Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Under A Rock


 

See I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble

and a rock that makes them fall and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. Romans 9:33

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2a

 

The other day I was sent a link to the most adorable video of Down syndrome kids dancing to a popular song. Later in the day I was telling my friend Mary about it and when I named the song and the artist I mispronounced his name. She commented on the song and my mangling of his name. When I told her I’d never heard of him or the song prior to that day she was shocked. “Where have you been living?” She asked me. “Under a rock?” I laughed, not at all offended, she knows me so well, and said, no. I then explained how a lot of secular things escape my notice.

This morning that conversation came back to me as I was reading Scripture and thinking of other songs, different songs. One lyric ran through my head, “the Rock won’t move and His word is strong.” A few minutes later I was humming and realized it was, “on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Hm, have I been living under a rock?

I guess I would still say no to that question but perhaps I’ve been living in the shadow of one. My explanation to Mary was that I listen to AirOne, KLove, and occasionally oldies stations, none of which would play the song I’d never heard. Nor do I watch late night television where apparently this hot new artist is a regular. Who knew? I guess the answer to that is, everyone but me.

Thinking of it all that way I suppose her assessment wasn’t far off. We often hear the expression to be in the world but not of it. I believe that is what Paul is referring to in Romans 12:2. If I were conformed to this world, to the music and trends of the day I would have known how to pronounce the young man’s odd name. I would already have been tormented by his song, which as it turns out is quite popular in the world of advertising.  

Earlier today I asked my son Joseph if he’d seen the video. I knew it would bring back memories for him of his time in the special needs classroom where we both worked. He said he had and loved it, except that song which he doesn’t care for and  had lodged in his brain. “It’s in just about every commercial on TV.” He told me. I think he was as surprised as Mary when I told him that I hadn’t heard it before the video but I did agree with him, it’s definitely earworm material.

Maybe I’ll miss something good along the way but thankfully I have people like Mary, my children and my other more connected friends to apprise me of anything truly noteworthy. Honestly I prefer to live the way I do, in joyful ignorance to most of what goes on in the secular world. The shadow of the Rock may keep me out of the loop, culturally speaking, but it also keeps me safe and connected to the real source of all life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Betrayed


 

Peter replies, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Matthew 26: 33-34

But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. Luke 22:21

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed, took bread and when he had given, thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which if for you, do this in remembrance of me. 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (emphasis mine)

“On the night he was betrayed.” In his letter to the Corinthians Paul refers to the events of the Last Supper, labeling them by those words, “on the night he was betrayed.”
Today is Holy Thursday. In liturgical churches there is often a reenactment of the events at the table, the foot washing and the first celebration of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. It is the beginning of the end of the beginning. Jesus is showing his apostles what true love looks like. It’s beautiful and it’s sad. Right here, I have to admit that this is the point in all four Gospels where I feel a sense of dread, a desire to change the next few scenes or if not, to skip over them. I’d like to hop from Thursday to Sunday morning and bypass the horror of Friday and the emptiness of Saturday.  Depictions of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus just break my heart. They also turn my stomach and bring up myriad emotions. That’s easily understandable, isn’t it? They’re horrific. The events at the Last Supper and throughout the rest of Thursday evening, however, are just as disturbing and almost as visceral.

It’s Thursday and Jesus, precious, kind, loyal, giving Jesus, is with his friends. During that supper he has to admit that while they’re pretty much all going to run, two are going to do worse than that. One is going to turn him over to the people set to destroy him and the other, one much closer to him, one of his three nearest and dearest, is going to deny him.
The supper ends and Jesus takes James, John and Peter with him to the garden where he is going to pray. They fall asleep and so begins the lonely road. From there it just gets worse. If you can put aside all the torture that is happening, though I doubt anyone can, focus for a moment on Jesus and Peter. Movies made of the events often have a moment of eye contact between Peter and Jesus just after Peter has made his denials. That eye contact is heart wrenching but unnecessary. Jesus knew exactly what Peter would do and when he would do it. This is Peter, the Rock, his trusted ally, his friend.

