A Crazy Scene

For sure it was a crazy scene – Jesus, the teacher, healer, deliverer, now declared king, striding through the small bazaar, dumping over tables, coins flying, sheep bleating, birds screeching, men shouting. And the children, still singing out, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

I loved it.

Nevermind that I know what’s going to happen next. Nevermind that the week is going to disintegrate into darkness. I’m here, now, reading this passage and imagining this scene. Jesus – reclaiming the temple court for all the foreigners with their odd clothes and thick accents, the blind and lame who need healing, the poor and hungry, the curious, the hateful, the frightened and the seeking.

My house, he said, is a house of prayer.

Of course I loved it. A crazy overthrow of all that would shut us outside, alone to figure out how we can get enough, be enough, or at least look like enough to get into God’s presence.

My house, he said, is house prayer and the people came. The half blind and half crazy, the fully sighted, well-dressed, the men and the women, the foreigners and the locals. The gays and straights. The democrats and republicans. The white and every other color under the sun. They all came.

They came seeking healing and Jesus healed them. They came seeking guidance and Jesus taught them. Every day. Everyday they came, unafraid to meet with Jesus.

That’s how the week unfolded. Every day, Jesus was in the temple court.

My house, he said, is a house prayer. Come, all who are thirsty. Come, all who are weak. Come. Come and meet with me. I will give you rest. I will heal you; your bodies and your relationships. I will free you from the darkness within and without. I will help you understand who you are, who I am, who the Father is. I will cleanse you and forgive you. I will accept you, adopt you. Welcome you home.

Come.

And every day. Every day that last week, Jesus went into the temple and met with the people who came to seek him.

Of course I love it. Yeah, I know what’s coming, and I’ll get there. But first, Jesus cleared the temple and made it his own meeting room and now he’s welcoming everyone.

Are you coming in?

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Palm Sunday

My heart hesitates. We are outside of Jerusalem and he says it’s time to go in. I know what will happen; he’ll be arrested, tortured and killed. I know these things because I’m a twenty-first century Christian and I’ve read the book.

I think about his companions; the apostles, the disciples and the women. They don’t know is much as I do, but they know he’ll be arrested and killed. He’s already told them that. So I imagine they, too, hesitate, just outside of Jerusalem.

I pray because it’s the only way I can talk to Jesus. I’m not sitting with him on the side of the road, outside the city. Instead, I’m sitting in my room with my journal and my Bible. So I pray. I tell him I don’t want to go to Jerusalem. I’m enjoying this season; watching him heal people, feed them and deliver them from demons.

He says; stay with me. Companion me. Step-by-step, stay with me.

One of the disciples has brought a donkey and we throw our cloaks onto the ground. Men, women and children see us do this and join in. They shout; “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

At first, I just shake my head. “You have no idea what’s coming next.” Then I remember; stay with me. Step-by-step, stay with me.

I look at Jesus; he’s riding on a donkey surrounded by the joyous affirmation of the ever-growing crowd. He’s not telling anyone to be quiet. Quite the contrary. He’s smiling.

And I think; yes. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is he who will save us. Sure, I understand he’s going to get arrested and killed, but something about this joyful celebration is true, too. Maybe it’s hard to put it all together. Joy!

Jesus is riding into Jerusalem and that’s a good thing. That’s a great thing. He is the King who is coming to save us. He sees each one of us, knows each one of us and loves us more than we can ever imagine. And he knows exactly what he has to do to save us. It’s going to cost him, but he’s going to do it anyway because he loves us.

So today, surrounded by the shouts, the worship, the affirmation, the praise of people who can’t even begin to understand what he’s doing, he smiles. Because he knows, this, too, is true.

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Philoxenia

“Nobody practices hospitality anymore!” We meet in cafés, restaurants, bars and churches; all public spaces. Hospitality is dead!

Oh not true.

2000 years ago, the commandment to practice hospitality expressed itself in a very different culture from our own. Then, the stranger, bereft of welcome, ate their bread from a bag on the side of the road, exposed to the elements and marauders. The stranger needed to be welcomed onto a family’s land, into their house and around their table. They needed food, shelter and protection.

