I think this is why broken people seem to respond to God in a way that others can’t. Whether their brokenness is self-inflicted (by which I mean they have made poor choices) or whether life has just been too cruel, when you’re brought so low that there’s nothing left, you realise how much you need God and how you can’t even stand up without Him. This is why Jesus’ words in the beatitudes are so wonderfully true, although they seem counter-intuitive.
I’m sitting typing with my new Open University textbooks beside me, just about to begin the next module in statistics and probability. The more I learn of statistics, the more I realise how little statisticians actually *know*. But I still fall in love more and more with the numbers and the ‘truths’ they demonstrate. In a way, this mirrors my spiritual life. I’m making no sense(!) but I thank God for all that I have been through because it’s only in darkness that you can see the light. I don’t ask for more suffering and I don’t desire more suffering, but I know that without the suffering I wouldn’t know God and I know that my deepest desire has always been to know Him.
Lord, You are everything. Fill my nothing.
‘You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.‘
Isaiah 26:3 (Amp)
The economy of salvation has love as its capital – a love that can never be exhausted. Forgiveness of sins depends upon our willingness to accept the currency of God [we must deal with God on his terms]…What Jesus… share[s] on that precious height [the cross] dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride.
The earthly household should be managed as the heavenly household is. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, so must we be one with Christ. When Jesus talks about the importance of giving… he isn’t talking about surplus change, but rather about giving that which is truly sacrificial. What we have freely received, we must freely share.
Precisely because my heart is capable of suffering, I want it to give Jesus everything possible.
From The Little Way of Lent
by Fr. Gary Caster
I think my head exploded when I read these words as part of today’s Lent reading. Wow. The Kingdom of God truly is the Upside Down Kingdom! God doesn’t give to us in the way the world gives to us. God will never haggle or cheat or even work in exchange for money. God’s ‘currency’ is love – and love alone. And that is… beyond mind-blowing.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another…
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also…
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you… Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them…
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
John 13:34-35; John 14:6,7, 18,20, 23, 27 (NRSVA)
Heavenly Father, small as I am, may the world always know me by your currency. Instill in me your wisdom. Fill me to overflowing with kindness and compassion, by your grace.
It’s funny, here in the UK, despite our mostly secular culture, the tradition of ‘giving things up for Lent’ continues. When so many other Christian traditions have fallen by the wayside, indeed, when knowledge of Christ’s story has been largely lost, I wonder why this ‘giving things up’ continues? Is it because we all know, somewhere in ourselves, that gain comes at a cost? Is it because we relate to the notion of sacrifice leading to better things? I don’t know.
I have already stopped eating dairy, due to lactose intolerance, and for the past month or so I have been avoiding refined sugar and white flour. I somewhat regret that I had already made this decision, as Lent would be the ideal time to give up refined sugar, but that would be somewhat missing the point of the exercise! As my two lovely girls ate breakfast this morning they were asking me what Lent is about, so I explained how traditionally people gave up eating sweet things and meat for the duration, and how they fasted until the evening. My girls had a little difficulty in grasping the notion of giving up something they like (don’t we all?). Fluff said she would give up meat because it was ‘meat free week’ at school this week. I reminded her that Lent is for 40 days. Maybe not, she said. Chip announced she would ‘give up sugar’ (because she knew I am avoiding it). I asked her whether she would mind not having any of Daddy’s birthday cake? She said she would, so maybe she wouldn’t do it after all… I reminded them that the purpose of ‘fasting’ or removing something from one’s life during Lent, is so that every time we experience the barb of temptation we recall the reason we need Christ. I also said it is not necessary for them to ‘give up’ anything, as it is primarily a spiritual exercise, and if they don’t have a real understanding of why they do something, it’s not necessary for them to do it. Instead, we will be sharing some Lent-focused bible reading during our Table Talk sessions.
As Ann Voskamp says in today’s blog post, Lent is a time for us to focus on our need for God, a time to reflect on our brokenness, our fallen nature, how even when we sincerely desire to do good, often it eludes us.
‘For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [which my moral instinct condemns].’
~Romans 7:15 (Amplified)
This experience sparks repentance, a sense of mourning, of loss.
‘Grief is what cultivates the soil for the seeds of joy.’
~ Ann Voskamp
We must not lose focus, however, in this acknowledgement of darkness. Knowledge of sin is what cultivates our soul to grow, like the seed first germinating in the cold earth. The death of self, the planting of the seed, is something that needs to happen regularly – Lent is the perfect time to focus on this, before the sorrow-turned-joy of Easter. We are prompted to turn, to seek something from without (because it does not – cannot – come from within). So we begin the search for light.
When we spend these weeks germinating in the bitter dark, first we begin to understand our deep need for Grace, then as we begin to grow ‘shoots’, we also begin to long for, to pine for the Light. Come Easter and we will comprehend the sorrow of the painful, humiliating abandonment and death, we will tread the path the disciples trod, in those bleak days between the death and the Rising… and then, miraculously, we will burst into the sunlight (Son Light?), truly reborn.
Today is the first step on that journey. Today we begin to reflect and to repent, remembering, as the Anglicans say, “that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.”
Jesus answered them… ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit… Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.’
John 12:23-26 (NRSVA)
Images from ‘How to Plant Bush Green Beans’
Thank you for this, Pastor Boudreaux. Such a subtle sin this can be – probably because sometimes it has the appearance of ‘righteousness’. I have fallen into this trap – it is called ‘pride’. I have to keep asking God to remove it. Righteousness always wears the cloak of humility.
Here’s how the gospel of Matthew tells of Jesus’ attitude to ‘sinners’ – not only does He not condemn them, first He calls one of them to be His disciple, and then He says that they are the people whom He chooses:
Jesus left there and as he passed on he saw a man called Matthew sitting at his desk in the tax-collector’s office. “Follow me!” he said to him—and the man got to his feet and followed him.
Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, “Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’.”
Matthew 9:9-13 (Phillips)
‘Mercy and not sacrifice’? Not the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners‘? It’s the glorious Upside Down Kingdom again! Lord, bring me to my knees in humility before You. May I only ever seek to serve – and never to ‘glorify’ myself.
Why are we so ready to judge our neighbor? Why are we so concerned about the burden of others? We have plenty to be concerned about, each one has his own debt and his own sins. It is for God alone to judge, to justify or to condemn. He knows the state of each one of us and our capacities, our deviations, and our gifts, our constitution and our preparedness, and it is for him to judge each of these things according to the knowledge that he alone has. For God judges the affairs of a bishop in one way and those of a prince in another. His judgment is for an abbot or for a disciple, he judges differently the senior and the neophyte, the sick man and the healthy man. Who could understand all these judgments except the one who has done everything, formed everything, and knows everything?
View original post 106 more words