Gospel of John

Free of Guilt—Prayed for by God

Saturday: Day 4 of Lent

Free of Guilt—Prayed for by God

I don’t know where the Spirit is leading me this Lent, but it is starting out with a very serious departure from my previous seasons of penance, contrition, and somberness. I have several devotional books that have been labeled specifically for Lent and I’m following the Daily Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, providing evidence to me that I have not subconsciously planned or contrived the direction my heart is drawn.  I will continue my practices and devotion, and follow where God leads.

I began my morning with reflection on Psalm 30 and 32. I came away from that reflection with the following as my prayer:

I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me—you restored my health, and brought me up from the grave. O LORD, you have kept me from falling into the pit of death. Weeping and my tears may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. You are the morning, my LORD, You are the Bright and Morning Star! You are my Joy! The Bringer of Light and the Giver of Life! You have turned my mourning into a morning of joy-filled dancing! I will sing joyful praises to you and not be silent. O LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Personalized from my heart from Psalm 30)

My disobedience is forgiven. My sin is put out of sight. The LORD has cleared my guilt. He forgave me! All my guilt is gone! I will give thanks to you, My God and King, I will praise you forever! (Personalized from my heart from Psalm 32)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything… God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NLT)

The past three days, the Gospel reading has come from John 17. This passage of Scripture is among the most influential passages found in the whole Bible for the context of my spiritual development and continues to be one of the most formative passages of Scripture no matter how many times that I read it. There is something mysterious and divine about the energy that soaks into my soul each time I encounter Christ Jesus, the Living God, through this text. It is the prayer of Jesus, perhaps that is part of its mystery. I find this prayer always challenging and always inspiring. The promise and intercessory petition of God (Jesus) for us, his disciples, is mind-blowing.

Excerpted from John 17:9-26

My prayer is for those you have given me… Protect them, so they will be united just as we are… Keep them safe from the evil one. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message—I have given them the glory you gave me. I pray they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. I am in them and you are in me…May the world know you love them as much as you love me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so…

Simply an amazing passage of Scripture. This, prayer of Jesus, is this God praying to God… himself? And praying for humanity, not only for his immediate disciples, but all those who will believe in him/Jesus through their message. Yes, that will make me inclusive in that prayer!!! One of the things that I find so moving about this prayer is how it reveals the heart of God in it. Jesus says as much; “I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so…” (John 17:26). It seems safe, then, to me, to assume that what is happening in this narrative account  of Jesus in the Garden is Jesus revealing God the Father, his heart for us, the loved ones who will follow him and believe in him.

I am so grateful for this “reveal” of God to me… it seems fitting for this season of my life. The “Type-A” personality I am, I can often be tempted to guilt over performance issues where I feel I am not ready, studying, writing, or praying enough (as far as Christian disciplines go). I sometimes feel my thoughts are dark, evil, and unholy… There is no shortage  of stuff that can bring me down and I can be tempted by the darkness and doubt to accept a false image of God—not unlike the false image  that was offered to Adam and Eve during their Garden Temptation, which they ultimately accepted. I can see where that has brought us. I don’t want that image or the catastrophe it brings; no thanks!

What I continue to learn and constantly affirmed is that the Father is far more loving that I can ever imagine. And this loving Father, according to the prayer of Jesus, loves me as much as he loves the Only Begotten Son (John 17:23). Out of this world AMAZING. How can I not praise HIM!!! How can my heart not be joy-dancing-Glad!??!

Here is what my heart sings today:

I am flesh, but I am Divine because Christ is in me.

I am mortal, but my soul is immortal, promised by God to be with Him forever.

I am broken, but in the process of being restored.

I was the son of Adam, but now am the adopted son of God through the Son of God

Glory be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

True Love Reveals

22APR2014—Tuesday

Tuesday Easter Week—True Love Reveals

Readings: Psalm 103  Exodus 12:28-39  1 Cor. 15:12-28  Mark 16:9-20

The following devotional piece from Carlo Carretto provided me with much to reflect upon this day:

Marital love is an image, however, pale, of the reality which develops little by little between the Absolute and the creature, between God and humankind, between Yahweh and Israel.

