Your Package Has Arrived

Package-Delivery

Gracious God,

Today is a long awaited package that has just arrived.

The return address tells me this gift is from You.

That’s the thing about packages from far away.

When I open it, I find the sender is very near.

 

Inside this day will be

each person that I meet

every moment that decides what the next will look like.

 

Inside this day I will learn

when to speak

when to listen

when to linger with my thoughts

when to share my ideas and feelings

 

This package has challenges and decisions

carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and packing peanuts.

I’ll be cautious with those.

 

Inside this gift I also hear the whisperings of your Wisdom.

 

And I find beneath the packing paper ordinary and unnoticed tasks,

that were nearly overlooked.

 

I’m glad I didn’t miss those! They are the simple joys.

 

Inside this package I am also unwrapping

New possibilities

And

Sabbath moments

 

It’s very clear to me, gracious God,

That what you have sent is a care package

To restore my Peace and Harmony.

 

In this day you have given as a gift to me,

My long awaited package,

I find your Goodness.

Thank you.

 

Amen.

package delivery

Adapted from “Morning Prayer” by Pat Bergen, C.S.J. (Xavier University)

Hospitality

Welcome Mat

In my tradition

wrong or right

we teach one another to

invite Jesus into your heart

or

into your life.

(Though it might be better said

that Jesus invites us all into His life

is a blog post for another time.)

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. ~Luke 10:38

Hospitality was the first virtue of Christendom.

It is really quite simple.

Make the stranger feel at home in your home.  Put the tired traveler at ease.

But today we are terrified. Paranoid. Worried over many things.

All the doors are bolted; even the ones to our heart.

Convinced that the stranger is only after what is ours we build motels and hotels for our peers

and with our imagination play “pretend like -” to create fairy tale make believe shelters big enough for all the homeless people where taxes and charities and 1 per centers dig deep to provide food, clothes, showers. Then sleep easy in our dreamland.

The art and practice of hospitality has been lost.

 the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. ~Luke 10:41 

The service of hospitality.

All that was needed was for one to welcome Jesus into their home: this is heart and life.

Welcomed into the vault where we lock up all our treasures.

A beautiful sentiment lost on a generation far away from all things hospitable.

Because, how do we tell ourselves: our friends and children

Invite Jesus into your heart!  Welcome Jesus into your life!

when we no longer know how to entertain a guest? what to do with the stranger?

They have no idea what inviting anyone into their life should look like.

So…

Would Jesus even feel comfortable in your life?

Does He feel “in the way”?  A bother?  “Asking too much?”

How often is this guest attended to, and what is not provided or offered because of the silent politeness of the visitor?

What would a heart and life look like if we actually tried to make Jesus “feel at home”.

I think we’ve left Jesus on the front porch.

Don’t worry. It’s screened-in. The mosquitos won’t get him.”

We’ll bring him some iced tea and a few magazines.”

Make yourself at home” isn’t hospitable. It’s neglect with a polite smile.

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying…”there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10:39,42

Hospitality

Broken

Mary arrived early at the tomb to clean up the broken body;

wrap it with soft cloth and spice.

Jesus forbad it.

       Hands off.        Don’t touch.

Broken punctured twisted bloodied naked shredded skin

A glorified body

presented to God in all its brokenness

visible to friends: see my hands, my feet, my side

Don’t hold on to me, Mary.

The world must see me just like this.

You cannot clean him up, Mary.

Let’s all stop trying to wash away the blood

and spice up the body broken.

Lest we all start believing the lie that people are basically good…

That the arc of human nature bends toward justice…

It is the disfigured figure of innocence savagedly razed to life

that testifies against the human race: a depraved race.

Holy Love embodied walks on calloused heels searching out the concentration camps of the soul:

unblinded eyes see the self-haters forgiven who embrace the leprosy-free as they dance with the lame-no-more.

Only one punishment to fit this crime against humanity:

Crucify Him.

No, Mary, you cannot clean him up.

      We must see Him as he is

as we made him

         or we will never believe it is true –

                        in denial

that we are the darkness we fear

               disguised as angels of light.

BrokenBody

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.*

*Revised Common Lectionary, Vanderbilt Divinity Library (online)

Source: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=87

Who is that man?

…She became his wife; and he loved her… ~Genesis 24:67

The multiple hats on this pastor’s head argue over who is the greatest among them.

The Teaching Pastor wants to take this narrative about Abraham’s servant and the search for Isaac’s wife and sliced it up into a 3 part sermon:  1) Prepare  2) Pray  3) Wait.  Prepare by gathering as much information as you can; know what your goal is; explore alternative approaches; define unacceptable outcomes and failure so you have permission to pull the plug if it is going off course. Pray for God’s direction and look for clear indications that God is working to avoid the pitfall of succeeding in your own resourcefulness alone.  Unless the Lord builds the house…  Wait:  patience is the hardest part. Expect that God will be faithful and put it all together at just the right time and in the right way.  But, like Abraham’s servant, you must be prepared, prayed up, and watching for the hand of God to move ready to act when God provides the answer!

