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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

I am 2It wasn’t the first time Jesus made “I am” statements. In fact, this is the 5th time he is recorded as saying “I am. . . .” The others (all somewhat cryptic and yet captivating as metaphors):

  1. I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  2. I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  4. I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  5. I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  6. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:16)
  7. I am the Vine (John 15:5)

But are they all metaphor? Instead, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus wasn’t using the simplest transformationof language to communicate the most complicated piece of information: his true identity. In all but one of these phrases, there is way-finding or sustenance. But in the 5th phrase, there is something else: transformation! In essence, he is telling us that without the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, we are dead. Jesus is life. Jesus gives life where there is death.

walking deadI’m not just talking about heaven and the after-life. I’m talking about now. Most humans are just “walking dead” (amusing that a television show of this title is so popular). And as long as people are dead, it’s hard to imagine life, true life. It happens in the most extraordJesusinary and paradoxical way. Instead of hanging on, we are to let go. Instead of hoarding, we are to give away. Instead of certainty, we are to walk by faith. Instead of wealth, we are encouraged to embrace poverty.

Authentic Christianity, and by that I mean true Jesus followership, is mind-blowing.

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HosannaI just did a brief review of the other posts I’ve done about Hosanna! Such a powerful word and so poorly understood. Certainly, during the time of Christ, it’s original meaning prevailed: Save us!

The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered:  Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Yes! The King of Israel! [John 12:12-13, The Message]

Of course, in today’s world, the idea of needing to be saved has been usurped by the “born again” crowd (and I can’t exclude myself from this group either).

But I know how off-putting it can be. I had only been a follower of Christ for a few weeks when a friend convinced me to attend his church, a Pentecostal church in upper Manhattan. It was my first time in a church since my teens and although I was sure of my new found elmer-gantry2faith, I had no answer when a well-meaning greeter asked me on my way out: “Are you saved Sister?”

What? Saved from what? All I could think about was Elmer Gantry or Robert Duvall’s The Apostle. So much fire and brimstone and drama. Are you saved?

And yet, Hosanna is proclaimed on Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The people welcomed him and believed in his power to “save them.”

Art by Johannes Bengtsson

Art by Johannes Bengtsson

I have to say, hell-fire and brimstone were never the driving force behind my transformation from self-serving bohemian to Jesus freak. For me, it was pure revelation: truth became evident and indisputable. I could not call Jesus a lie. But I didn’t exactly feel saved either. I was, of course, but I couldn’t see that back then. I couldn’t see my own descent into the dark world of drugs, alcohol, and free sex. I was spiraling dangerously fast until Christ grabbed me by the hand and pulled me out of the maelstrom. But I dhelpidn’t really see it until much later, from a distance.

So, yes. I was saved. I am saved.

Perhaps the cry for us today is simpler: Help! Just help.

And Jesus answers: “I will.”

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Are You Tired?

wearyI’m tired all the time. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. I also know I’m tired because I keep carrying more of the load than I’m supposed to be carrying. I’ve done it all my life. No change there.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. [Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.] Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” [Matthew 11:28-30, The Message]

One day I will get it, I mean, really get it long term. For now, I still have great big heavy days until I remember again to set some of the stuff down and often, the next day is better. Vicious cycle of sorts, but it’s all I can manage these days.

One of sentences from the devotion today (by Cindy Lowcock) is so true: “When we take on Christ we become like Him: demanding our own control seems unimportant, aligning ourselves with Him becomes as easy as if we were professional dance partners.” This would be the best scenario of all, dancing with the Christ, knowing which way to turn just by a simple touch, a minute pressure. That takes lots of practice.

Painting by Alfred Gockel

Painting by Alfred Gockel

When I was younger, I used to tell my friends that I could dance all night. I never grew tired of the movement and the music. I was fully engaged. This is a great metaphor for being a follower of Jesus. There is freedom and even abandonment, but there is also structure and cadence. It’s one reason that many jazz dancers learn ballet first, to learn the precision and the control, before breaking out.

Being tired comes from misuse of my body, my mind, and my spirit. Unfocused and scattered.

It’s why I need the yoke of Christ really. For, like the young oxen that must learn how to work together in the field, I need to learn how to be in communion with God. I keep pulling away from that yoke. Sorry.

Thanks be to God, it’s never too late to start again. It’s time to suit up.

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water flowingWhat does it mean to you, this never ending water?

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [John 4:13-14, NIV]

This week begins a series of devotions based on the word, Reflect. And one of the best ways to reflect is to ask ourselves questions. What do these words really mean to me?

beaverIf the water from the Christ should truly be as a spring of water welling up within me, then why am I not continually refreshed? Is it the fault of the water? I don’t think so. Instead, there’s some pesky beaver damming up the stream. I’ve allowed a lot of sticks and mud and stones to get in the way. Despite tearing it down, the industrious beaver will rebuild overnight. (Please, don’t think I’m picking on beavers in particular, it’s just a metaphor.) My point is that keeping the water flowing is a daily task. And only when the water is flowing can we actually drink.

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serveBoth Jesus and Moses served God, but Moses out of the covenant of the law from without while Jesus served out of the nature of God within. Pick your way. Personally, my desire is to serve because it is a natural expression of my identity, it is a reflection of God through Christ.