In marital love it is not enough to study the beloved, write poems, or receive cards from far away. Couples must marry, say “yes” to one another, go behind the veil of intimacy, delight in one another—exultantly, become close, cultivate friendship, stay together as much as possible, coalesce their wills, make two things one, a scripture says.

But pretending to know the other just by studying him in books or photographs means remaining outside real knowledge, real mystery. Today, many persons who seek or study God do just that. They study him in books, make him an object of speculation, approach him from intellectual curiosity.

With what result? The more we study, the more our ideas become confused; the more we get caught up in discussions, the farther we go from him. I think this is the nature of the crisis in the Church today; it is a crisis of prayer, it is a crisis of contemplation. Study is no longer the light of spirituality, and curiosity has taken the place of humility.

Self-assurance and derision of the past are the false light which guides man’s pride in the labyrinth of God’s “unknowing,” pretending to seize the truth with the strength of intelligence only. But God’s truth is the same, truth is the secret of things “up there,” and no one can know it without revelation from God.

Has Christ not already said so? In the upper room, replying to the worried question put to him by Judas (not Judas Iscariot) about why he was not manifesting himself to the world, but only to this intimate friends, he replied with extreme clarity: “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him” (John 14:23).

Only love brings God’s coming to us, his living presence within us, and his consequent revelation.

He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him (John 14:21).

—From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto—

Easter Tuesday Prayer

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ didst destroy death and bring life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

An Example to Follow

17APR2014—Thursday

Lent.43—An Example to Follow

Readings: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19  Exodus 12:1-42  1 Cor. 11:23-26  John 13:1-17, 31-35

Words that are sticking in my throat and I find difficult to digest are found in today’s readings for this Maundy Thursday. Our Lenten journey is nearing its end and several culminating thoughts from Scripture are stirring my own resolve.

I read; “On the night he was betrayed…” (1 Cor. 11:23) and we know that the words are directed toward Judas and to some degree the disciples who left him…and maybe even there is a hint of the betrayal of Jesus’ own people, which would ultimately lead to his death by crucifixion. I wonder though; is there another betrayal to consider? Might we, even those who profess to be “washed” by him, qualify as his betrayers. I know in some abstract sense we might cast a nod of self-righteous agreement to that betrayal… standing firm on our knowledge of grace and redemption, but might we be mistaken? Could our betrayal be even more profound? Might our betrayal be closer to our immediate present? I think maybe…it could be we are real time betrayers still today.

He looked to his disciples and he told them; “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:15, 17, 34). What is the example Christ left us? Can we even recount that example? Can we tangibly say in actionable words what the example of Jesus’ life and model for us is, without qualifying those actions or watering them down to the point they no longer resemble the life of Jesus in the gospel accounts. I wonder. I am convicted that I am still a betrayer. I tell myself lies and try to qualify my own failure to follow wholly the life of Jesus by blaming my surroundings and the context of my culture. And I’m tired of it. I don’t want to be a betrayer anymore. I’m tired of fighting my own people. I understand tolerance and I understand grace and I understand patience…but I also understand selfishness and hard-heartedness and I do not want to live there anymore. I do not want to betray the things I know are true and life-giving… I do not care about culture. I do not care about demographics. I do not care about hard-hearted and self-centered people. I care about Jesus. I believe his teachings and I will live to appropriate them fully in my life no matter who else comes alongside. I know there are others who wish to follow this path and I will find them and I will love them…as Christ loves me. I will no longer be a betrayer.

My Psalm Prayer and Affirmation:

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the LORD’s name for saving me. I will keep my promises to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Psalm 116:1-2, 13-14

Maundy Thursday Prayer

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal , the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Betrayed

16APR2014—Wednesday

Lent.42—Betrayed

Readings: Psalm 70  Isaiah 50:4-9  Hebrews 12:1-3  John 13:21-32

What is it like to be betrayed?

