Five Years On

As I look back on the five years since we lost Dad, I am moved this morning by the reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

Dad taught us that we are not in control. Ours should be a life of quiet service to others, not one of power or prestige.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;

In the last few months of his life, Dad came to know what persecution really meant. Still, he was a man of prayer and confidence, never despairing, never losing hope. Though he knew the ending of the story, he filled its pages well, living intentionally, knowing that each day mattered.

…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

He knew he became what he received, so he received the Body and Blood of Christ often. He let Jesus live in him and through him and with him.

For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

The ups and downs of life are a shared effort between us and Christ, so long as we remember that we are rooted in Him. If we connect our sufferings to Christ, so too will we share in Jesus’ resurrection.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.

The relationship is changed, not ended.

Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.

Dad professed his faith proudly, knowing that care for his wife and family – bringing others to Christ through himself – was his ticket home to God.

Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Thank you, Dad, for who you were and what you continue to be in our lives. We miss you every day and give thanks again and again for all you taught us about life, love, and peace.

Signs

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear some of the scribes and Pharisees demand of Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”

Wouldn’t that be nice?

As violence begets more violence and the world seems to go indiscriminately mad around us, wouldn’t it be great to get a sign from God that everything was going to be okay and that if we really try, we can achieve peace?

And yet those signs are here. In the children who resolve differences without fists, in the parents who love their children without hitting them, in the neighbors who learn to get along, in the countries that settle disputes without declaring war. We ask for signs from God while we ignore the presence of God around us. Like the man waiting to be rescued from the flood, we miss the radio announcement, the boat, and the helicopter….you know the story.

Once upon a time, when Gandhi sought to enter a church, he was told he was not welcomed. “I’d be a Christian,” he was reported to have said, “If only the Christians acted like Christians.”

Perhaps this week we can find the signs of God around us. Perhaps this week we could look for opportunities to spread peace instead of violence, joy instead of fear, love instead of anger.

Because I am willing to bet, if you look around, God is here.

Waiting to be recognized.

The Ditch

I’ve been thinking all weekend about Sunday’s Gospel reading. It is one of my favorite parables and I used to love when it would come up in class when I was teaching. But as I reflect on the events of the last year or so, the parable has taken on new meaning for me as I wonder how that scenario would play out in today’s world.

Someone would probably have video taped the attack on the man as he traveled down the dangerous road and then they would have posted it online. Every talk show would be checking in with experts to discuss why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the man in the ditch and how much culpability they shared in the man’s plight. The Samaritan would be hailed as a hero and his story would be made into a movie.

But others would ask: “Why couldn’t the man just get up on his own?” “Why do the priest and Levite get a pass?” “Why does the Samaritan get honored for doing what he ought to do?”

They would ask those question because they have never been in a ditch.

The reality is the man couldn’t get up. I imagine it might have been because of the beating he experienced at the hands of the robbers. But most people know it isn’t always a physical reason that lands you in a ditch. Once in a great while you experience something so powerful and painful that you simply cannot help yourself. Call it depression. Call it addiction. Call it a crisis. Call it whatever you want. It’s an abyss, a darkness, and it can envelop you.

How we respond to those in the ditch says an awful lot about where we are in our own journey. It says a lot about who we are as children of God.

The truth is we are always on a journey. We are, by our nature, unfinished. By the grace of God, we are always longing for more. We must be patient. With ourselves. With each other. We must, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “trust in the slow work of God.”

But being unfinished is not an excuse to ignore the need around us. Longing for more does not give us permission to pass by on the other side of the road.

Who around you sits in darkness this week? Who around needs a hand? Who among you lies helpless in a ditch?

And what do you plan to do about it?

 

 

Artwork: “The Good Samaritan” by Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1907.