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Living the Lectionary

A starting point from week to week in my Journey from A-C

Month

March 2014

Him or Me: A Reflection John 11:1-45

Ok I lied, this reflection has more to do with the verses following the assigned lectionary reading than it does the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

About 6 years ago I was living in a one bedroom apartment on the first floor of an apartment, and my balcony looked out onto a grassy land just in front of a creek.  It was a beautiful site for sure, there was a lovely path along the creek and you could see people walking by on the other side and there were lots of birds and other small wildlife in the area.  It was quite peaceful, especially on beautiful days.

I had about a month or so left on my lease and was leaving to move back to my parents house for a year to save money for the two years that I would be in college.  So I was slowly preparing things to get ready for the move.

One morning when I woke up to get ready for work I could hear a weird sound.  I followed the sound to the kitchen, and for a second or two it stopped when I got close, but as I stood as still as could be the sound could be heard again.  It was coming from somewhere near the stove.

I had the brilliant idea that I should move the stove and see what was going on, and as I pulled the stove out from the wall I spooked the mouse that was in behind the stove and as I pulled the mouse ran across my barefoot into the living room.  I called in and said I would not be able to make it to work that day and spent the day going through every crevice of that apartment looking for that mouse, but he was not to be found: until….

I was laying in bed one night and had put some papers that I had been reading on the floor next to the bed.  Just as I was about to fall asleep I heard them rustle.  So I jerked and sat right up in bed and turned on the light and there he was just staring at me, almost like he was saying look lady, there is not enough room in this apartment for the both of us.  I agreed and packed up my stuff and moved home before my lease was up.

Although it was just one little mouse there was no room in that apartment for me and him, he was a threat to my health and safety.

It might seem strange, but I make that connection with the reading for this week because there are many people in throughout the gospels who treat Jesus like he is a kind of parasite and there is no room for both him and them.

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus is a nice story, and there are many angles from which we can approach the story.  For the characters involved in the story there is suspense and sadness and then surprise and great joy, and all in all a happy ending for the people, but if we don’t continue to read I think we can lose sight of the real cost of this story.

If your Bible has headings, the very next section is called the plot to kill Jesus.  Someone has gone and told the Pharisees what Jesus has done, and they don’t like it one bit.  While they should be rejoicing in a life restored from death, they only see it as a threat because Jesus is gaining popularity and there is not room enough in the world for him and for them.  He is threatening the very thing they believe keeps them safe which is their sense of power and control.

The Pharisees don’t back down from their threat as I did, instead they begin their plot to kill Jesus.

I wonder as we journey a bit closer to the cross this Lenten season, where we might find ourselves in the story.

Do we find ourselves calling on Jesus in our deepest need?

Perhaps we find ourselves doubting that Jesus will actually come through, or are amazed at his compassion and humanness in this story.

Maybe we just don’t believe that there is enough room in our lives for both Jesus and our firmly held beliefs.

Wherever we find ourselves in the story the invitation for us is to follow him, even when it leads to the cross.

Then I Saw: A Reflection on John 9:1-41

In our church hymn book there are many songs that contain images of the ocean/sea.  I grew up in the prairies though, so while I could imagine the ocean from seeing it on television, I still had never seen the ocean.  I could not fully appreciate the imagery given in the songs about the ocean of God’s love because I had never really experienced an ocean.  Probably, it would have been more appropriate for me to sing something like “Boundless as the endless wheat field”.

So, when I received my summer intern ship in a small community on the south coast of Newfoundland I was excited that I would finally see the ocean and be able to dip a toe in its mighty waters. 

We arrived in Newfoundland via St. John’s and then I saw.  My first ocean view was from the plane and it was amazing to see the ocean, and admittedly a little scary but WOW!

Took this on my summer placement 2010
Took this on my summer placement 2010

When I arrived at my summer placement I would find myself staring out the front window, or walking with my face to the ocean just staring at it, amazed that I never got run over by a car.  

Though I have never been physically blind, my eyes had been opened to something I had never seen or experienced before.  

Over time however, as I have now lived by the ocean for almost 3 years, my wonder and amazement has become less.  As one becomes accustomed to something, it becomes easy to forget that early wonder of being able to see.  In other words, I’ve gotten used to it.

I’ve gotten so used to it in fact that I can almost drive by the ocean and not notice it.  Perhaps becoming blind again to the beauty of God that is all around me.  Maybe in that way instead of being like the blind person who has had their eyes opened for the first time, I’m now more like the Pharisee not even aware of the ways in which I have become blind.

Translate that into a spiritual truth and isn’t that was Jesus is really saying as he defends himself in the passage?  Sometimes we, who walk a spiritual journey suffer from blindness that we don’t even know we have and until we are willing to have our eyes opened by the Saviour we miss out on the beauty of his salvation to be experienced daily.

George Beverley Shea used to sing:  The wonder of it all, the wonder of it all; just to think that God loves me.

Maybe the question needs to be for me, how might I be filled with that awe and wonder again?  Only through the touch of Jesus.

