Friday, April 24, 2015

I am

“I am the Good Shepherd.”  “I am.” 

            Lately, the phrase, “I am” has captured my attention.  In my times of prayer, I keep coming back to that phrase.  It is an assurance that, no matter what else is going on, God is.  No matter what the latest theological controversy happens to be, God is.  No matter what personal struggle I may be going through, God is.  In the times when I feel alone or abandoned or afraid, God is.  When I am confused, hearing so many conflicting voices, God is.  When I am struggling to follow Jesus through the specific twists and turns of my journey, God is. 
            Maybe you need to remember that today too.  Whatever the activities and tasks of your day, God is.  Whatever the dynamics of your friendships and relationship with significant others, God is.  Whatever the times of shadow hold for you, God is.  God is. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Light and darkness

“God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

            When I was a boy, I disliked bedtime greatly.  Of course, I wanted to stay up and watch t.v. with the grownups.  But the biggest reason I disliked bedtime was going to the bedroom by myself and being there, in the dark.  Were there monsters in my closet or under my bed?  Who knows?  Anything could be there in the dark!  We all have an aversion to the dark.  After all, it’s so dark!  We can’t see what is there.  Anything or anyone could be lurking in the dark.  Creatures, robbers, monsters. 
            The Apostle John explores the idea of darkness in his gospel and in his letters.  It doesn’t just represent fear of what could be in the dark.  It represents spiritual separation from God.  It represents the forces of evil.  It represents being lost and needing someone to show the way.  
            In contrast, John explores the image of light to represent Jesus Christ, God’s guidance, victory over evil and sin.  So, it’s logical that John would proclaim, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”  It’s logical and it is the good news for us, still today.  For there is so much darkness in the world:  sin, suffering, strife, death.  We need a light to light the way.  We need light to overcome the darkness within us.  We need light to conquer the dark forces of evil in our world. 
            In The Lord of the Rings, there’s a scene in which a terrible battle has raged all through the dark night.  The evil forces of Sauron, an evil spirit, have attacked the “good guys” at the fortress, Helms Deep, with rage and unbridled violence.  The forces of good fight all through the night, but they are losing.  The gates are breached and the vast number of terrible goblins attacking them is too much. 
            But then, just at the moment when all seems lost, Gandalf, the good wizard, appears at the crest of a hill just outside of Helms Deep.  He appears in the shining light of dawn, cracking the darkness in two.  He shines with his white horse and white staff of power.  And down the hill he charges, with an army of light beside him, and the victory is won by the forces of good. 
            Whatever darkness you face this day, this week, may Christ shine in it!  May his victorious light shine the way!  May the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, conquer the darkness within us and the darkness without, until all shines in the light of his glory! In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

doubt and belief

“Do not doubt, but believe.”  These are the words Jesus spoke to Thomas, usually known as “Doubting Thomas.”  Doubt is a real struggle in the life of faith.  Along the journey, there are dark times, times when we’re not sure of the next mile, or even the next step.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been on sections of trails hiking and all of the sudden, you’re like, “What’s going on here?  Am I still on the trail?  Is this the right way?”  And you doubt.  When I keep going though, eventually, there is a colored blaze on a tree to remind me that I’m still on the path.  Or if worse comes to worse, I use the clues around me to help me find the way:  the slope of the hill, the location of a creek, pure instinct.    
            Life is kind of like that: we carry on and all of the sudden something  may invite us to doubt that we are still going the right way, that God is still there, that we can make it.  But thank the Lord, we get little reminders, little signs along the path, like those blazes on a hiking trail, or clues around us.  Thank the Lord that the confused, lost, doubting times don’t last forever! 
            At some level, these words that Jesus told Thomas remind us that there is a dimension of choice in this equation of life.  Doubt does assail us.  But what we do with it matters.  Do we wallow in it?  Do we embrace it and become permanent doubters, skeptics?  Do we follow the religion of cynicism?  (That’s what our culture wants us to do!)  Or do we take the next step in faith, choosing to trust and obey in the One who made us? 
            Doubt happens, but we do have a choice.  We don’t have to be paralyzed by doubt.  We can choose to move forward, to keep praying, to keep serving, to trust even when we can’t see the next blaze on the tree yet.  Keep walking the Jesus walk my friends, believe!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

            What do you do on Holy Saturday?  I mean, seriously, it’s not on anyone’s top ten list of high holy days.  After all, it’s somber.   Death seems to have won.  Jesus Christ’s body lies dead in the tomb, sealed behind all the power of Rome.  So, what do you do to commemorate such a day?
            Well, for one, you read Holy Scripture.  One of the lessons appointed for this day is Job 14.  In this chapter, Job laments his calamity.  He begins with the poignant words, “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble.”  Wow!  What a happy beginning!  But one can understand where Job is coming from with all the tragedy that has assailed him.  Children dying, fortunes lost, health gone.  Terrible woe!  But Job makes an interesting turn 13 verses later.  He cries, “If mortals die, will they live again?  All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.”
            Hmmm.  What an interesting statement coming from one who lived in a time where there was no belief in resurrection.  People believed, in Job’s time, that when you died, that was it.  You “slept” with your ancestors in the grave in a state called Sheol, while your body rotted away as a buffet for worms.   Not a pleasant destiny at all!
            But Job dares ask the un-askable question:  “If mortals die, will they live again?”  And this is the question for Holy Saturday.  It is the question that frames Easter itself.  It is the question that haunts our days, the flash that is our lives. 
            And the answer?  It comes from a strange place!  The reading from Lamentations for today:  “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
            That’s what we have on a day like today, the day our Lord’s body laid in the tomb:  “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we fall down and mess up.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we face trouble or heartache.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when there is war and violence.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we face disease and physical decline.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease if we face depression and anxiety.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when our light is fading and our days are few.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we take our last breath and sister death comes and takes us by the hand to lead us to the other side.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we await the resurrection, when we stand for judgment, when we enter the fullness of the Eternal Kingdom of God.  The steadfast love never, never, never ceases!  And that is the Good News for a day like Holy Saturday.