Planting Seeds, Pulling Weeds, and Joining in the Feast

Grandma, you have planted seeds of faith in so many by what you have said and done. People in the family. People in the nursing home. People at church. You have pulled weeds, straightening us up when we misbehaved, showing us how best to live and grow in the faith of the Lord.

As you know, not all seeds we plant produce good plants. We can’t cause a plant to grow, can we? We can’t make it rain. We can’t bring out the sun. The best we can do is plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and join in the harvest. And can, of course. Plenty of canning, right Grandma?

Grandma, you have worked hard in God’s fields. In many ways, this has worn you out. But it hasn’t kept you from being faithful. You have now lived to a ripe, old age. Soon, Jesus will greet you at the gate of heaven with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Thanks to Jesus, God shares the harvest with us. We no longer have to work the fields. We join in the feast. God prepares the meal and serves us at the table of grace. Just as you served countless meals for family here at this table,  Jesus serves you with the bread of heaven, the cup of salvation.

Grandma, you and Grandpa built this house with your own hands. It has stood the test of time, providing a home for so many of us. It has remained sturdy and strong.

Soon, you  will live in a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. You will have a new, spiritual body. No more aches and pains. The weariness of getting older will pass away. You will be forever young.

Jesus has prepared a place for you in heaven, Grandma. When the time comes, we hope to see you there.

 

Bearing Prayer

Read Psalm 5

“O Lord, hear me as I pray,

pay attention to my groaning.

Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I pray to no one but you.

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.

Each morning I bring my requests to you

and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5.1-3, New Living Translation)

 

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ― Mother Teresa

My Grandmother is now 94. She has led a long and faithful life and is now prepared to die. Recently, she said to her son, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I’ve asked the Lord to come carry me home. But I’m still here. I ain’t going nowhere.”

How do you respond to such an honest, heart-felt prayer? How can we show compassion and best enter into such pain with ones we love? Are we prepared to wait expectantly, no matter how long it takes, while prayers seem to go unanswered?

In Psalm 5, David shows us that the most meaningful prayer involves our whole lives to prepare and our whole being to carry out.  While there is not a single, prescribed method for faithful prayer, it is essential that we offer our whole selves. Hold nothing back. Not pray willy-nilly whatever comes to our minds and call that “the leading of the Spirit.” The true Spirit of Christ moves us to search our minds for our raw, authentic needs and desires and shout them out to the One who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we could ever imagine possible.

Psalm 5 stresses that we talk directly to God, not just about him. Instead of just asking someone to pray for us, it is essential that we pray for ourselves. Prayer can not only be done by proxy. It is our way to build a relationship with our Heavenly Father, who is not removed from our experience, but in the person of Christ, has entered into our lives and, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, shares our deepest sorrows and celebrates our greatest joys.

What do you say to someone who expresses intense needs and desires and is frustrated that it seems prayers are not being answered?

How can we best “bear one another’s burdens” with someone who has such a heavy burden to bear?

Heavenly Father, you know what I need before I tell you. Still, you want me to share my deepest needs and greatest joys. Fill my heart with a desire to express myself so I can better know you and what you want for my life.

 

Rest in Peace

I will both lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety. (Psalm 4.8, Christian Standard Bible)

“At length the Lady Galadriel released them from her eyes, and she smiled. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled,’ she said. ‘Tonight you shall sleep in peace.’ Then they sighed and felt suddenly weary, as those who have been questioned long and deeply, though no words had been spoken openly.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings.

Bruce was a man driven to succeed. He worked long hours, jotted down notes for the next day over family meals, and stayed up late developing long-range goals. Nights would go by and Bruce would barely sleep. One week he decided to stop trying and stayed in his office to work while his family slept in the rooms above.

This went on for five nights. Then, Bruce’s body began to betray him. He became dizzy and couldn’t concentrate. He developed a debilitating case of pneumonia and could hardly catch his breath. His whole body ached, but he kept pressing forward — for two more nights.

After the seventh night, Bruce began to see and hear threatening things within and around him. He became consumed by the notion the world was coming to an end and all he loved would end, all those he cared about would be destroyed as he looked on, unable to do anything about it. What began as a conscious decision to create more productive hours in the day turned into a vicious curse that left him incapacitated day and night.

The promise conveyed in Psalm 4 is that the Lord provides for us the rest we need to sleep peacefully — to be refreshed and rejuvenated to prepare for the next day’s battles against the enemies within us and around us. Restful sleep restores our bodies, our minds, and our spirits so we can better live in peace with God, with others, and with ourselves. As we enter into the rest God provides, we enjoy safety and security. We rest in peace in this life and into the next.

How has lack of sleep affected you in your life?

What can you do to more readily enter into God’s promised rest?

O LORD GOD, you give me the night for rest, and the day to labor. May my body so rest during this night that my mind cease not to be awake to thee, nor my heart faint or be overcome with slumber, preventing it from adhering steadfastly to the love of thee. (adapted from John Calvin’s “Several Godly Prayers” in the Catechism of the Church of Geneva.)

Was He Only Dreaming?

In the fall of 1975, I opened my fresh new Language Arts textbook and found that some pages had been cut out.  I walked up to my teacher’s desk and his response was,

 ”I did that.  It was a story about Martin Luther King.  I don’t want you reading about some nigger who went around stirring up trouble.”

