Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lent Day 30: Cut up your running shoes

We were bemused by the students' Twitter storm last week when we spoke in chapel. "We want to have that kind of a marriage," they tweeted while W and I were preaching together.

Well, you guys, in that case, cut up your running shoes and hunker down for the grit and grace that is marriage. It's a huge effort to earn anything worthwhile in the long run. There are days and months - years even, if you're as stubborn and resistant to change as we've been - when you'll wake up and wonder, "Who is this awful person in my bed?" (and it won't necessarily be your spouse; it may be you.)

Reading the story of Jesus' last weeks among us, I wonder how many times he tied himself to his mission. How many times did he feel like disappearing to where no one knew him? How many times did he long for an escape from the cross? If he was tempted in every way as we are (Hebrews 4:15), he must have thought about alternatives to the hideous death ahead.

I don't know why we have to suffer. I have an ongoing, internal resistance to the idea of suffering. I hate when our kids are ill, when we have a financial crunch, and when friends are in trouble. I hate the beastly takeover of cancer, the violence of robbery and murder, and the neglect of orphans, widows, and the poor.

But suffer we do. My mom used to say, "You look in anyone else's window and you don't want to live there. The cross is shaped for our own backs."

God, whose son Jesus bore all the suffering of the world on the cross of Calvary, allows human life to go on around us. We can identify with his suffering. His gift of free will means people make choices that hurt them and us. We make decisions with terrible consequences for ourselves and others.

Through it all, over and under it all, are everlasting arms of kindness and love. Our debt of sin and our illnesses were carried to the cross. Paid. Done. I've just finished reading Revelation (the last book of the Bible, with it's 101 things that I don't understand). What resonates and what thrill me is this: our great and wonderful God is in control. We do have a vile and vicious enemy. And we will choose whom to serve. The outcome is ours to determine: we gain life for bowing our knee to God and banishment from all that is good if we refuse.

In the end of the Bible, we read how God prepares a city for his people, It is so stunning that it is lit by his glory. The river of life sparkles through it. The leaves on the trees provide medicine and nourishment. Nothing broken comes into the city: all is wholeness, Presence, and well-being. Tears are wiped away and the pain of human existence is only a memory.

How is this possible? It's because Jesus persevered. He stuck it out. Knowing the betrayal of his best friends, he ate with them and washed their feet. He cared for his mother from the cross, choosing a trustworthy friend as her provider. His heart broke with the weight of our sins and suffering - but he willingly agonized to win our freedom and joy.

I don't get God's plan and that's ok. "The servant is not greater than the Master," Jesus warned. "I'm suffering, but you will suffer too." Times will be tough and people will hate and revile us. They may malign and torture us. That's when the cross may hurt our backs.

But I've cut up my running shoes. I'm waiting for the salvation of God. That's what followers of Jesus do. We look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, for stamina and strength. He said, "Greater things than these will you do," speaking of miracles and overcoming challenges.

Where do you need God's help today? What is weighing you down or hurting you - a person, a circumstance, an illness, a special need?

Every provision has been made to get you through. Take off those sneakers, stand your ground, and call on the name of the Lord. The host of heaven will surround you. God's wisdom and mercy will make a way where there is no [human] way. Thanks be to God.

Read more:
 *Israel, you are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off. Isaiah 41:9 ESV

*Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her! Rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her. Isaiah 66:10 ESV

*You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. John 15:16 ESV

*Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?" For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV

*Paul wrote: I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you. Philippians 1:3-4 ESV

Moravian Church: Ever-living God, it is so easy for us to say that we chose you. Forgive us, for we know that you chose us for a purpose—to bring the love of God in Christ Jesus to all we meet. May our endeavors be pleasing in your sight.

God, we thank you for the joy you bring into our lives. May we, like Paul, rejoice always in all circumstances and in all things. May our joy be a reflection to others of our love toward you. Amen.

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