Friday, June 24, 2011

Have Mercy

Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ . . . will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.                         2 John 3

There is no truth apart from love, yet the hate and exclusion that many who claim to be Christians practice would lead one to think that trust could exist apart from love. If what comes from God and from Jesus is grace, mercy, and peace, where is there room for condemnation?

Jesus said in Matthew 11:25 that it is the childlike who understand this message of truth more clearly than those who are considered wise according to the standards of the world. Would we not do more to fulfill the teaching of Jesus if we extended grace, mercy and peace to each other instead of arguing over whether or not hell exists, and if so, who is going there? How do such arguments strengthen the body of Christ? Sure, they may strengthen a particular individual or group, but at the expense of another, so the whole body actually suffers.

It seems to me that what people are really hungry for is not theological superiority but love and grace and mercy and peace. We may think that resolving the conflict of who's "in" and who's "out" will make us feel whole, but in cutting away any part of Christ's body, we are never whole.

Jesus extended mercy even to those who didn't ask for it. I am called to do likewise.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lesson from an Embankment

My morning walk regularly takes me by an embankment that was created in the grading for a shopping center parking lot. For years, the dirt washed over the sidewalk every time it rained. Finally, about a year ago, grass seed was planted and netting laid over it to hold it in place. Now the bank is a carpet of green and the erosion has ceased.

As I walked by the bank earlier this week, I thought about the mutuality of the relationship between the grass and the dirt. The dirt needs the grass to hold it in place. The grass needs the dirt to grow. Neither can flourish without the other.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says:
                But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
                   and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
                They are like trees planted along a riverbank
                   with roots that reach deep into the water.
                Such trees are not bothered by the heat
                   or worried by long months of drought.
                Their leaves stay green,
                   and they never stop producing fruit.

Psalm 1:3 echoes a similar message. And Paul, in Ephesians 3:17, speaks of our roots growing down into God’s love, keeping us strong. If we are the plant and God is the soil, is it not safe to say that God needs us just as we need God?

Without our roots, God’s “soil” washes away and is wasted. Soil on the riverbank won’t stay on the riverbank without roots to hold it there. It is washed downstream, away from where it is needed. If I fail to put roots down into God’s love, others cannot experience God’s love through me, and I miss out on experiencing God through others.

The Church is much like that embankment I see as I walk. It takes all those grass plants with all their roots to hold the soil in place. If only a few grass seeds send down roots, they likely don’t have enough strength to hold the whole bank in place. We need each other. The body of Christ needs us all and we need each other.

When we gather for worship, we are putting down our roots into God’s love, which strengthens God as it strengthens the church. My absence from worship weakens the embankment, making it more difficult for the remaining “seeds” to keep the bank from washing away. My attendance in worship is not for my benefit, but for the benefit of God and the other members of Christ’s body. My showing up is something I do for others, but at the same time, my own roots are strengthened.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Gift of Life

A recent conversation with someone who shared her struggle with the untimely death of a family member got me thinking about life, and caused me to ask the question: is life a right or a gift? While I may say it’s a gift, I more often treat it as if it were a right. Even the term “untimely death” illustrates that I consider life a right, like someone died before they were supposed to. We may not say it, but we often think that person was robbed, as if something that belonged to them was taken away.

Yet is my life really my own? My life is given to me as a gift, and just as Jesus gave his life for me, discipleship means that I give my life for others. Each day is a gift from God for me to return to God as a gift by living a life that glorifies God.

With that perspective, there is no untimely death. If I awake each day aware of the gift that day is, then every moment is an occasion for joy. When I can be grateful for each moment I am more likely to live fully in the present, taking nothing for granted. Living in the present moment keeps me focused on the gift of the now, instead of worrying about a future that may or may not be given to me. I should appreciate the gift I have instead of seeking another gift.

Every day is a gift from God. May I accept it with gratitude, living each moment to the fullest to show my love and appreciation.

He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
                                                                             Ephesians 2:10b