Lighten up.

ballet saratoga dance museum slk

Photo Credit: Stacey Lauren-Kennedy, The Daily Gazette.

Last night was the first observation night of the year at my 7-year old’s new ballet studio. I watched as my daughter’s excellent instructor corrected her posture and movements, as well as those of the other children in the class, over and over again. Every foot had to be placed just so every time, with the knees and hips in the correct positions. There were First through Fifth positions to master, plies, tondus and so on. When a child got it wrong, she was called out verbally (though gently enough). As I said to my friend, this is hard core! – I knew I couldn’t have got it right much of the time.

I watched my daughter’s expression throughout. She’s a bright, light, playful little girl and while she was trying very hard to get her movements right and doing well, the joy that is so often present in her face was largely absent. Later on in the class, when she could finally leave the bar to run and dance and skip freely, the joy was back.

She insists that she wants to continue in ballet and I don’t think an hour a week of classical training will hurt her in any way. In time, if she keeps at it, what is difficult for her now will become unconscious movement. But it made me see that I don’t wish for her life to be like her ballet class.

This was an important realisation for me as this is also her 1st Grade year and I am both her mother and teacher. As such, I determine to a large degree what her days are like. While I appreciate all that her ballet instructor offers to her and believe that my daughter will learn things of great value from people like her in her life, I do not aspire to be that kind of person in her life.

And I am grateful for the deep feeling that God is not that kind of person in my life, obsessing over where and how I place my feet, knees, hips, arms and hands as I move through life. I believe that Triune God takes much more joy in my own happy, free dance, and encourages me from within to do just that — to dance freely — MORE. To be light on my feet and not so often stoop to carry burdens that are often imagined and, if not, are real ones he will carry for me if I will just let go and let him.

Too often, I get lost in the seriousness of life. I need to get things right. I need to be right. I need to do all the right things. My eyes can be too often unconsciously fixed on my own reflection in the studio mirror of life — and honestly, for me now, this is much more often with other people in view than it is with God in view.

Because I am deeply convicted that God, unlike people, is that perfectly loving parent with his eyes from within me on my expression. When I focus too much on getting it right, I lose the big picture and I completely lose my joy. And that isn’t what he wants for me any more than it is what I want for my daughter.

So no, if I don’t need to get it right, and I don’t need to be right, in order to please God, I certainly don’t need to do it to prove anything to other people.

In the end, only the joy and the relationships will count.

All I need to do is lighten up. The dance always follows.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

Life After Life

I have a very close friend. His name is Albert DeStephanis but most of us just call him Al or, a lot of the time, Big Al. At church he had his own special greeting. It usually didn’t matter what was going on when he walked through the door someone would call out, “Big Al!”.  In 2011 Al had some heart trouble and doctors gave Al a new lease on life with a new technology called an LVAD or Left Ventricular Assist Device. It’s a heart pump.

In 2011 Al went into the hospital for a bypass and, after the surgery, had two massive heart events. Al slipped away  twice that night and the doctors and nurses at St. Mary’s in Richmond fought hard all night long and brought Al back. A few days later, after Al had his new heart pump installed, he said to me, “You know I died twice during all this right?” Then, very contemplatively, Al said, “Someday, when I die for real I don’t think I’ll be that worried about it because I’ll just say been there, done that.”

10393580_10152549157661795_3130710996195103791_n

Big Al Sept. 30, 1939 -eternity!

I recall being very impressed with Al’s attitude about the episode. And so as time went on Al recovered and went back to a fairly normal life. He attended his grandchildren’s swim meets and came to church on a regular basis. Al is the rare type of person who, when you meet them, you wish you’d known them your whole life. He is as kind and gentle a man as you could ever meet. I simply adore him!

So last week Big Al transitioned from this life into the next. He passed into what C.S. Lewis called the full Weight of Glory and now knows Jesus more intimately than any of us here. In fact it was just yesterday that a large number of people attended his memorial service.

Paul the apostle says death is swallowed up in victory and defeated. Athanasius says, “Jesus it is Who has destroyed death and freely graced us all with incorruption…”

Death is not a reality. How can anything that has been defeated and destroyed by Jesus be a reality? Indeed death is not real- life is real. Jesus is life and Jesus is real. Jesus has given us new life and new birth through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  We are seated with Him- in Him- at the right hand of the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

There is no life after death. Did I shock you? Keep reading. There is no life after death because; how can there be anything after something that is not real? We may as well ask whether there is life after magic Pegasus unicorns. Death is not real so there can’t possibly be life after death.

