The Profound Powerless of Mondo Cozmo’s “Shine”

I’m still a sucker for a heart on its sleeve…

(and a good hook…)

I stumbled across this song a few months ago, back in the spring. I was listening to some Spotify “New Music” playlist, and all of a sudden I heard familiar-but-new sounds: echoes of The Verve and other Brit Pop bands that I’ve always loved.

And then the lyrics started:

Stick with me Jesus through the coming storm,
I’ve come to you in search of something I have lost
Shine down a light on me and show a path
I promise you I will return if you take me back…

Did he just say, “Jesus”? Okay, now I’m really interested…

I confess: I’m not above getting pretty excited whenever I hear someone flirting with the powerful intersection of art and faith. I get even more pumped when I hear someone drop Jesus’ name with some kind of sincerity.

So now I’m definitely hooked.

But then the chorus took me back a bit:

Let ’em get high, let ’em get stoned,
Everything will be alright if you let it go…

Hmmmmm….

So now I’m not so sure.

But the verse lyrics! Still so sincere, so out there (and again with the Jesus!)

My friends are so alone and it breaks my heart
My friends don’t understand we are all lost
Shine down a light on them and show a path
I promise you they will return if you take ’em back

And finally, verse 3:

Come with me Mary through these modern lines
Stick with me Jesus til the end of time
Shine down a light on me and let me know
And take me in your arms and never let me go…

Seriously; what am I supposed to do with this?

When the record came out, I listened, and quickly got taken in. The whole thing really paid off the taste that was “Shine,” with more heart, and vulnerability and a lyrical/musical references and touchpoints that I could easily recognize and resonate with.

But, again… what is up with this tune?

Well, though I believe in lyrical mystery, and I affirm the rights of artists to hold their cards close to their chests, something hit me hard on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks back, and so I’m going offer up my interpretation of this tune.

I had preached that morning on “Powerlessness“, and what it meant to surrender our desire to control our environment and our lives.

And then I remembered that a huge part of our lives and our environment is people.

Spouses. Family. Children. Co-Workers.

Friends.

Spouses, family members, children, co-workers, friends, etc. who might choose to “get high”, or who might choose to do any number of things that we really wish they wouldn’t do.

And we are powerless to stop them. (Human beings have this sticky way of eluding our efforts to control them.)

When we are confronted with this ultimate test of our desire to control, we really have to choose:

Am I willing to be powerless over the people who are (a) supremely important to me and yet (b) may make choices (in fact, they usually DO make choices) that at the very least I may disagree with, and at most may be harmful?

It sounds impossible but there is a way out, and here’s the deal:

It’s not simple, but it’s easy. 

We can choose to (a) love them, and (b) cling to our faith.

One of the most powerful ideas I cling to is that *God is infinitely more invested in my friends/family/co-workers/church than I am. *

God loves them more than I ever could.

And that means that I can surrender them. I can be powerless over them…

… And “let it go.”

 

As usual: thanks for reading. I’d love it if you help me grow this space, so please help me by:

  • subscribe to it
  • share/forward it to someone who might need it
  • ask them to subscribe too!
  • comment, dialogue, as questions

 

Peace and blessings…

+eric

Advertisements

“Give Us (Me) a King!”

The people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles. (1 Samuel Ch 8)

That’s a pretty key moment in the long narrative of the nation of Israel. Up until that moment, though they have been “ruled” by men and women called “Judges,” God—YHWH—has been their king.

But then they make a different choice. They look around, at the world around them, and ask the current judge, Samuel, to find them a king.

After all, everyone else has one.

Samuel tells God what they want, and God actually says to let them have one. He knows what this means…

He knows they are rejecting him as their king… 

When I think about this, it makes me pause: what kind of love and security does it take to accept a rejection from someone so dear?

(From my ongoing counseling, I know that these are some very, very healthy and strong boundaries.)

God can take the rejection (though it certainly hurts). What’s more, on top of the shock of knowing that God can allow His people to turn their back on Him, He is also capable of feeling that pain.