I think we’ve all experienced on some level in our lives; a good or cherished friend, a loved one, or perhaps a trusted colleague turns their back on us and becomes our betrayer. How do we respond? Are we capable of forgiveness? Can we put our trust in God and remain confident that His will be done? What was it like to be a betrayer? Can you remember a time where you have betrayed another soul? I wonder what went on between Jesus and Judas and I wonder what occurred to them as they pondered betrayal and betrayed respectively.

Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:21)

I have set my face like stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7)

“We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. He knows all. He knows every folding of the heart and also the extent of the sorrow that he inflicts. What we think will overwhelm us entirely only subdues and conquers our pride. Our renewed spirit rises from its subjugation with a celestial strength and consolation.” -Francois Fenelon

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

An Evening Prayer

Speak to our hearts, O Christ our overseer; say to us, “Hail, be strong and of good courage.” You who did this of old, can you not do the same now? You can, you can indeed! For you are almighty. You can, O most Loving, you can do what we cannot conceive; for nothing is impossible to you, almighty God! Truly, O Savior, for us your body is red with blood; you have “washed your garment in wine and your clothes in the blood of grapes;” for you are God alone, crucified for us, whom the old transgression gave over to death; by your wound have been healed the countless wounds of our sins. And now, O loving and crucified Christ, redeem us with your own; save us, O loving Goodness, O God, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, throughout all ages. Amen. Old Gallican Missal

We Want to Meet Jesus

15APR2014—Tuesday

Lent.41—We Want to Meet Jesus

Readings: Psalm 71:1-14  Isaiah 49:1-7  1 Cor. 1:18-31  John 12:20-37

One of my all time favorite passages of Scripture has been John 12:24-26; I cannot recall how many times I have quoted it and used it in sermons or personal testimony…maybe hundreds. Today and tonight as I’ve been pondering this reading, I am making connections that I have not made previously—I’m hearing with different ears and seeing with different eyes—the gravity of these words has increased exponentially.

20 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”

Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.

30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”

35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.

37 But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.  (John 12:20-37)

There is simply too much going on in this passage of Scripture to unpack in a single blog post, but there are a few highlights worth bringing to attention. First, the context is worth mentioning… for some reason I have not made this connection before, but Phillip’s friends want to meet Jesus. Phillip and Andrew ask Jesus if their friends can get a meeting and Jesus begins; basically saying, “You want to meet me? You need to be willing to lose your life, because I am the life you want to meet… And here’s how you meet me; You follow me. Where am I going you say? Watch and I’ll show you… It’s for this very hour that I came.”  This commentary from Jesus might lead the persons hearing to conclude these are the ravings of some radical lunatic, but then… “A Voice from heaven” And we hear the affirmation of God pronounced over the words Jesus had shared.

An interesting note about the voice from heaven some heard it as thunder and others heard it as the declarations of an angel… interesting. Pay attention to how you listen (Luke 8:18).

Another point, Jesus had told his listeners (perhaps Phillip and Andrew’s friends) that to “meet him” or become his disciple, they must follow him and he further explains where he is going (vs. 32); “When I am lifted up from the earth…”

Next, Jesus puts down a few more cryptic lines and we are told, “After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.” It almost seems the time for trying to figure Jesus out and discern whether his was Messianic truth or not was over. He was hidden from them…

Finally, these last words are bone chilling to me. I think because they mirror the heart of so many “friends of Jesus” today. People who profess to know Jesus, but are unwilling to become the kernel that falls into the ground first—unwilling to follow where Jesus is when he is lifted up. John writes; “but despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe him.”

Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

All that we have today, and most of the people, even those who profess to know Him, do not believe. On what basis do I make such a broad generalization? There is far too much “self” existing in those who profess to follow; a clear indication that the crucial part of becoming a disciple, denying the self, has not taken place.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.

An Evening Prayer:

We praise you, Lord, for the gift of wisdom that allows us to hear and obey your word. We thank you for the call you have given each of us, to spend our lives in your service. Help us to reject the folly that the world considers wisdom. God of Mercy, your Son Jesus chose suffering and the cross in place of the joy that was held out to him; teach us to carry one another’s burdens, that we may die and rise again to live in him who is our Saviour, for ever and ever. Amen. 