I’m Fine: A Reflection on John 4:4-52

I read recently a contemporary commentary or reflection on this passage here.  The comments made by David Lose have revolutionized the way I understand this passage about the woman at the well.  I’ve always understood the woman as a sinner as millions of others have as well; because in my experience she has always been preached that way.  Preachers talk about her shame and the guilt that she must carry for her actions, that’s why she is out at the well at noon.  And it may very well be that she is indeed the ‘kind of sinner’ that we assume her to be, but that information certainly is not given in the text.  Jesus doesn’t condemn her, he doesn’t call her a sinner, in fact he does not use that famous phrase of his “go and sin no more”.  Maybe the whole purpose of the passage is not repentance, but maybe it’s Jesus saying I understand how life can be…

A couple of weeks ago I was in town at the grocery store, and I ran into someone I know only slightly.  We both said hello, I said how are you?  Good, was the reply; then the other person was of course obligated to ask me how I am doing to which I also replied good.  Why? Well, I believe we both are actually doing well, so it was the right answer.  At the same time if the answer was not good, the grocery store and a near stranger is not generally the place or person that you are going to get into  the nitty-gritty details of life.  And so we say we are fine, or we are good.

The thing is, we don’t just do it with near strangers.  We often respond with the words I’m fine, even to those we call friends or family.  There are many reasons we do this, but sometimes we say it and the truth is we are anything but fine.

So with my new understanding of this passage, I can almost envision a bit of chit-chat that *could* have happened.  Maybe Jesus said to the woman, hello how are you and maybe she said the general I’m fine.

Maybe when Jesus lays out the woman’s past and her current situation the focus is really not condemnation.  Maybe Jesus is really saying here, I know your experience, I know you are not fine.  Maybe he acknowledges that life has handed this woman difficult circumstances that he knows she can’t bear.

Maybe he is telling her, and us, that even when circumstances are the pits and we might not have anything else to depend on…we can depend on him.  He is the living water, the wellspring of life in whom we can place our trust.

There is a little chorus that I learned and the words are so simple, yet profound.

He is all I need, He is all I need, Christ is all I need.  (That is it, nothing fancy, just those words repeated.  Really though, do we need any more?)

Near to the Heart Of God: A Reflection on Matthew 4:1-11

 I love the game show Family Feud, especially with the current host Steve Harvey. I admit that I don’t often watch it, but when I do I am sure for a good belly laugh.  It’s not just because Harvey himself is funny, but because some of the answers that people give on that show are hilarious.  My all time favourite clip from the show is the porcupine answer, if you have never seen it, go ahead take a second and watch it here.

I know, I know part of it is the pressure; your brain just stops working because you’re nervous.  And then I think to myself yeah I would get on that show and they would ask me something like we surveyed a hundred women to see what they must have in their purse at all times, and I would say something like a hambone!!

It can be hard for us to respond when we don’t have the answer right at the forefront of our minds, when we are unprepared.

The text in Matthew tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where he was to be tempted and he ate nothing for 40 days.  It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how hungry and perhaps even weak Jesus must have felt at the time.  Enter the devil, who tests Jesus.

The scene is reminiscent of Adam and Eve in the garden, where the serpent sows a seed of mistrust, “did God really say”??  So too he tries to sow the seed of mistrust with Jesus, saying “IF you are the Son of God”.

By T Kean (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

The devil has not changed his MO, and that realization kills me because it means that when I give into temptation to sin, it actually has little to do with the fact that somewhere in my consciousness there is a seed of mistrust.  That kinda sucks, because I want to blame the devil if I am caught in sin, and while yes temptation may be put before me from an outside source, when I give in I can honestly say that it is because in some way, shape, or form, I did not trust God.

Ouch.

Well when the devil is up to it with Jesus in the desert, trying to sow those seeds of mistrust in the Son of God himself.  (You don’t have to be hungry, you can have it all, you can save yourself you don’t need anyone) Jesus replies with scripture.  When he is placed in the pressure cooker, unlike our family feud contestants, Jesus is able to come up with the right phrase for the hour.  He knows his scripture and he uses it, because he is prepared.

So for me this becomes a question of how do I prepare, how do I resist temptation?  I mean there are areas in my life where I am feeling constant temptation and I am sure the same can be said of most.

Last year I read a book called Transforming Prayer, by a guy named Daniel Henderson.  In the book he talked about the fact that when we pray we need not only seek the hand of God in our lives, but also we simply need to seek his face.  I wrote down a quote from the book, that I have oft forgotten to look at until today that says this:

“When we are in the habit of experiencing transformation as we seek God’s face, then enemy’s efforts to defeat, discourage, distract, or destroy is are met with the reality of our Christ-ward focus and the victory that comes from intimacy with Jesus.  To Satan’s dismay, he sees us praying, trusting God, and becoming more like our Lord as we do so.  He is notified that we are engaged in a pursuit of the promises of transformation and impact for the Saviour!”  (I don’t know what page that is found on I just wrote the quote)

So perhaps when we fall into temptation, our ability to resist is really based on how well we know the father, how much time we spend seeking his face, and in doing so cultivate a lifestyle of trust?  Maybe.

That thought connects with an old hymn that is a favourite of mine.

There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.
A Place where sin CANNOT molest, Near to the Heart of God.

It’s not that I never sin while I am on this journey, but for myself I have to admit, the more I seek his face.  The more I spend time in his word, the more equipped I feel to resist temptation.  And so my prayer for myself and for you today, is “Oh that we would seek him more”

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