Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Havavision

The Text for October 3, 2010; Part One - Habakkuk 1:1-4 and 2:1-4



This is the vision that I saw.

I saw myself complaining to Yahweh! “Lord! I cry and cry for help – and You just ignore me? There is violence and death in the streets all around me – and You do NOTHING? Why did You make me different from everyone else? I can’t just overlook all the wrongs done to others; I can not become immune to the pain of others! The law only serves some now, and justice no longer prevails. The righteous few are drowning in a sea of wickedness; justice has been perverted…”

Habakkuk by James jacques Tissot 18.38X34.00. Art Poster PrintYet, suddenly I saw myself standing witness - a lookout in a watch-tower, a guard on a rampart. I awaited His Word. What could He possibly say to justify His lack of action? How would He address my complaint against Him? And answer me He did!

“Write down your dark vision Havaqquq; write it clear as day and write it to last for all time. For you are not the only one who feels lost. Let them know that there still is a vision alive in the world of the Kingdom. It’s coming in My appointed time - not when you think you need it. Don’t be like the proud and try to guilt Me into action! Look at all the pain caused by the proud ones around you. See, their spirits just aren’t right. Look instead at the living testimony of those who are righteous, those who live out their faith. Their My vision dwells”


























Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Parable of a Rich Man’s Burden

The Readings for September 26, 2010: Luke 16:19-31 and 1 Timothy 6:6-19



There's a rich socialite who throws a blow-out party every day for all his high-falutin' friends. I won’t even bother to dignify this leech on society by giving you his name! There 's this down-and-outer named Lazarus – no, not that one, a different one. Since he's covered with some nasty oozing skin infection, he's considered unemployable, and can't get a steady job, so he hangs out with a pack of unwanted feral dogs at the rich man’s doorway; hoping for table scraps. Only the dogs accept him as a pack-mate: cleanse his sores for him; keep him warm at night; comfort him.

No person notices when Lazarus dies in the street, but the angels do. They carried him gently to heaven and give him the first party he's ever had. Everyone notices when the rich man dies and there's one final blow-out for him - his funeral. The next thing he knows, the formerly pampered man finds himself suffering in a hell of a place! Maybe to torture hem, he's allowed by the demonic hounds of Hades to see all the way up to Heaven and guess what?  He sees that pesky beggar hanging out with Father Abraham himself! He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to hell to help him sooth his burning lips, even though he had done nothing to comfort Lazarus’ burning skin.

Tenderly, Abraham turns him away. “Child, you got everything you ever wanted on earth, while Lazarus got everything evil done to him. Now he is comforted by all of heaven, while you suffer as you allowed him to suffer. The distance between the two of you is too great; we can not go to you nor can we bring you to us.”

The hell-bound man begs: “Then let me play Marley’s Ghost so I can warn my family of the peril they face by following in my footsteps!” Sadly, Abraham points out the weakness of the plan: “If like you they have long ignored the Law of Moses and God's Word through His prophets, they aren’t going to listen to anyone - not even someone whom God raises from the dead…”
Retelling of Luke 16:19-31


A couple of thoughts rush up to me. 

Neither the unnamed rich man nor Lazarus is shown in the parable to be doing works meriting salvation. As a powerful member of a chosen people, the rich man may have had some expectations for an afterlife – God had obviously blessed him in life, right? By implication, he may have allowed his staff to throw rotten food and floor scraps at Lazarus – the welfare system of the day. So maybe he thought his works were sufficient? Lazarus on the other hand, may have been so busy surviving that he didn’t have time to think about life after death. He certainly didn’t have the resources to make sacrifices at Temple. Maybe he looked forward to death as an end to his suffering? Lazarus is lifted up by grace and mercy; not because of his works, but because of the works against him. Instead of the dark quiet of a pauper’s grave, he finds himself in angel-arms and enjoying the hospitality of the man who hosted God, Abraham! How many of us expect special treatment? How many of us expect abuse?

The other thought is the foreshadowing that even though God will sacrifice His Son to free us, we still won't truly deeply believe what a righteous life entails! God blesses us out of love - not merit. Yet we use those blessings to validate our notion that we are special - that we are "better" than others. We the rich look down upon the Lazari of the world and say to ourselves: "There but for the grace of God goes I!"

