Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Living the Feast

Many people are invited. . .

                                                                Matthew 22:14

I don’t know that I’ve ever really considered this phrase that is part of a sentence I know well: Many people are invited, but few are chosen. It is part of a parable Jesus tells about a wedding feast that people won’t take time to attend.

What I’ve always focused on is the scarcity—that few are chosen. And isn’t that human nature? We cannot enjoy the feast that is so lavishly offered to us because we are afraid for the future. Like the folks who were concerned about their fields or their businesses, we miss the free gift of a banquet because we are focused on the future with fear that there won’t be enough.

Many are invited. That says to me that the table is big enough to accommodate everyone—any and all who will accept the invitation, who will lay down their skepticism, pride and fear and show up. Generosity, not scarcity, marks the nature of God. Joy, not fear, should be our response.

Maybe chosenness simply has to do with our willingness to live now in the lavishness of God’s love, the poverty of spirit to know that all that is good comes from God to us but only if we are open and humble enough to receive it.

I’ve always wondered about the wedding guest who gets into the feast without the right clothes. Was he unwilling to blend into the group? Did his pride keep him from entering into the joyful abandon of the party? Maybe it was his unwillingness to let go of his own carefully created identity that got him thrown out.

Our discipleship should be joyful, not morose or fearful. Our lives should be lived with a lightness and trust in God. The kingdom of God is a feast! Let’s live like we know this to be true!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Living in Through Times

I offered this devotional this morning and thought it might encourage readers of my blog as we continue to live through COVID-19.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Prayer to Yield

Then he said to them, "Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they said nothing. Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he did, and his hand was made healthy.
                                                                                                Mark 3:4-5

O God, show me when to speak,
   how to speak, and what to say.
May my heart yield to you and your way.
May I be one who loves, who does good,
   who places life ove rules.
May I practice ahimsa, seeking always to do no harm.
Lord, you know I burn inside with desire for justice and mercy.
Show me the right use of the fire within me, so it brings light and warmth,
   but not harmful destruction.
Let my life bring healing in the world.
Show me your way. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

New Wineskins

But new wine is for new wineskins.

                                                                    Mark 2:22b

In the verses that contain the above sentence, Jesus is talking about why his disciples don’t fast while the Pharisees and Joh’s disciples do. He uses the illustrations of sewing a new patch on old fabric, placing new wine and old wineskins and the mismatch of these.

 Mismatch is the word that connects everything in Mark 2:18-22 together. New ways and old ways are not compatible.

 We can only receive new knowledge when we are of a new mind and heart. Otherwise the dissonance between what we are certain about and what is offered to us is a mismatch that we cannot accept.

 Change isn’t easy. And change can cause relationships to be torn, like old cloth tears away from a new patch. One has to be willing to hear a perspective different from one’s own, to be open to another way, to live in the dissonance between what we think we know and new information.

 Many people think that the enemy of faith is doubt or fear. But as is evident in this day and time, the enemy of faith is certainty. Certainty divides us. Faith that is deeply rooted in God is pliable, not rigid.

 When the container that holds our viewpoints is rigid, it can only hold so much. To listen to another voice, a voice different than what is familiar to you, you have to dismantle the container. You have to have a new wineskin if you are to learn anything new. You have to be willing to be changed.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Finding the Holy in the Ordinary

Over my bed hangs a print of a mostly brown butterfly. Not the type you might consider art-worthy. Under the butterfly are these words: Finding the Holy in the Ordinary.

 To be able to find the holy in the ordinary grind of daily life is a practice that can transform the mundane to the marvelous. Awe and wonder are not only triggered by big things, but also by the small things we may overlook or take for granted.

Nature is full of things we may often overlook in their ordinariness. One day I was 

walking near where I live in downtown Macon. I saw what had looked like a patch of weeds every other time I’d passed it, but that particular day, what I saw were adorable flowers. The flowers had been there all along, but because I was able to see differently that particular day, I collected a bouquet to enjoy in my home.

 A number of Psalms extol God’s creativity in the natural world. One of my favorites is Psalm 104. The whole Psalm is a song of praise for God’s work in creation, but these particular verses always make me smile:

O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is the sea, great and wide,

creeping things innumerable are there,

living things both small and great.

There go the ships,

and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

Psalm 104:24-26

I love the Psalmist’s use of imagination. Creation and creatures are not merely acknowledged and described with literal precision. We are invited to see with the Psalmist’s imagination—even a giant sea monster frolicking in the ocean! 

I invite you to get outside, take a slow walk, and simply see what may be quite familiar to you with a fresh sense of awe. Let your seeing be a prayer of praise to God. A friend of mine calls it “marveling.”

 Author Macrina Wiederkehr was walking one morning when she saw a silver maple tree whose leaves were shimmering in the sunlight. She was suddenly uncertain if what she was seeing shimmering in the light were leaves or angel wings. I think about that when I see the sunlight shining on leaves, especially when the tree is glistening after a rain shower.

Another way to invite mystery into the mundane is with a practice the Celtic people employed:    blessing the ordinary activities of the day.

They had prayers for rising, prayers for kindling the fire, prayers for making the bed, prayers for dressing, and even prayers for milking the cow. And that’s just the first part of the day! There were prayers for travel, prayers for the herd they were tending, prayers for seaweed they harvested, prayers for the seeds and plants, prayers for churning butter, making cloth, and for the tools of cobbling shoes. And then there were prayers for putting the fire out at the end of the day, prayers for protection at night.

 There was no activity or item too mundane to bless.

 Several years ago I was part of a retreat that studied Celtic spirituality. One of the exercises we were given was to write a blessing about an ordinary practice or item. A friend who attended with me wrote a blessing for her favorite paring knife. How might you bless the ordinary items you use each day or the ordinary activities of your day?

 Is a blessing for your paring knife or your toothbrush silly? I would argue that it is a tool for a deeper relationship to God. When we live with eyes that see the holy in the ordinary, we are actually praying without ceasing.

 I invite you to a fresh way of encountering the world today, even if your world feels quite small and confined right now. God meets us in the ordinary. Our experiences provide all we need to swim in holiness, even if those experiences feel mundane and unremarkable. How will you meet God today?