Jesus was faithful to the one who appointed him just like Moses was faithful in God’s house. But he deserves greater glory than Moses in the same way that the builder of the house deserves more honor than the house itself. Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant in order to affirm the things that would be spoken later. But Jesus was faithful over God’s house as a Son. [Hebrews 3:2-6, CEB]

Get_out_of_jail_freeI am contending a bit with the young adults in my house right now. We have all been through an ordeal, the death of a husband and the death of a father. But the sorrow, after a time, cannot be used as a “get out of jail free” card forever. The laundry still needs to be washed, the floor swept, the dogs fed, the meals prepared. It is not a hotel. When I suggested to one of them to wash our windows, the protest was immediate. But then, when I asked, who should do them? Nominate someone else to do tsave the earthhe work. Silence. The windows were done, and yet begrudgingly. Other times, I am given a report a what was done or not done. I have to laugh. I really don’t want to keep score. We all live here; we all have a responsibility to maintain our home.

Is this microcosm any different from the macrocosm of our earth, or county, or state, or county, or city, or neighborhood? We live here.

God is not keeping score. But the responsibility for our environment and the people who live in it is irrefutable. If we don’t serve, who will? Who do you nominate to the work you don’t want to do?

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sisyphusSisyphus is a character in a Greek myth who was punished for his deceitfulness. His reparation? To push a large boulder up a hill and then watch roll back down again. He experienced, firsthand, futility as a result of his pride. Sometimes, people serve God as though it’s a punishment: they repeat and repeat the tasks and get the same results and wonder why. Being a servant to God should not be drudgery and if it is, something is terribly wrong.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:25-28, NIV]

Warren Wiersbe identifies one of the core reasons for this type of dreary service: the servant lacks understanding of the principles that underlie the work.

different giftsWhether it’s volunteers or employees, everyone needs to know how they fit into the big picture. It doesn’t really matter how clever or creative or well-funded we might be, without a substance understanding of why we are asked to do what we do, the task becomes heavier and heavier, the joy escapes like air from a balloon, and the grumbling begins.

If you are serving uphill, stop and take a break. Ask questions of the leadership. Pray about the part you have been asked play. And if those two things don’t line up, test other tasks. No two people necessarily serve in the same way. It’s the whole foot-hand/eye-ear scenario in I Corinthians 12, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. . . .  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” [verses 4-6, 15-20]

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Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. [Philippians 2:5-6, The Message]

cursillo crossFor many years, Mike and I served in a variety of para-church organizations whose mission was to create a once-in-a-lifetime 3-day retreat based on the Cursillo model. While in Georgiain 1984, we attended our first Cursillo weekend (#14) and thereafter served on a number weekends sponsored first by Atlanta Christian Cursillo, emmaus crossthen Walk to Emmaus as well as Tres Dias. When we moved to Maryland, we served in the Delmarva area for Walk to Emmaus and eventually found Maryland Emmaus (the weekends are numbered and although they are in the hundreds now, our weekends were #5 and #6). These retreats were a lifeblood for both the attendees and the “servants.” It was on these weekends that we learned about servant leadership and sacrificial service. Later Mike moved his energy to yet another outgrowth of these weekends into the Maryland prisons, and kairos crossserved on several Kairos weekends. There also evolved weekends, called Chrysalis for teens. Together, Mike and I contributed and served on over one hundred weekends. And we did this out of love. chrysalis cross

It was here that we experienced the joy of serving, where each and every person on a team gave 110% of their time and commitment to the weekend and its preparations (anywhere from a 12-25 week commitment, depending on a person’s role). There was structure and yet there was creativity, laughter, tears, music, clowning, teaching, sharing, and great food (or at least, lots of food).

Being a project-oriented person, the process appealed to me from beginning to end. Being a results-oriented person, I saw changes to both team and participants. And several of the relationships formed on those retreats lasted far beyond the weeks of direct service. One of most popular jobs or roles on the weekend was the “cha.” This person demanded the most of the person physically, running errands up and down the hill, setting up chairs and tearing them down, moving sound equipment, delivering gifts, dressing up in silly costumes, waking up very early and going be the churchto bed very late. The focus of every retreat weekend was the participants who were first-timers. At the heyday of the movement, people would be on waiting lists for years, to attend. The weekend experience was life-changing.

These retreats were the best of Church.

the-80-20-ruleBut they were never intended to replace the local church. And often, the men and women (who attended separate weekends) would return to their home church, ready to serve. Unfortunately, in churches everywhere, everyone who attends church is not on the same page. And so, the people who are willing to serve freely often serve into burn-out. It’s so much harder to serve in a community when only a small percentage (often the proverbial 20%) of the people are actively pulling/contributing the bigger share (time, money, energy, etc).

decoloresI cannot imagine what serving on an Emmaus weekend would have been like if every team member didn’t know what his/her role was, didn’t give that role his/her 100%, and didn’t understand how that role impacted the experience of the pilgrim participants. What teams did understand was that each person has a gift to give and each gift is like a different vibrant color, the same kind of rainbow of color that typifies the love of God shining through the prism of Christ. DeColores.

The message of each servant/team member was really the same: “I am here serving you because someone served me.”

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