There is only Life after Life. The life that was given to Al was the very life that originates in, flows from, and is the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The life that Al was given in 1939 was the very life of the eternal Triune God. That life has no end!

We may not see Al the way we used to, we may not actually see him walk into the room, but Al is very much alive… in fact I would posit that Al is more alive than he has ever been!

A prayer: Father, we grieve the loved ones who have gone to Glory. We sense separation but know it is not real. Comfort us Holy Spirit. Teach us to honor our grieving, to know that grief is evidence of love and that deep grief is evidence of even deeper love. Show us the beauty of our tears and the joys that await us when we, someday, catch up with our loved ones who have passed into the full weight of glory. Jesus, thank you for including humanity in the life you share with your Father from eternity. Amen

~Bill Winn

Everything In and Through Jesus The Christ!

jesuschrist

 https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/14-12-07-everything-in-and-through-jesus-the-christ-hebrews-10-tah.mp3

On this 2nd Sunday Of Advent 2014, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore delivers this GOSPEL FILLED GOOD NEWS entitled, “EVERYTHING IN AND THROUGH JESUS THE CHRIST” as we come to understand just what “Everything In and Through Jesus Christ” means. Learn more what it means that God is not only here but comes to us IN JESUS CHRIST; what it meant that the Son came as a man, and assumed our REAL HUMAN NATURE!

Pastor Tim explores the Gospel through Hebrews 10 :10 – 23 and reading from James Torrance’s article “Christ In Our Place” showing that:

~Jesus has a personal relationship with God on OUR behalf and we have a relationship with God THROUGH JESUS CHRIST! Because of God’s goodness, he makes our responses for us, so that when we respond we are only responding to Jesus’ response to his Father. In Him, and through Jesus, we are renewed by the Spirit in the image of God and in the worship of God and His life of SHARED COMMUNION!

~We burden ourselves with questions like: Do I have to ask for forgiveness before God will give it to me? Do right words, regulations, rules, and repentance take my sins away? But the scriptures tell us that JESUS is MEDIATOR between God and Man and that God draws near to humanity IN AND THROUGH CHRIST to fulfill His purposes of our human worship and communion with God! This means that FORGIVENESS IS LOCATED IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST and that IN AND THROUGH CHRIST, God HAS ALREADY FORGIVEN US! So, WHEN YOU ASK FOR FORGIVENESS YOU CAN BE SURE OF GETTING IT! Why? Because it has already been given to you in Jesus! For God: Father, Son and Spirit, there is no going back on forgiveness of your sins because the Son of God will live as Jesus the God/Man forever!! In Jesus Christ, sin has been COMPLETELY ELIMINATED!

~There is NO such thing as a transaction Gospel, or “If you do this THEN God will save and adopt you!” We can unburden ourselves with that mentality by hearing the Fathers’ response to us: I have forgiven you, therefore ENJOY AND receive it! I LOVE YOU therefore FOLLOW ME IN TRUST AND LOVE because YOU ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE CARED FOR! THE GOSPEL IS REALLY GOOD NEWS!

~Specifically, because everything is IN AND THROUGH CHRIST, we can give a real word of REST and JOY to people, so that in the JOY of Jesus they can RUN as WE DO, as The ADOPTED SONS AND DAUGHTERS THAT GOD ALWAYS WANTED!!!

~There is not so much work we have to do in getting the words right, or in getting the concepts down. We receive that Jesus got down here for and with us in our place and that there is NOTHING we can ever do to make God more Gracious and we are NEVER going to be able to condition God to like us. What we need to understand is WHO JESUS IS and WHAT HE has done for us, participating in His Response of gratitude and thankfulness to His Father, and in His Trust and Obedience!

Living In and Through Your Impossibilities!

Impossible with man

Everywhere I turn lately, and I mean everywhere, I am seeing and experiencing impossibilities! On a national level, I see the impossibility of our trying to permanently solve domestic abuse issues. I see the impossibility of our laws and courts to legislate racial harmony.

Locally and personally, I experience the impossibility of seeing the issues and biting problems of communities, families, and bad relationships issues solved by people participating in the Good News of God: Father, Son and Spirit. I have learned the impossibility of trying to use apologetics and healing to prove and convince people of God. I know the impossibility of  trying to solve some of my thorniest and bone-weary problems, including getting a house sold and rented properly for more than 18 years after moving from it for the sake of Jesus calling me into His practical pastoral ministry in another state! hmpf! And being middle-aged, I am learning the impossibility of so much more than that “small stuff” I just mentioned…hahaha… (anyone 40 and above feeling me?!)

