Sola Gratia

Who doesn’t love getting gifts?

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.                                                          And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”   ~Ephesians 2: 8-9

Anytime I receive a gift, it is not my doing.

If I earned it, it’s called a wage.

If I deserved it, it’s called an honorarium.

Being Grandma’s favorite means getting stuff the others don’t. It’s those secret conversations that leave you holding an heirloom, an extra batch of cookies, or a crisp hundred dollar bill.

What’s incredible about Grandma’s favor is that you didn’t do anything to get it.

Well, nothing you know about.  Face it.

Grandma’s grace has more to do with who you are than what you are doing.

Sure, you thought it was because you are the first one in the family to go to college…or the only grand-kid who ever goes to church… but Grandmas are far more intuitive than that. The discernment of that denizen of older age sees more with her aging eyes than your pitifully acute, young eyes ever possibly could.

Grandma sees the person you are, the one you are becoming, and who you may yet be.

So, there is this gift given.  It is a sign of relationship; an expression that is both parts knowing and loving you.

A gift has nothing to do with justice. Juries deliver verdicts. Judges hand out sentences. Grandmas give gifts.

Grace is a gift. It is the favor of God bestowed for no other reason than your actually being known and loved by God.

Grandma gives you an heirloom; you treasure the legacy; preserve it and pass along its story to others.

Grandma favors you with a handmade sweater; you wear it proudly.

Grandma grants you a special batch of homemade cookies; you gobble them with yummy noises and grunts of appreciation between mouthfuls.

Grace is a gift from God. The gift says everything about the gift giver, but it is also saying something about the one receiving the gift.

It says you are loved.

And we say “I love you back” by what we do with the gift.

Gifts, after all, aren’t meant to be left in packages with pretty bows.

Gifts are given to be opened; put to use; acted on; employed.

Grace is a gift.

The question was never what did you do to deserve that?

The question has always been, what are you going to do with that?

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  ~1 Peter 4:10

 

 

Sola Scriptura

“…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:15-17

Getting back to my faith roots.

Scripture was my first love.  In the concrete walled halls of a small Baptist church school I fell in love with story.  Bible was the first class of the day. Memory verses were important, but it was the flannel graph figures whose lives resurrected against a velvet gray each day who captivated my imagination: from the great patriarchs of the Hebrews to the socially disenfranchised who found both mercy and healing in Y’shua‘s words and touch.  Some heard the stories and came away angry or confused at the cruel, punishing deity on one side of the book and the Utopian idealism of the ragged rabbi of Galilee depicted in the other.  Not me.  I heard the epic in a different way.

Always being smaller, slower, and socially awkward John the Evangelist dialed straight into this introvert’s frequency.

What will we play?  My words dismissed by the group as if unspoken.

When the Alpha would speak, play began.

We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. – Luke 7:32

Say again, John, all after “He was in the world…but the world did not know Him.”

He came to His own…but His own… did not accept him. –John 1:11

The jealous protective fiery response of the deeply loving, ever rejected God begins with a deep wound which could not be reconciled; a bustling playground vacated at the sound of the approaching happy-excited running-steps.

 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: “Where are you?”    –Genesis 3:8-9

So my mind was attuned to the God of the Bible who gives in grandiose ways and protects by exaggerated means, just to convey affection to those who seem unreachable and unresponsive.  And yet I remain keenly aware of the unresponsive ones who likewise find God unreachable and non-responsive; repulsed by the over-the-top gestures which seem to erupt out of nowhere with little to no context.

No one understands the Autistic God of the Bible quite as I have.

So I did not find the extravagant act of God: being found in appearance as a man, self-humbled, self-limited, becoming obedient to the point of suffering humiliation, even death, on a cross, such a difficult thing to grasp.  The words of the cross echoing the same confused cry spoken through creation and prophet since the world began: Love me!

The God-breathed text of the old covenant whispers the same audacious promise God speaks from the cross. It is as much a promise for us as it is a promise God made to Himself: that one day God will no longer be rejected- no longer alone.

Loved, and Loving, in eternal reciprocity.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:3-4

Solus Christus

″For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.″ 1 Timothy 2:5

Today I begin alone-ness.  The first day in nearly 20 years I am a man without a church; a pastor with a congregation of one.

It is a good day.

All those years ago I believed I would be the pastor people wanted: Biblically savvy, Powerful preacher, Wise in counsel.

People didn’t want that pastor. I did.

I’m not even sure I was that pastor.  I think I just wanted to be.

Probably, I wanted to believe I was.

People wanted the Entrepreneurial administrator.

or maybe

People wanted the effective Proselytizer.

Well, whatever it was the people wanted, I wasn’t it.

There were so few baptisms in my pulpit days. Most weddings the bride and groom made me feel as if I were part of the ornamentation rather than the officiant. Why did it seem I was the only one excited about communion on any given Sunday?