There’s a glimpse here, a hint of some deeper reality:

Maybe, rather than God being a distant far off deity who is eternal and unmovable and utterly unlike us…

Maybe, just maybe, God knows what it’s like to be rejected, AND He knows how to feel it. 

HE FEELS IT. 

This little passage of scripture also says something powerful and poignant about us—or, let’s be honest: about me—and that is simply this:

Kings are always the easy way out. 

Samuel tells the people what a monarchy is going to bring: among other things, standing armies (institutionalized violence) and taxes (economic disparity).

But the people say, “Bring it on.”

And so do I.

I recognize something of myself in Israel’s response, namely that it’s always easier to opt for systems and rules rather than the radical grace and love of God. 

It’s always easier for me to turn my back on God’s radical love and on the idea that everything is grace and instead embrace a subtle tit-for-tat existence with God:

… When I “behave” my life goes well; God makes good things happen.

… When I “sin” my life goes badly; God punishes me by “making me” lose my job, or my relationship, etc., etc.

Why do I do this? For the same reason Israel wants a king: because it’s always tempting to want to be like the world around me. 

The world works this way: when you do well, you’re rewarded; when you blow it, you’re punished.

But, just like in this story, God doesn’t work like the world does:

… When I “behave”, God loves me, but I’m not like a star pupil that gets to sit at the head of the heavenly class. God loves me because His essence is to love. He can’t help it.

… When I sin/stumble/fall/mis-behave/etc., God still loves me. He doesn’t punish me by withdrawing His love, or “making bad things happen” to me.

(This is not to say there aren’t human, real consequences to bad decisions: this is just to say you can’t attribute these things to some kind of heavenly system of justice and scales.)

By the way: this “being like other nations” comes out whenever we post something like, “Got a new car today #blessed.”

Because whether you got a new car today, or your car got re-possessed, you are still #blessed.

All of life is a blessing. We just don’t often see it.

Because that’s the way the world works.

And we want to be like all the other nations.

I woke up this morning to a #blessed reality.

My breath, right this very minute, is a blessing.

It’s all grace.

 

Maybe what you can do, right now, is to pause and acknowledge the ways that God is blessing you.

Your home or apartment? Blessing. 

Your friends? Blessing. 

Your job? Your school? … You got it: Blessing. 

Your life? This moment? 

Sure: the world might think you’re crazy to think this way. But guess what?

You don’t have to be like the world. 

 

Under the mercy,
+e

 

As always: thanks for commenting, sharing, etc.

 

The Spirit Gives THAT Too?

Hey everybody … Just FYI I’m thinking about changing the rhythm of my publishing, from Fridays to Wednesdays. I’m going to experiment with it for a couple weeks, but feel free to let me know if you have a preference or any thoughts. 

I was listening to my friend preach recently, and something struck me about one of the Bible texts he used.

In a message about going out to do something in the world to make a positive impact, he used 2 Timothy 1:7 to talk about our tendency towards fear. Paul wrote to a young leader, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives up power, love and self-discipline.”

The thing that stood out to me was the last phrase: “a spirit of self-discipline.” The more I thought about it, the more it struck me that in this one little sentence Saint Paul sums up virtually the entire purpose of spirituality (at least, when spirituality is lived out practically and thoughtfully).

First of all, I think it’s easy for us to understand the need for the Holy Spirit to give us power and love: that seems like a readily identifiable need for most of us. Besides that, Paul is contrasting the gift of the Spirit with timidity and fear. Most of this should be “old hat” for any of us pursuing the spiritual life: we want supernatural empowerment for courage, love and power.

But then Paul curiously adds that last statement. Why would we need a spirit of self-discipline?

Maybe I’ll write it this way: Why would need a spirit of SELF-discipline?

If the whole point of the Holy Spirit is to empower us from “outside” ourselves, then why does Paul turn it back on to us at the last moment and seemingly put things back in our lap?

Paul is hinting at something that is mostly passed over in discussions about faith, particularly in our modern western context (our ancestors in the faith had a lot of this figured out, fortunately), namely that our spiritual growth depends, in a much more substantial way than we realize, on us arranging our lives in such a way that we can “make room” for God’s Spirit to work in us.

Otherwise why would we need the Spirit to give us the gift of “self-discipline?”

We need the gift of self-discipline to put patterns and habits—like prayer, service, generosity, worship and confession, to mention just a few—into our lives. These patterns then “make room” for the Spirit to move (and, consequently, to give us the power, love and freedom from fear that we crave and need).

So two questions:

  1. In regards to your spiritual life, what’s your level of self-discipline? How diligently and consistently do you pursue habits of prayer and worship, service and generosity?
  2. Have you ever considered asking God for the gift—not just of love and power (or whatever else we tend to ask for: jobs, healing, relationships, provision, rescue, etc.)—but of structure and discipline?

 

Thanks for reading; as usual, please feel free to share and comment.

Paradox + 

A couple weeks ago in my faith community, I talked about how God is a god of “paradox”: there are so many things about YHWH, as He reveals Himself to Moses, that are apparently self-contradictory.

He is the creative Force behind the universe, and yet is also entirely willing to inhabit a humble piece of shrubbery in the backwoods of a place called Midian, far away from the centers of religious and spiritual power.

He has a specific name (“YHWH”), and yet that very name is a mystery. Indeed, one of the ongoing themes in the pages of the Bible is the tension between what we can know and see about this God, and what remains hidden and mysterious (you can read more about that here)

He is eternal and fierce—as one of my favorite theologians says, he is “ultimately free”— and yet He is intimately concerned about the suffering of humanity, so much so that he feels their suffering (and later, he even declares that he is capable of being hurt when His people abandon him).

I can go on and on, but I think we can see where this is all going: at the very least, God is not easily discerned or “nailed down.”

I would even go so far to say that the more comfortable we are with paradox, the more comfortable we will be in the life of faith.

However, as I was studying and preparing for the sermon, I stumbled across the idea of paradox in some additional ways that provoked my thinking, and I thought I would share a bit in this space.

In a TedTalk, psychologist Barry Schwartz started to examine something called the “paradox of choice.” Starting from the number of deodorant choices in a supermarket, Schwartz began to unpack the paradox of how, while psychology actually shows that choice actually causes us to feel anxious and even depressed, the culture in which many of us live (namely, the West) actually espouses freedom of choice as the highest ideal.

This is an odd thing: on the one hand, Christianity (at least as I see it and read it) is decidedly pro-human freedom and dignity. 

On the other hand—leaving dignity aside as a non-negotiable—Biblical freedom does not equal Western, 21st century freedom.

As I like to say it, Christian freedom is “freedom, but with rails”. 

As a 21st century, western Christian, I constantly bump against the boundary markers that YHWH (and even Jesus) established, whether I like them or not.

  • rails on how to spend my money (radical generosity)
  • rails on how to treat “the other” (radical hospitality)
  • rails on how to love God (with all my heart, soul, mind and strength)

And on and on and on.

Now, I’m not saying that God is a god of infinite rules. He’s not nit-picky, or waiting around a corner to catch me making a mistake.

That’s not the point…

I guess the potentially mind-blowing point is that God actually knows what’s good for me, not so much specifically, but in a broader sense. Maybe He knows that infinite choice actually produces a melancholy and a sadness in me; that the idea that I can choose everything and anything in my world actually might make me less happy as a human being.

Maybe God knows that human beings don’t do so well with infinite choice. 

And yet, we that’s exactly what our world seems to aspire to. It’s also what we sell to the rest of the world.

One of my favorite teachers/writers/spiritual pilgrims is Richard Rohr. On an episode of On Being With Krista Tippit called “Living in Deep Time”, he referenced how the pattern of the universe is one of “order, to disorder, to re-order.”