Where did the rich man fail?

“A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.
But if it's only money these leaders are after, they'll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.
But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life - a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.
I'm charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn't give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don't slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He'll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He's the only one death can't touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He's never been seen by human eyes - human eyes can't take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.
Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage -
to do good,
to be rich in helping others,
to be extravagantly generous.
If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”
1 Timothy 6:6-19 (The Message)

6" x 4" Greetings Card Gustave Dore The Bible Lazarus At The Rich Mans House











Tuesday, September 21, 2010

35th Annual Re-evaluation

My high-school reunion is coming up next week. The prospect of wondering how others will see you after such a long time leads to meandering introspection. I’ve lost some inches pole-to-pole, but have more than made up for it around the equator. My hair is whiter, but like my head - it’s no less thick. I’m not nearly as smart as I used to be; Swiss-cheese memory and a slower learning curve have been mixed blessings – I am less judgmental and much less brain-vain. Most importantly, I’m much less nerdy and way more handsome…

How many of us go to such an event, prepared for judgment: our looks; our careers; our spouses; our “success”? Is it their judgment we fear, or the re-awakening of our own? Did I not live up to my brags, or my potential? Or do we go ready for vengeance: the clique dynamics; the stupid childhood cruelties; the invisibility; the awkwardness? Do we go there pre-hating the “chosen ones”: the star athlete; and the homecoming queen? Those who made us miserable by existing - by being what we thought we wanted to be but couldn’t?

What is it about us that we torture ourselves so? By judging ourselves through the imagined eyes of others, we judge them badly. Why do we assume that only we struggled with out identities as youths? Why do we look on faces in a crowd and assume they are happy from their smiles and successful from their clothes - blessed by God with a wonderful life - and not wonder if they are thinking the same when they look our way? Why do we distance ourselves by artificial elevation or denigration?

I’m looking forward to this reunion. It is an opportunity to show that my previous jackassery was shy defensiveness, not my true nature! It is a chance to reconnect with those long lost or to connect with new friends previously ignored; a chance to restore and expand fellowship. It seems to me, that reunions remind us of what we should be doing everyday – reaching out and connecting.























































Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Ministry of Presence

September 19, 2010; The Reading This Week: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1


My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken.
Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land.
“Has the Lord abandoned Jerusalem?” the people ask.
“Is her King no longer there?”
“Oh, why have they provoked my anger with their carved idols and their worthless foreign gods?” says the Lord.
 “The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone,” the people cry, “yet we are not saved!”
I hurt with the hurt of my people.
I mourn and am overcome with grief.
Is there no medicine in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?
If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been slaughtered.
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 (NLT)

I am always impressed by Jeremiah, sometimes known as The Weeping Prophet. He frequently does the exact opposite of what I would do…
He had been warning the government and the people that they needed to return to God as soon as possible because a big storm was brewing out in the desert and it was heading their way. All their prosperity and all their powerful alliances were only taking them further from God, only making things worse. No wanted to hear what old Jeremiah had to say – what God had to say; so they just heap scorn and ridicule on him. Now Babylon is at the gate, and Jeremiah again does the unexpected – he sacrifices his right to say I told you so! He cries in agony for his country, for their exile to come.
There is nothing more God can say, nothing Jeremiah can contribute that would ease their pain and suffering, nothing anyone can do to make the days ahead easier to face. All he can do is cry beside his people. Sound familiar?

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”  Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him.
Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!”  But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
John 11:17-37 (NLT)

How many of us think that we have to say something to comfort someone? We say something shallow and inane, or we avoid the situation completely because we feel devoid of “magical” healing words? What Jeremiah and Jesus are teaching us (calling us to) is a Ministry of Presence. Often the most important thing we can do is to just be there beside them. Maybe the most healing thing we have to offer is our tears? Isn’t that something any of us can do?












Friday, September 17, 2010

Interpretations

There are many ways to interpret a scene (or a text, motive, etc.):

Contextually

In Perspective

By Immersion

Factually

Emotionally

Abstractly

Individually, each may tell a story, but together they tell a tale...






My camera:
Canon PowerShot SX120IS 10MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Images Stabilized Zoom and 3-inch LCD