The Most Impressive Act of Trust

Holy Week starts tomorrow (on Sunday) beginning the powerful last few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  We talk about the cross event throughout the year in one way or another in our weekly worship.  But this week is the most powerful week of our faith to remember Jesus.  This is when we truly see the intersection of Christmas and Easter.  What I mean by that is this is when we see the humanity of Jesus really struggle with the divinity of Jesus.  The incarnation of God with us in human form crashes against the human will out of sorts with God’s will.  And this week is the point when the humanity of

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“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” -Luke 22:42 NIV

Jesus suffers the very worst that being human has to offer.  And Jesus teaches us much if we just look closely.

While Jesus’ last week seems so foreign to our own experience, our own level of suffering, our own understanding, there is something profoundly recognizable.  As we watch Jesus enter Jerusalem with Pomp and Circumstance, teach in the Temple, and then gather his friends to say goodbye and give some last lessons, we see an anxiousness, a suffering that is familiar to us.  We see grief and pain.  We see shame and loneliness.  We see bullying and false accusations made.  And in some of that, every one of us can relate at one point in our lives.  Jesus is teaching us that even the Son of God suffered these hurts at the hands of others.  A reminder that we cannot escape this kind of pain in life.  But Jesus offers some valuable lessons in how to withstand it.

This quote is a long one but a powerful point of reflection as we prepare to hear the Passion story of Jesus’ last week.  A reminder that Jesus modeled for us the most impressive act of trust when he eventually let go of his anguish while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and trusted God.  That moment when the humanity of Jesus fully trusted the divinity of Jesus within teaches us the importance of letting our humanity fully trust the beautiful and powerful divinity of God.

In this story we find reflected the universal experience of loss that plunges us into anguish, evokes cries for help in our weakness, and invites trust in God who is in, under, and beyond the present affliction.  The alternative to trust and letting go is a hardness of heart that refuses the grace available to us in our ordeal.” Elizabeth J. Canham from Weavings

Jesus’ story does speak to our experiences of grief and pain.  Jesus’ story does remind us God is in the midst of it all.  And the antidote to ending up with a hardened heart that is unable to feel the wide range of emotions and soar with joy is trust.  God offers us grace in the midst of our struggle even when no one else around us may.  The invitation is to trust God’s grace more than we trust the negative voices of our pain.  Is there something in your own life that you need to dig deep and muster the courage to display a most impressive act of trust?

I hope you will take some time and read one of the Gospel versions of the Passion this week.  Join us for worship Sunday to hear the Passion as told by the Gospel of Mark.  Or by Monday afternoon, take less than 20 minutes to go here for the link to see our reading recorded from Sunday.  Attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday worship service (ours are at 7:00.)  Please, don’t go from the joy of Palm Sunday to the joy of Easter morning without pausing at the Cross.  That’s where Jesus’ act of trust is best modeled for us.

 

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

The Power of Tears

02-tears-bitters.w529.h529I am using a devotion book this year called A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God and it has spoken profoundly into my life in such timely ways.  One of the readings this week has been on the power of tears.  I’ve experienced lots of tears of late for so many different reasons.  Tears of joy when UNC beat Duke in the semi-final of the ACC Tourney.  Tears of frustration as UNC lost to Virgina in the Acc Tourney final.  Tears of love as I attended a beautiful wedding filled with love and tenderness.  Tears of sadness as we have shared with Centenary my departure in a few months.  Tears of confusion.  Tears of anger.  Tears of sweet kindnesses experienced.  Tears of admiration from watching a movie.  Tears of happiness from watching a frolicking kitten bound around the condo.

Wendy Wright shares that the ancient East had an interesting understanding and interpretation for the different types of tears we might experience.  They had all kinds of different spiritual categories and interpretations for tears in our lives.  Some tears have spiritually purifying power in our lives.  So someone just experiencing a spiritual renewal these purifying tears would feel differently than for someone who has been traveling long on their faith journey and felt the refiners fire multiple times in their lives.  But both are purifying experiences.

Some tears purify us by convicting us of sins and brokenness that we have participated in or experienced.  But sometimes our tears purify us by coming from a place of deep gratitude and joy when we think about the true goodness of God’s love for us or our desire to live eternally with Jesus.

No matter how our various tears would have been interpreted by the Easterners, they would without a doubt claim that tears are a God-given gift to us and a wonderful physical sign that our inner world or self was being transformed.  For those who have been following along our Lenten series on Renovation of the Heart here at Centenary, the whole point is seeking that inner transformation that being a Jesus follower brings about in our lives.  This ongoing cleansing that takes place as a person draws nearer and nearer to Jesus can sometimes happen without us noticing all of the signs of change within us.  But our tears?  When they blind our eyes and then fall on our cheeks when we blink and roll down the sides of our face. Well they can become signs and reminders of our baptismal waters redeeming us, a small piece of God’s good creation in this world, again.  The power in our tears.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Finding Jesus Space

Ever had one of those situations where you just couldn’t make sense of what was happening?  It wasn’t that you stopped paying attention and then got surprised.  Quite the opposite.  You were working really hard towards a goal but then it all starts heading in a different direction.  I was having a conversation with someone earlier this week who talked about how sometimes people make choices in their lives that have deep effects and consequences on your own life.  Even though it wasn’t your choice to make originally, you are trying to make sense of the reorientation.

What do you do when you find  yourself in one of those interesting situations?  This season of Lent our church is spending time doing a “renovation of the heart” series,  based on a book by Dallas Willard of the same name.  We have basically been spending time looking at the inner self and all of the ways we can experience transformation.  I have found it to be entirely timely and helpful reflection.  Sometimes the best thing we can do in the midst of unexpected situations is to deeply discern what is God’s goodness, what is God’s desire and God’s path for us and simply take a step towards sitting in that space.

All of us find ourselves in situations we could have never predicted.  All of us find ourselves at one time or another  in a place where the hopes and desires of others trump our own.  And that can be confusing.

 

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Jesus with Martha and Mary. Painting by He Qi

This past weekend the women of our church were on a Women’s Retreat and one of the Scriptures we talked about was the infamous Mary and Martha story where Martha is fussing and taking care of everyone and getting annoyed at her sister, Mary, who has decided to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.  Jesus commends Mary and fusses at Martha.  For us doers, this is highly annoying.  But right now, I am understanding Mary’s perspective better than I ever have.

 

What if Mary found herself in a situation she had not expected, a circumstance that was contrary to the path she thought she was on?  What if she was feeling confused or frustrated or a little off-balance?  My sense is that instead of trying to work her way through the scenario, she has chosen wisely.  She has chosen to seek that Jesus space where she can just stop and listen.  Where she can catch the scent of the trail she is supposed to be following again.

Maybe our lesson here is if we find ourselves facing an unexpected situation that puts us off-balance, the best thing we can do is stop.  Stop trying.  Stop fixing.  Stop doing.  Like Mary, just stop and get balanced.  Be in Jesus’ good presence. Get oriented again.  Resist the temptation to work our way out of it or distract ourself from it.

Luke 10:38-42  (CEB)

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message.  By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.   One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Maybe Mary needed to align her inner self with Jesus.  If that happens, then whatever the scenario before us can and will be managed.  Excuse me while I sit and listen for a while.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth