Saturday, February 20, 2010

Communication is not equal to Contamination

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written,
'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,'
'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Communication is not equal to Contamination

“I saw Lizzie Proctor talkin’ to The Devil!” -Salem Mass.
I see Jesus Christ talkin’ to the devil, so what? - Matagorda Tx.

The opposite of Faith is not disbelief, doubt, skepticism, or even atheism.

The opposite of Faith is FEAR.

Today there is a fear-based Puritanism in many parts of the Church that eschews contact or even conversation with those who are living a sinful life. Where does that come from?
It comes from applying a human understanding of purity instead of the Bible understanding that we have been taught and that we profess to believe.

Human purity is venerable.

In human understanding a white garment fresh from the laundry will never be cleaner than it is before it is worn. Just putting it on will subject it to wrinkles, sweat and body oils. Not to contemplate the thought of wearing white and going to work in the fields, in the soup kitchen, in the leprosarium, in the slaughter house. What was once pure and clean is now soiled and corrupted by contact with the world.

But is the priority keeping your clothes clean, or going into the world to get your work done?

We mistakenly apply that same human understanding to our metaphysical purity.

“If we just prohibit alcohol we will raise a generation without the curse of drink.” – Remember that one?

The Bible teaches us, and we who are in Christ are supposed to have learned this lesson, that true purity is not soiled by contact with corruption. 

True purity cleanses the corruption that it encounters.

Revelation 7:14 (NRSV)
14 I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Do not be afraid to go into the gutter, the prison, the crack house. You are the apostles of the Lord God and have nothing to fear, in this world or the next.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lenten Discipline pt. 4

Ash Wednesday is February 17th

We are 7 days away, how is your discernment progressing?

A word today about "giving up a sin for Lent."
It does not work.
At least, it does not work the way fasting from an ordinary or even virtuous action does.

When you give up a non-sinful pleasure, say Blue Bell, your sacrifice is a small note played in harmony with the Great Sacrifice that Christ made for you.

When you give up a sin, that is a good thing for you – but it is not a worthy sacrifice to offer to God. 

We do not teach people to steal money in order to put it in the offering plate, do we?

So, by all means give up the sin that plagues you… But:
v     Don’t give it up just for Lent;
v     Don’t stop there, fill the hole left in your life by the removal of the sin with something truly virtuous.
v     Don’t forget to make a good confession. Ash Wednesday is a perfect opportunity.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Lenten Discipline pt. 3

Ash Wednesday is February 17th

Fasting is not just for food.

The Prophet teaches:

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:3-11 (NIV)
If  you couldn’t use food in your Lenten discipline, what would you fast from?
v     Selfishness?
v     Haste?
v     Callousness?
v     Willful blindness to the suffering of others?
v     Deafness to God’s call to change your life?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lenten Discipline pt. 2

Ash Wednesday is February 17th

Fasting is not Dieting. -- Dieting is not Fasting.
In the ancient world food was not a guaranteed part of life. That is very different today.

Although hunger is still present in the world, and malnutrition is a scourge even in this country, most of us have never been to the funeral of someone who died of starvation.

Yet it was in a world where hunger was always a risk, where crop failure, flood or drought brought famine, and famine brought death. In that world the spiritual discipline of fasting developed, and developed independently in many cultures and contexts all around the globe.

Today we live in a world-turned-up-side-down. Today, eating too much is a leading cause of death. Today most of us start at least 2 diets a year (I said START). We have to take this into account if Fasting from food is going to be a part of our Lenten Discipline.

If I have been on Adkins on-and-off for the last 5 years, I can hardly say with a straight face “I am giving up carbohydrates for Lent.” Pluh-eesse!

More on fasting tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lenten Discipline pt. 1

Ash Wednesday is February 17th

Many Christians use a Lenten Discipline to enhance their spirituality as we prepare for the Passion and Resurrection celebrations.

Now is the pre-lent, the time to reflect on what your choice of Lenten Discipline will be.

A few ground rules:
1. You are not “giving-up-something-for-Lent”. 
If you choose to fast, to refrain from something, it is not because you want to give it up, it is in order to do one or both of the following:
            A. To share in the suffering of Christ, which is the suffering of the world; and
            B. To make room in your life for something better.

So if, for example you decide to fast from Blue Bell:
v     Put your empty ice-cream bowl out where you will see it every day.
v     Every time you would have eaten ice cream, do something better:
o       Say a prayer;
o       Put a penny or a dollar in a jar for Haiti;
o       Write someone a note that says “I love you.”
o       Call someone just to say hello;
o       Jot a note in your journal, or tweet on the theme of “Better than Blue Bell”