This resonated deeply with me, and I have seen it play itself out in my own life. Biblically, it is “life, death and resurrection.” Personally, it resembles the person who does all the right things, believes all the “right things”, goes to the right church, only to see it all collapse in the faith of a health crisis, an addiction, or the loss of a job. These are the moments of disorder, where many of our “false idols”—of success, eternal youth, security, etc.—are cast down. If we can stay faithful to the journey through the crisis (disorder), we begin to turn from those idols to the gift of a resurrected Jesus and a resurrected life.

But Rohr then went a step further, and he declared that anyone born after the late 60s (I was born in 1968, right on the demographic borderland) has never known order. Basically, he was saying that by the time “Generation X” was in full swing (not to mention the generations that followed) so many of our social structures had disintegrated and lost their influence that functionally most of us have never known anything like “order.” 

We’ve grown up in the middle of disorder, and the thing about the pattern of life is that you cannot really jump into the middle.

The pattern only really “works” (in the sense of producing transformed, enlightened, Christ-like people) when you follow it in sequence. It’s almost scarily simplistic: like learning a craft or an instrument:

Learn the basics, break the rules to chaotic results, then learn to assemble them in a new and masterful way. 

So it struck me how much the vision of “disorder” connected with the idea of “infinite choice”.

It’s the supermarket full of a whole row of a selection of toilet paper, and wondering what the basis is for making a choice… 

It’s picking up a guitar for the first time and being overwhelmed at how you’re supposed to move two hands simultaneously—and independently—in order to make some kind of noise…

It’s taking your first drive as a student driver on the 5 lanes of the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago…

It’s not the way we do life; we start off with structure, with rails, with Rohr’s “Order”. But in so many ways, our modern culture throws all of us into the lake of “Disorder”, and then celebrates it as the ideal.

We may know that “Order” is not the destination, but we acknowledge it as a stage to go through, because maybe, just maybe, it’s the way to cultivate an emotionally/psychologically/spiritually healthy life. 

(To state it in the negative, to just jump in to “Disorder” and to declare that “infinite choice” is my right and my destiny as a citizen of the west just may be a short cut to anxiety and depression.)

So we acknowledge “Order” for a while. We know that eventually we will be called out beyond it (because our culture surely has enough of people who have never moved beyond the rules-oriented, black and white world of “Order”), but we accept that maybe it’s not an awful thing if we “learn the rules” (Just how DO I pick just one brand of toilet paper?). 

Maybe “Freedom” is ultimately about moving holistically and healthily through the stages of life, and then turning around in self-extending, compassionate love to help others do the same thing.

 

Blessings.

+e

 

The Theology Left in the Sponge

IMG_5878.JPG

Now that my daughter is away at college, it’s just my wife, my son and myself in our house.

And, according to Shana, somebody in the house is really bad about rinsing out the kitchen sponge.

About once a month, Levi and I stare warily at each other, each wondering exactly who is responsible for leaving a damp sponge sitting in the bottom of the sink, rather than drying out on the counter.

(I’m pretty sure I know who I’m suspecting.) 

A sponge is a funny thing: on the surface, it may look dry and clean, but when you put pressure on it, well, you see what is really going on.

It’s only when you squeeze it that you see what’s really inside. 

Kind of like theology.

I think our practical theology—the things that we really believe about God—emerges when we get squeezed.  “Squeezing” happens in so many ways in life…

It happens when the unexpected and/or unthinkable happens; when the phone call from the doctor includes the words you’d never thought you’d hear.

It happens when the ground shifts, and we go from solid ground to shifting sand in an instant; when a relationship or job or career that we thought was solid and reliable evaporates. 

It happens when the pressure is on, when the stakes are high and we are acutely aware that people, maybe a lot of people, are relying on us. 

It can also happen when we our guards are down, and we react instinctively to a situation. 

We can get “squeezed” in big ways and small, in really heavy and not-so-heavy situations, and when we do we tend to display or maybe betray what we really believe about God and life.

For years, I have been processing the idea that we are “saved”, not only by Jesus death and resurrection, but also by his life. He came to show us what life really could be like (or, even more to the point, what life really IS, when we choose to embrace and live into that Kingdom of God reality).