AND, in God’s good grace, I am learning that this is REALLY all Good News! Ha!

Why?!

Well, as Andrew Root writes about in his book entitled “Taking Theology to Youth Ministry”:

“The Church has often confessed that creation itself is ex nihilo, “out of nothingness”….The God of the burning bush [God: Father, Son and Spirit] reveals Godself out of human impossibility. Sarah is ninety, Abraham is impotent, Moses is a stutterer, and David is too young and small to be considered. God reveals Godself next to nothingness and impossibility; the breaking in of God often happens next to human weakness and yearning, in the backward and hidden (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is here that God moves; it is here that God is revealed; it is here that Gospel and mission are linked. God’s mission is to enter our impossibilities with the goodness that from the act of God a new reality in the love of God is breaking forth.

So, when we ask…’What is God up to in your life, where is God moving?'” we are compelled to look for God’s action in the kinds of places God is revealed. We look for God in places of brokenness, yearning, and suffering, places where God takes these deaths upon Godself for the sake of life. God is active at the places of our raw humanity. It is here, in our raw humanity, that we enter gospel and mission, that gospel and mission are held together. For the God of creation, the God [Father, Son and Spirit], the God who hears the groaning of God’s people, acts where there is the scent of nothingness. The God of exodus acts in those places where we are held captive, revealing Godself so death might be overcome with life.” pp.87-88

Footnoting the late Ray Anderson on this topic, Andrew quotes Ray who writes, “Why did the Lord wait until Moses was eighty years old, a failure and fugitive, with no possibilities? Because the element of human possibility must be removed. The people were powerless and helpless. They cried out to the Lord. Moses was chosen to be the redeemer because he was also without power on the human level. Moses understood that this “powerlessness” is itself a necessary ingredient in the chemistry of divine grace.” The Soul of Ministry, 45.

\May this Advent season for the Church, or season of focusing on the Coming of God: Father, Son and Spirit, in Jesus Christ, be a reminder and encouragement to you that God comes to us in our nothingness; our sin, death and hells. Our impossibilities. And He comes not at our initiative (our initiative is long dead and broken in sin!), but in his own initiative to bring forth his own future by His own Coming.

So as you and I believers enter into and participate in the suffering and death of this world with Father, through Jesus, and by the Spirit, no matter our age or circumstance,

“…we embody the promise that God is acting to bring forth God’s kingdom. Our hope is not that our efforts can make the world a better place. Our hope is in the action of God to open our eyes to see the small-but-sure ways God’s new reality is breaking forth.” – Andrew Root, Taking Theology To Youth Ministry, p.69

“[The end times and last things]…has finally not to do with the best that we can hope for in this world, but with a new world which will be brought into being only when God wills and acts to do so.” Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, Hope Against Hope: Christian Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium, p.174

(In a related thought, though many people have been have been MISUNDERSTANDING and making fun of Janay Rice’s comment that she and NFL husband Ray Rice’s recent domestic violence incident was “God’s Plan!”, I suspect God: Father, Son and Spirit has shown up, and out, and IN the Rice’s impossibility. He loves creating possibilities out of our nothingness!)

- tjbrassell

 

 

What Jesus’ Coming Means For Us Today!

Advent Season

 https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/14-11-30-what-jesus-coming-means-for-us-today-hebrews-10-tah.mp3

On this 1st Sunday Of Advent 2014, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore delivers a message of Good News entitled, “What Jesus’ Coming Means For Us Today!” Through Hebrews 10:1-10, he proclaims the GOOD NEWS that GOD THE SON’S COMING IN JESUS IS OUR REALITY, LIFE, and RESURRECTION  and that WE WILL BE FULFILLED BY NOTHING LESS THAN HIM!

In this message we reinforce that:

~ Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of ALL and will appear a second time not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those waiting for him.

~ We, IN OUR BROKENNESS, don’t GET to start everything; don’t get to control or guide the outcome of life with our questions and answers. It is our pleasure, our role, to RESPOND IN GRATITUDE to what has been done to us, and INITIATED by GOD FOR US, IN HIS GRACE. GOD, in Christ, and by the Spirit, SHARES THANKSGIVING with us as a human response to HIS GREAT INITIATIVES in our lives!