We Have Not Loved You

07MAR2014—Friday

Lent.02—We Have Not Loved You

Readings: Psalm 35  Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32  Phil. 4:1-9  John 17:9-19

“Put all your rebellion behind you and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live.” -Ezekiel 18:31-32 NLT

Today I continue with the first confession from the Litany of Penitence (see my explanation from yesterday‘s blog post). I resolve that I am taking personal responsibility and collective responsibility for my sin and the sin of humanity with the following confessional:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

Continuing the Litany of Penitence today and the first confession delivers a real gut punch. Here we go face-to-face with our failure (my failure) to honor God with his first and greatest commandment to humanity. The expectation of God for humankind is that he (man) will love God with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength. This is one we try not to think too deeply about…the command to love God the most (let’s not even talk about the loving our neighbor thing or that deal about forgiveness).

How easy it is for man to live comfortably with divided hearts; easy, but we still feel some twinges of guilt in our failure. It is not uncommon for us to excuse ourselves, slipping the responsibility of maintaining integrity to the most important of all the things God has instructed and expects from us, his most loved of all creations. He wants us to love Him most.

We turn to one another asking, “What does it mean to love God with all your heart, and mind, and strength?” We continue, “Can anyone truly love like that?” “Surely God does not expect us to do this impossible thing…”

Truthfully, Yes; Yes, He does.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

The first step to loving God as he intends for us to love him is this: Stop believing it is impossible to love God with all our heart, mind and strength. The second step is to begin each day with God as the number one focus in our mind and heart, no matter what our day brings us or what our vocation may be. God first. Always. Third, we reject any thought that would put itself into our minds that might result in division of heart. Remember always the words of John; “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (1 John 5:21 NLT) and “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5 NIV).

Have mercy on us, Lord.

Gracious Host, Loving Bridegroom, eternal wedding banquet God, show us when we need to fast and when we need to begin the eternal feast. Keep the party open, and help us not to close it down. Show us that the only fast we need is from ourselves, our smallness, and from our shriveled hearts. Amen.

Faithful to the Day

Be Faithful to the Day

I’ve taken a little time off from the blog for the past few weeks. I have been realigning my focus and learning some new habits. This has caused no little amount of upset to my routines and even to some degree, my self-perceived identity. For the record, it’s all good though. Occasionally we need measures of reset, new goals, and a shift in routes we take as we pursue our destination. I’m in full pursuit, as determined, and passionate about the call and message of God as I have ever been. I am excited about what lies ahead even though what does lie ahead I cannot clearly make out. I know that God leads and never leaves. I know He is leading me and wherever we go… it will be right and it will be good.

I’ve been thinking about whole-heartedness and discernment for the past couple weeks. The two words are distinct thoughts in my head/heart, but they seem to overlap and blur from time to time. A couple weeks ago while reading from the Gospel of John, I was given pause to reflect when I read the words of Peter after Jesus questioned the loyalty of the disciples (John 6:60-69). Peter responds to Jesus’ question saying, “To whom shall we go?”

As I consider what it means to be whole-hearted, I was gripped by a stream of questions when I “heard” Peter’s “To whom shall we go?” The Gospels teach us that many of the disciples left all they had to follow Jesus. During the course of their time with Jesus, I believe they were given opportunities to realign themselves with their former lives or even separate themselves from following Jesus…similar to some of the other “followers” who went their own way from Jesus. I think as time went on, it became more and more difficult for them to choose any other path, but the one they were on. Even if they weren’t all in at the beginning, at some point they did become all in. Maybe I’m extrapolating something that isn’t there and maybe I’m projecting some of my own experience onto the gospel narrative, but there seems to be a parallel to Peter’s words and my own life. Sometimes I wake up and wonder what am I doing…I feel the closeness of God, the presence of Christ, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit within me, but I still feel like the murkiness of what lies ahead has not lifted. The way is cloudy and sometimes very unsure. I question my call and confess that I do not know what tomorrow brings, and I have nowhere else to go—only to sit at the feet of Jesus—for I have forsaken all other things. I only know that if I am to honor the God who loves me, I must be faithful to the day.