But also, for years, when I would get squeezed, for one reason or another, I found my language constantly retreating to the theological waters I had swum in for years, but had vowed to leave behind, waters that focused solely on the Cross as the act that saves us, that neglected the richness and spiritual/theological reality of the incarnation as the beginning (and beginnings of stories are no less important than middles and ends) of the great saving act of God.

So my prayers might be reduced to things like, “God thank you for the Cross. Thank you for saving us through the death of Jesus…”

And on and on.

Sometimes, however, the squeezing was more intense, and my thoughts were much more personal. Some darkness would fall, and I would find myself thinking things like…

“What have I done to deserve this?”

“I should have prayed more.” 

“I think I’m being punished.” 

In my heart of hearts I “knew” that God was a god of infinite love and mercy, and that to introduce a sort of “tit-for-tat” mentality into my relationship with Him was to negate the radical grace that characterizes His essence. But still I was tempted to do it.

What about you? What thoughts do you think about God when you are squeezed? What statements do you ask? What prayers do you pray, what questions do you ask when you are squeezed?

If they align with your deepest thoughts and hopes and dreams about God, it just might mean that (like me) you have a little more work to do, a little more to discover about yourself as well as God.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, I’d encourage you to do a few simple things:

  • Reflect and review. Be aware of your words and your thoughts about God. Now, this may not always be possible while the pressure is on and you are in the midst of “the squeezing.” But eventually, when you can breathe again, take some time and evaluate what your words actually said about the spiritual life, and ask yourself if that’s the reality you truly seeking.
  • Explore. Again, life is pretty much a “classroom” for us to learn more about ourselves and God, and when the pressure is on, we get an opportunity to see what’s really going on inside of us. In turn, we then get to react by exploring more deeply and thoughtfully: Why did my thoughts go to this place? What do I need to learn or experience in order to make my bedrock/core beliefs about God more of a reality? Ask a mentor to help unpack or explore more about God. Read a book. Pray.
  • Be Grateful. In general, nobody likes to be squeezed. Life sometimes happens in such a way that feels like we are being robbed of something. But there are also countless opportunities for us to be grateful for the pressure, for the curveballs, for the bumps in the road. They give us opportunities to learn more about what is actually capable in this life with God.

One more thought: it’s important to note that beliefs about God are not merely abstract thoughts that have no outward expression. Somehow, our core ideas about God and the universe have a way of finding their way outward, and affecting the way we live our lives.

Believe in a punishing God and you will respond in fear.

Believe in a tit-for-tat, reciprocal equation to God and the universe and you will try desperately to keep the math equation “zeroed out”, so that nothing bad will happen to you.

But what if God is a god of infinite love, who will never abandon you? 

What if God is as close to you in your suffering—when you are being squeezed—as He is when you are in the safest, most loved environment you can imagine? 

What if God just gives, no matter what or where we are? 

 

Just some thoughts. Blessings.

+e

 

Two Things That Christ Desperately Wants You to Know, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

Last week I suggested that there were two things that Jesus wanted you to know, and that these two simple concepts have the potential to jumpstart, restart, or simpley START your spiritual journey.

The first thing that we need to understand about reality (and ultimately, any spirituality worth its salt is in the end about REALITY)  is that “salvation is a life,” and you obviously you can read the rest of that post if you’d like.

The second reality that Jesus would love for his followers to understand is that not only is salvation a life, but we are active participants in that life.

(Or, at least, we should  be.)

Yep… this is the part where Jesus tells most of us to get off our butts and start engaging in our lives in such a way that he can be present in it with us.

Because the life we have to live can only be lived by one person, and one person only…

YOU.

You can’t live someone else’s life. Christ comes to no other person in the same way he has come to you, and what that means is that Christ comes to YOUR job…

… YOUR family…

… YOUR school…

… YOUR financial situation…

This is significant because there’s an insidious tendancy in matters of faith to think that spiritual things happen to, well, spiritual people

(and almost all of the time the “spiritual people” = not me).

But the thing is that the life Jesus comes to save and dwell in is not anyone else’s life. It’s yours.

