Wednesday, October 29, 2014

given

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to give to set before the people. (Mark 6:41)

Ultimately, we are taken, blessed, and broken in order to be given.  Thus, we have to realize that this life is not about us, it is about God and his Kingdom.  When we really understand that, then all of the other pieces somehow begin to fall into place.  Christ is given to and for us, so that we might be given to him, and then to others. (Mark 12:29-31) 


The more I think about the meaning of living and acting in the name of Jesus, the more I realize that what I have to offer others is not my intelligence, skill, power, influence, or connections, but my own human brokenness through which the love of God can manifest itself.  The celebrant in Leonard Bernstein's Mass says: "Glass shines brighter when it's broken...I never noticed that."  This, to me, is what ministry and mission are all about.  Ministry is entering with our human brokenness into communion with others and speaking a word of hope.  This hope is not based on any power to solve the problems of those with whom we live, but on the love of God, which becomes visible when we let go of our fears of being out of control and enter into His presence in shared confession of weakness.
     The great paradox of ministry, therefore, is that we minister above all with our weakness, a weakness that invites us to receive from those to whom we go.  The more in touch we are with our own need for healing and salvation, the more open we are to receive in gratitude what others have to offer us. (Gracias! by Henri J.M. Nouwen)

Monday, October 27, 2014

broken

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to give to set before the people. (Mark 6:41)

I am more and more convinced that until we fully realize the fact that we really have no idea what we are doing we will never be of any value to God, or to anyone else for that matter.  That's where brokenness comes in.  After Jesus takes us, and blesses us, he then must break us.  Unfortunately the breaking is a necessary part of the process.  It is only in the breaking that we realize that we can't do it on our own.  It is only in the breaking that we discover that we don't have the resources, in and of ourselves, to give the people in our lives and in our world what they most desperately need and most deeply long for.  It is only in the breaking that we recognize our total dependence on God.  It is only in the breaking that we can be multiplied enough to be given.  A very wise friend once told me, "You can't be multiplied enough to be given, you can only be broken enough to be given."  Somehow it is in the breaking that the multiplication happens.  So much so that, in the end, a crowd of up to ten thousand people had eaten until they were satisfied and there were still twelve basketfuls of broken pieces left over (Mark 6:42-43).  Thanks be to God.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

blessed

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to give to set before the people. (Mark 6:41)


After he takes the loaves from the disciples, he blesses them.  This is the second movement in the dance of faith.  After God takes us to (and for) himself, he blesses us.  It is a phrase that we hear all the time.  In fact, it is one we hear so much that I'm afraid it has lost its meaning.

To bless someone is to invoke life into them.  Dallas Willard said it so beautifully when he said, "Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another.  It isn't just words.  It is actually putting forth your will for the good of another person.  You bless someone when you will their good under the invocation of God.  You invoke God on their behalf to support the good that you will for them.   This is the nature of blessing.  It is what we are to receive from God and then give to one another."  So after God takes us to (and for) himself, he blesses us.  He speaks words of life and affection and goodness deep into our souls.  It is this that inspires, renews, energizes, captures, and transforms us.  God draws us tenderly to himself and infuses his goodness and love and affection into us by his Spirit. 

Numbers 6:24-26 is maybe the most classic example of blessing.  In Numbers 6 we find the blessing that Moses instructed his brother Aaron to place on the people of Israel.  And what a blessing it is! "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace."   It's almost as if Moses is saying, "May God continuously bring his good into your life (bless).  May me protect you and build his hedge of protection around (keep) you.  May his face always shine upon you, transforming you more and more into his image, and causing your face, in turn, to shine with his glory.  May his gracious favor be poured out upon you and well up within you.  May the smile of his face (countenance) be ever upon you.  And may he restore you to the wholeness (peace) you were intended for.  Pretty great words, huh?  God's words of life being infused into our very being.

So may we draw near to God and receive his blessing, this day and every day.  And may we, in turn, bless others with the goodness and the life and the affection and the peace he has blessed us with.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

taken

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to give to set before the people. (Mark 6:41)


He has taken us to himself.  It is the first step in the dance of faith.  He takes us to himself again and again and again.  It is what the saints call union; that deep, intimate union that we all were created for and most deeply long for.  It is what gives the rest of the dance its life and meaning, its depth and substance.  It is this intimate taking of us to himself that leaves us completely taken with him in return.  Without this step, ministry is hollow and superficial.  Without this step we cannot fruitfully arrive at the final step, being given.  Without first being taken the seed planted within us will never grow into the beautiful, fruitful plant it was meant to be, but will instead stagnate or die or wither or fade.  For it is his love that compels us, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:14.  This life of love that God has planted within us is meant to provide the life and energy for all we do.  Thus, our desire to be given cannot last without this love kindled (and continually rekindled) deep in our hearts and souls.  Therefore, we need to continually make time and space to be taken by him: to listen to his whispers of affection, to feel the tender touch of his hands, to receive his passionate kiss upon our lips, to know the deep intimacy of his abiding presence.  It is what brings us to life on the inside.  And it is what offers life to all who cross our paths.

Friday, October 3, 2014

behind

     From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
     Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, "Never Lord!" he said.  "This shall never happen to you!"
     Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:21-23) 


I don't know about you, but it is easy for me at times to get ahead of myself.  To move and act and live life before I have really reflected and thought and prayed about the life I most want to live.  And it is also easy, in this life of faith, to get ahead of God at times as well.  It is easy for us to charge ahead with our plans and schemes and agendas--for the kingdom, mind you--without really listening and seeking and getting direction from God.  Glad to see that I am not alone.  Peter had the same problem.  So much so that when Jesus told him what was to come, he adamantly disagreed with him--even rebuked him--because those plans did not agree with his own.  That's where the "Get behind me, Satan!" part comes in.  Peter had charged ahead when the place he needed to be was firmly behind; behind Jesus.  And Jesus reminded him of that, quite boldly I might add.  It is so easy to charge ahead sometimes; to follow our own plans for how we think things should work and should go and should be.  There is a great danger for us when that happens.  For when we charge ahead actually become a stumbling block to him, rather than a follower.  For ours is not to charge ahead, ours is always to follow closely behind.  What will that look like for us today?