I do feel a sense of urgency about “tomorrow,” yet I do not know what to do about that urgent feeling. I say to myself; “Be faithful to the day and tomorrow will come.” This is how I can be (and remain) whole-hearted, by being faithful to the day. What does it mean to be faithful to the day? It can be a little tricky determining what that means or looks like.

As I was reading today (more from the Gospel of John), I was arrested again by more words from Jesus. Jesus was responding to a question from his disciples about sin and a blind man and he said to them; “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us” (John 9:4). While I realize the contextual application of this word, I believe the Holy Spirit was also guiding and teaching me with these words. I quieted my mind, focused my spirit on the person of God, and silently asked, “What do I do with this word, Lord?” I wonder what does tomorrow bring when there are so many uncertainties; I wonder what I am supposed to do about bringing tomorrow to bear or if I bear responsibility on bringing tomorrow at all… How do I “quickly carry out the tasks assigned to me?”

I think my answer is the same as I wrote earlier: Be faithful to the day.

I carry out my tasks quickly and clearly by remaining faithful and attentive, surrendered and obedient, humble, and loving with every interaction that comes my way. Day. By. Day. One day at a time. Be faithful to the day. This is where I do the work of God and this is “the what” of my calling and work of God. I teach. I preach. I live, with my life, the message and the task that God has given to me. I be faithful to the day.

And may the LORD my God show me his approval and make my efforts successful. Yes, make my efforts successful. (Psalm 90:17 NLT)

He Gave the Right to Become Children of God: Christmastide

He Gave the Right to Become Children of God: Christmastide [29DEC2013]

Lectionary: Psalm 147  Isaiah 61:10—62:3  Gal. 3:23-25; 4:4-7  John 1:1-18

1st Sunday after Christmas

The Collect—

Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, enkindled in our hearts; may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one god, now and for ever. Amen.

“He was made man that we might become God…” St. Athanasius

John 1:1-18

 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.  3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…   10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

He gave the right to become children of God(John 1:12 NLT) You are no longer a slave but God’s own child (Galatians 4:7 NLT).

I believe these are some of the most incredible and inconceivable words in the entirety of Scripture. God has reclaimed humanity as his own. As incredible an idea that God himself would come in the flesh to redeem humanity, God even pushes the envelope of reality further; He makes humanity his own flesh. My soul is exploding…my intellect cannot contain the revelation of the Great Light that has come to us. I do not pretend to fully  understand the Incarnation…but my soul knows that it is real! I am alive at the core of who I am in Him. The prayer of my God and Savior, Jesus, is alive in me. His Life gives me life; I can feel His heart beating as my own and I am filled with incomprehensible, indescribable, and infinite joy! Humanity is now the flesh of God in and through Christ. As much as Jesus is God’s own Son, so now are all who would accept his atoning offer of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Utterly amazing.

Prayer of Psalms:

1 Praise the LORD! How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and fitting! 3 He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds. 4 He counts the stars and calls them all by name. 5 How great is our LORD! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! 7 Sing out your thanks to the LORD; Sing praises to our God! 21 Praise the LORD! (Psalm 147)

Scattered

Scattered

Readings: Psalm 30, 97 ◊ John 16:29-33

O LORD, come to my assistance. O LORD, make haste to help me.

O Light, shine on our senses and dispel the sleep of our soul. To you before all else may our voice resound and let us pay our vows to you. O God, shape and renew me until I bear full the image of my Savior Jesus. Hear, O LORD, and be faithful to me; O LORD, be my help. Amen.

“A well-cultivated spiritual life is the best way to find peace and security. Countries in the far north are cold and frozen because they are at a greater distance from the sun. Some Christians are cold and frozen because they live too far from heaven.” –Richard Baxter

Lectio Divina: A Scripture Reading from John 16:29-33

29 His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ 31 Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ [NRSV]

As I read these words, several points jump out to me. I consider why they grab my attention and what they are speaking to me.

