Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday 28 February

I contribute to an online devotional, called Vertical, and I also use it in my own devotion time. I always like to have a nosey at the ‘about the author’ section to find out more about my fellow contributors.  One day last week all it said was ‘Michael Petersen, Chase Oaks parishioner.’  Now most people talk about their family, maybe their occupation or life experience; I usually include that I write this quick word for Christian radio.  I want people to respect me, to think I’m worth listening to.  In short, I want people to know something impressive about me.  But not Michael Petersen.  He was happy to be known simply as a part of the church.  It struck me as very humble.  And not much like me!

The devotional reading that day was Genesis 25:19-34 a story of two brothers.  Here’s what happens –

“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” …
 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright.”

When I started reading it I couldn’t imagine how Esau could be so crazy – to put something like a bowl of food above his future.  It seemed like a crazy, inconceivable swap to fulfil an instant need or desire at the sacrifice of an eternal one.  But then I came to that author’s note at the bottom and started to thing about the things the Bible has to say about being humble. “Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5 v 5) for example.  Letting people think I’m cool, making them impressed with me, being prideful, it’s a momentary pleasure.  It fulfills me in a way, yes, but perhaps at too great a sacrifice.  Maybe I’m not that different from Esau after all – maybe I too swap an instant need or desire at the sacrifice of an eternal one.  Maybe, in different ways, we all do.  It’s something to think about today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday 21 February

Next door there is a rampant bamboo patch which borders our property.  I think I’ve told you about it before.  When we first moved in we had to fight to keep it out of our backyard.  So far so successful, however I was looking at it through the kitchen window and realised that it wasn’t just a bamboo patch anymore.  A vine has wrapped itself, uncontrolled, up and in and through the stalls of the bamboo, growing weed upon weed. 

As I stared in horror at it I realised that I really shouldn’t be too surprised, because it can often be like that in life can’t it?  I’ll be angry at someone so then I’ll be rude to them.  I’ll let my tv viewing standards down and soon the words that come out of my mouth start to also stink.  Have you ever experienced this?  Maybe you let yourself think too much about that cute guy from the café and soon you are telling your husband he’s useless.  Or maybe you start gambling on a Friday, just a little, but then you find yourself hiding from your wife the truth about the size of your work bonus.

For some reason weeds grow on weeds in nature and sin grows on sin in life.  I think this might be part of what Paul is getting at when he says to the Ephesians,

“… “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”  Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”
- Ephesians 4 v 26 – 27

My experience has been that small bamboo shoots are easier to deal with then a rampant patch and that a rampant patch provides a foothold for a rampant weed-vine to grow.  Now all I need to do is remember this in life too!  To remember that my small problems of character or behaviour are going to be easier to deal with then big ones and that rampant sin provides a foothold for many kinds of problems.  If there’s one good thing about that neighbouring bamboo patch it is that it might serve to remind me of all this! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday 14 February

One of my best friends is getting married in a few weeks and we were discussing wedding readings.  She isn’t a Christian but wondered if there was anything suitable from the Bible – I came up with the standards; Corinthians 13, Ruth.  But I feel like there is a deeper story that the Bible tells about love, one that is in these passages but is lost by their familiarity. 

I have another friend who is a marriage celebrant but has been feeling disheartened.  50% of the Christian marriages she has conducted have ended in divorce.  There is something the Bible has to tell us about this too.

It’s Valentines Day.  A day of flowers and chocolates and love and cards from secret admirers.   But there’s a gift we can give the people we love that is even greater than all this, something the Bible has to teach us about.

I didn’t think of it when planning wedding readings with my friend because it’s not one reading – it’s the whole theme of the love of God which we can emulate in the way we love people.  Joseph and his brothers, I think, give us this deeper story of love.  Joseph’s brothers despised him – their relationship broke down to a point it seemed that there was no repair, they harmed him and abandoned him.  Joseph had every reason to respond in kind the next time he saw them.  But instead, this is what happened (as found in Genesis 45);

“Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace…Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.”
-       Genesis 45 v 1 – 2 & 14 -15

Joseph gave the gift of love undeserved.  He gave the gift of forgiveness.  Of tenderness, vulnerability, of reaching out first.  It is easy to say ‘oh yes, but you don’t know my situation.’  And I don’t.  But I know mine.  God gave me the gift of love undeserved.  God gave me the gift of forgiveness.  Of tenderness, vulnerability, of reaching out first.  And these gifts have been more meaningful, more life changing, more sustaining then any other.  And they’re the gift I want to give to my marriage, this valentines day and every day.  It is this that gives my choice to love true meaning…and that which sustains it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday 7 February

I’ve tried to write this quick word so many times but it keeps coming out wrong.  It seems I can’t simplify the complex.  I can’t even tell it as a story – it always finishes with me as a villain or a hero, neither of which is the point or the truth.

You see, I’ve been trying to put down in words this feeling I have that, despite once owning a WWJD – What Would Jesus Do – bracelet, I’m not actually sure how to be like Jesus, like God.  I feel like my personally leads me towards justice and judgement and yes, justice is a character of God.  But it’s not that simple is it?  The way justice manifests itself in my life often leaves no room for grace, for empathy.  And so I’ve started to realise that I can’t claim to be like God, or to becoming like God, or to be doing what Jesus would do, in only one way.  The fact that I love justice is not enough.  I must love all He loves.  I must have all the fruits of the Spirit, not just the ones that come naturally to me.  And I don’t know how.  I don’t know what to do to make that true.

I’ve begun to feel like I’m in a dance with God, only I know so little about the music or the steps, and I have two left feet.  So, if I’m to lead, or even to be a partner in the dance, I’ll always end up dancing my way to once corner of the room.

The thing is, I think I got it wrong somewhere along the line.  At some point I picked up the message that I can actually be like God.  That in fact it’s my purpose in life to become more like Him.  So I sit down and try to tell you how far from true that is and the words can’t come out right.

But that’s all wrong isn’t it?  For God doesn’t have an equal, and he never expected one in me.  No, my purpose is to love God and worship him.  He’ll do the work in me.  He’ll lead the dance while I stand on his feet, gazing up at his face in wonder.  As Psalm 95 (verse 1 – 7) puts it;

“Come, let us sing to the LORD!
      Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
 Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
      Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
 For the LORD is a great God,
      a great King above all gods.
 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
      and the mightiest mountains.
 The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
      His hands formed the dry land, too.
 Come, let us worship and bow down.
      Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
    for he is our God.
   We are the people he watches over,
      the flock under his care.”