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Posts Tagged ‘preparation’

dream and forgivenessIt’s not like Joseph had one God dream after another. He had a couple of foretelling dreams as a teen and no other dreams of his are shared through his time in Egypt. Instead, he turned to dream interpretation, but again, only a few. He known for being an honorable man, but not necessarily a diviner. Yet, God used him in this way at a point of need.

[Joseph said:] And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt . . . Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” . . .  Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  [Genesis 41:33, 39-40, 46a; NIV]

After twelve years of servitude, Joseph is raised up to one of the highest positions in that world, second only to Pharaoh at the age of thirty, all because of a dream, an interpretation, a vision, and twelve years of leading in lower positions. Every year of his captivity was actually a year of practice and preparation for the big leap. He had no way of knowing that such a day would come.

What we don’t see is any record of built up resentments toward his half-brothers. The only hint that memories cause him pain comes in the naming of his sons: Manasseh (which appears to mean “forget” and Joseph writes that his son has been born to help him forget his father’s household) and Ephraim (which seems to mean “twice fruitful,” and Joseph writes that this birth symbolizes a new life of fruitfulness in the place of suffering). Suffering? Interesting.

By the time the brothers finally come from Canaan to ask Egypt for grain, Joseph has been away at least twenty years. He has a new name, a new life, and his own family. And yet, the moment of reckoning arrives–the moment of payback, the moment when he could, at a word, destroy all ten of his brothers for their betrayal. During this first visit, he is tempted but there is also his integrity fighting against it.

Resentments build fast in my world. I know it. I see it. I feel it. People will say, “oh, I forgave, but I will never forget.” I think it was my old friend, Mma Precious Ramotswe, from the mystery series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, who said (more or less), “If we don’t choose to forget as well, the memory may very well erase the forgiveness.”

I can choose drama or I can choose dream. I can choose to forgive and forget. I can allow God’s dream to build a life or I can fight the way. I can complain of the time and the disappointments or I can trust in the preparation.

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Second_Sunday_of_AdventThe word does not appear in scripture as part of the Advent story. In fact, the four references in the New Testament have to to with the day before Sabbath or the day before Passover. It is a time for getting ready. It is one of the reasons Jesus was taken down more quickly from the cross in response to a request from the Jewish leaders. In most Advent traditions, the second week is given the word, preparation. paraskeuē
means to make ready or equip.

In the old testament, one of three appearances of this word is this:
Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. . . . ” [Joshua 7:13, NIV]

In this case, it is part of the story of Achan who, when the army of Israel under Joshua destroyed the city of Jericho, everything was to be killed except for Rahab and her family and all of the gold, silver, and other precious treasures were put in the treasury of the Lord’s temple; the rest was burned. But Achan coveted and secreted a few beautiful things and silver. And when they went to battle a second time, 36 men died and the army fled from the men of Ai. When Joshua lamented to God, he heard from God clearly of betrayal in the camp and for this cleansing, everyone needed to prepare, for the perpetrator would be revealed the following day.

Preparation then is a combination of cleansing and equipping. Since the Israelites were not allowed to work (even the women), all work had to be completed on the 6th day. The 7th day was a day of rest and this was a day for the Lord, time in study, prayer, and worship. This was God’s day. In some ways, even in Achan’s story, it was God’s day, who identified the sin and cast it out from among them. So, God can cast out our own sins, if we confess and lay them out honestly before God.

Jesus came to us as a baby, in innocence of experience but still full of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps it is one of the mysteries of being “born again,” to return to a purer time when the fullness of the Spirit has reign and learned responses to the world do not win out of habit.

Christmas time is also a time of much preparation. Unfortunately, we have lost most of the purpose of this preparation. The apex or crowning moment would be the symbolic birth of Christ celebrated and remembered. It is could be a holy day of remembrance. Instead, it has become a day of consumerism gone wild. I am no different from you. I do the same. I don’t really know how to stop it without the buy-in of family.

Too much effort in the preparation and not enough effort in the day at the end, the day of rest and remembrance.

