Posted in Different Moments, Different Scriptures, Uncategorized

the dirt…

Whether you’re a young person who’s just returned from a summer “Youth Camp/Retreat/Conference” experience, or you’re a little older and still reminiscing on those days, there’s a draw to a particular response. It’s natural. The response we often have is “Oh my goodness, that was a great experience in the presence of God, I wish we could recreate these conditions for all of my future experiences!” It’s good for us to know – we’re not the first ones to feel this way. We shouldn’t feel shame for having such a response. When God meets with us in a particular way, the temptation is to connect strongly to that “way”.

When Sarah and I first started dating, she wore a uniquely fuzzy coat. I remember walking her to her dorm on one of our first dates ever, and giving her a hug “goodnight”, wrapping my arms around the fuzziness of that coat. Just a few weeks later, as I was home on Christmas break, I saw a men’s winter jacket that had the same “fuzziness”, and you know I just had to get it. Even far from her, when I wrapped my arms around myself, I was reminded of that hug and looked forward to seeing her again. It’s part of how God has wired us. The neurochemical responses that form long-lasting memories (especially involving music/singing) connected to our “bonding/attachment” experiences can be a blessing.

Today’s lectionary reading from scripture gives us a similar story. Namaan was a commander in the army of Aram, who’d just been miraculously healed by obeying Elisha’s instructions to bathe 7 times in the waters of the Jordan river. He was saturated in these waters of a particular experience and found himself having a renewal and healing as never before. God was faithful, and released Namaan from the chains of disease. Namaan was grateful, and wanted to make sure he had access to this same experience as he went home. In his culture, gods were often tied to particular areas geographically, so it made sense for him to make this request:

“Then Namaan said… ‘please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.” (2 Kings 5:17)

He wanted to bring some of this holy ground home so that any time he desired an experience of this God who met him in the waters of the Jordan, he could. We don’t have the response of Elisha recorded, but I wonder if he looked with compassion on Namaan as he helped him load up some dirt.

Imagine if I returned to campus after Christmas break, so thankful for my new fuzzy coat. Whenever I missed Sarah, I could wrap my arms around myself and be thankful for the warmness of such memories. But how sad it would be, if I was so contented/taken by feeling that coat around me, that I never pursued building a relationship or creating new memories of love together with her. It’s a silly illustration, but I hope you’re seeing the connection. How pitiful it would be if we came home, and tried really hard to replicate the transformational moments, missing out on the God who wants us to be aware of His presence in every moment and every location. God desires that we would not seek special moments with him alone, but abide with Him as He transforms every moment with Kingdom purposes (John 15:5).

We can be thankful for the experiences we have had of God, and even have moments where we wrap our arms around such experiences in the future. We should definitely remember these moments, and testify about them to others as we share what God has done. But let us not pursue the ground we stood on. Let us pursue the God who we met on that ground. The good news is – this is the same God who has promised to meet with us wherever we seek Him. (Proverbs 8:17) In fact, scripture says that God rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

May we seek Jesus and His Kingdom today, taking each step in the knowledge that we are entering a space He desires to make holy…

Posted in Different Scriptures

are we willing to be unnamed?

In one of this weeks’ lectionary passages, we find the story of the prophet Elisha being used by God to anoint Jehu the next King over Israel (2 Kings 9). But he doesn’t go anoint Jehu himself. He calls one of the prophets who serve with him, and sends him to do it. He tells him to hurry, and communicates the urgency of the situation. Once Jehu has been anointed, he tells the prophet, he must run away quickly as well. Which makes sense – if you’re anointing a new king while another king still seems to be on the throne – you should get a safe distance away, quickly.

This is an important moment in the history of God’s people, as He begins to bring judgment on them for straying so far. There are difficult moments of restoration ahead. But here in these passages, we hear the foreshadowing of Jesus being welcomed as the new king in Jerusalem, even while other powers still seem to reign (Matthew 21:8). 2 Kings 9:13 pictures Jehu’s fellow officers throwing their cloaks under his feet as he walked, proclaiming & welcoming him as the new king.

