Thursday, May 31, 2012

Enjoy the Silence: Day 8

Day 8: Matthew 12:9-13

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue,

And a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?

How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just a sound as the other.

It is interesting to me that they teachers asked if healing was lawful on the Sabbath.  I know it was supposed to be a trap, but it seems to be indicative of a deeper issue.  As people, we can get so focused on what is lawful that we miss what is good. 

Why is it that we focus so much on being correct that we don’t always do what is right?  I see American Christians more likely to “protect the sanctity of marriage” than the importance of a human life as they drive right past a starving homeless man on their way to a protest.  Like Christ said, “How much more valuable is a man…”

Sometimes I wonder if we haven’t missed the big picture.  The prophets point to this same problem.  People get so focused on the ritual of religion that they miss the beauty and creativity of our God.  Every person is like a painter’s masterpiece; yet we give more wonder to the lifeless canvases than they living, breathing human being in the room next door. 

Screw if healing on the Sabbath is lawful!  When we are caring for our neighbor, God will never be upset.  How much more valuable is a man!  How much more valuable is a man than a sheep, or a painting, or some religious ideal.  These ideals are only part of how God wants us to live our lives.  There is so much more to it, yet we miss it because we are too worried about if it is ok to heal on the Sabbath. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Enjoy the Silence: Day 7

Day 7: Exodus 4:1-5
Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.

Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.

“This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

When people think of Moses they don’t usually associate him with fear.  People always remember him as a great leader and prophet.  Honestly that is only part of the story.  In the beginning, he was a chicken.  That is evident in Moses’ call story.  He comes up with excuse after excuse to not have to what God is asking him to do.  Each time God removes the obstacle that Moses builds. 

Even when God is being faithful, Moses freaks out.  Moses worries that no one will believe he has spoken to God.  God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  So, “Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.”  Moses ran from the miracle God provided to serve as proof for that had sent Moses.  The man was talking to a bush that was burning without being consumed, and it was the snake he ran from.  Because clearly the snake is the unusual/scary part of that picture…

To be fair, though, I probably would have run too.  I have before.  Certain ‘spiritual gifts’ that I have can be mildly terrifying.  They tend to happen more frequently and more intensely when I am closer to God.  How do I cope with the intensity?  I run away from it.  The more distance I can put between myself and God, the safer I feel.  Frankly, I’m only kidding myself when I do that. 

Recently, I was talking with a friend about spiritual gifts.  I was telling her about mine when she commented that she would love to experience just a fraction of what I have.  I don’t usually feel that way about it. Honestly, I have a hard time calling them gifts most of the time, because they have caused so much discomfort for me.  When they are active, I would give anything to make them go away.  I run.

I don’t want to run anymore.  I am the one who asked to be used for God.  Granted I was in 3rd grade, but it still counts!  Moses didn’t ask to be used like he was.  His new found responsibilities came out of nowhere.  It’s no wonder he ran.  I prayed to be used.  I need to stop running.  God got Moses through; in the end he will do the same for me. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Enjoy the Silence: Day 6

Day 6: John 13:1-5, 23

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;

so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.

I have always thought I understood this story.  It always seemed to straight forward.  Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to show what a true servant is.  It was a physical demonstration of the whole “last shall be first” thing.  It was like he was trying to remove any chance for them (and us) to feel too important to serve.  If the son of God is willing to wash their nasty feet, then they should be willing to do anything for their fellow humans. 

Now I’m not so sure that is all that was going on there.  One line has me second guessing most of what I have understood.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  It is easy to read this bit and think it is foreshadowing to the crucifixion, but it doesn’t seem that way to me.    

 I don’t really understand how the foot washing is showing the full extent of his love.  The order that John puts this passage makes the foot washing seem like a bigger deal than I thought it was.  Maybe there is more to it we aren’t seeing?  I don’t really know, but it has bugged me for the last two days since I read it. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Enjoy the Silence: Day 5

Day 5: Psalm 23:1-6

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quite waters,

He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Protection.  That is the overall theme I see in Psalm 23 these days. 

