You there!” as he stretched his arm towards the child and all the adults made way. (The wee one had been hidden at the back of the group where no one had seen.) The shuffling steps stopped, as the downcast figure slowly turned.

“Mm… me? Sir?” the child responded in a voice nearly too soft to hear.

The old man smiled warmly, “Yes, youngster. You. Why are you here?” The Porter’s eyes shone with friendly light as he encouraged the child to speak. “Don’t be afraid. Please tell me why you’ve come.”

“Well, sir. I came to find this gate, and to pass through into there, into the Kingdom.” The sibilant voice grew a bit, as the child’s eyes rose to meet his.

“Very good, little one. Why then, do you seem to want to leave before we’ve even spoken?”

The gaze and voice quickly dropped again. “Because I see now, I realize… I haven’t done any of the great things all these fine people have done. I have nothing to show you, good sir. I’m not even properly dressed, being a bit ragged and dusty like this. I have no business here. I’ll go quietly, sir.”

“Wait, little one. How did you find the path to here?”

“Oh, that. Well, sometimes, I seem to hear Jesus’ voice calling me, leading me. Sometimes I think I can see His footsteps, or I catch a glimpse of Him up ahead. I think I’ve heard Him call to me, saying ‘Follow Me’, and so, whenever I’ve thought I had the direction right, or I could see the steps, I’ve tried to follow. One day, I met up with all these people, who had maps and books and things. And together, here we are….”

“I see,” nodded the old Porter. “So you followed. Now, granted that you don’t yet have a big list of mighty deeds or works to show, tell me WHY you want to enter these doors? What do you hope to gain?”

The child was a long time before answering, but no one broke the silence. All the elders found themselves thinking about the question for themselves. What did they really seek, hoping to enter in?

Finally the child answered, “Sir, I just want to get in to find HIM. I’ve heard Him. I’ve seen Him from time to time. But I just want to find Him, grab Him, and… and… hug Him.”

At this, some of the elders repressed a snort. How silly did that sound? Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The Great Majesty of All Creation. And here this child speaks of grabbing… and hugging…  psh.

The Porter came close up to the child, dropped to one knee so they were face to face, and nearly whispered… “And why, child… Why do you so seek to hug Him that you’ve come all this way and dare even this?”

Tears welled as their eyes met, and the child whispered simply,  “because, sir, I love Him. I don’t know very much. I haven’t done very much, certainly nothing great. I’ve just heard His voice, seen Him now and again, and I love Him. That’s why I’ve come.”

The old Porter hugged the child, as the great gate door dissolved. There, to the astonishment of all, stood Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Joyfully He laughed as He dropped to one knee with His arms wide open for the child.

“Finally! You’ve arrived! I’ve been waiting. Together we will see everything. I cannot wait to show you.” Jesus had lifted the child up in His arms with a mighty heave. If a little one could fly, that’s how it seemed as together they shared a moment of sheer joy unspeakable.

Turning to the others, the Lord said, “I am so glad you are ALL here. You are so very close. You have all done so well, My good and faithful servants. As soon as you are ready, come in and join Us. You lack only one thing…” and, carrying the child in His arms, He passed through the gate back into His Kingdom.

Astonished, all the elders were left standing with the Porter, who had gently arisen and strode back to his post. Everyone was reviewing these amazing events in their mind, pondering heavy to understand.

The eldest and wisest of the lot, suddenly smiled and nodded. He exchanged glances with the Porter, who realized that understanding had dawned. Quietly he walked up to the Porter and whispered in his ear. The Porter stood aside as he passed in.

Everyone left standing there wondered what he had understood, and what he had said.

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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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What is Sin… Really?

accountability pageYou see this article on “Accountability”, and read this Inventory List for Conscience. It helps you know how and when you’ve “sinned” so you can get forgiveness for it. And your heart responds that there’s value to this, it isn’t “bad”… but somehow you feel it hasn’t quite hit the mark.

USCCB You do more research, you find a Catholic treatment for the Examination of Conscience, and you look it over. Again, not that it’s “bad”, but it just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch in your spirit as you ponder the questions of living in righteousness, versus committing sin. Somehow, virtue and sin don’t seem so cumbersome, so convoluted.

