Monthly Archives: February 2016

A Sociable-Making Jesus

In my readings for Lent this week, this passage from John Donne (Elizabethan poet and priest) deserves some reflection:

“… faith is no sullen thing, it is not a melancholy, there is not so sociable a thing as the love of Christ Jesus.”

Donne then tells of how the first thing that Andrew did upon finding Jesus the Messiah was to go and get his brother, Peter and bring him to that Messiah.

One of the temptations of Lent is to withdraw too completely, to shield ourselves too well, from those around us. As we make little sacrifices or practice more stringent disciplines they may separate us in some way from the social circles of our lives.

Donne says nothing could be further from true faith in the Christ of the Gospels! The faith of Christ in us will drive us to others and to the love of them. To appropriate a John Wesley expression – “there is no love but sociable.” The true love of Jesus will impel us to love others. It will make us sociable, even when our inclinations are otherwise. Love as action not feeling. Love that sends us to the other and that brings us back again and again to Jesus.

And during what can be a somber time of reflection and preparation, remember that “faith is no sullen thing.” If our faith makes us sullen it is something other than the faith of Christ. May the days to come make us more sociable, more loving as we ponder the One whose death on the cross was, after all, an act of supreme love.

 

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Living in Denial

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it.
(Mark 8:34-35 NRSV)

As Jesus begins the journey to Jerusalem and the cross he announces what awaits him – and what awaits those who follow him. To follow Jesus is to deny self. What does this mean? And to pick up the cross?

Lent is about this call to follow Jesus to the cross. Not only by remembering Jesus’ journey there and all that it did and does. But also to follow Jesus to the cross in my life and choices.

To deny myself means that I deny my right to choose except to choose Christ. How hard this is!!! To live each moment in voluntary self-surrender. To pray, as our Lord taught his followers, “Thy will be done” as a living, present reality and not just a future hope. It is one thing to ask God’s will – it is quite another to make that will the will of my life rather than my own.

To deny myself is to move myself from the center of my life and to place Christ at the center. This is harder yet. My dreams, hopes, plans, and experiences define me and the path I choose. They define as well my identity. To journey to the Christ is to move Christ to this place instead. If in Christ God has revealed his ultimate will, his true image of humanity then I can do nothing else.

The reason Jesus says we must lose our lives to do this is because there is no other way to make this shift. The person at the center – me – will not go quietly. Will  not go at all. Only death of self will let that self move aside. And against all logic or human reason that self will then really live.

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Reflections on Fasting…

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

Jesus warns us not to practice our pious acts in front of others – not to do them so others will think us pious or holy. So I hesitate to share these reflection on my fast this week but will do so anyway.

As a nearly life-long type 1 diabetic, fasting from food has been a challenge for me and nearly always caused more physical issues than spiritual blessings. So this week, as part of a challenge I issued to my church, I decided to fast from television (including the streaming video services to which I subscribe).

Fasting intrudes     Fasting disrupts our normal patterns and practices. It interrupts the flow of the daily. It jars us from our habits. And it reminds us that God intrudes. The Incarnation and the Resurrection – intrusions into the natural order and the flow of history. If God works in such a way at the macro level, fasting opens the way for God to work at the micro level of our lives and contexts.

Fasting reminds us that we are creatures of appetite   Fasting from television and video, for instance, does not produce physical hunger. But when we fast or abstain from anything the hunger for it is more obvious because it is unfulfilled. By not feeding the hunger or longing we may grasp a deeper sense of the hungers God wants to fill — and the need to hunger above all things after the Giver of all things.

To fast is to choose    We are creatures of habits and hungers – but need they control us? Are we not more than hungers? More than habits? To choose to not satisfy them reminds us of the power of human freedom and choice given us by God. And the need we have for God’s power and love to shape our choices and to empower and guide our wills.

This week I have had several breakthroughs in answer to prayer. Some offered a way forward when none seemed apparent. Others changed my perspective on some question whose answer I was sure I knew. Fasting has been a part of this journey and will be again.

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