Budding New Life

1610910_10204384802885568_872393346822426606_n[1]

Budding of New Life,
whose evidence surrounds us in this season,
Center our souls on your Presence to discover within whatever is struggling toward birth. As we explore new depths of intimacy with you, help us to admit how we fail at ceasing doing what is wrong and fall short of doing what is right. Then, guide us to your grace resurrecting our lives, bringing us out of dark discontent into freedom and glorious light. Strengthen us to bear this witness for others. Amen.

Advertisements

Ash Wednesday Simple Prayer

Wilderness Guide

Wilderness Guide, whose journey invites us to unknown territory,
Use this silence to expose our resistance toward you, help us surrender our self-satisfaction. Soften our sharp edges. Make real the work of your love and mercy. Shape in us a new willingness to travel the path of humility. Bring the cross we wear on our heads this day, into our hearts. Amen.

First Fruits

DSCN1359When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Acts 2:1-3

Do you know why the community was gathered in one place? They were in Jerusalem for the offering of the first fruits, a festival called Shavouth. An unblemished perfect sheaf of wheat or barley was given to the priest to wave over the altar in thanksgiving to God before the harvest. No flour was ground, nothing taken to market, no bread was baked until after the offering of the first fruits. The community was giving the very best of their lives to God even before knowing the benefit of the harvest which would occur 7 weeks later. The offering of the first fruits is when the Holy Spirit showed up to empower the community.

We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The experience of the Holy Spirit is near and dear to the heart of Methodism. John Wesley was working to revitalize a stale church, a church that was caught up in theological arguments, a church of individuals, and a church that had yet to uncover how to extend God’s grace. After John Wesley experienced the Holy Spirit, which he described in his journal as “my heart was strangely warmed,” on May 24, 1783 , the Methodist movement took off. The cross in United Methodism has a flame attached to its base to remind us that the Spirit is the basis of our relationship with the living God. Augustine called the Holy Spirit the bond of love. The Spirit bonds us in love to God the Father and God the Son. The Father and Son cannot exist without the Spirit. We cannot live without Love either.

Many people well intended people think the Holy Spirit is that which nudges them towards whatever feels good. After all, in the gospel of John, the Paraclete is most often translated as the ‘comforter,’ and we often misinterpret the experience of the Holy Spirit as that which gives us permission to act in whatever way we think feels best. What feels best is unfortunately not always necessarily what is faithful. John Wesley called the work of the Spirit in our lives, sanctification. It is the grace present when we are empowered to love God and one another. The work of the Holy Spirit works within the entire community. It is the power of the Holy Spirit at work when we remain devoted and honor God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit when we give the very best of ourselves even when we don’t know what lies ahead. It is the work of the Holy Spirit when we care for and minister with one another. It is the work of the Holy Spirit when we get along well both in work and in play. It is the work of the Holy Spirit when our humility and acceptance for another is expressed in community. Through the Holy Spirit, we inspire one another on to good deeds.  Like the water in a mountain spring, the life of the Spirit cannot be contained in community either, it spills out and gushes forth becoming a blessing for the world.

The full Pentecostal blessing is intended for the whole family of God.
We wait and hope for this.

I Thirst

DSC00214

I thirst.

It’s a hot 90 degree day, you have been working outside, covered in dust and dirt, smeared on your face and in your hair. You notice a garden hose, or a spigot,  water dripping out across the sidewalk, you reach down and pick it up, just a sip, just enough to wet your lips brings you relief.

Jesus calls out from the cross, “I thirst.”

Below him, someone steps up with a branch of hyssop and wine vinegar, and touches his lips.  Wine vinegar diluted with water was called posca, the drink of choice because it was thirst quenching, inexpensive and made river water more palatable. They soldiers at the crucifixion weren’t getting drunk on it, just using it to quench their own thirst.