You decide to teach on this topic, and so you begin…

Sin… righteousness… love… peace… one day you are sitting and pondering, studying, working on a lesson or a sermon, and you find yourself grieving, praying, seeking how effectively to communicate something you see in your heart as so simple… You lean back, your brow furrows, your eyes close for a moment…

And suddenly, you no longer seem to be at your desk… You realize that God has heard your heart and your prayers, and He is going to teach you something, show you something, to help you understand and teach…

You find yourself standing out in a large empty space, dim but not utterly dark, neutral neither warm nor cold, with just a sense of vastness, not fearful or threatening. There in the distance you see light on the horizon and you choose to walk towards it. Startled with surprise, you find that each step moves you very far, as if your will moves you forward by thought, not physics.

As you approach closer to the light that a moment before was on the horizon, you realize that you are about to look upon the Father… God… the Almighty over All. Somehow, you know you are at the very Beginning, the Before the Beginning. This, is the Void, the Formless Void, and God (in whatever form and manner you perceive Him/Her) is smiling in welcome at your arrival. Amazingly, when He smiles, He smiles all over… His eyes, His hands, His heart… all welcomes you, and you stand just steps away from Him, unsure of whether to look up or down, to bow or to stand.

He takes your hand, raises your chin, smiles, and simply says, “Behold…”

He turns towards the Void around Him, extends His arms, and the radiance from His heart moves outwards reaching to touch all around Him. You realize, you are watching Creation. As you stand there, awestruck, you know that matter and energy have come into Being.

With another sweeping gesture, His arms raise again, and with a pulsing motion forms take shape all around you, near and far. You see planets, stars, sand, rocks, the forms of grass, trees, even animals. But all seems still.

“Now watch…” He says with a smile, as He turns to you, then back to His work.

You see a richer glow begin at His heart, as it flows upwards and outwards through His arms and fingers. You know, without knowing how you know, that He has just brought forth Life… and you see all these living things now begin to move.

Then, in a way you cannot describe, you see Him touching all of this… Everything… all at the same moment, and you realize that He is loving, He is feeding, He is upholding… All that is. All that He has created. That all of this is from Him, part of Him, has come from Him and is yet Him and His.

He turns to you again, and says… “Here is the best part…”

Again He faces His creation and the glow from His heart moves out through both His hands and His lips as He sings forth music unspeakable. Now there appear… “children”… is the word that goes through your mind. You hear Him sing, “My Children”. And you see that He is singing forth everyone, everywhere, everywhen. The beauty of it all leaves you breathless.

He turns to you again, reaches forth, and puts His hand on your chest.

You are filled with warmth, as a glow lights you up and flows outwards from your heart through every part of your being. You can feel and see that this warmth, this glow, are extending themselves from your heart outwards to your hands, and upwards to your tongue and lips.

You feel moved, without knowing why, and you embrace Him… God… the Father… the Lord of All. Fear doesn’t even enter your mind, though you’d never have imagined doing such a thing before. And He returns the embrace, kisses you on the top of the head, and you are filled with a fullness of love, safety, and nurturance such as you have never known before. You realize, for the first time all the way through you, that He is truly, utterly, and only Good… and you never need doubt, never need ever but to trust Him completely forevermore.

He directs your gaze to the world we know. And He bids you observe His children, their hearts, hands, and lips.

As you look at the world, you see people. Myriads of people… good, bad, young… old… confident, frightened, hurting, healing… You see all kinds of people, doing all the kinds of things people do.

You see some people with dim hearts, laying hands on other people who glow a bit, and where they touch their hands glow as the object of their touch grows dimmer. The heart of the takers has a reddish dim glow, while children start with brilliant white and gold.

Here and there you see clusters of brilliance, often among whom are hearts that reach out with pulsing connection with this heart of God alongside you. You see that God continues to touch, to nurture, to maintain all His children, all these people. But there are vast differences among individuals how they respond to His touch.

