The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-6)
We don't find a "meek and mild" Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7. He is assertive, speaking decisively about his connection to God, his earthly mission and saving power. Earlier, Jesus had claimed to be the bread of life. In the next chapter he offers himself as light of the world. His itinerant ministry of teaching and healing is concluding with bold claims.
I've been wondering about my reaction and response had I been in that crowd. Would I have been receptive, offended, noncommittal? The question persists.
Your words, Lord Christ,
...he who sent me is true.
You do not know him,
but I know him
because I am from him
and he sent me.
You know God?
He sent you here?
Seriously? That's quite a claim!
Would I have been threatened?
Like the Pharisees.
Some people still react that way. ...hostile. ...snarky.
Like several Facebook friends.
Would I have been curious?
I'm all in now (or trying to be.)
Was it the teaching?
For me, all of the above.
Was it your bearing?
...something about your eyes?
...maybe your touch?
I owe it all to your grace, to the Spirit.
Let anyone who is thirsty
come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me,
as Scripture has said,
rivers of living water
will flow from within them.
So many are thirsty.
Some are parched.
Yet they decline the cup.
Extend the cup.
Touch it to their lips.
To the heart and mind.
Give them a sip of living water.
Lord, Liar or Lunatic?
As C.S. Lewis famously wrote in Mere Christianity:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Photo credit: Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Melissa Habel
I offer this lament while attempting to channel William Barclay’s more generous spirit:
There are many ways to God. He has his own secret stairway to every heart. He fulfills himself in many ways; and no man or church has a monopoly of his truth.
I get so discouraged at the news media’s portrayal of faith.
Lately there’s a focus on “white evangelicals.”
I’m not even sure that represents a denomination or religion.
It’s a political party that meets in churches.
Their cultural leanings and political views have become their faith.
They weaponize the Bible.
Fear seems to be a greater inspiration than Spirit.
It’s not my version of the Christian faith.
But you admonished the disciples...
Do not stop him for whoever is not against you is for you. (Luke 9:50)
Do not judge so that you will not be judged... Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
Still, I get so discouraged...
As a postscript, this comes from my Scripture Union Bible study. Robert Parkinson is writing about Micah 6 (act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God) and how people of faith sometimes act abominably:
In my work as a Christian minister, I often come across people of other faiths, or of no faith at all, whose daily practice of kindness, fairness and humility is exemplary. They conduct themselves as they may perceive God requires, and I am pleased to acknowledge this. Conversely, however, people of faith sometimes act abominably. We learn from Micah that whenever faith makes a person unkind, violent or haughty, it is a spurious faith. God does not lead people to commit acts of violence or to behave unkindly towards others. The God of mercy and love requires the same of any who would claim to follow him.
...imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down, down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God. My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.
Mardi Gras has concluded in New Orleans. Carnival celebrations across the globe have wound down. The party’s over. Lent begins with an international hangover. Maybe that’s appropriate.
It’s a time to look in the mirror, a time for confession. The sign of the cross, imposed on one’s forehead with ashes, is an ancient sign of repentance.
There’s a Litany of Penitence in the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve done a rewrite - my own contemporary version:
This is my confession. It’s unpleasant, but I’m thinking it’s supposed to feel that way.
Lord, I don’t give you 100%. Worship, Bible study and prayer are not priorities. I’m reluctant to share my faith.
I’m pretty choosy about caring for my neighbors. I’m prejudiced toward some, even contemptuous of others. Across town and across the ocean, I turn a blind eye to suffering, injustice and cruelty. I’m slow to volunteer hoping somebody else will step up.
And I’m slow to forgive, prone to hold on to slights and grudges. I’m impatient. I stretch the truth, even lie. I’m a prideful, envious and self-indulgent. I profess concern for the care of your creation, but I’m not very dedicated to the cause.
Indeed, I am a hypocrite…yet you care for me. You have sacrificed for me. You forgive me. You have my back 24/7.
Accept my confession, Father. Rouse me to repentance. Draw me closer during Lent. Amen.
I commend to you a modern confession [#893] in the Methodist Hymnal. It was added to the 1989 hymnbook, and it comes from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa.
Almighty God, you
have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to
us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only
by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ
our Savior. Amen.(Book of Common Prayer, Liturgy for Ash Wednesday)