Not only do you not have to wait until you “get right” with Jesus to start experiencing salvation, you actually can only do what you can do right now, in this moment.

Good spirituality is only ever about how you can experience the Kingdom of God now, in this moment and in this circumsances, not in “someone else’s” life, who is supposedly “more spiritual” than you.

(To be clear: I’m not saying that there’s not more spiritually mature people in the world: I know there are, and I’ve been blessed to experience life with some of them. What I am saying, however, is that some of us use our “UN-spirituality” as an excuse to stay dormant and stuck, when actually God says that

RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE…

                                                    RIGHT HERE,

                              RIGHT NOW,

YOU

          ARE

                    BLESSED.

(And that, my friends, is called GRACE.) 

 

The actual question is, what are you gonna do about it? What will you do with this life that is given to you?

Jesus wants to live his life in your life.

IF you want that, if you want to experience Jesus life in the midst of your life, what you actually have to do is arrange this life of yours in patterns and rhythms and experiences that actually resemble Jesus’ patterns and rhythm and experiences.

(There’s an old cliché here that actually is appropriate: If you want to do the things that Jesus did—meaning his miracles and such—than you have to do the things that Jesus did… meaning his rhythms and patterns and habits of life.)

A lot of us don’t think that way.

We’re stuck. We’ve been trying this “faith thing” for a while now, but instead of Jesus’ life of love, peace, transcendance we still seem to have “Eric’s life” of jealousy, laziness and too many chips and salsa.

It feels mundane, and definitely not spiritual.

We pray for something, and we try harder, but if we haven’t actually arranged our lives to look more like Jesus’ this practically amounts to a Christian version of crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.

In just the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, we are told that Jesus hangs out in “lonely places” to be with God. He rises before dawn to pray.

That’s just a hint of what we’re getting at: Jesus is able to do the things he does and experience his Father the way he does in because he makes himself available to the Father.

(It’s not about Jesus “working” for his father’s love, and it’s not about that for us either. God gives His love freely; it’s about what to do with this life that we are living.)

To put it yet another way, salvation is a life, and we are invited to practice it in particular ways, ways that Jesus (and other spiritual masters throughout the years) are very familiar with.

Metaphors and examples from art and sports serve well here:

You can call yourself a “musician,” but if you don’t practice the necessary skills to make music, it will be largely hit-or-miss as to whether or not you can actually make a piece of music.

You can call yourself a Christian (and remember, God does love you, regardless; His love is not optional here), but if you don’t practice the skills necessary to do live the life that Jesus wants to live within your life, it will be largely hit or miss as to whether you’ll be able to respond with compassion, peace, and love when the time comes.

You can call yourself a decathlete, but if you don’t practice … 

(I think you get the point.)

The “training regimen”, or practices that Jesus engaged in are historically called “Spiritual Disciplines.”

“Discipline” has now taken on a largely negative connotation in our culture (being sent to the principal’s office for “discipline”, usually involving—in my day—a swat with a board), but it’s original meaning has much more to do with instruction or knowledge, and even now in some contexts it can still refer to the idea of training yourself to do something in a habitual way.

We want to habitually respond to life the way Jesus would. We want to make it a habit to allow him to reign and rule—to live—in our lives.

The group of training habits and practices (disciplines) are fairly well defined. They include:

  • prayer
  • solitude
  • silence
  • celebration
  • service
  • worship

There are more, but these are a foundational core. (Actually Dallas Willard would say that an even more essential core would be: prayer, solitude and silence. You can see these lived out constantly in portrait of Jesus’ life that we see in our four gospels.)

This is our training regimen.

This is our practice. 

This is the life that we are called to, in order to see the salvation life that God holds out for us.

These two thoughts—that salvation is a life, not an “after-life promise”, and that we are called to actively participate in this life through practice and training—consistently have taken people beyond their circumstances and more deeply into the Kingdom of God. If we let them have a tangible impact on our day-to-day lives, they actually bring about the Kingdom within and among us. Jesus saw it and lived it in his day, and he wants us to know that we can see it and live it in ours as well.