Some people welcome, embrace, and reach towards it. Others simply receive it without response or seeming to notice Him. While still others, those with the dimmest glow, seek to avoid His touch and His love and life (for you realize these all are one in Him).

But as you watch longer, you see that everyone, even the most golden or brilliant, have moments when their hearts flash red, and they touch others with a dimming effect. And much touching seems not to have impact. And some touching, brings light to others and eases their way.

“What am I seeing, Father? (or Lord?)” you ask.

“You are seeing the answer to your questions, My child. Righteousness, sin, virtue, love, life… all of it. It is as simple as ‘relationship’… with Me, with others, with yourself. I, and Only I, give life through love. That is all I do, always. And life only comes through love. But children of free will as you are, you may choose at any given moment to GIVE life through loving another and giving from Me through your heart, your hands, your words… to love another and so give them life. Or, you may choose to TAKE life from another, deprive, neglect, injure, or wound another… diminishing their life, feeding upon them, to love yourself.

“It is quite simple, but very difficult to put in words. Nothing living stands still. Life requires consumption. I Alone am the source of life. I alone can feed you with love, life, and being. When you feed from Me, (I once expressed this as ‘eat My body’), I can fill you utterly and beyond. Water that you never thirst again, bread that you never die. To let Me fill you, and then to pass along such love, such life, such abundance to those around you through your heart… this is love, this is righteousness, this is virtue.

“But to choose instead to feed on others, to love the self at the expense of others, is to deprive them of life. This is to consume others for the sake of the self. Whether materially, or emotionally… to feed the ego by belittling others and making them smaller, is no less a taking of their life as to wound them physically. This is predation. This is vampirism. This… is sin.

“Not only is it wrong, for it takes life from another. It is also ineffective. You cannot truly live on ‘second hand life’. Only I Alone can give full life through love. To steal the life of another will never fill or sustain a person. It can barely maintain them. Eventually, such predation leaves only the empty shell of a life.

“Sin leaves you empty and hungry, no matter how much you grasp or take. Like ’empty calories’, there is no real life to it. The hunger gnaws, and will continue to do so until real life, real love, real Light is found.

“So there you are, Blessed child. To give life to others through love of them and Me, is righteousness. To take life from others for love of yourself, without Me, is sin. Any questions?”

You shake your head, a bit bewildered. This really is quite simple. He hugs you again, kisses you atop the head, and your eyes open…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You are again seated at your desk wondering how in the world you can ever find the words to explain this.

Then you remember, Jesus said,Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” [Matthew 15:17-20]

And you get it… everything is sacred. It is ALL held together in His hands, His heart, His love. To treat anything, especially ANYONE… as less than sacred… to fail to love anything or anyone that He died to redeem in the greatness of His love… Yeah, that’s just not OK. You get it now. Righteousness is treating sacred things that He loves as precious. Not to do so… well, yeah, that’s sin. And we do it, because sometimes we choose to… but still He breathes us, He touches us, He loves us… and thus, He lives us.

“Ain’t that somethin’?”  you ponder, silently…

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Tearing his costume off!

costumeIt’s that time of year again… Halloween… with all the “Harvest Festivals” and “Trunk or Treat” alternatives.

But as Christians we have such a diversity of “views” regarding Satan, the Adversary, the Devil.

For some, there’s a casual nonchalance… like, “well, you know, life goes on and I don’t know how any of this religious stuff works so… whatever.” For others there’s a nearly unhealthy terror and fascination about darkness stuff, almost like the constant making of gestures to ward off the “evil eye” of the Enemy, lurking in every dark corner.

This Halloween, I just want to put something out there with which you are welcome to agree or disagree, embrace or cast away as you feel led…

If we accept that the scriptures of the Holy Bible are true, then we accept that “intelligent others” exist… including both angels and demons. We are told that Lucifer exists. We understand that creatures of darkness, demons, roam the world and seek our harm. All right then. That is a simple statement of fact, one fact of life, not to be focused upon to the exclusion of all else. In fact, a great deal of the impact of the Incarnation and coming of Jesus’ Kingdom has to do with His having freed us from that dominion and domination.