An inner Spiritual Director questions whether this is “unhelpful” and wants to let the passage speak for itself: push the Patriarchs aside and give room for Rebekah, this amazing woman, to speak out of her own story.  The virtues of strength and generosity are hers.  She is decisive.  She is beautiful. Her name is often translated: captivating but that only tells half the story.  Literally, Rebekah means “tied down”.  The connotation is positive.  Not a yoke of slavery or submission, this “tied down” means the important things are secured.  Cattle have been tended and won’t wander off.  The family’s goods are strapped down and won’t be lost in the sudden storm winds of the desert. Rebekah is a woman with a strong handle on things.  It gets done and done right when Rebekah is around.  Maybe that’s why her mother and her brother tried to keep her around for another week or two following her wedding proposal. Can you say more about that, Rebekah?

The Chaplain hears something else in the passage.  Isaac is comforted after his mother’s death. Sarah has died and Isaac is alone.  Practically an only child, Abraham is a workaholic absentee father. Isaac is, perhaps 40-ish by now, managing one of his father’s field offices.

Abraham and Sons Securities and Livestock, LLC. —Negev Branch

This must be a hard time for you, Isaac. How has the loss of your mother affected your work? Where do you see God in your life at this time?

The Student of Christ in me hesitantly raises a hand to half mast and wonders in a much too humble voice if Isaac’s dedication to meditation demands some attention.  Rebekah, in the original language, falls off her camel when she sees this man praying. Among his attributes of looks and wealth, is a developed prayer life equally attractive?

Then I call the class to attention.  Voices are silenced for a meaningful pause.

I ask this question:

Isn’t it enough to simply enjoy a love story?

Does it really need to be more than that?

God has brought a strong, beautiful woman to a lonely, godly man in a culture where marriages had more to do with clan preservation and consolidation of wealth.

Two distant lives become two hearts melting into one.

And no one noticed:

Right in the middle of the busyness of the business of religion, clan politics, financial transactions and work related stress

God wrote a love story.

…and they lived happily ever after…

 

Dangerous Love

Image

A Hebrew Bible in dust at rest in a library of a Christian University somewhere in the Midwest teased me with these words in its foreword. A Jewish work by Jewish scholars for a Jewish readership, the editor conveyed the exhaustive research which informed the translation. Illusory of the effort was a brief statement about the story of Abraham and Isaac. Some primitive manuscripts relayed a slightly different tale than the one which came later; the one traditionally given. In its original telling, Isaac dies but then is resurrected by God and given back to Abraham.

I cannot un-remember it. Not because I am Christian and this telling is a remarkable archetype, helpful to my own belief. But because of how it is unhelpful. Because the first question I am often asked about this dangerous patriarchal myth is, “Did God really expect Abraham to kill Isaac?” Like a newly discovered crime scene, rabbis, pastors, scholars and skeptics race to the scene with apologetic musings and condemning commentary. Let’s not make their mistake. Let’s not be in a hurry to rush in on this scene only to presuppose answers to questions only Abraham, Isaac and God can tell.

There is a harsh, uncomfortable reality in this tale that will be lost on the majority of soft thinking, spongy-worded spiritual people among us. Those who find it hard to comprehend how it is that conflict is essential to peace,or that love emerges through judgment and disciple, and not the absence of it, are among those who may be fated to forever view this patriarchal myth as if through the wide eyes of the ingenue archaeologist looking for the first time at strange hieroglyphs.

When I was a soldier we may have all said, “We’re all the same color here. We’re all green.” Actuality was that a caste system of competence separated us. Clearly defined lines. Support personnel were one caste. Another is combat support. Combat Arms was a little higher up the food chain, but don’t think that being an Infantry soldier made you elite. Among the Eleven Bravo (11B) military specialty is a class system. Each one rising only to one’s own level of incompetence. Above infantry were Rangers and Paratroop types who wore wings. Hybrids enjoyed special status: Airborne Ranger. Green Berets were more elite but it was an exceptional class of soldier who became the Special Forces soldier. Yes, we’re all green here, but no one casually compared the supply clerk or the mess sergeant to the class of elite soldier.

These soldiers were given something special, only to have it taken away.

These soldiers were tested more often, more severely, because more was riding on their success.

The nation entrusted more to them. The military has just cause to demand more.

On a mission, they would often be alone or small in number so their loyalty and resolve, confidence and competence had to be beyond proven.

So as you read this tale of incomprehensible demands on God’s first prophet, ask this also:

Is Abraham given the fierce, horrific task as a test because God has risked everything on this one man? Do we super focus on the trial? Is it better, perhaps, to simply salute the elite soldier; regard him as one we might aspire to be?

Carefully read the narrative. Study its words. It will rough you up a bit.

Maybe it is a story better handled by callouses than soft hands; better carried by spiritually war-torn veterans than academics.

Neither God nor Abraham nor Isaac are defined by this trial. Yet all are proven by it.

In Abraham’s mental, spiritual, and physical resolve we see a special forces elite who can remain present in each excruciating moment. He is not seduced by yesterday’s promise. He is not distracted by an imagined future.

Here I am, my son.”

Here I am, [my Lord].”

It is only in this moment the providence of God will be seen.

In fear and fire, it is only the moment we can manage.

The Love of God is dangerous; exhilarating; inviting us- driving us- to higher eschalons of trust.

Abraham is still teaching us what it means to walk together with God into a dangerous love relationship.

John 15:13 1 John 4: 18 Romans 5:8