First Impressions:

  • “By this we believe you came from God.”
  • “Do you now believe?”
    • “You will be scattered.”
    • “You will leave me alone.”
  • “I am not alone / the Father is with me.”
    • “I have said this so you may have peace.”
    • “You will have trouble, but take courage; I have conquered the world.”

The disciples, now approaching three years or so having been with the company of Jesus, have witnessed countless miracles by his hand. They have seen Jesus command the elements of earth, calm the stormy sea, walk on water, change the molecular structure of water to wine, multiply bread and fish, command human cells to heal themselves, and even raise the dead to life… and now they proclaim; “By this we believe you came from God.” They boldly make this proclamation because Jesus announces that he speaks plainly.

Considering miracles and the challenges that we might face in a lifetime, there might be many occasions when our faith will be called into question. Here, in this particular setting, Jesus even challenges the belief of his own disciples calling their faith into question based on their confession. “Do you now believe?” he asks them. Then he announces to them what he knows about their belief and their heart; he says, “You will be scattered…You will leave me alone.”

I think of the many ways I am “scattered” and a flood of ideas stream into my mind. The context of “scattered” in Jesus’ words refers to the night of Jesus’ arrest and may indirectly follow through to the persecution of the believers in Jerusalem following Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost blessing of the Holy Spirit, but I believe there is more that can be gleaned here on a personal level.

Jesus also tells his followers, “You will leave me alone.” So I ask; “In what ways do I leave Jesus alone and how might I become separated from him?”

I think it might be true to say I “leave Jesus alone” and become “separated” from him whenever I become overwhelmed by the tasks or circumstances from any given day. The noises and voices that can suddenly fill my peace unexpectedly also have the potential to “scatter” and “separate.” In fact, I believe that any moment that my peace is disrupted, I have momentarily become scattered and separated. Now, this is not sin. Jesus did not call it such. What he said was you will be scattered… and you will leave me alone.” The point in clarifying this is that when I become separated and scattered…leaving Jesus alone… this should not induce guilt.

Let me repeat, This should not induce guilt, but neither should it induce denial.

Two important things come to my mind here. First, there are times we will become scattered and we will leave Jesus “alone.” This does not mean we have been cut off from Jesus or abandoned by the Holy Spirit. What it means is that we have lost our focus and locus (our place of centering). It is for this reason that Jesus speaks very clearly when he follows his challenge to them with these words:

“I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

I am not alone. The Father is with me. You may have peace. Take courage. I have overcome.

These are good words. Real words. Comforting words. Encouraging words. Especially when I consider that I will have days when my thoughts and even my heart are scattered…and I leave Jesus alone.

There are several notable takeaways here for me. First, as we walk after Jesus and with Jesus—as we are also filled with the Holy Spirit—it is true that we (also like Jesus) are never alone. We are never actually cutoff or separated in a real sense. We are forever connected and joined with the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is always with us. Since this is a promise of Jesus to us, we can have the confidence to know that we may have peace, and this no matter the circumstance. We can have peace.

Jesus advises us to be anxious for nothing and do not worry. Being anxious and overcome by worry are the precursors of scattered and separated. It happens; Jesus knew this and said it to his disciples…and to you and to me. The point to remember is that when we become scattered and we leave Jesus alone, we can easily become reconnected to our peace, Jesus, unscattered and reattached to the Vine. No matter our doubt and no matter our fear, we can “take courage” because Jesus has overcome and because He has, we can overcome too.

I am reminded, as I sit here now, God is gazing on me with love and holding me in being. I pause for a moment and think of this. I need to close out the noise, to rise above the noise. .The noise that interrupts, that separates, the noise that isolates. I need to listen to God again.

Today I just want to be especially sensitive and attentive to your presence. Help me and let my heart respond to your love. (Sacred Space)

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Jesus for President? Probably not…

Jesus for President? Probably not…

Political Post Warning…

I’m feeling frisky, so I thought I’d share some musings on this day, our presidential election, in our United States of America. Since I am unashamedly a follower of Messiah Jesus, I thought I’d post a few thoughts from a Christian perspective.