Nonetheless, we “deal with the devil” every day in some form or another. He seeks to rob us of our joy, our peace, our focus on love, light, and truth. THAT is his primary purpose. Not simply to “get us to do bad stuff of darkness”, but rather to “stop us from focus on light and good”.

I once had a pastor phone me and ask, “Is it necessary to name a demon in order to cast it out? Do you have to know its name?”

My immediate answer, thinking he was involved in some ministry of major occult deliverance, was, “Um, no. In fact, you seldom know the name, unless they reveal it. In general, we know the names of very few demons, and the studies needed to acquire that knowledge are not ones I recommend to anyone unless called to that type of ministry very specifically. Why do you ask? What is the need?”

And he went on, clarifying… He did not mean specific entity name, he meant things like,  lust, or greed, or covetousness, and so on.

Ah, I got it. Well, the answer, in my experience, was pretty much the same. When temptation is consistent and methodical, and a spirit is oppressing one’s soul, the real “power and authority” for its dismissal is that of Christ, of love, of light, and the power of the Cross. One releases one’s hold on the temptation, rebukes the darkness itself, and grasps Jesus instead. Often, one may not even recognize what the darkness was, until it is gone and light fills that part of the heart. There may simply be the sense of something being “off”… or the recognition that one’s heart and attitude is far from that of Christ within. Then, back away from that shadow, release it, rebuke it, and intentionally turn towards light, love, and Christ. When one is under the influence of the shadow itself, the discernment can be fuddled, and recognition impossible.

We deal with such mundane interactions with shadow all the time. We take them in stride.

But we seldom recognize them as “suits” or “costumes” worn by the Enemy, Satan, the Adversary, the Devil.

If we did, at least many of us, would run off screaming in terror. (Please note: the enemy certainly DOES do some more “dramatic manifestations”, especially when doors are opened through occult or arcane practices. Recommendation? Don’t do those things.)

But this Halloween I just wanted to take a moment and recognize that the pitchfork, horns, and pointy tail costume of the “scary Devil” is far less common than his ordinary business suit, flowered frock, or jeans and T-Shirt. We’re perfectly willing to recognize the Enemy in the dramatic, but far less likely to grant him the credit he deserves in the mundane. Even though it’s still well and truly him and his who are at work.

Here’s the Apostle Paul with some timely teaching to the Galatians…

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. [Galatians 5:13-26]

That’s not a bad list of “Devil Suits”. And we see them all the time, don’t we? In our homes, our communities, even our churches? Paul gives the antidote, even before naming the toxins…

Love your neighbor as yourself, and SERVE one another in that love. (Bear in mind, the Lord’s clarification of “who is my neighbor”.) Don’t freak out. Don’t get focused and fascinated. Just love, serve, and trust Jesus in both His authority and His love.

Let’s defrock the devil, and send him home!

Grace to you, Gentle Readers!

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Sermon Seeds

 

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The Resurrection – What’s the Big Deal?

Empty Tomb

From time to time across my life, the Lord has granted me the grace of some “new” understanding of Him, of me, of “stuff” relating the two… of Him and the world… just… “something”… on Easter morning. This effect is always the most profound when He guides me along some “path of preparation” (rather reminiscent of John the Baptist’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord… Make straight paths…”) during Lent.

I put the word “new” in quotations opening this post, because what I learn is often not “new” at all… It is something, some word or phrase, that we ALL know… that we’ve ALWAYS known… maybe all our lives. And yet, the learning opens before me with unimagined depth and breadth, such that it seems I had never heard or seen it before.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday just past, has been one of those times and, to be perfectly frank, I’m still “recovering” from it.

I awoke, gently… quietly… and the Lord spoke just one single word. “Resurrection”

That’s all He said. But…

I could not even move from my bed before He just “unfolded” that word before me… took me inside of it… let me watch in an entirely new way what HE means/meant by it… that it felt as if I lay there for two hours, though it may have been seconds, minutes, or half the day. Time just stood suspended.

