Friday, May 1, 2009

Costly Worship

Somehow in our human endeavors to find both ourselves and each other, to be significant, to be appreciated, to be known and loved for who we are- we sell out. It seems so much easier to let the sense of self be defined by where we shop, or by our family name, or by what we earn or don't earn, eat or don't eat, believe or don't believe. In all of this, I think the urge that drives this is so basic and so important- so central to the human heart that it seems we must either belong to this "something other" or die. It only leaves us to choose which Other?

I notice this so much more in myself lately, when many of the associations that I have allowed to define my life are in conflict with who I really am. When my heart says, "Stand up for justice for the immigrant 's child." or "Speak out against oppressive religion." or "Defend the battered that no one else believes." Why is it that to do these things puts me in opposition to the safe, the "good", the familiar? Why does it feel like death to do so?

I can't have both. I can't have both my own "safe" circle in which I am clearly one of the "right" ones and the Fire of the Living God leading me. I can't be both faithful to the Spirit within and to the comfortable and easy way of defining my life. Cocooned by comfortable convenience I suffocate, I silence the Spirit that cries out, "See the marginalized! Hear their cries! See how the self-righteous take no chances with their status? See what your indifference costs the poor?." I choose the "Other" that is Christ, and the suffering follows.

So if you see me gathering with the gay or leaning toward the left or eating with sinners, remember who I am. I am the same person you have long known who loves Jesus and takes Him seriously. The one who can no longer be defined by a political party or an institution or a family name or a nationality. I can find no safety there from the demands of Christ- love those who hunger for the love of God.

It's a costly worship. As with David in 2 Samuel 6 as he brings the Ark of the Holy Presence into his home town, its every six steps and then a blood-letting. As with David's joyful dance, despised by those looking out the windows of his own home. Defined by those who love themselves and their human dignity, David was an embarrassment. Defined by the inner sense of Whose He Is, David responds, "I am willing to be even more foolish than this!"

Help me, Lord! Help me always dance for your honor, when everyone else tells me to be more dignified! Costly worship. Valuable only to those whose lives are in His hands.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

1 Corinthians 2

"I did this so you might trust the power of God rather than human wisdom." 5

God's wisdom seems to be a knowing underneath intellect. It pervades and penetrates both mind, and will, and emotion- unites them in enlightened direction, so we may do and be in thoroughly integrated motion. To know Him and to be known by Him is to be honestly naked and face fully forward, completely empty of pretense yet full in every sense; undone, unraveled, and yet complete.

O Wisdom and her holy Father- Abba God, ever unmake my humanly engineered enterprises that rise on the landscape of your creative genious like tiny toy cities at the dusty edge of the Grand Canyon. More sinister, these, because they claim to be the holy work, claim the awe that's due only You. Kick them over gently, Father. I invest my silly hart so deeply sometimes- you know. When wrenched away I look up- your beauty arrests, stuns and quiets my foolish soul.

You alone are God. I am not, yet You are mine- as generous as the canyon is deep. All is mine as well, and all is truly well- all is in You.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Lifegiving Law- Deut. 5

"O how I love your law. I meditate on it day and night. You have made me wiser than my enemies because I obey your commandments. They are ever with me." Ps. 119

I read this morning from Deuteronomy 5 and reconnected with the Mosaic covenant in a fresh way. Covenants were not new. Adam, Noah, and Abraham each interacted with YWH on the basis of promises He Himself would keep, even when His servants failed Him. And we humans are spectacularly capable of such covenant breaking as would split in two a heart of stone. Here He is, seemingly wasting His time revealing expectations (to use the language of modern education) no human can ever fulfill apart from Christ.

Yet in the Savior, by the fire power of His Spirit, these lovely laws reveal a life of freedom and joy we are destined to inherit. My friend once said, "I think of these as the 10 promises, because now, in Jesus', I am able to fulfill them."

I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and Christ's power.

So, here are a few thoughts I had as I read through the list this morning.

1) "I am the Lord your not worship any other gods besides me." Our worship- what we love, fear, trust in- is reserved only for Him. Life is not about me.

2) "Do not make any idols..." Do I have any images of what life should look like that I pattern my life after? Do I use a substance, experience or pleasure to fill the empty place in my soul that only He can fill? Do I live to please myself, my peers, or my Jesus?

3) "Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God." Do I, though I am Christ's own beloved, bear another man's child-the offspring of my dependence on human ways? Do I claim to be joined to Jesus, yet continue to lead my own life? Called by His name, Child of God, do I exhibit His character; love what He loves?

4) "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy..." Do I make a habit of setting aside time apart from my routine of working for a living, to rest in the fact that no matter how hard I work, it is God who provides for me?

5) "Honor your father and mother...then you will live a long, full life..." Am I aware of the value of loving parents who have done their best to give me roots and wings? Do I treasure them? Are there people who have stood in the place of absent or abusive parents? Do I thank them; thank God for them?

6) "Do not murder." Do I take the law into my own heart and hands by hating another human being? Do I recognize that life and favor is God's alone to give and to take away?

7) "Do not commit adultery." Am I faithful to my spouse? to my future spouse? Do I betray the one who knows and loves me best in thought, word or deed?

8) "Do not steal." Do I respect anothers' right to have and to enjoy what God provides for them Don't be willing to grasp it from them and wrestle it away for myself? Do I steal anothers' praise, honor or respect?

9) "Do not testify falsely against your neighbor." Do I tell the truth whether it gets me what I want or costs you all you have.

10) "Do not covet your neighbor's or donkey..." Be content. Don't long for someone else's blessings no matter what they are.

Mark 14 promted this poetic rainstorm as I reflected on the disillusionment; the darkness and confusion ahead of the disciples through the trial, bloody beating, and death Jesus prepared them for. No rose colored glasses. Laser clarity both of their human weakness and His triumph over both the grave and their dismal failure. "You will all desert me, but afterward..." What is the crisis that undoes everything? What is the melting of all known reality into a muddy puddle of gloom from which there is no way forward? He knows all about it and has a "but afterward..." where He will meet me and rebuild my life.

the cross
a tearing down
crisis where
all is laid bare
and no human effort
can be launched to
counteract the truth
of our utter helplessness
is the birth canal to
new life
new life emerges
fresh from heaven