Sunday, December 13, 2015

Expectations


We have talked before about how we are sometimes unable to see what actually is because we are expecting something else. Many of the most brilliant scholars of Jesus’ day simply could not get their heads around His reality. They knew how Messiah should come. They knew what Messiah would do. When Jesus came looking enough like Messiah to make them wonder, the ways that He was different than their expectations sealed their decision - He couldn’t possibly be the long awaited one.
Their de facto blindness also prohibited them from entering in to what they had in Him. While everyone else was rejoicing in the healing of sick people, or the raising of the dead, the experts were seething and plotting. They couldn’t even join the celebration of wholeness! How tragic is that?! But it begs the question of me. How much of Jesus do I miss because He is not what I expect Him to be?
Advent is a deliberate slowing down in order to take notice - to see what is really there. And to live in the appreciation of what is rather than in the disappointment of what isn’t. How many real treasures do I pass over because they aren’t the shiny plastic things I am looking for? Advent invites me to look at what is actually in my hand - to examine it to determine worth before discarding. Advent assumes there are things on the way worth investing myself in. And, of course, if I don’t invest myself in these things on the way, how will I recognize the true value of what comes when I get where I think I am going?
Arrival requires recognition. How ever will I recognize when I have arrived if I haven’t paid attention to the markers along the way? Arrival will become like so much of the rest of my life in which I look back and wonder what that was all about. I will never arrive anywhere because I am constantly on the rush to the next thing. Advent pushes me to notice - to tarry - to stop a while - to take still pictures - to engage in the moment. Only by doing so will I recognize arrival and be there for it.
Time is one of those things that simply flows along. We choose whether it will be empty or full. Jesus was born in the fullness of time. I want to recognize those kinds of moments. I don’t want to miss Him, expecting something else. I  want to treasure every step of the journey to arrival.
And so, setting aside expectations, we wait with undemanding expectancy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 1 :: Thanks As Entrance (Luke 1:5-25)

 He was honored
     a once in a lifetime moment
     to stand before the Lord
     bringing the sacrifice

He had carried into that
     holy place his own
     longings – unspoken to any
     but Elizabeth – who shared
     them at a deeper level than
     even he.

His service was interrupted
     by great good news
     His prayers were answered!
     His longing fulfilled!
     His dream come true!

Perhaps long longing made
     it impossible to receive
     without the incredulous
     questioning of an
     imperious angel – who
     brought something a little
     extra. Silence. A long silence.

He could not speak his joy
     because he had not spoken
     his gratitude.

Joy muted is still joy
     but it is not the same
Joy is meant to be shared
     sung – laughed – wept
His was kept silent.

He was unable to enter fully
     into his joy
     His joy
    
     kept out by
     silence when
     thanksgiving
     provided entrance.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Prayer in a Time of Terror


The nature of “terror fatigue” being what it is, we might be forgiven for not including some green or black on our Facebook profiles to express solidarity with the other nations attacked on Friday the 13th. Regardless, while distractions abound, we do want to think about how to respond meaningfully – prayerfully – to the realities forcing their attention on us from every corner of the world.

It is important to remember that, although there are obvious flesh and blood perpetrators, our enemies are not primarily flesh and blood; rather, they are the principalities and powers that lie behind the systemic evil encouraging such dehumanizing terror. Paul’s directs the church at Ephesus to put on the defensive armor described, and to stand firm, holding the ground that God has already taken. In addition to that defensive posture, built on the Roman militaries tortoise model, Paul begins and ends his instruction with the challenge to pray.

With that in mind, it might be helpful to think about how we might take Paul seriously, joining our voices in the chorus of prayer ascending in the wake of this most recent terror. One way to do that would be to reflect on your emotional reaction upon hearing the news last week. That initial response might be a good place to begin your intercession.

If you found yourself angry – begin by praying your anger. There are numerous angry psalms that instruct us in this kind of praying – where we cry out to God on behalf of those who have been violated in unspeakable ways. We don’t just pray about our anger – we pray our anger – we lift it at volume into the heavens, joining in solidarity with those whose humanity has been disregarded. We call for justice – we lift the perpetrators to God, perhaps with instructions on what He ought do to them. And we choose to trust Him to do what is right and righteous. Finally, we pray that the core emotions of love and joy inform our response.

If, however, you found yourself saddened – begin by praying your sorrow. Let your tears mingle with God’s, weeping over what we have done with the beauty He created, weeping for lives lost, families shattered, children orphaned, promises now impossible to keep. Again, the psalms give us many examples of sorrow that cries out for comfort – the wails in grief. And so we pray that the Good Shepherd would create a place of hospitable comfort in the presence of faceless enemies, hiding in the shadows of the valley. And we pray that love and joy would inform our sorrow with hope.

But if your initial response was fear – begin by praying your fear. Enter into the nights of terror with those who feel every bump, who hear every whisper of threat. Help them carry their fear well – and to the Father. There are psalms that give voice to defining fear, that are built on faith strong enough to cry out in the dark, that bring us to the awareness of a present help in time of trouble. One who has come to us, walking across the seas. One whose presence is peace. And, as we pray, we lean into love and joy which enable us to face our fear with courage, knowing we are never alone.

The invitations that our emotions present give us a place of action as part of the Body of Christ – prayer is our first and most powerful response to any reality. And, always, it is rooted in longing – “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Amen and amen.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lust


Oh God, creator of all we are as persons - desires, hopes, dreams, longings, bodies - all. Forgive me for the many ways I reduce myself and my fellow travelers to objects in my hungry quest for false satisfaction.
Forgive me for the secret fantasies which turn people into property for my satisfaction. Forgive me for the way that, in my quest for love I settle so easily for lust - satisfying a deep thirst with the salty water of ongoing longing. Forgive me the second long look which turns beauty into a collection parts. Forgive me for the hidden sins of the mind where elaborately constructed fantasy of relationship prevent me from investing fully in the gifts you have given in those around me. Forgive me the continual obsession with unreachable perfection - in myself and in others, a conforming to the world's ways that surely results in the crushing death of collapsing possibilities. Forgive me the deceptions and justifications which allow me to go where I should not go and see what I should not see.
O Lord, please help me to invest in the hard, self-sacrificing choices of love rather than to take the shortcuts of lust, which lead me where I don't want to go. Teach me the unspeakable value of myself and my fellow travelers so I am not tempted to regard myself or them as anything less than the image of God. Grant me modesty of thought and the ability to blush without shame at things which ought not be spoken. Give me courage and strength to turn away.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gluttony

Oh God, creator and giver of all my appetites and desires, forgive me when I try to satisfy my hunger for You with anything but You.

Forgive my exaltation of the desires of body and mind to idolatrous levels demanding obscene piles of foods for both. Forgive me the full-focused, obsessive pilgrimage for exactly the right vinegar or coffee or CD or , and the picayune critique of the vintage waters, and the need to have things "just so."  Forgive me the trained inability to wait, even for a moment, for what I want - what I have convinced myself I deserve. Forgive me for entertaining myself into mindless oblivion. Forgive the relentless quest for the new, the best, the latest, the revolutionary - when what I have, works well.

Oh God, help me to recognize my flat-lined existence as a cry for deep life which will only be found in life's grand adventure with You. Help me to find as much pleasure in your provision of bread and water as in your provision of much more. Teach me the ways of waiting. Enable the discipline of hungers and desires so that they serve rather than rule. Lead me to simple, sparse joys. Let me enter joyously and fully into the feasts that celebrate community, and into the fasts that create separation. Guide my paths into places of satisfaction in You - and You alone. O Lord, Jesus Christ, You are the Son of God. I am a sinner. Please, have mercy on me.