~ God’s will for the world was for the Son to be born into it as Jesus. The purpose of Jesus Christ was to BE AND DO THE WILL OF GOD AS MAN! It was NEVER put upon anyone other than Jesus to meet the will of God or to meet God’s expectations for Man. We were never meant to carry the burden and impossibility of working out our own adoption and salvation. It was always up to Jesus Christ to meet the expectations of God. We were meant to be dependent on Christ.  It was the will of God to make humanity HOLY – to rule over everything and everywhere under Christ, God himself!  Further, it was the will of the Father to bring us to Glory as his adopted sons and daughters through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

~ The Reality of God in Jesus not only stands FOR US, but also against us  and against all other people, things,  and attempts for us to fulfill our own lives and create our own purpose!

~ The Lord wants us to run in the JOY of being sons and daughters and not with the weight of trying to prove that He exists or in our trying to transform the world. He empowers believers to be witnesses and proclaimers of who HE IS, and to be a people of Promise and Hope!

- There are better ways we can take part in Jesus’ Ministry as His Church that will make us more free and less bogged down as we join Jesus in His Mission to His World.

~ Whatever Jesus’ coming means for us TODAY doesn’t mean He isn’t coming in the future, and whatever His coming means for us in the future doesn’t mean He isn’t already here!

 

 

 

 

Photo Compliments Rio Vista Community Church

Forever Friends

friendsThe past few weeks have been uncharacteristically hard for me in the realm of friendship. A once happy but now careworn friendship finally went up, irrevocably it seems, in smoke. Since this friend and I shared many mutual friends, and our relationship ended in harsh words and accusations from my friend, it unsettled me seeing clearly that the way she would represent what had happened to our mutual friends would not be fair.

This was a difficult pill to swallow. Friendship is something I take so seriously. As an introvert, I keep my circle intentionally small and when I make that kind of friend, it has always been for life — though our lives may carry us far from each other geographically. It has been so rare as to be nearly unheard of for me to see that kind of friendship fail.

And just a couple of weeks later, another one-time friend, unrelated entirely to the first, was revealed to be slandering a family member I love dearly, both in court and to our mutual friends — using my own words taken from context to do it. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

For me, that was ten times harder than the first. But, I received a tremendous amount of support in the aftermath of both events. Any losses I might have sustained in friendship have been made up for tenfold it seems.

When I told one friend what was happening in regard to my loved one, he laughed at me. Big virtual Internet guffaws of laughter.

And you know, that was the most comforting response of all.

He knew my loved one and so he knew that what was being said about him was preposterous.

That was when I was able to really turn the corner in both cases. I saw that those who know my loved one know who he is and that will not change according solely to the words of another. I also saw that those who know me know who I am and nor will that change solely according to the words of another.

Those who don’t know my loved one or me and are inclined to form opinions of us based solely on the word of another don’t know us and so their opinions of us really do not matter. For peace to be restored to my life, I must not allow them to matter and the only person in control of that was me.

While I may never understand what leads a person to behave in the hurtful ways they sometimes do, Triune God does. No matter what they do, his heart toward them is not hard. He knows the reasons for what ails them — what ails all of us — far better than we do ourselves.

And this is where we learn from God to love our enemies — or better yet, to see that we have no enemies. Just people, in desperate need of compassion, healing and grace as we all are. Just people, feeling vastly inferior and that they can never measure up. Just hurting people whose pain overflows and begins to hurt others. God sees it all, understands it all and has restored it all — we just haven’t seen it yet.

Love never dies. The love I bore my two friends still lives, and I know that the love they once bore me still does too — even if it is very hard to see right now.

People who have become lost from each other here on earth will one day again be friends, even if it takes the next lifetime to realise it. I choose to live my life in anticipation of that day — to remain quietly a friend here on earth even if the gesture is not once returned.

It’s what Triune God does for us all — for all people — every second of every day.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

Thank God He Is His Amazing Grace!

 amazing grace2

 https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/14-11-23-thank-god-he-is-his-amazing-grace-hebrews-10-tah.mp3

 In this 24th  Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore proclaims the GOOD NEWS that God is His Grace in this riveting Gospel Message entitled “Thank God He Is His Amazing Grace!”

Pastor Tim explores Hebrews 10 and poses the question:

Will you continue to understand yourself and life in terms of man’s idolatry, rebellion and sin or will you begin, as the scriptures do, by looking at the revelation of God in Jesus Christ? After All, it can only be idolatry to trust in anything other than God, anything other than the One Who made and sustains you!