Today, the stranger’s needs are different and that’s what I’m thinking about. What is hospitality today? What is the hospitality I need and what is the hospitality I can give to the strangers around me?

Fundamentally, hospitality encompasses a host welcoming a stranger and a stranger accepting a host’s welcome. The Greek word for hospitality in the New Testament is ‘philoxenia’. It means to love the stranger. How Yahweh like. How Jesus like. Jesus is both the stranger and the one who loves the stranger and you and I are the same.

So wait, hospitality isn’t about inviting people and our home, cooking a sumptuous meal and sharing it with them?

Well no; in expression, perhaps, but not in essence.

Hospitality is defined by what the stranger needs and what the host can offer. It’s not necessarily food, shelter, and clothing.

So what is it? Hum…Here’s my thoughts.

Hospitality is first a psychological welcome; accepting the stranger, respecting and honoring them for the individuals they are, no matter how different they are from me. Valuing the other as a human being, created by the God of the universe and precious in his sight.

Hospitality is physical; an exchange of gifts, food, drink, a bath, touch – whatever is useful to the other. Maybe it’s a coupon for a cup of coffee, a granola bar, or a bottle of water.

Hospitality is social; it’s publicly accepting, honoring, and perhaps protecting the stranger in our midst.

Hospitality is time; offering minutes, maybe even hours of our lives to spend with the stranger.

Hospitality is always reciprocal; an exchange of gifts between the guest and the host.

Is it a meal in our dining room or our church fellowship hall? It could be, but really, it’s so much more than that.

How do you understand hospitality? How do you receive it? How do you offer it?

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Generosity of spirit

I have a desire to live openhearted, and openhanded with myself, God and others. I know this is what I’m called to and yet, in the day-to-day push and pull of life, I find myself shoving my hands in my pockets, throwing up walls, and withdrawing from others.

I don’t do this intentionally and often, I’m not even aware of it.

I’m sure there are situations that call for such resistance; against violence, oppression, and violation. But I suspect that I resist when resistance isn’t called for; when my fears out-shout God’s many invitations to a grace filled life.

I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this. In fact, it’s the resistance I see in others that helps me recognize the resistance present in myself.

God invites us to be generous with our hearts, minds and actions. This generosity of spirit is how God is with us – it’s what we see in Jesus.

I think his invitation to generosity applies to all three of our most central relationships.

The first is with God. He invites us to trust in his good intentions and to be open to all he has for us.

The second is with ourselves. God invites us to admit to our own fears, desires, strengths, failures and weaknesses.

The third speaks to generosity toward others; to live openhanded with those who people are lives.

This is where I most clearly and quickly see my own failures.

I am quick to resist; God, myself and others. I set up walls to protect myself from my own self-awareness, from the movements of God’s spirit within me and through me, and from the feared trespasses or violations of others.

I recognize the work of the enemy who preys on my fears; pushing me away from God and the abundant life he’s called me too.

I’m learning to notice resistance within myself. When I see myself holding back, stepping away, or building up walls I bring my resistance to God in prayer. Trusting his gentle Spirit, I invite him to show me the fear that provokes my resistance. I ask him help me find the wisdom and courage to either give the fear to him or, if the fear is healthy, to respond in healthy ways.

I’m slow at this, but I’m learning. How are you learning to live generously?

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What do you want?

We each have our own list and it changes as we go along. Here are some of the things I’ve asked for recently…

  • Lord, I want to see your face
  • I want your peace
  • Please keep me in the pocket of your hand
  • Help me feel and love as you love and give as you give
  • I want to be like you in as much as my simple life, my limited mind, my aging frame can be
  • Lord, when I displease you, please show me
  • Please don’t let me wander off in my ignorance and blindness

There’s a lot of smaller things I want, too; guidance for what I write, provision enough to pay the bills, healing for a good friend, and more.

I don’t bring God a shopping list every time I sit down to pray, but I do notice what I want and I ask for the things I desire. I figure, some of those desires came from him in the first place and the ones that didn’t, he’s likely to ignore. I’m good with that.

Mostly though I love it that he cares about me, not just for what he wants me to give to others, but just for me. He cares that I want to see his face, that I want to draw my sustenance from him, that I long for his peace. He cares that I want to know him more and that I desire to experience his love within me and flowing through me. He cares that I want to be like him and that I don’t want to displease him.