Yesterday, I was talking with an elderly woman who didn’t realize today was a holiday.

“What holiday is it?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday,” I replied.

“I swear.  Every body and his brother has a day named after him?  He didn’t do nothing.”

This morning, I was talking to a man in his 70s about King’s legacy.

“I know he preached non-violence,” he said, “but as soon as he’d finish his speeches, blacks would go around breaking into stores and stealing stuff.  I don’t care what the history books say.  I saw it on TV.”

While King is celebrated as a saint by nearly all African Americans and a vast majority of white Americans as well, there is still a pervasive racial attitude among some – perhaps those who find themselves on the wrong side of history – that King was anything but heroic.

In a climate of racial, ethnic, and religious hatred and division, we desperately need people of passionate faith and commitment to reconciliation. It is essential that we not cast Dr. King’s memory in stone, but allow his legacy to live on in us through relationships devoted to peace and justice.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”   ―  Martin Luther King Jr.

God’s Word For Us

Read 2 Timothy 3.10-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

When my parents divorced, I quit going to church, I thought that since they taught me that God hates divorce, God must hate my parents, and me as well.

One thing the church taught me from an early age is the value of learning Scripture and taking it to heart. God speaks to in the words of the Bible, The Holy Spirit breathes life into us as we read God’s Word and hear it proclaimed. Every word, every verse, every book of both the Old and New Testaments help us come to a saving knowledge of God’s Word made flesh — Jesus Christ.

God’s Word in Scripture has carved a path for me in the wilderness of the world.

When I had a speech impediment, I took comfort in the story of Moses and found a way to convey what was essential.

When I struggled with my vocation, I was reassured by passages reminding me that God’s plans ultimately prevail.

As I have battled the ravages of mental illness, God puts my mind at rest as I listen to the peaceful words of the Bible.

As I wrestled with issues of guilt and shame over my own divorce, I relied on God’s promise that nothing could separate me from His love.

Scripture teaches us all we need to know about God and ourselves to embrace the saving love of Jesus Christ. No other book could can make this claim or offer us such hope. No other book equips us in this life for the next.

An Illegal Faith

Read Acts 5:17-42

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 15:29)

“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.” ― Elisabeth Eliot

Early Christians were branded as outlaws in the faith community . Though they committed no crime, they were often arrested, persecuted, even killed for their faith. Still, the Way of Christ flourished. As an underground movement, it gained strength. The more opposition they faced, the more determined they became, the more  inflamed with the Spirit. As outlaws in faith, they spread good news and accepted, even celebrated, the suffering doled out as punishment for following the Way of Christ.

At times, God calls us to choose between following human authority and following God. We must choose between what we are told to do and what we know in our hearts we must do. On most occasions, we can do both. We can honor our mother and father and still follow God. We can follow the laws of our community, our nation, which give us freedom for our faith. Yet, sometimes the two conflict and we must choose.

Susan, a 13-year-old girl from Uganda lived in a Muslim family. After devoting her life to Christ, her father began to beat her, once even threatening her with a knife. This went on for months, but Susan refused to deny her Lord and Savior. Finally, he locked her in a small space in their muddy shack. It took six months before neighbors realized what was happening to Susan and called the authorities, who removed her from home and took her to the hospital.

In many places, faith in Christ is illegal. Christians are persecuted, imprisoned, even killed for clinging to Christ. Some turn away. Some go underground. Others proclaim Christ is spite of the risks. They recognize that human authority is passing, but obedience to God is eternal.

When have you been tested to remain obedient to God or give in to others?

How can you best support those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ?

Faithful God, you have shown yourself worthy of our trust. We can depend on you, put our lives in your care. Give us the courage to compromise our faith in Christ when it is tested.

Washing Before the Meal

Read John 13.1-17

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13.14)

“Your most precious memories will focus on those you loved, those who loved you, and what you did together in the service of the Lord.” — James Dobson

 Jesus, fully God, shows us what it looks like to be fully human. It is through humble service that we become our best selves. Jesus shows us that to do what is most pleasing to God, we are to serve each other. Becoming servants, slaves, we rise above ourselves and join God at work in the world.  

The disciples are silenced when Jesus washing their feet. They are filled with shame and astonishment. Somebody else should have thought of this, not Jesus. He has the weight of the world on his back, he should not have to worry about keeping our feet clean. But no one else did. No one else thought of it. No one else is willing to do the dirty work to prepare for the feast.

On a youth mission trip to Philadelphia, we had the opportunity to go into the streets one night and distribute care kits to homeless persons. Toiletries, lotions, gloves, socks, and the like. Several of the teens were reluctant at first, not only concerned for their safety, but unsure how they would be received.  What if these gifts were rejected? What if instead the people insisted on money for other purposes?

As the night went on, these fears subsided. Nearly all the folks we met were gracious and grateful. Even more than the items delivered, they seemed to appreciate the visit, the human contact from youth willing to step over social boundaries and treat them with respect.

One gentleman was particularly grateful. When given a pair of socks, he looked up with tears in his eyes. “Thank you so much. Tomorrow I go to the doctor to have part of my foot cut off and I didn’t want to go without socks. You are an answer to prayer.”

Is it easier for you to serve or be served? Why?

In what ways can you serve others as Christ has served you?

Jesus, send your Spirit into our hearts that we may accept your serving love and be motivated to serve others.