Maybe the stole was stolen; an office that never was meant to be mine. It is quite possible that this call felt in my heart to pour out my self into the cause of loving God and blessing others was meant to find some other means of expression. It is possible that Christian formation, the art of discipling, has become so dumbed down that persons with an awakened inner passion can no longer be connected to any kind of diverse and creative ministry comprehensive of all the talents God gifts to us. Do the roles needed for the Church’s work today even remotely provide offerings as diversified and varied as those divine graces?

If you sense a calling, it is the pulpit or nothing.  Well, maybe you can teach a Sunday School class.  There’s always a shortage of those…and nothing else in the “Help Wanted” ads of contemporary Christendom.

Today is a good day.  I overreached in my desire to grab hold of God’s will for my life.

Today I walk in Christ alone.  A great journey is just beginning.  Care to walk a bit with me?  Company might be nice.  This is a journey to discover my true vocation.  Is there a place in the Church for me? Does the Church even need people like me?    

Maybe.

Maybe not.

For now, I am extra Ecclesiam… and walking.  I think it’s going to be a long walk.

Better bring a jacket.

House Guest

a prayer inspired by a prayer of the Columban Fathers

 

Our Father who is above us:

We are magnetized to mercy and love; attracted toward a friendship with the divine.

Distractions and abstractions often get in the way of knowing you more fully.

But you are faithful to sit alone when we have stood you up.

You are loyal to your love for us even while we doubt your motives and question whether or not you’ll be there for us.

 

You reside in the house of my absence; your summer home is the villa of my ignorance.

Why do you keep my place so tidy when I won’t even offer you a drink?

 

Momentary events bring us doubt, but time reveals the quiet work you are ever up to.

You share your life for all and invite us to share our lives with you;

to tell you bluntly of pain and loss, to seek enlightenment when confusion strikes, to sing with you over every little thing that brings us joy.

family gather

Your welcome is like an open door where the family gathers for a holiday

and the long, suffering patience you possess gives room for the skeptic, confidence to the believer

and a passion to spread the good news in fewer words and with greater compassion.

In this way you save us: holding back the closing doors of a narrow mind and broadening the channels of our hearts.

 

Amen.

 

To Kiss the Face of God

To be loved is one thing.

To be certain of love is something else.

Words,

Gestures:

Impotent.

Useless.

unless —

linked to a

  Truth.sunrising_holdinghands

Actuality.

Something so reliable it goes without saying:

like, “The Sun will rise tomorrow.”

 

Can I know that God loves me?

More –

Can I know that God loves me now?

God Gives me daily bread. Essentials provided.

Nice. But easily placed under the column heading: moral obligation

What about gifts?  God’s favor and blessing!

Sweet. But if it comes from the surplus of your power, resources, time…

it is only a hand-me-down of the forgotten, easily discarded at the outskirts of

your heart

your passion

your self

Well, what do you want from me?

Something that doesn’t part from you easily

Something that costs you something

Puts you at risk

Awkward

Endangered

A statement that I or they are worth the counter-intuitive, reckless, self denying

action

How do I know God loves me?

That God loves me even now?

Communion.  The  Lord’s Supper.  

True food.  True drink.

A broken body.

A life laid down.

Bleeding.

Broken.

Humiliated – publicly.

The sacrificial

act

of God’s unrelenting love for you

God loves  you.  Loves you now.

In this moment

this same crisis, failure, unlovable-worthless-wreck-of-a-life moment.

 

Don’t think too much on it:
this gesture that embodies the act

Just close your eyes

and receive it…

By receiving communion, we lean into the One who is already leaning in toward us.

God kisses.

We are kissed

with a sacrament that speaks louder than words.

 

communion

 

Transplant

NOW you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,  and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—  a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.  ~Colossians 3:8-11

Put aside?

What?  All my best weapons?  I keep those for personal defense.

It’s quite a collection.

I have them because I’ve been hurt.

I won’t be hurt again.

Hurt people hurt others.

I know just how to

Fire a warning shot.

Graze the skin.

Disable.

Shoot to kill.

Anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech… 

These are the energy sources for weapons of mass

keep-you-far-away-from-me-so-you-can-never-hurt-me-(again)

destruction

Do you think you will talk me into disarmament so easily?

The Grace of Growing Up

There is a good reason my past is located in my history.

God put all the hurt behind me:

in my thirty minutes ago

my yesterday

last week

past year

last decade

–back there with my  immaturity

So I could grow upand therefore out  of it.

The Grace of  a New Self

We never discourage the recipient of a new heart

or

a new liver

or

a new kidney

That is a courageous act of survival.

Necessary for life.

The lie we believed and passed on to our kids and closest friends:

“Time heals all wounds.”

Fine.

Keep your old heart — your old liver — your old kidney.

Time will heal it.

Nope. Some things just have to be discarded.

Some things simply must be replaced.

The wounds are too deep and debilitating;

rendering it incapable of good, proper function.