Lifting the sponge soaked with posca with the branch of hyssop was necessary to reach Jesus’ lips. For those watching, the hyssop would remind them of the washing of the sacrificial blood of the lamb over the door posts in the Passover. Even in the midst of human failure and sin, here at Golgotha, a new Passover was being initiated.

As a nurse in the hospital, I had many occasions to put a cup of water, or straw to the lips of a thirsty patient, perhaps someone had surgery, or a stroke and could not lift the cup. I remember one patient in particular whose broken bones kept him from moving his arms and legs. Can you give me a drink? Thirst is the universal experience essential for sustaining all human life.

John’s gospel likes to point out the many ways Jesus’ humanity is revealed; he weeps, he gets angry, he thirsts. I think here on the cross however, when Jesus said, “I thirst,” rather than revealing his humanity, I think Jesus was revealing his full divinity. 

God on the cross, the divinity of Jesus exposed there, the love that held Jesus to the cross, became the liquid poured out for our sakes. It’s the water that is separated for our baptism, it is the water that brings forth the new creation. Jesus’ thirst fulfilled the revelation of scripture, Psalm 69:21 “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

Rather than posca, the liquid Jesus thirsted for that is essential for life is love. And here’s the thing: on Good Friday, we acknowledge that the crucified God still thirsts for our love. What makes our love available to God, what quenches God’s thirst is our complete trust, our faith.  God thirsts for us to love God with our whole lives. Not just sharing ourselves a sip at a time.

There on the cross is not the only time Jesus asked for a drink. Do you remember Jesus in Samaria, “Give me a drink?” Jesus greets the woman at the well. He was certainly able to get his own drink. And the woman is already suspicious, what did Jesus really want? She asks, why are you asking me for a drink?

It doesn’t take long to realize the way to care for those who thirst is through a relationship. She has the longest recorded conversation with Jesus found anywhere in scripture. She accepts the truth he gives her and she is so transformed that she goes back into her village where she was an outcast and brings many out to meet Jesus. She has fallen in love with yet another man, Jesus.  She has fallen in love with truth, with the way and with the life.

This question, “give me a drink,” was the very question I heard when my relationship with Jesus deepened.  Why are you asking me for a drink? What kind of relationship are you calling me to?

What Jesus was asking the woman at the well for was this: give me what I am thirsting for most, let go of your past, your five husbands and give me your whole life. He told the woman, “when you drink the water I shall give, it shall become in you a well springing up to eternal life.” You see when God gives us water, when God gives us his love, love that is essential for life, there is none of this sipping out of a hose, God is like a three-year old and pours that water over us until we are drenched in love. God is the ultimate fireman, a big huge hose of water poured out to save our lives.

Jesus Christ thirsts for more than our doing good things for others, following Jesus means placing our full trust in his love that gives life.  Following Jesus means that our lives are filled with love. Our one single aim is to quench Jesus’ thirst on that cross, to relieve his suffering, to give him our love and our lives.  Your cup and mine, Jesus wants to drink deeply of the love that places our complete trust in him.
(Photo Credit, Casey Boga)

On Our Knees

As you can see, there is amazing progress being made in my office. Look at these beautiful new bookshelves! There is light shining through clear to the sanctuary! The renovation is coming into the homestretch. This is when prayer is needed the most. Getting closer to our goal, the climb gets steeper requiring us to slow down. Spending time on our knees is not always fun. But time on our knees gives us an opportunity to listen for God, to allow God to direct our words and deeds, and to work in union with God’s plan.

Worn out and tired by the disarray of our lives, sometimes the only place to go is down. Our knees hit the floor in brokenness. I think this is the message of Holy Week.  We are not just to admire God, but to follow God. Maybe like the ancient disciples, we want to flee the scene. But following Christ is about accepting a journey to the cross. Instead of operating poised on strength alone, we walk towards our weaknesses, as imperfect people, risking sharing our true selves and finding transformation when we learn that the tomb which we thought was empty has revealed a whole new creation.

So don’t fall asleep this week, bend your knees and find the cross emerging victoriously in your life.