God watches out for me in the same way as a shepherd does for his flock.  He protects me and provides for my needs.  He heals me, both physically and emotionally.  He brings my soul back to life.

No matter the attack, I know God has my back.  I’ve seen it so many times before.  Not only does he protect me, be he provides for me in the presence of my enemies. 

As if that weren’t enough, he has promised me a home in his Kingdom forever and ever. 

**I know there isn’t much here, but I feel like this passage really speaks for itself.  When I am scared or overwhelmed this is what I remember. **

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Enjoy the Silence: Day 4

Day 4: Hebrews 4:12-16

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin.  

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Is it possible to put the word of God into a coma?  If it is, I think I may have done that when I became a religion major.  Because I studied the Bible at school, people seem to think I have some greater understanding of it personally.  It’s like they think I have God’s home number on speed dial and he and I go for coffee dates on a regular basis.  News flash: not so much. 

The summer before I left for college it was like every time I opened the Bible God would show me something new or clarify something old.  I was constantly being awestruck by the awesomeness of God and his goodness.  As my freshman year when on those interactions became fewer and fewer as the number of papers grew.  Now I get more inspiration for reading Harry Potter than from reading my Bible.  Like I said, I think I put it in a coma.

Nothing I have done has helped to wake it up.  Going through this book has been a huge leap of faith for me.  I was scared this would be no different than all the other times I have tried to connect with the spirit of God but failed.  So far, it has not returned empty.

When I read verse thirteen before it felt like a threat.  It was almost as if God was saying I needed to behave myself or he would send me to hell.  When I read the same verse this time it was an entirely different experience.  It was comforting.  It was saying that my God, the creator of everything we can see and touch sees me. 

He sees what I love.  He sees what hurts me.  He sees my loneliest nights and my most joyful days.  He knows where my heart is wounded even better than I do.  He sees everything. 

This new understanding of the verse changes the way the rest of the passage reads.  Jesus wasn’t slumming when he came to earth to die.  He came to prove his love and to understand what we go through, that way he can gently lead us to his grace and mercy. 

Not only does he see my loneliness, but he understands it.  He has felt it.  He has felt betrayed by friends.  He has experiences the death of a friend.  It stands to reason that he has also experiences the joy of weddings and births.  He understands all of human existence because he has lived it. 

Now, however, he welcomes us to experience a new existence.  All of that bad stuff won’t go away; but we won’t be alone in it.  I am not alone, not matter how much it feels like I am.  I don’t have to fight this battle alone.  My high priest fights along side of me.  I can’t even put into words how incredible that is.  I am not alone.

Enjoy the Silence: Day 3

Day 3: Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.   Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Send me.  Two words that I say, though the phrase doesn’t always end in the exclamation point that Isaiah uses.  When I say that, it tends to be less of a ‘ooo ooo, pick me!!” and more of a “for the love of … fine I will go.” 

When I interact with God I tend to be super needy.  Notice me.  Love me.  Save me.  Forgive me.  Bless me.  All of these are things I have asked of God.  Sometimes I will pray and ask for God to show me what he wants me to do, or what his plan is for me.  When I do that, though, it is really a selfish prayer.  I usually just want life to be easier, not to further the Kingdom of God. 

This past year has been marked by death; both of people I love and an image of myself I have held for such a long time.  Out of all of this death came a calling to new life.  Relationships have been/are being reconciled and restored.  Dreams are being shifted.  Priorities are being realigned. 

When Isaiah first saw God his reaction was “woe is me”.  He said he was ruined.  God met him there and made a way for Isaiah to be in community with God.  God cleansed his lips which removed the barrier between Isaiah and God.

I don’t have to worry about that now.  I have a Great High Priest in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus intercedes for me, but I should still feel some awe when looking God in the face.  I don’t.  I hope someday I will. 

I want to be used for great things, but right now it isn’t always for God’s glory but my own.  I want greatness for me.  Greatness means I succeeded.  My reaction to some of God’s callings might be different if I longed to bring God glory, not prove my worth to him.  I never can do that.  I’m not worth the grace and mercy I have been given.  Ye it is mine for the taking.  So I say;
            “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is filled with his glory.”