So, when the Bible teaches that the Self is like that

we shouldn’t gasp or grimace or guffaw.

Grin.

You’re at the top of the list for the next Self transplant.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and belovedput on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patiencebearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  ~Colossians 3:12-14

Revenge.

Retaliation.

Hard habits to break.

Impossible to break.  

Only a new Self is healthy enough to

pump, cleanse, filter,

respond 

to hurt

with

Kindness

Courtesy

Compassion

Humility

A new Self requires renewal — a re-shaping into the likeness — the attitude of Christ Jesus.

Immaturity set me up for deep emotional bruising.

I over thought my importance, my role, my authority.

Abusing the power of my right as a person to have personhood

to have dignity

to have a voice

I was easily, too easily, offended.

In maturity, I no longer use my Self as a collection point for all things

rewarding

affirming

Now, my Self is put to better use.

Bumper Car of Compassion and Service.

My Self gives its power to making other people’s dreams come true.

And when that is too lofty or too large for realism

I just take a cup of water to the thirsty who have none.

I just help the grumpy old woman with a ride to the grocery

and then stick around

to put groceries away

and

miss my gym class.

This is the functioning new self that gives authority and personhood and dignity to the wonderful, beautiful, anger-filled, wrathful, malicious, slanderous, abusive

people

who fill up the earth

covered with wounds

that time never healed

but let fester

into oozing infection that infected others into

mass epidemic.

Beyond this — Put on LOVE

Love

It’s the antibodies of the soul.

Impossible?

Is it impossible to love or receive love after being exposed to all the virus and cholesterol and bacteria and poison of this planet contaminated with humanism?

Would seem so.

Surrounded by

Deafened by

“You don’t know what they did to me!”

“You don’t know what I’ve been through!”

“I will never forgive them for what they did!”

The Grace of Impossible Suffering

Ravensbrück was a notorious women’s concentration camp during World War II, located in northern Germany, 90 km (56 mi) north of Berlin .

Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbrück camp system; around 40,000 were Polish and 26,000 were Jewish. Between 15,000 and 32,000 of the total survived. Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.

Siemens & Halske employed many of the slave labor prisoners.

Margarete Buber: “At the end of each week, the reward was added together and the hours logged, so evident that it was what every worker earned in so many hours, but which they never received, which was taken away by Siemens per concentration camp slave. Through this system it was to determine immediately where a prisoner had his workload, which accounted for about 40 Pfennig per hour not achieved … my employment at Siemens consisted mainly in correspondence of the Director with concentration camp. … As I learned, the main directors were showing their zeal for following orders, for their career, and out of fear of being sent to the front.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravensbr%C3%BCck_concentration_camp

The following prayer was found at
Ravensbrück death camp where 92,000
women and children died.

It was scrawled on wrapping paper near a dead child.

Lord, remember not only the men
and women of good will also those of
ill will.
But do not only remember the
suffering they have inflicted on us.
Remember the fruits we have brought,
thanks to this suffering–our
comradeship, our loyalty, our humility,
the courage, the generosity, the
greatness of heart which has grown
out of all this.
And when they come to judgment, let
all the fruits we have borne be their
forgiveness. Amen

Source: http://restornews.blogspot.com/2012/03/ravensbruck-prayer.html

Only a new Self could love so well in hell

.Image

Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.

More than heal us.  Save us with the grace of Self, brand new, molded in the image of You.

The Dark Side of the Moon

Eclipse

All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that’s to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

“There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”

The Sun.  It touches everything. Illumines all.

The glorious radiance of God eclipsed.

A strange voice in the dark.  Faceless. Terrifying.  Motives uncertain. Try as you might your ear cannot locate its position.  Darkness is a greedy thug.  It will not surrender even the sheerest reference point.

In the dark, the friendlier the voice sounds, the more sinister it seems.

God speaks. Across the vast darkness divine love is lost in translation.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.   Hebrews 1:1-2

Sin is not a thing.  It is a disposition.  Separated from the glory of God we are born creatures of the dark.

Light appears. This light is the Son of God.  Reflecting the Divine Image our world opens to us.

That voice now has a face.  That face…smiles…genuine.  The eyes glow…communicating love — on a mission.

That voice beckons us to be near Him, so we too may reflect the light.  To see Him as He is.  To know one another.

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…  Hebrews 1:3

Once in darkness now illumination makes it clear that God has been reaching out and speaking out from the beginning of human history.  Now it is clear that God is calling those wandering and afraid in the darkness to step into His marvelous light — the light of Christ Jesus.

It is clear now that the purpose of God, and so the power of Christ and the function of the Holy Spirit and the Church, is to seek and save that which was lost; those in the dark…

Matter of fact, it’s all dark.

That’s why it’s so important that the Church have more than the right words and the right purpose.

You must reflect the light.  You must have His face.

Otherwise

the wandering scurry terrified deeper into the dark.

http://www.godvine.com/Carry-Your-Candle-a-Very-Moving-Video-242.html