Friday, February 16, 2018

Lenten Longings

My heart is heavy after yet another school shooting. Seventeen young lives lost, senselessly, tragically. My heart is heavy for the 19 year old who pulled the trigger; himself a sufferer, a victim of loss. My heart is heavy over the polarization that exists in the country, evident in the op-eds and the political rancor that fills our FaceBook feeds. Where do we go? To whom do we turn?

Throughout scripture the answer comes back resoundingly. Whether it is Asaph in Psalm 73, “Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ” Or Peter in John 6, “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”; we realize that in Jesus alone we find what we need. In Jesus alone we find both truth and grace. He is the one who came both preaching repentance and healing the sick. We struggle for that kind of balance. Politicians cry for more freedoms or more controls. But both our freedoms and our controls will prove to be empty cisterns (Jer. 2:13) if they are outside of Christ. We look for more truth or call for more grace when what we need is more Jesus.

Which brings us to Lent and a prayer from my good friend Scotty Smith. May our thirst be for Christ alone.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Ps. 42:1-2
     Lord Jesus, thirst is certainly an appropriate theme to ponder this Lenten season. For Lent is a season of igniting our longings for you; and there’s no craving, yearning, or need more demanding than thirst.

     Thirst is neither patient nor polite, and we’re usually quick to slake its unrelenting demand, one way or another. Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy its cry and ache.

     Because this is true, we join the psalmist in crying out: Jesus, intensify our thirst for you. Keep us panting like the deer, which pants after streams of water—the unpolluted, un-distilled, never-ending brooks of your grace.

     Quickly drain the broken cisterns of our own making. Don’t let us be even momentarily satisfied with any other beverage than the draft you draw, the potion you pour, the life-giving libation you alone give.

     If we take up King David’s lament, “When can I go and meet with God?” you answer back without delay, “Right now, my beloved; do not wait. If you’re thirsty, come to me and drink.” “Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

     If we should say, “But Jesus, where can we find you?” you answer back even quicker, “Not in the law; not in your strivings; not in your labors; not in your penance; not in your earnestness; not in your self-loathing; not in your re-dedications; not in your vain promises; but only in the gospel of my grace.”

     “Come and fall into the rivers of my love. Come, you who are thirsty, come and bring your poverty of heart and I will make you rich in my love. Stand under the cascading waterfalls of my compassion. Open your heart wide to my affection, and I will fill you to overflowing with everything you need, and more than you want.”

     Even so and evermore, Lord Jesus, school us well in panting after you. Fill us afresh that we might be a people to the praise of your glory and grace. So very Amen we pray in your all-glorious and all-generous name.

Friday, February 2, 2018

On Into Mission

Whew! Though some posters and wall hangings still remain, the formal missions month is over. It has been mentioned to me a couple of times that there has never been such a focus on mission at Christ Church. It truly was something to behold and difficult to walk away from unchanged.

We don’t truly walk away though, do we? Rather than walking away we walk into this mission that the Father inaugurated, Jesus died for, and the Spirit continues to fan into flame. We walk into mission; in our neighborhoods, at the grocery store, in our schools, our families, churches and around the world. Everywhere we go we see the need for the welcoming, healing, liberating, stain-removing Gospel!

As our missions conference was going on, we have been reminded by events in our own state how terribly broken the world we live in is, both in the hearts of individuals and in the institutions that they run. We have been reminded that we are surrounded by hurting sisters and brothers, many of them victims with very few places to call “safe”. This is our mission: to extend the welcoming balm of the gospel to these hurting. To invite those who might not be sharing the sweet fellowship of Jesus into our church, our homes, our lives.

So how do we, a disparate group of ragtag individuals carry out this mission? You know the same thing could have been asked about the disciples who gathered with Jesus in the upper room, the same ones he called to carry out His mission. Judas would betray. Peter would deny. Philip and Thomas were confused. And all would scatter. And yet … These were the ones through whom the Lord would build his church.

This Sunday we will find ourselves with these disciples listening to the words of Jesus in what is known as the Upper Room discourse. We will begin with the first 20 verses of John 13. Like the disciples, we are an imperfect community to be sure. But as we walk with our Savior and allow him to minister to us, we find that he will use us nonetheless.