In this gospel Message we learn that:

~Jesus is the Light of the world, and our idolatry, rebellion and sin are NOT, therefore understanding “Who Jesus is?” is the ONLY Way to begin understanding all of scripture. The Context of Jesus, Himself, must fundamentally guide all of our interpretations of the biblical text!

~Jesus is God as Man,  and therefore, in Him God the Father and Spirit have also taken up the cause of humanity forever, determined that we will not perish!

~Some of our sufferings, though not caused by God, He works in and allows so we can come to the end of ourselves and trust only in Him!

~Grace isn’t something that stands apart from or beside God. GOD IS HIMSELF HIS BENEVOLENCE AND KINDNESS! Grace isn’t something we manipulate, or a magic symbol that we make – God is himself HIS GRACE and He is the one Who ultimately acts and delivers us. He, personally, is your REST!

~We are often looking for God to give us something primarily other than himself when God says in Christ “I AM YOUR RESPONSE TO ME! The one who stands in for YOU! Work to believe and trust that! I Am your reward!”

~We need to THANK GOD HE IS HIS AMAZING GRACE and not divide Him too strictly from the great Works HE does. IT IS HIM at work when His works are being done, NOT a substance or a commodity called “grace”!

~If we don’t understand and proclaim God as his own Grace then we will subtly allow a “works based” and legal orientation into our lives. We will think that it is our prayer or religious things that are getting the job done when it is actually GOD IN AND AS HIS AMAZING GRACE getting the job done, many times in and through those things!

~God’s judgment and destruction doesn’t mean the end of us as men and women, but the end of what seeks to destroy us as men and women! Threats in scripture don’t always mean that the bad consequences are actually going to happen because, as the writer of Hebrews wrote,  “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

Listen, Enjoy, be Encouraged, and find rest in the GOOD NEWS of God as His Amazing Grace!

Are You a Fixer?

 

photo courtesy of Krista Ryan/thepinkscrewdriver.com.au

photo courtesy of Krista Ryan/thepinkscrewdriver.com.au

My poor husband.  For over 28 years, he has put up with my “fix-it” tendencies, though to be fair, they have come in handy whenever a doorknob has broken or a faucet has started to drip. It is hard for me to rest when something is broken, or when I think something is broken, or when I think I can make something better. The problem comes when I try to fix or make my husband better.

He accepts this tendency in me, letting my attempts to shape him into the best version of himself roll off his back like water off a duck, and then continues to live the best way he knows how, which is what most of us do anyway. Since my fix-it tendencies were ineffective when directly applied, I began to use the indirect approach – I prayed.

Here’s how my fixing looked in prayer: “Father, Son, and Spirit, please help my dear husband eat his broccoli so that he continues to enjoy good health. Oh, and please inspire him to exercise while you’re at it, as he probably needs to do that, too.  Taking vitamins might also be a good idea.  In Jesus’s name, amen.”

I doubt anyone (at least, any wife) would dispute the wisdom of these requests.  However, as I thought about what I was asking God to do, I realized that I trying to direct God, in addition to fixing my husband – two very questionable goals, both stemming from fear and an overwhelming responsibility to take care of everyone.  When I identified the root issues of fear and a skewed sense of responsibility in my helpful tendencies taken too far, I could see my very specific requests to God were, in fact, my attempts to control that which is outside my domain, and they revealed that I didn’t trust that God’s way of working out our mutual desire for my husband’s well-being.

As believers, I think we have all heard that our prayers to God should be very specific, like incense ground finely, as if not asking for a precise healing might preclude any healing at all, since God might say, “Well, if you would have asked for the artery running to right ventricle to be free of blockages, I probably could have prevented that heart attack.” It’s attitudes like this that turn our prayers into incantations and take us farther from the true intent, that of relationship where we acknowledge that we are held, deeply loved, and cared for.

It’s hard to let go of responsibility when you’re a fixer, but it also can be a relief.  I can still pray (and I do) for health, for safety, for happiness, for freedom from suffering for my loved ones, as well as those I really don’t like, and I know that our God is competently at work in the details. I can pray for healing and for health and not feel as if the outcome depends on me getting the words just right. By letting go and letting God be God, I am getting better at accepting the flaws and brokenness in myself, in others, and in this beautiful world. My name is Nan, and I am a recovering fixer who aspires to one day recognize that imperfections and brokenness are not always in need of fixing; they may even be the best way to see God in each other.