And here’s a crazy thing. He knows I want all these things and more. He knows everything I want and yet he invites me to ask. Like Jesus walking up to the blind man; “what do you want?”

And so I come to Jesus in prayer and I hear him ask, “Kate, what do you want?” I look into my own heart and recognize desires. Maybe that’s why he asks. Maybe he wants me to recognize what’s in my heart so I’ll notice the gifts he’s giving me.

Maybe, I don’t really know. All I know is that he invites me to ask, and so I do.

What do you want from God today?

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Signs and wonders

I love signs and wonders! I love it when people are healed supernaturally; delivered from cancer, wheelchairs or addictions. I love dreams and visions when people experience a revelation of God so strong, it changes everything.

Sometimes, the kingdom of God enters a person’s life in power.

Over the years, I’ve prayed for a lot of people. I’ve seen more than a few miracles and celebrated each and every one, but I don’t always see the miracles.

For months, my friends and I prayed for a friend who was struggling with cancer. In the end, the cancer took her life and we were all heartbroken.

Did I believe God could heal her? Absolutely.

Did he heal her? Well, I suppose in a different way. I mean, he took her home and I’m sure she doesn’t have cancer in heaven. Still, it’s not the healing I wanted.

So was I stupid to pray for her healing? Of course not.

You have not because you ask not. So we asked. Why wouldn’t we? We wanted our friend to be healed. What’s wrong with asking?

Did we believe? Doesn’t everyone?

Really, don’t we all believe that the great God of the universe has the power to heal someone of cancer? If we believe in God, then we must believe he has such power.

Are we sure he’ll do it just because we pray?

No, of course not. He’s God, we’re not.

So does that mean we shouldn’t pray?

I really don’t think so. I think God invites us to pray for the things we desire and to trust him for the outcomes.

I’m going to keep praying for sick people to be healed and for people who are struggling to experience a revelation of God. I’m going to keep asking for dreams and visions, signs and wonders, miracles. Why wouldn’t I?

And along with those prayers, I’m going to keep asking for comfort for those who mourn, freedom for those who are in bondage, vision for those who are blind – and me, in all of those places where I mourn, am in bondage and am blind. I hope someone’s praying for me, too.

Sometimes, the kingdom of God comes in power. And in some mystery we can’t understand, our prayers matter.

What are you praying for?

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When is it sin?

I was listening to a friend. “Ucht! I was so mad. I know God hates it when I’m mad. Now I just feel guilty. I wish I didn’t get mad so easily!”

I’m with you. I hate getting mad. I’d rather be happy but I’m not happy all the time. Sometimes I do get mad. But does God hate that? Is that sin?

That got me thinking…

So here’s my hypothetical situation, extreme, of course:

  1. A guy rips me off.
  2. I get mad.
  3. I think; I want to kill that guy.
  4. I decide; I’m so going to kill him.
  5. I take my gun and drive to his workplace.
  6. He comes out, and I shoot him.

Clearly, I sinned. But where, in my journey, did I actually move into sin?

Ok, by the end, I’d certainly sinned. I killed someone.

Before that, I took my gun and I drove to the guy’s workplace. Maybe, instead, I got halfway there and turned right instead of left. At that point, I’ve repented. I drive home and put my gun away.

So, ok, I was in sin when I drove off to kill him. I’m sure, actually, because I was able to repent.

Before that, while I was still at home, I decided I was “so going to kill him”. I think that’s where the sin really began. I made a decision. Any time between the decision and the action, I could repent. The fact that I could repent seems a clear indication that I was in sin.

What about when I thought about killing the guy? Is that a sin? Let’s say I thought about it and then said, no. That’s stupid. That’s wrong. I’m so not going to do that.

I heard a thought fly through my mind and I rejected it. I didn’t repent. There was nothing to repent of. Instead, I made a decision to reject a temptation.

And the anger? Well of course I felt anger, the guy ripped me off. I can’t repent of the anger. So no, I don’t think that was sin.

I think sin is an act of the will and comes into play the moment I make a decision to do something wrong.

What you think?

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