It was such an important moment. It was included in the stories we have, that were passed down for generations. We tell the story of the prophet still today, as he obeyed Elisha for what he had been called to do. No big fuss was apparently made, even though this would have been a dangerous mission. If caught, he would likely face accusations of treason, if he survived long enough to do so. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the name of the prophet wasn’t passed on in the story.

Today, God continues to invite us to speak and live according to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are empowered by His Holy Spirit in ways that bear fruit (Galatians 5) that is useful for doing so. This is not as we strive to “discover what is already within us”, as popular as that may sound today. This happens as we abide in Jesus, who is the vine from which the fruit of the Spirit arrives (John 15:5). We may be the branches who bear fruit – but the life of that fruit did not, and could never originate within us. Bearing such fruit is often subversive, as the ways of the Jesus’ Lordship are so often at odds with the ways of this world. Sometimes that means we should do our part, and get out of the way quickly as God continues His work.

There are times God calls individuals to be named in ways that reveal His glory within their particular story. When Jesus healed the man who’d been possessed by demons in Mark 5, he told him to go and share his story. Because of their relationships and knowledge of the man – “everyone marveled” at what Jesus had done.

But sometimes, as in today’s passage, we only know what is necessary. Someone was obedient. Someone responded to what they were called to do and because of it, the purposes of God were advanced in important ways.

Are we willing to be that “someone” today, who lives in response to the Love and Lordship of Jesus, even if they don’t get credit? Will we bear fruit for the kingdom, offering what grows – even if those who consume will only offer credit to the vine – not the branch?

May we live today in ways that proclaim the name of the King, no matter what that means for our own name…

Posted in Spoken Word

A Pause (selah)

https://youtu.be/dJ-y0CXVWHo

Turning off the screen, we pause,
For we’ve seen far too much obscene for one life to handle
One more event where God’s beloved scramble

Away from danger, crying out and wondering if they’re heard
All while conversations remain in the realm of the absurd
So oft’ distracted by the rights of the many as if they negate the plight
Of those underfoot, under feet planted firmly
Proclaiming solid ground – because it’s easier than hearing the sound

Of lament
Of our discontent
Of lives spent wondering if there’s room for them at the table
Wondering if they’ll ever be able to face another day
Wondering what they might say to children looking for answers
Because for some cancers there are no cures, only treatment
And mistreatment is all they’ve so far known
A world that’s shown them more shadow than anyone deserves
Throwing curves every time they step up to the plate
Or simply telling them to wait

Wait until it’s your turn
Wait to get what you have earned
Wait until the resources you needed have been burned
to fuel the fires – meeting the desires of those who were heard first
But there is hope for those who thirst

And the heavens burst with the glory of One who has revealed
An existence healed of all that once has bound
A resounding call for Freedom and reconciliation
But to hear, we may need to change the station

Because we’ve been arguing with straw men for far too long
Assuming the strong voices and the ones who offer the choices
spoke with authority, assuming those with seniority
have always done it right, siding with those who win the fight.

But there is a redemption arriving, a New Life thriving
That embraces every color
Protects every student seeking to discover
Embraces every adjective we might uncover
And covers all with “BE LOVED”.
Whether you’ve been shoved, or your arms are extended
The old ways of living have ended, as God has befriended humanity
When we couldn’t be doing worse
Breaking the curse

Offering Life Anew
Not just to wait here in the Pew, forgiven to get out there and do
To proclaim that me and you, we’re New Creation
Salvation in Jesus is not just something that happens in our hearts
It happens between them as well. Not just heaven and hell
But living Word for worlds in pain. For those moments you can’t explain
Where suffering pours like rain on soggy ground
We declare that peace can still abound.

This is not by a cheap grace found in false pretending
Not by sending hallmark sentiments while remaining on our own
Jesus. left. His. throne.
We don’t respond alone, but united in His mission
No more wishing things would change
No more living estranged, but joining Jesus as He goes
Nurturing as He sows for harvests already begun
Laying down guns for gloves and spade
Seeking to bring light where there is shade

In a world of those fighting to win,
While some are waiting for it to be rid of sin
We hear Jesus inviting us to begin

Listen to the hurt, see the unseen,
Suffer with those in pain
Love others beyond learning name
And in all of this – proclaim…
Jesus.