~by Nan Kuhlman

 

 

Jesus’ Compassion On The Harassed And Helpless!

jesus' compassion

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/14-11-16-jesus-compassion-on-the-harassed-and-helpless-matt-9-35-10-8-tah.mp3

Have YOU ever felt harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd? Not without clothing, food or water but, in the midst of plenty, still feeling LOST, despite knowing there is a Shepherd????

Of course you have, and do!!!

In this 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore proclaims a Gospel Message entitled ” Jesus’ Compassion On The Harassed And Helpless!”. In this Gospel he explores Matthew 9: 35 through Matthew 10: 1-8 proclaiming The GOOD NEWS of God’s compassion revealed and active in Jesus! Observing the literal Body of Jesus Christ in Mission reveals God: Father, Son and Spirit does all kinds of interesting and redemptive things with “foolish” participation, people, preaching and pausing!

In this message we hear that:

1~ God in Jesus begins a radical form of calling people to Himself in a gathered and scattered way that transforms their lives and the lives of others as he reaches out in compassion to His world and humanity. God in Christ DOES have an agenda and He DOES care to make himself known to people even as He does good works. He is even willing to become broken to reach out in His compassion and see humanity healed!

2~ Even with money in the bank, food to eat, shelter, we can still find ourselves harassed and helpless, but WHY??? Pastor Tim gives one compelling reason this may be so in our times, considering the present mission of God revealed in Jesus and His determination not to be Himself without us!

3~ We have not understood the “foolishness” of God in Jesus Christ and why we need to be willing to RECEIVE His foolishness as He works in this world to compassionately SAVE people!

4~ Jesus Christ is not only GOD’S GOOD NEWS, He is GOD’S GOOD NEWS in LOVING MOTION: in Gospel Mission and Ministry action, in and through His special believers! In and by the Spirit, believers become THE BODY OF CHRIST – JOINING in what GOD is DOING as He calls and gathers even more disciples and sends them with HIMSELF in MISSION. From the Father, in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit, believers are the compassion of God, helping to heal His harassed and helpless humanity.

Listen and ask yourself: DO I SEE THE COMPASSION OF GOD REVEALED EVEN IN THE BROKEN HUMANITY OF JESUS CHRIST? AND AM I, THROUGH JESUS AND BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, WILLING TO RESPOND TO GOD’S CALLING TO BE HIS BODY AND COMPASSION RIGHT NOW, AS HE WORKS OUT HOPE AND HEALING IN AND THROUGH MY BROKEN HUMANITY FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS?!

Why?

peter and john running to the tomb by burnand“Why?” seems to be the question that God is least likely to answer. Consider, for example, the story of Peter and John on the beach with the risen Jesus in John 21. Jesus predicts Peter’s death, prompting Peter to look back at John and ask “what about him?” Jesus replies “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

In a sense Peter is asking “why?” Why must I suffer? Why do others receive blessings that I don’t receive? Why do I have this particular life and not the life that I want? Job also asked these sorts of questions and he, like Peter, received the answer that seems like it isn’t an answer: “what is that to you? you must follow me.”

Some might argue that God doesn’t answer any questions, but I have found that some questions do have answers. Does God love us? Yes. Will God be faithful to us? Yes. How should we live? Love God and love our neighbors. Some questions God has answered, but faced with the “why” of life – especially the “why” of suffering – we seem to mostly hear God simply saying “trust me.” She usually doesn’t tell us why and we don’t even know why she won’t tell us why.

In the face of such mystery we are prone, like Peter, to start comparing ourselves with others. That path quickly leads to jealousy. From there it is just a short hop to doubting God’s goodness. After all, if I am focused on what God is doing in someone else’s life then I am most likely missing what God is doing in my own life. And when I stop paying attention to God’s work in my life then I start doubting that God is good and even begin to wonder if God is doing anything at all.

There is a wonderful line in the collect for Proper 12 in The Book of Common Prayer. It says “may we so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.” Suffering is temporary – and so are wealth, power, and good looks. All the things that make us ask “why me?” or make us ask “why him and not me?” – all those things are temporary. When Jesus says “what is that to you? you must follow me,” he is telling us to look to what is eternal so that we do not lose it. What is eternal? The Father, Son, and Spirit, the love of God, and the love of our friends and family. May we learn to pass through the things that make us say “why?” in such a way that we do not lose the things that make us say “thank you.”

 ~ Jonathan Stepp

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