That is a wonderful, subversive, revolutionary invitation, and one that is still desperately needed for the world today.

 

blessings and peace… as usual, please comment, like and share…

under the mercy

+e

 

 

 

Two Things That Christ Desperately Wants You to Know, Part 1

I don’t know if that title qualifies as “click bait” or not, but whatever: that’s the title that came to me, and what’s more, I believe it.

On one hand, I think Jesus lived in an utterly different reality compared to most of us. I think he dwelled in what might be called “the sacred now.” He lived in a dynamic, living interplay with his Heavenly Father, and I think that reality and relationship was on of the defining characteristics of his life and his ministry.

On the other hand, one of the things that I have come to understand through the years of seeking the Kingdom and pursuing Christ is that Jesus came to show us that we can live in that same reality. 

It’s available to us. Now. 

(As opposed to later, when we die.)

Throughout the stories and reports of his life, Jesus makes these remarks about the potential of life here and now, on this earth: 

One of his favorite “pronouncements” is that the Kingdom of God—a way of life that is soaked through with divine, loving potential—is available and present now, in and among us (Matthew chapter 4, Mark chapter 1, Luke chapter 17).

In John’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly refers to a life that is characterized by a “stream of living water” (that is, water that is flowing and moving) that is, again, available to human beings in their present reality, not distant. 

So, what if Jesus was telling the truth? 

I know for myself, much of my life has been marked by anything but that type of reality. Most of the time I found myself either waiting for a “magical” transformation (that never seemed to happen), or a simple resignation that I could/would never change until I died and then I could go “be with Jesus in heaven”, at which point I would:

  • get a harp to play and a toga to wear
  • sing some sort of vague worship song while living on a cloud
  • finally” be changed

This reality seems pretty counter to what Jesus was saying. According to Jesus, “salvation” is actually a life: a God-bathed, Spirit-directed life.

“Salvation is a life.” This is one of two closely-related ideas that I think Jesus desperately wants his followers to know. Furthermore, I think that if we had a conversation with him right now, he would tell us that to the degree that we can make this (and next week’s) truth a present reality in our lives, we would find ourselves radically, revolutionarily changed.

In fact, I think that one of the important reasons we have these “Gospels” (“Good News” stories about who Jesus was and what he did and why he was our long-awaited Messiah) is that they show just what a “salvation life” actually looks like.

(Hint: it looks like Jesus’ life: helping other people; healing others; being radically compassionate to the hurting; experiencing a joyful dynamic intimacy with his Father; the ability to endure setbacks and suffering; and finally the willingness to offer the totality of his life and body as an instrument to be used for the sake of others.)

The Biblical, Jesus-exemplified salvation is a life, not a death.

It is potentially now, not then. 

It is potentially here, not there.

I don’t know how that strikes you, but I remembered that when I began to wake up and open up to that reality a couple of things happened inside me:

First, I realized how much I had “settled” for something less than the Kingdom of God here and now. My sights had lowered, and I had given up hope that change was possible. I had nearly completely resigned myself to the idea that I would limp and stumble through my earthly life, repeating the same old mistakes and sins I had always committed, experiencing relief only when I breathed my last, and could finally “lay my burden down.” (Don’t get me wrong: I will be happy to lay aside some of my burdens, but it was really about where and how I was settling in my current spiritual life.)

Second, I realized how desperately hungry I was for this life. If Jesus really was offering me a life that looked just like his, and he was offering me that now, rather than later, I wanted it. I needed it. I was beginning to leave a trail of destruction, both in my personal life as well as in the life of those who were closest and most important to me. I wanted and needed this change.

So I guess the questions this morning are:

  • What does “salvation” mean to you? Is it “here and now”, or is “there and later”? 
  • What is your life capable of becoming? Do you believe that Jesus thinks you are capable of living a life like his?

Next week: the other thing that Jesus wants you to know.

Under the mercy,

+e

I’m so grateful for each and everyone of you. As usual: please like, comment and share.