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Print by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld's (1794-1872)

Print by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. . . . “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  [John 13:3-5, 8]

Jesus wanted to make a lasting impression. It’s not like he hadn’t talked about service and humility and lifting up others above oneself. But like so many of the parables and stories, he decided to create a picture, not just with words, but with actions. And yet, only John shares this story. Was it so humiliating? Did they fear the story would belie their claims of Jesus as the Messiah? After all, would the Messiah wash the feet of a mere fisherman? But for John, this was a critical illustration that could not be ignored.

And yet, the symbolic sharing of bread and wine at the meal is excluded by John. Clearly, for him, the foot washing was the most significant. And before that, the anointing of Jesus’s feet by Mary is told in detail. This too is bypassed by the other storytellers, except Luke, who doesn’t even identify the woman.

The significance of leadership and the self-abasement of feet is somehow important.

I never realized how much I under-appreciated my feet until I started having pain in the big toe of my left foot. Sometimes, it was so miserable, I couldn’t walk but a few steps. Every shoe had to pass the pain test before I would leave the bedroom. I tried everything from heat to cold to massage and acupuncture. I started wearing sandals everywhere (and not flipflops because the band would cut directly across the pain spot). Pretty soon, the pain started waking me up at night. Finally, I gave in and went to the doctor. The podiatrist was a little stumped because nothing really showed up in my x-rays or cat scan. In the end, he went ahead and did a bunionectomy even though my baby bunion was not the real problem. I think he just wanted to get in there and look around. It took almost three months to recover full use of my foot again . . . and of course, within a few months, the pain was back, not as acute, but still, there.

The podiatrist was not happy to see me again and said there was nothing more he could do. He gave me a referral to a physical therapist. I delayed that appointment for weeks out of embarrassment. I mean, really, a physical therapist for my toe??? And yet, I finally had no choice. Almost a year after my surgery, I gave in and went to the therapist. He was a really nice guy and I even told him my tale of embarrassment. The prescription was primarily deep massage.

The healing came through touch.

We don’t touch each other very much in our culture. Oh, we may hug and air kiss and we might shake hands or pat someone’s back. But a genuine touch, a focused touch, a touch with intent; now that makes a difference.

I have had massages off and on throughout the years, but only once did I have a massage by a believer who prayed over me throughout the experience. It was literally, life changing.

When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, I don’t think he poured water out of a measuring cup or use handy wipes. He prepared them for the journey ahead. He healed them from the bottom up. He made them part of himself through touch: intimate and necessary.

I have written and will perform a monologue tomorrow evening at our Good Friday service and at one point, she says, “And if they [sinners and the the sick] were lucky, he would touch them: just so, just so.”

Touch me Lord. Wash my feet. Heal me. Prepare me for the days to come. The journey I have yet to walk.

 

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Luke 23:50-51
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, … and he was waiting for the kingdom of God.

There is another story besides the one about Joseph of Arimathea that comes to mind, and that from Esther, when Mordecai says to her, “….and who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” [Esther 4:14] Both stories carry the same message for me: there may be only one moment that is our unique moment. There may be only one person who we must touch. The key is to be ready.

When I accepted Christ back in 1979, there was a young man who went to acting school with me. It turned out that he was a “closet Christian” (because he didn’t want anyone to know). In the end, everyone knew and particularly because of the conversations that he endured with me, my mocking of his faith and challenging his truths. And yet, it was this same young man who suggested I read the New Testament like a play script and put the words, “if this were true…” at the beginning of the text and take everything at face value until the end… only then, making decisions about what was true or not.

And I did just that. And I did read. And I did choose to follow the way of Jesus as a result. Whether there were or will be other moments of power for this man, I will never know. He left acting school at the end of that school year and went on with his life. But for that moment, he did what was needed…. what he was, perhaps, called to do: to tell his story to a callous, self-important, prideful young woman. And his story and his patience and his prayers, changed my life.

Joseph of Arimathea was there to provide a tomb. Esther was there to turn the heart of a king. And what about me? Or you? Has that defining moment come? Is there another? Am I ready?

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