Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Staying Attached

My wife's grandmother, at the end of a family visit, would always say “Do keep in touch.”  Back then, it was through handwritten postcards, and letters posted in envelopes with stamps (remember those?). Her desire was to hear from her loved ones, and she often blessed them with letters and cards just to say hello, pass along the news, and express love. 

Our heavenly Father asks “Do keep in touch" in a much more intense and intimate way, because his love for us (John 17:23) is much stronger than our human love. He has sent his Spirit into our hearts, who constantly works to connect us to the Father: “It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts to cry ‘Father, dear Father’” (Gal. 4:6, Phillips). The Spirit of God and of Christ is continually presenting to us the love of God, and the Spirit is the means of both talking to and hearing from God: "For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Rom. 8:26). The Spirit’s desire is to connect us with the Father and the Son, who together have one will  to reconcile all humans to themselves, into the circle of Trinitarian love. To “keep in touch” in other words. 

Since every day is a time to be drawn into the communication of love with God, we must find ways to pay better attention to the love he is communicating. There are many ways to approach it, but the basis of all of them is to stop. That’s right, STOP. I've just reviewed the list of spiritual practices in Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and of the 62 practices she describes, every one requires stopping our ordinary busyness in order to interact with the Lord (or anyone else!) in a meaningful way. That’s tough for me some days — how about you?

Dr. Geordie Ziegler reminds us of two important principles of spiritual life. First, it is participation with the Spirit in the activities of Jesus; never something we do hoping to accomplish an important goal. Second, the goal is not “Christlikeness” or “being able to do what Jesus did” or “think like Jesus,” but more deeply and more importantly, Christ himself. “Apart from me you can do nothing”, Jesus says in describing the Vine and the branches, John 15:5. In verse 9, Jesus says “Abide”— not just live but remain (with an underlying sense of permanence, in the Greek) “in my love.” The goal of our whole Christian life is that we “remain” in Christ, and that Christ remains in us (a major theme in John 14-16). Thus, the goal is Christ himself, with his love filling us. “Abide” could less-intensively be said “Do keep in touch,” as abiding in the Vine is staying connected, resting in, and getting our life from the Vine. 

Should you have spiritual practices that are a daily and regular part of your life? Jesus seems to say so here. Which ones?  I would include three: prayer, reading scripture, and fellowship with the saints. Besides those, frankly, I don’t have an opinion for you, because each of us is different, and different practices will work for different people. The Spirit will lead us into the ones that are best for us, if we pay attention. So, I would say the same as before, the same the Spirit is saying now: Do keep in touch! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Continuing to Celebrate the Resurrection

The death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross was agonizing and drawn-out torture, ending with a final cry of anguish as a Roman spear pierced his side and his heart. Because he had accepted without argument the false accusations, the hatred and rage and vicious

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Jews and a Few Others?

Most scholars lay out a chronology for Holy Week with Jesus entering Jerusalem on Sunday to the acclaim of thousands of his followers and fans. The palm branches are mentioned in Psalm 118, especially v. 27, and the donkey ("foal of an ass") in Zechariah 9. Jesus was deliberately

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Lent Is About Giving Up

Lent is often thought about in terms of giving up sweets, or red meat, or alcohol, or movies, in an attempt to create an ‘attitude of repentance.' Those items are external to us, even though we can be awfully attached to them. What’s deepest is our

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What's Manure Got to Do with It?

There’s a parable in Luke 13 that we non-farmers may have a hard time understanding, featuring a fig tree that won’t bear figs, and a farmer that won’t cut the tree down. What’s going on? The people listening to Jesus heard an agricultural problem — the tree was messed up, and the

Monday, March 25, 2019

Set Someone Free Today

In Luke 13, Jesus notices a woman who has had "a disabling spirit" for 18 years, and sets her free. He does so on the Sabbath, the religious day of rest. His opponents complain he ought not be doing such work on the Sabbath, and Jesus argues that, if releasing a farm animal for water on the Sabbath is allowed, then surely releasing this woman is allowed also.

This is not just an argument to draw different lines in a

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Give Up What???

“Lent — isn’t that where you have to give up something?” asked the barista at Starbucks the other day. Yes, giving up chocolate or something else pleasurable is part of Lent, but not the purpose, or even the main feature.

"Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, reminds us that,