Monday, April 24, 2006

Come to the Table

"Pete and Repeat were sitting on the fence. Pete fell off. Who was left?" "Repeat!" "Pete and Repeat were sitting on the fence. Pete fell off. Who was left?" "Repeat!" "Pete and Repeat were sitting on the fence. Pete fell off. Who was left?" "Repeat!"

I'm not sure why eight year olds think this is funny, but they do. It takes patience to listen to this annoying joke. Imagine, however, how much patience it takes to be Pete. It must be extremely frustrating to keep falling off the fence. Again and again. Consider how frustrating it must be to be Pete's God.

And yet, God displays great patience with Pete and all the rest of us who keep falling down. We often get more frustrated with others or with ourselves than God gets with us. God knows we are weak and frail and while he wants us to grow and mature into the image of Jesus Christ, he does not expect us to be perfect (that is a burden we place on ourselves). God calls us to communion - to meet at the Lord's table and share in his feast.

Have you ever noticed how many theological words begin with "re"? REpent. REdeem. REconcile. REnew. REbirth. RElease. God knows that a one time fix will not work with us, for we will break it again and again and again.

Telling us to stop falling off the fence will not create change. Giving ultimatums will not create maturity. So Jesus tells us "I love you" and he gives his very life. And as we take his life into our bodies each week through the Lord's supper we experience his amazing grace that encourages us to faithful as he is faithful.

Are you like Pete, fallen off the fence again. There is a word from the Lord: "Come feast with me."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Dawning of the Resurrection

There is a difference between knowing an event occurred and knowing the meaning of the event. This was never more true than for the disciples trying to make sense of the resurrection of Jesus. There is an obvious progression - a sort of “dawning” of the resurrection - given by each gospel writer.
The immediate response to the resurrection was fear. This is not surprising since Jesus constantly created fearful situations for the disciples. According to John’s account the fear almost turned into paranoia - they always kept the doors locked! The disciples were afraid of being without Jesus, were afraid they wasted their time, and were afraid of the Jewish leaders. The constant word from God? “Do not be afraid!”
Fear gave way to a growing sense of disbelief among the disciples. They all were “slow to believe” and some became icons of disbelief - like “doubting” Thomas. Perhaps the saddest statement in Luke’s gospel is spoken by the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “but we had hoped…” Once your hope is gone there is nothing left to build a life of faith upon. Even with stories of resurrection being circulated among the disciples, none of them believed easily in the resurrection - their belief came as the mounting proof became overwhelming.
As disbelief melted away, a growing sense of hope returned to nurture their new found belief. They were still a long way from understanding it all, but they knew enough to celebrate!
As Jesus worked with them, explaining the Scriptures, they began to understand the power of the resurrection. The presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost intensified this understanding. They emerged as witnesses (Greek - martyrs) of the resurrection. Their lives caught fire from the Spirit and God used them to change the world.
Disciples today have the same resurrection power, the same fire from the Spirit, and the same mission that the early disciples had. Having experienced the resurrection of Jesus, we are witnesses, too! Arise and shine…

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Suspicious of Grace

This morning I was reading a wonderful passage and I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy...

No matter how much we are hurt, God knows about it, cares about it, and so, through love, we are sometimes enabled to let go our hurts.
But it is not only our hurts which we are required to give over, but our wholeness, too. It must all be his.
To trust, to be truly whole, is also to let go whatever we may consider our qualifications. There's a paradox here, and a trap for the lazy. I do not need to be "qualified" to play a Bach fugue on the piano (and playing a Bach fugue is for me an exercise in wholeness). But I cannot play that Bach fugue as all if I do not play the piano daily, if I do not practice my finger exercises. There are equivalents of finger exercises in the writing of books, the painting of portraits, the composing of a song. We do not need to be qualified; the gift is free; and yet we have to pay for it.
Isaiah knew himself to be mortal and flawed, but he had the child's courage to say to the Lord, "Here I am. Send me." And he understood the freedom which the Spirit can give us from ordinary restrictions when he wrote, "When you pass through deep waters I am with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not sweep you away; walk through fire and you will not be scorched, through flames and they will not burn you." He may not have had this understanding is a gift which comes when we let go and listen. I think I looked up this passage because I dreamed that a friend reached into the fireplace and drew out a living coal and held it in his hand, looking at its radiance, and I wondered at him because he was not burned.
It may be that we have lost our ability to hold a blazing coal, to move unfettered through time, to walk on water, because we have been taught that such things have to be earned; we should deserve them; we must be qualified. We are suspicious of grace. We are afraid of the very lavishness of the gift.
But a child rejoices in presents!

(From Madeleine L'Engle - "Walking on Water")