Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 24 2012

Imagine that together we walked up to a mountain.  I looked up at it and said to you ‘hmmm, I don’t like the look of that.  It’s so very different from the kind of paths I usually take.  In fact the more I look at it the less I like it.  So I’m going to simply change it.  I’m going to make this mountain into a valley because I suit valleys much more.’  What would you say to me?  Would you tell me I was crazy, that it would be much easier for me to get used to the mountain then to change it? 

That would be sound advice and I don’t feel like you would have to argue with me for long.  A few attempts would surely show me that you are right.  Yet I’ve been thinking about how that is exactly what I do with people.  I’m thrust into a relationship with someone (though work or church) who I just don’t really like or understand.  And I think the answer is to change them, making them more like me.  My response shows clearly that I think their differences are weaknesses.

I’m not talking about mean or cruel or deeply flawed people – not anymore flawed then I am anyway.  Just people who are different in tradition and thoughts and ways from me.  For you it could be the chatty women who sits next to you at work – she’s efficient and kind but she just goes on and on!  Or it could be a person in your home group who doesn’t have the same theology on certain things as you – he still loves the Lord, that’s plain to see, but you can’t understand the way he thinks.

I was praying about someone I know who fits this category the other day when it occurred to me that these relationships – the ones which aren’t so easy – are an opportunity from God for me to grow, not an opportunity to try and change the person.  In Ephesians Paul talks about the affect of being different, together.  He wrote that Christ -

“makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” 
- (Ephesians 4 v 16).

God loves and adores and has chosen the people I don’t like or understand to be a part of his body just as he has chosen me.  My prayer today is that I might learn to acknowledge the awesomeness of those who are so different from me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

17 April - Confession

I have to confess something – I’m a hypocrite.  It’s the one thing always used against Christians isn’t it – that we aren’t the people we claim to be.  That we aren’t ourselves what we expect of others.  And I’m afraid I’m not.

For example, I tell myself that people who want revenge and punishment for those who hurt them are vengeful.  You need to be forgiving I say.   Then I turn into a growly bear when someone so much as pushes my child in the playground.  I tell people the church is a family, here through thick or thin.  Then I meet someone whose personality I struggle with and I want a different family.

It is scary to consider the depths of my own hypocrisies.  Especially when I read Matthew 23 where Jesus strongly criticises the Pharisees saying over and over again, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites!” (verse 13).

And yet, I’ve been wondering if my inability to be who I claim to be – who I want to be – is a part of something deeper than this.  Surely a true hypocrite would be more comfortable in their fraud then I am?  Maybe it’s not fraud at all, maybe it’s human failing – a failure to be how I truly wish to be.  A failure to be like Christ when I have the Holy Spirit’s knowledge of what that ought to look like.

At the end of the book or Joshua he tells the people of Israel –

 “ ‘So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.  But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.’ ”
- Joshua 24 v 14 -15

And the people say “We would never abandon the LORD and serve other gods.” (verse 16).  But of course they do.  In the very next generation and then over and over again. 

You see, I am nothing new, my failure is nothing unique.  And I will die because of this failure.  But that’s not the end of my story.  God has promised me He will love me, accept me, and give me life again, despite my human failure.  My hypocrisy.  And for that reason I strive afresh, today, to be the person I claim to be – a member of God’s family.  I choose today to serve Him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10 - Post Easter

Last week I imagined what it would have been like to be a friend of Jesus when he walked, as man, here among us.  I acknowledged that I would have been a fickle friend – keen to know him in the good times, disillusioned when I began to realise he wasn’t following the path I wanted, betrayed and angry when he allowed himself to be so easily put to death.  I sadly confessed that though I might have a friend in God I wouldn’t have, and might not still today, be that great a friend in return.

So how might it have been to be a friend of Jesus this side of Easter?  Word would have begun to spread that Mary had seen him – really seen him!  "What, really?!  Where?!  I don’t understand, how can it be Jesus?!" I would feel the excitement begin to build.  As more and more people said ‘it’s true, he has risen!  It is him, but more...different...holy!" I would be caught in the wave of joy and excitement, I’d run to each place people said he had been or would be. 

And then I’d see him.  And I’d remember.  Oh God!  I’d abandoned him.  I’d been angry at him and I’d walked away.  I’d even cursed him, so betrayed had I felt by his failure in my eyes to be the king he promised.  I’d try to shrink back into the crowd.  "Don’t let him see you!" my inner voice would cry. 

But it would be too late.  He would turn to me.  He would look, straight into my eyes and ask, "do you love me?"  "Yes", I’d whisper.  "Oh despite all I have done, yes!"  A smile would consume his face, "then I am yours and you are mine.  All is forgiven."

It’s funny, it doesn’t seem to matter if I knew Jesus then, or now.  If I was his follower on dusty feet 2000 years ago or am following his spirit’s guidance today.  The story is the same.  I have failed God.  But, even when it might seem otherwise, he has never failed me.  And he is always waiting, waiting to forgive my sins and welcome me home. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 3 - Pre Easter

What would it have been like to be a friend of Jesus?  I know we talk about Jesus these days as our ‘best friend’, our bff, but I mean, what would it have been to be a friend of the pre-resurrection Jesus – to have walked with him in the dust of a small corner of the Roman Empire, to have been a physical witness to his death?

At first I would have been so excited to be his friend.  I love to know or know of famous people.  I would have name-dropped my friend Jesus whenever I could.  “Oh Jesus, yeah, we go way back.  He’s like no one I’ve ever met.  I was with him the other day when he, you know, like somehow brought Lazarus back to life!  I don’t know how he did it, eh?  That guy – he’s our future," I might say.

And then people would start saying he was a King – our king.  I’d walk just behind him into Jerusalem while the people shouted ‘hosanna, hosanna!’  I’d secretly imagine the privilege that would come for me when Jesus took his throne.  I would be more than just a subject; I’d be a person the king made time for.

But then.  Then he’d start talking about his death, over and over.  He’d say things like “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  All I would really understand is that Jesus thought he was going to die rather then be enthroned.

Disillusionment would start to creep in.  "He’s made false promises to me,’ I’d complain to myself.  ‘He’s like two people – who’s my real friend Jesus?  The one happy to have the people call him King, or the one intent on giving up?"  I’d start to question whether this friendship was really worth it.

And then we’d enter the dark night.  They would come for him and he wouldn’t resist.  I’d feel sorrow.  Angry.  Betrayed.  Misled.  And, like so many many of his friends, I would abandon him to the crowd.  Cut my losses and run.

I have a friend in God.  But what sort of friend would he have had in me that night?  What sort of friend does he have in me now, when life seems not to go to plan?  When I don’t understand him, or his ways?