I have a friend, Mary, who has been in my life for forty-six years. I have another friend, Bella, who I’ve known about ten years and I have my sweet husband. They would be my Peter, John and James. When I read this passage I see those three with me, then it narrows down to Mary and me. She’s been around the longest. We know each other inside out and upside down. There is love and loyalty in all three of those prime relationships but with Mary, there’s just that little extra something so poor Mary gets cast as Peter.
I cannot relate to the physical pain of the crucifixion. It turns my stomach. It breaks my heart and at turns it makes me more faithful or more penitent. The betrayal, the denials, that’s where I can relate. I’ve experienced far too much betrayal in my life from people I thought I could count on, people I love, who I believed loved me but Mary has never been one of them. The idea that in my darkest, neediest, loneliest hour she would say, “Uh, no, I have no idea who that woman is” is simply too much to bear. I count on her based on the experiences of those forty-six years and she comes through. What if she didn’t? What if she publicly denied me? The thought of it is unbearable, which is why the idea that Peter denied my sweet Jesus when Jesus was scared, in misery and well in possession of the fact that it was only the beginning of his nightmare, just breaks my heart. It hits so close to home.

The sacrifice of Jesus in its entirety is beyond my comprehension. I appreciate it, all the while knowing that I don’t, not nearly as much as I should. The elements of the Eucharist remind me of the Cross and I’m drawn to be a better follower, to love him more but even that pales in comparison to the response of my heart to the image of Jesus seeing and hearing Peter say, “I don’t know him” that takes me to my knees. That I understand. It makes me grateful in ways that I cannot adequately express to a God who gives me not only Jesus and the gift of salvation but a friend that has never said, “I don’t know her.”

 

Monday, April 14, 2014

What to Wear


What to Wear

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25

This morning while I was getting ready for work, I was saying to myself, what to wear, what to wear and this verse popped into my head. The first thing I thought was that if I had given it a little more concern last night, I wouldn’t be wasting precious morning minutes on it. Then something a little more weighty crossed my mind.
There I was standing in front of my “main” closet, the one in which I keep the clothes appropriate for the current weather. Keep in mind these aren’t designer anybody clothes. It’s pretty much store brand, what was on sale and I had a coupon stuff but still, I have plenty of choices. So there I stood, taking into account the weather outside, the temperature in our classroom and what I had going on during the day. As I gazed at pants, tops, dresses, a question occurred to me.

How much thought could really have gone into the clothes of Jesus’ day? Think about it. Wasn’t it pretty much all the same? Some sort of tunic, an outer dress and something over their heads. There is mention of cloaks in the Bible too, so I guess during cold weather a cloak. Still, there weren’t department stores on every corner and many of  those women were pretty busy cooking without any appliances or even much in the line of utensils. Not to mention, raising and teaching their children.

I thought about that for a minute. Jesus found it important enough to mention, to admonish in a time when the clothing choices were pretty limited. What, I wonder, does he think of me, of us, and the amount of time we spend thinking about clothes, shopping for clothes, complaining about clothes? I felt a little tug of guilt which I wisely chose to ignore, opting instead to be thankful for my many alternatives and I moved on, or so I thought.

As I continued through my day I was a bit more aware of the things that take up space in my mind. What to wear? What to cook? What do I have to do after work? Is my house ready for my Bible study group? Will certain family issues ever resolve? Has my mom found some respite help for my aunt? Did I remember to refill the snack section in my husband’s lunchbox? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. YIPES!
Suddenly the caution not to worry about food, clothes and the like took on a clearer meaning. I often think it would have been nice in some ways to live in the time of Jesus when things were simpler and there were less distractions. Now I wonder, does it matter? Is it an issue of variety or do we simply obsess about ourselves regardless of era?  Jesus, who wastes nothing, including words and efforts, chose to speak about this very issue, so it must be pretty important. It made me want to write my own version of the Serenity Prayer,

Dear Lord, grant me the wisdom to turn my mind to you,
To ignore the mundane in favor of the sacred,
To receive the grace you set before me
And always to be truly grateful. Amen.