Jesus, sitting up naked, clearing Himself of His winding sheet in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb? Yes. That was there. But… but… there was just so much MORE! I had never thought about the actual technical “meaning” behind the word “re-surrection”. It means… “breathing again”. It became this “coming-again-to-life” of not only Jesus, but all of mankind, and all of the fallen world, and all of the Cosmos, all of Creation.

The Re-surrection was, is, the “Fresh Start of Life”, buried with Jesus in His death, raised again in Newness of Life…

Not just Him, not just “us”, but ALL!

Is that a big enough deal?

How about this, then?

Two things, ONLY two things, denote the Christian… the one translated from domain of darkness to kingdom of light, Kingdom of God… to trust and acknowledge that The Father sent Jesus, the Son… and raised Him from the dead.

Why is that “all we need to know”? Because within THAT, all else is contained and subsumed.

How many times have I heard the protest, “Being a Christian is too hard. I go to Church and I don’t know enough. Everybody in Sunday School knows all this ‘stuff’ and I feel like an ignorant fool! And the Bible is too complicated, all these rules, verses, books, stories. I just don’t get it. I’m not SMART ENOUGH to be a Christian or go to church!”

Oh, the pain in my heart at such words!

What did the APOSTLES require of a “new church” just “getting with the program” in the First Century?

Three Things: (1) No fornication. (2) No eating the meat of strangled animals. (3) No eating meat sacrificed to idols.

I mean, they had a big MEETING about it and everything! And that’s what they settled on. Now, how “complicated” is all that for a Church Covenant?

There wasn’t any Bible at the time to impress one another with, or make gentiles memorize.

Paul repeats time and time again, he preaches(preached) only Jesus, and Him crucified!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Christian life should never get so complicated, Gentle Readers.

Believe in the Father, His love, His provision. Believing in the Son sent from the Father, born true man, living as true man yet truly God son of God. Believing in the Passion, the Cross, and… AND… the RESURRECTION!

Life, pulled from the maw of death… destroying death and darkness once and for all in the glory and power of Life and Light!

Love God, love neighbor, love self. Love as Jesus loves…

Complicated? Hardly!

But this word, Gentle Reader… the Power of this Word… Resurrection!

When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in Jesus of the Cross, and Jesus of the Gospels, and Jesus of the Manger. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God the Father who raised Him. We believe in God and the Old Testament, and the Covenant God made with man, to care for him as his God, and receive him as His people. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and who fashioned man in His own image, and who fashioned Adam and Eve as created He them.

Many many peoples have worshiped gods who bring death from life. Many peoples have worshiped gods who demand sacrifice in payment for their blessing and good will. Many peoples have worshiped gods who generate fear to constrain and rule men.

Our God is none of that. Our God brings Life at the destruction of death. Our God sacrificed Himself, to feed and bring blessing to men. Our God generates Love that conquers fear, and has removed punishment having taken that upon Himself.

This is not complicated. We need not make it so. This is simple relationship. And we can decide… each of us individually… whether or not we CHOOSE to TRUST in such relationship. And… we can invite others to do so, generally in words of nearly one syllable.

God is so urgently, so intently, so intimately present… right here, right now… seeking relationship of touch and immediacy with His children…

One friend I had used to put it this way:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus truly lived, and was sent by Our Father, God?
  2. Do you believe that Jesus truly died, hung on the Cross?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus truly rose again, resurrected by the Father?
  4. Has he ever died since?
  5. Then He must be alive right now!!!

Let us all be Resurrected, freed of deadness, numbness, decay, atrophy. Let us all be made alive! Wonderfully alive! Totally Alive! As only HE knows and makes Life!

It’s just not that complicated, is it? Be joyful in the grace of New Life!

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, 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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Discipleship, Master, Servant, Ministry

This is a first for me.

I am uploading a “Podcast”.

I wish I could say it were mine, but it’s not.

I wish I could even tell you whose it is, but I’ll not.

He would not wish it so. Rather, he would have you focus on the words alone, without any distractions of himself, his career, accomplishments, or credentials. Therefore, simply judge the “words”, not the biography of the speaker.

There is a great deal of really healthy lively discussion around two topics these days among committed brethren in Christ, that I’ve been “pondering heavy”. This sermon just resonated deeply in my heart when I heard this, that I simply had to share this here in this way… without trying to edit, synthesize, or re-speak what was said.

The two topics in my mind/heart were/are:

“Discipleship: What is that and how do we promote it?”

and

“How do we rightly deal with differences of view, among committed servants and brethren in the Lord?”

When ministers start to think, “I am ‘more right’ than that other minister, and it is important for me to ‘fix’ him/her…” are we not re-stating, in 21st Century theology, “Lord, please set me…” [and those who believe just like *I* do]… “at Your left and right hands when You sit on Your throne!”?

Let these words from an old friend, resonate for you… [33 minutes, I think. Great investment of heartbeats.]

Grace to you! — The Little Monk

 

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Saved From… Marley’s Chain

Charles Dickens“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I recently had a conversation and was asked why it seemed that so much of Scripture speaks of being “saved”. Saved from what? Is it all reference to hell, to burning flames and eternal damnation? It seems SO central a theme that there must be more to it than that, but if so… what? In our lives here and now, being “saved” or “rescued” doesn’t seem a central theme and need, and clearly Scripture is to address our lives now as certainly as in those times, so… what’s up with this?

I didn’t have “good” reply at the moment. I could sense that in the times Scripture was written down, “slavery”, “bondage”, and the ownership (or long term lease, due to debt) of other human beings was a real, relevant, immediate truth in life. “Bondage” means something vastly more significant when it surrounds you every day and war could place you into it with no notice whatever.

For those of that time and place, the Incarnation of Jesus “setting free from the bondage” of sin and evil was an extremely clear and relevant paradigm. Today? Not so much.

Today, while kind of “free worshiping”… this line from Dickens came to me. “I wear the chain I forged in life.”

I sense the immediate, relevant, truth of this in my own life.

Jesus “freed” me, not only from the very common-sensical fear of “hell” and “eternal punishment” that would be a “just” consequence of my own violation of clear precepts of right and wrong that have dwelt deep in my heart since my youngest years…

But Jesus’ Redemption, the power of His shed blood on the Cross… not only “paid the price” of all my own crimes, failings, violations of other sacred people…

Jesus not only fulfilled the foreshadowed role of the First Goat (in the Day of Atonement Sacrifice)… But He also fulfilled the mission of that Second Goat (the “Scape Goat”) as well. Jesus has “carried away” my sins from me, and from “the people”, and the “church”, and even… Our Father.

Jesus not only made the “sacrifice”, but having “made purification of sin” He sat at the right hand of God the Father.

THAT’s the relevance, for me… of “saved”, “rescued”, or “salvation”…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s all about “Marley’s Chain”, you see.

All through my life I have made choices to harm, rather than nurture, others from time to time. To desire or take what is theirs. To offend them. To attack, ignore, belittle them. One way or another to wound them.

In such moments, I ignore and hold Our Father in contempt. I presume upon the grace and love of God. I yield to temptation and derive pleasure and satisfaction from it. I drink from a poisoned well, knowing it is toxic and not caring.

All that wounds ME!

We are all connected! Me with every other. Me with God. God in and through every other. God in me. It’s all one in Him. We are all One Family in Him, we are not members of separate tribes! For me to wound another is to be a “cutter” in the metaphysical sense. It harms me… injures me… scars me.

Such moments forge a link of chain… a wound… a guilt… a shame… a regret… a bad memory… a bitterness… a misunderstanding… a dark mote. And each of these I forge across life, used to link together… dragging me back, dragging me down, pulling me into a shadowy morass without love, joy, beauty, or truth.

What is “Salvation”? To me?

It’s the Glory of Jesus’ coming to “set free this captive”! It’s His heroism and sacrifice to pull that hideous chain off of me (and everyone else, who will release their grasp of it)… lay all of that across His Own Shoulders… and drag all those links to His Cross with Him, to die under their weight and dispose of them totally and finally… as far as east from west… in the deepest abyss of the sea.

I am, once and forever, freed of the weight of “Little Monk’s Chain”… and I for one, am glad that He has rescued me from its dreadful burden.

 

 
 

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