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 Different Scriptures

An Eastertide Reminder…(you already know this)

Don’t put away your Easter Tree just yet!

Oh, you don’t have an Easter tree? That’s fine. Whatever your Easter décor or traditions, don’t shove them into storage at this point. We’ve only just begun our celebrations of Easter. It’s ok if your candy has run out, as we can now pursue much more celebrative ways to announce “He is Risen!”.

“Eastertide” on the church calendar is traditionally the 50 days between Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost Sunday. There are many traditions and connections to this season, but notice this: 50 days is just about 1/7th of a year. So in a sense, Eastertide is like the “Great Sunday” of the year! During this season, we are invited to contemplate the Resurrection of Jesus, what that means for the ways Resurrection Life unfolds & is available to us here and now, and to anticipate the future Resurrection when God brings all things to completion.

There are so many reasons for us to spend more time than we do, talking about and celebrating resurrection life. It’s literally one of the foundations of who we are as Christians. Early believers thought it was so important, they even moved their weekly gathering of worship to Sunday – believing the resurrection to be a sort of “8th Day of Creation”, or “First Day of New Creation”. It has transformed reality as we know it!

One of the keys (I think) to embracing the resurrection as something to truly celebrate, is to become increasingly aware of the difference between “coming back to life” and “resurrection”. Many people in scripture come “back to life“, meaning they return to the way of existing before they died. But this is not what happened to Jesus. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Paul clarifies it even stronger in Colossians 1:18, “ He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.” The “coming back to life” of anyone else was something to be celebrated for that person. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything. Here we see in the person of Jesus Christ, the coming together of Heaven (where God exists fully) and earth (where humanity dwells). He was given his “resurrection body” that is able to exist both where God is fully and where humanity dwells – a way of existing never before experienced by mankind. This is a reminder to us as believers that we are not ultimately looking forward to Heaven, even though it will be great to be with God fully. Even scripture reminds us that, “..in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (2 Peter 3:13) We all – those of us still here on earth, and our loved ones who currently wait in the presence of God – are waiting on the coming New Creation where Heaven & Earth are united as never before.

The exciting thing is: We are not waiting passively! We join today as we are literally brought to new life from the Life of the Age that is to come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The good news isn’t that if we accept Jesus into our hearts, we will eventually join him in Heaven. The good news is that for ALL people, when we abide in the Life of Christ (who IS the beginning of the coming New Creation) NOW, we become places and people through whom the coming New Creation is bursting forth TODAY, being proclaimed and revealed in ways that announce what it will be like fully some day!

Whew. Okay. I need to take a breath and calm down. But you can see why it would be a really big shame if we spent all that time building up toward Easter throughout Lent, celebrated with a big breakfast, pretty pictures and some candy, then went about our year as usual the next day, right? We can see why an entire “Eastertide” season is needed, and why every Sunday throughout the year becomes a miniature celebration of the resurrection. We are resurrection people.

The question then: If celebrating the resurrection means revealing/embodying the ways of Jesus and His coming New Creation – how will you celebrate this week?