Sunday, October 13, 2019

do you see this woman?

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44)

Okay, I get it.  Seeing is always a two way street.  How we see things is always determined by our own inner dynamics at the time.  In order to be able to see things, and people, the way they really are, we must first be truly seen by the One who made us, the One who knows us, and the One who loves us.  Without first being seen, known, and loved by Him, we will always be far too consumed and concerned with the way we are seen by others.  We will always live in order to prove our worthiness, rather than living because the One who made us has pronounced us worthy.  We will always live in order to achieve an identity, rather than living because he has already bestowed an identity (as his beloved) upon us.

That was certainly the case with Simon the Pharisee.  He was so consumed with himself that he was unable to see who and what was right there in front of him.  He was so full of his own fears and insecurities that he had no room to see the beauty of what had just taken place between Jesus and this sinful woman.  He was so busy criticizing and comparing and trying to convince himself and his world that he was more worthy of love, that he was unable to see the passion and the affection and the beauty of her gesture.  Because when you are consumed with yourself, you can never see others for who and what they really are; they become threats and competitors rather than fellow travelers and pilgrims in this amazingly complex journey.

Simon could see nothing but himself, so Jesus had to take a moment to help him see the situation for what it really was.  He pointed out the beauty of the woman’s act of love, as well as the contrast of Simon’s lack thereof.  In helping Simon see the woman, Jesus had also helped Simon see himself.  For only after we have been seen do we having any hope of seeing others the way God intended for us to.

You see me, Lord Jesus.  Wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, and whatever is going on in my life, help me to always realize that you see me, you know me, and you love me. And because of that I have the freedom to see, know and love others.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.


Friday, October 11, 2019

let us

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Let us.  Did you get that?  It’s not let me, or let you, or let him, or let her, but let us.  Such a small, subtle change, but an incredibly powerful one.  I mean, with one tiny little phrase there comes a complete change in perspective.  With two little words we are able to make a major paradigm shift.  A shift from “I am all on my own” to “We are in this together.”  Let us takes us from isolation to community, from loneliness to togetherness, and from scarcity to abundance.  Maybe that’s why the author of Hebrews uses the phrase so often, he realizes that the power of us is way stronger than the power of just you or just me.


Let us run together, with perseverance, the race marked out for us,” is a whole lot different than “Let me run by myself, with as much perseverance as I can muster on my own, the race marked out for me.”  There is strength in numbers.  That’s probably why Ecclesiastes reminds us that “Two are better than one because if one falls there is someone there to help him up.  But pity the man who falls alone.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) There is just something about the throwing off of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles that was always meant to be done in the context of community.  I mean, we can continue try on our own if we want to, but we will always end up right back in the same old place.  It’s like trying to pull yourself up from the bottom of a hundred-foot well. 

There is just something beautiful and life-giving about living life in community.  There is something good and right about doing whatever we do with the great cloud of witnesses, not to mention our closest friends and fellow pilgrims.  It is easier to actually run the race with perseverance when you have your nearest and dearest running right beside you; at times your faith will sustain them and at times their faith will sustain you.  Four (or more) eyes fixed on Jesus are far more attentive and accurate than two.

So let us begin to ask ourselves what running the race together—as opposed to alone—is supposed to look like.  Let us dream a little and talk a little and make some commitments to each other.  And then let us start to actually do it.  At every given opportunity, let us choose communion over isolation.  I think you will find that you are able to journey together to places in life and faith where you could never journey alone.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

who's waiting on who?

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6)


I have a suspicion that waiting for the Lord is not as cut and dried as it seems to be.  For while we are waiting for God to move or to speak or to act, he is also waiting for us.  He is waiting for us to finally come to the end of ourselves and fully depend on him.  He is waiting for us to stop trusting in our own gifts and abilities and efforts, and, instead, trust fully in him.  He is waiting for us to stop trying so hard to manage and manipulate and control everything, so that space can be made for him to move and to act.  He is waiting for us to finally let go of our self-sufficiency and prayerlessness and cry out to him in desperation and surrender.


How long, O Lord, how long?  How long will it take for us to finally realize that we cannot do it on our own, and fully turn to you?  Lord, have mercy! 

Forgive us, O Lord, for our self-sufficiency and prayerlessness.  Humble us, and help us to pray and to seek your face and turn from our wicked ways, that you might hear our prayers and forgive our sins and heal our land.  Amen.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

help

“The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, NIV)  

As long as we keep trying to do it ourselves—even just a little bit—we will continue to get in the way of what God wants to do in and through us.  It’s not until we come to the end of ourselves, until we get to the point of total surrender, that we are out of the way enough to offer him the time and space he requires to move and to act.  Finally waving the white flag is a necessary act if we ever want God to be the one to lead and guide—and help.  He typically doesn’t step in while we are still trying to help ourselves. 


I guess that’s why Eugene Peterson translates the first Beatitude (in Matthew 5:3) as: “You are blessed when you get to the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (The Message) Or as a wise saint said many, many years ago: “So long as you hold on to even a little hope of achieving something by your own powers, the Lord does not interfere.  It is as though he says: ‘You hope to succeed by yourself—Very well, go on trying!  But however long you try you will achieve nothing.’”  


There is no such thing as letting go half way.  When will we ever learn?

Forgive me, O Lord, for continually trying to do it on my own.  Forgive me for my refusal to fully let go of control—as if I ever had it to begin with—and totally surrender to your love and care.  Help me to fully trust in you, no matter how scary that might be.  Lord, help!  Amen.