I’ve seen quite a few thoughts around the web that invoke the idea of “vote for Jesus” or “Jesus for president” and other similar inferences like making the most “informed Christian” vote (that is assuming your or my vote would be most closely aligned with who Jesus would vote for. And this assumes He would vote at all—but that is another conversation).

First, let me say that I voted and I believe in the process, even as flawed as it might be; I’m glad I get to vote on the leadership in this nation.

Now, onto the idea of Jesus for president…

Really? I wonder how long Jesus would last if he were really voted in. Let’s hypothetically assume the United States is a Christian nation, and let’s take it one step further and assume that every United States citizen professes themselves aligned with Christianity as their faith affiliation.

First, it is my opinion that Jesus would not be voted in at all if the things he taught and the things he did were reported through the media as are most other presidential candidates.

If good communication skills are a prerequisite and being able to clearly dictate a position are necessary to win over voters, I don’t think Jesus would have scored very high even though we call him a great orator. He said that he chose to deliberately speak in parables so some people would hear him clearly and others would not (see Luke 8).

According to the gospels, Jesus doesn’t seem to be very keen on capitalism, free market systems, amassing fortunes, or retirement plans. In fact, he once told a story about a man who had raised a bumper crop of wheat. The man figured he’d done well and could retire on his efforts and earnings only to be called a “fool” and have his life taken by God that very night (Luke 12:13-21). Additionally, the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the gospels seem to favor Socialism over the Free Market system that fuels most of the American Dream.

Many people like to believe that Jesus is “fair” and universal in his approach toward helping humanity, but the gospels teach differently about this perception as well. Jesus was often in the midst of great crowds, but we’re only told of two accounts where he fed the masses. I’m reasonably sure there were more than three people that he was aware of who died in the places he traveled, but we’re only told of three that he raised from the dead. In the early pages of Mark’s Gospel we read that Jesus healed all that were brought to him in one day, yet on the morning of the next day, he left people who wanted and needed healing with their disease and sickness telling his disciples he had to go to the next city… “this is not the reason I have come” (Mark 1:29-39). Then there was the scene at the pool of Bethseda; where John recounts there were “many invalids there,” yet Jesus chose to heal only one… (John 5:1-13) and this does not even take into account that Jesus broke the law of the land to heal this man by healing him on the Sabbath.

Certainly my words sound somewhat facetious; it is a literary tool to help us consider our own motives and political positions, but in reality Jesus was a radical that not too many people would be happy with as a president. What if he came to you and demanded you sell all your possessions to give to the poor? What if he advised you the only way you could be part of his country/kingdom was to give up all your status and become a servant to all? What if he announced the only way you could keep your life was to sacrifice it for someone who despised you? I think most people would say; “Jesus, you’re out of your flipping mind…” kinda the same way people thought when he told them his body and blood were real food and drink (John 6:22-59).

He tells us if someone asks for our tunic, give it to them and your shirt too. He says if someone asks you to carry their load a mile, carry it two. If someone cracks you on the jaw, turn your cheek and offer it to them so your bruising will be symmetrical. People say Jesus never wants anyone to be a doormat for others, but this is exactly what he made of himself….and still does today. He is the gate and the doormat to the kingdom of God and He invites us to follow Him.

I think it sounds nice and spiritually self-righteous to say “Jesus for President!” I don’t think it is very heartfelt or realistic, unless of course it is some other Jesus that we are talking about that isn’t the Jesus mentioned in the Holy Scriptures.

Oh, and don’t think for a minute, that I’m not talking about myself here too. I’m as guilty as the next person who wants their proverbial “cake and to eat it too.” I want to follow the Jesus in the Scriptures, and I call myself trying, but I also see the enormous chasm between his teachings and my reality. If Jesus were on the ballot, I’m not sure I would be prepared to vote for him…especially after reading his campaign promises in the gospels.

Jesus for president? Let me think on that awhile.

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