Classifieds for Christ

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My mom was a crafter of words, for twenty years, she worked at the local newspaper and wrote all the classified ads.  When she retired, it wasnt the number of sales she made that her co-workers remembered but it was my mothers way with words. Mom had a way of speaking about things that exposed the interest point. My mom spent her time exposing in ads;
that one mans junk was anothers treasure,
that  a good deal  could always be found and
that a new life could always be given to someones throw aways.

That sounds kind of like the gospel to me. The differences are that the object that may be considered junk for one and treasure to another is the cross of Jesus Christ. The throw aways that are given new life in the church are usually human beings and the good deal you get in church is always free, the love and grace of God is free for everyone.

Think about the classified ad that you might write that would invite others toward a relationship with God and your community of faith.  When you come up with yours, please share them here in comments.

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I Thirst

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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)

Neighborhood Landscapes

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I love driving into our neighborhood. The road passes over a creek, trees stretch their arms to the sky, and sometimes a hawk flies into view or deer stand still in the landscape. I have a sense of communion with each of our neighbors who are shaped and formed by this same landscape. We see one other daily while walking our dogs, driving to work, attending to our lawns and caring for our children. When the wildness of creation tosses a snowstorm our way, we shovel and share eggs and milk as needed. At times, the landscape becomes still and invites us to do the same. We share a common and connected life with our neighbors.

My active role in the church has given me another neighborhood to dwell in. We are clergy and laity, women and men who are shaped and formed by the particular landscape of tradition. The common life we share is under tremendous strain. We cross bridges and climb over fences in order to reach others cut off by social and cultural divides hoping to share the landscape of God’s love which we confess is so deep and so vast that even we cannot fully grasp it.

I am fully convinced that what the church needs, in fact, what the global neighborhood needs, is to practice resting silently in the One who shapes and forms us by grace, forgiveness and mercy. As we become part of that landscape, we might find our connected, common life is already here.

Already and Not Yet

I love to hike. There is something about entering a trail that draws you in to the quiet hush of nature. You find yourself surrounded you by leafy branches and whippoorwill.  Your steps become intentional as you navigate around the occasional fallen tree. At the top of the mountain the hike gets steeper, just above tree line where the boulders and rock ledges provide tiny crevasses to get a foothold as you crawl up to the highest elevation. You haven’t seen the view from the top yet, but it is your single-hearted focus as your muscles burn and breathing quickens. This is my favorite part of the hike. Like the end of pregnancy, you love the baby inside of you and cannot wait to hold her, then realize you already are.

Think about that. What is the mountain you are climbing now? Which part of the path are you on? Are there others on the path ahead of you? What view of new life is emerging? Transformation is an ongoing process. Sometimes it seems like there is not too much going on.  Perhaps things are happening at the cellular level, at the very least, oxygen is being exchanged, breath is moving, Spirit is alive.

In the already,  wait wholeheartedly, for the not yet.

Post Script: My office renovation is waiting wholeheartedly for the recovery of our carpenter and friend who is receiving treatment for a medical issue.