Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Messy Messiah

This Easter article about Pope Francis has me thinking.  This man has the whole Jesus discipleship down pat.  He understands that "the Jesus way" (as I call it) is sacrificial.  In this article, he breaks away from the old tradition of washing the priests' feet.  Why was that done, anyway?  Is it because Jesus did it of the twelve?  To me, today, that seems elitest.  Francis has shown himself to be a "People's Pope," taking selfies with young tourists, washing the feet of prisoners, mingling with average people and outcasts. Anti-catholics will assail him because of theology, but this man knows what it means to follow Christ's example.  
To truly follow Jesus' example is messy and uncomfortable for many (most) Christians. Let's see why.

Jesus did not exalt himself above others; though He was the King of Kings, he arrived lowly in a stable and His first bed was a trough for feeding animals.  Once He began His ministry, He had no home.  When He entered Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, He was on a lowly donkey.  He lived a life of simplicity, never connecting with the rich and powerful; in fact, those were the people He assailed against----their theology and arrogance.  He was a "people's" savior, always seeking out the underdogs.  There was Zacheus, the hated tax collector; the Samaritan  woman at the well whom most spurned;   the prostitute who was on the precipice of being stoned; and the unnamed woman of ill-repute, who washed his feet with her tears and anointed his feet with the expensive perfume that had presumably been used to attract her clientele. Then there were all the people He healed, including the leper and the bleeding woman.   He was a "messy" savior because in His day, who wanted to be associated with those social outcasts?  He was judged harshly for those associations.

What about us today?  How many of us truly take to heart these words from Matthew 20:27-28:  "and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life--a ransom for many."  or this, which I think encapsulates everything He meant about service:  Matthew 25:36-43:
                             For I was hungry
                              and you gave Me something to eat;
                              I was thirsty
                             and you gave Me something to drink;
                             I was a stranger and you took Me in;
                            I was naked and you clothed Me;
                            I was sick and you took care of Me;
                            I was in prison and you visited Me. (verse 36)

Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You? (verses 37-39)

And the King will answer them, I assure you:  Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.(verse 40)

Then He will say to those on the left, 'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!

                            For I was hungry
                              and you gave Me nothing to eat;
                             I was thirsty
                              and you gave Me nothing to drink;
                            I was a stranger
                              and you didn't take Me in;
                           I was naked
                              and you didn't clothe Me,
                             sick and in prison
                             and you didn't take care of Me. (verses 41-43)

Living out these words in the name of Jesus is messy, missionary work.  When people think of missionaries, they think of going overseas to some third-world country; on the contrary, missionary work is done any place God plants you, especially in serving any of the above-mentioned people:  incarcerated, homeless, the marginal of society.

For a year-and-a-half I had the pleasure of working alongside people in a local park ministry (until they left to minister to a homeless population in California).  Without going into a lot of detail, it was the most rewarding thing I have been associated with.  I had long-ago become disenchanted with the mega-church trend.  Not only is it isolating, but it is so unlike Jesus' way, and self-serving to those in charge; just look at those tv preachers (but I digress).  I do not ever envision myself going back to a large, mainstream church.  It holds nothing for me.  I have not been led by the Spirit to seek out another church at the moment; I will know when I am.  For now, I serve my lovely shut-in on Sundays.  That is my calling for now.

What is your calling?  On this Easter, Resurrection Sunday, how can you be more like Christ?  It is messy, and it is uncomfortable, but it is so rewarding.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cultivating an Attitude of Thankfulness, Part 2

I began writing on cultivating an attitude of thankfulness here.  I am not a prolific writer; I blog when I feel moved to do so.  Thankfulness has been on my mind a lot lately.  I believe God is using that word to teach my dissatisfied, ungrateful self a lesson.  I once wrote that for much of my life I have been dissatisfied with that life.  While I won't go into detail here, my closest friends know why.  It has been an extraordinarily hard life in the sense it has been fraught with abandonment issues and constant attacks from the devil from every angle.  

While I did not know it in much of the chaos, God was there.  He never left me.  I saw a saying years ago that went something like this:  If you don't feel God, guess who moved?  As I look back on the last twenty-five years or so, I have much to be thankful for:  my parents are now octogenarians and in reasonably good health and mind, I am a cancer survivor of nearly 7 years, and God has always provided for my son and me.  While I don't count many people in the "friend" column, because to me a friend stands the test of time and circumstances, I do have a limited number I know I can count on if the need arises. 

Therefore, in this "me-generation-the-devil-with-anyone-else," I am reminded I am wealthier than the vast majority of the people on this earth who live in abject poverty....materially and spiritually.  That is why, in my miniscule corner of the world, I have to find a way to be representative of Jesus to those around me.  It may take the form of something small or insignificant in most people's eyes:  homemade cupcakes for kids who may never get that for their birthday or "just because"; made-from scratch cake for downtrodden co-workers on Mondays; or a Sunday meal for a stroke survivor shut-in.  That is how I choose to show my thankfulness to the God who has carried me when I could not carry myself...even when I didn't recognize He was doing so.

I leave you with this verse to ponder during this Holy Week:

Colossians 3:17:  "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

"Whatever you do" .....Whatever you do, no matter the people involved and how they treat you, do it in the name of Jesus, for we work for Him, not man.....and give thanks to God.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness~~~~

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cultivating an Attitude of Thankfulness --Part 1

It is a wonder that God has any patience with me; I am such a slow learner, and He has to constantly remind me of things I should already know.  Tonight I was reminded that we as humans (and I am speaking specifically of me) are grumblers; we are seldom happy with what we have.  Perhaps society has created this monster within us that tells us we should want this -or - that.  We are conditioned to not be happy with what we have.... or our lives. 

Psalm 107:1 tells us, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"

God  does not promise us our lives will be easy or that we will have what we want.  He does tell us, however, that He will never leave us.  He loves us, and we are to "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 

in.all.circumstances.....All circumstances means ALL.   It doesn't matter whether we are happy  with our circumstances; it is His will for us.  We may have a job we trudge to everyday; we may have difficult people we live with; we may have financial hardships.  No matter what the issue is, we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances....for this is the will of God for us.  I don't think God dictates every situation in  our lives because we are free agents, but He can use those situations to His advantage to teach us .....if we are teachable.  Some of us are too arrogant to listen to Him. If we do listen, He can show us what He wants us to learn. Every situation can be a teachable moment if we change our perspective.... To that end,  we need to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.  No matter what our lot in life, we are to thank God and look for something positive in it.  Every situation can be a learning experience, and we should look at them like that and thank God.   That is not to say we don't pray for a change if we feel we should; by all means, we do that.  Still, in the meantime, we are to give thanks.