Monday, September 21, 2015

The Woman Of Ill Repute

The Woman Of Ill Repute (Luke 7:36)
Simon, a devout Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner, only to have it crashed by a woman with a bad reputation.  She enters, throws herself to the feet of Jesus, sobbing uncontrollably, bathing His dirty feet with her tears, and drying them with her hair.  Then, while covering them with kisses, she anoints them with perfume.  

Incredulously, Jesus is not looking at the woman.  His attention is on the hidden thoughts of Simon, who is in far greater need of a doctor.  For the woman, as Jesus soon points out, was demonstrating profuse love, springing from a grateful heart emboldened by faith, by a certainty, that her many sins would be forgiven at the feet of Jesus.  
          And so Jesus, not taking His eyes off Simon, gently exposes Simon’s shallow love.  As love is the fruit of faith, Jesus reveals Simon’s Achilles heel -that he does not believe in the Mercy Of God.  Fearing an Unforgiving God, Simon is blinded to his own sinfulness; he can only see the sins of others.
Undeterred by blindness, Jesus releases Simon into the freedom of Truth -that only those who have been forgiven much can love much.

Later, Jesus sets another Simon free.  Again, with his Heart Piercing questions, he asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others? ...Do you love me? ...Do you love me?”  Simon Peter, looking into the Face of Love, did not just see the eyes of Jesus.  Like a rushing train disappearing into a tunnel, he was drawn into the Eternal Presence, the very Heart Of Mercy.  There, his cry was absorbed into Unity, as he professed, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you!”
Peter proclaimed with absolute certainty, with a redeemed faith, that He loved his Master more than the others, because he, who three times denied his Savior and Friend, had been forgiven most.
        Lost In His Wounds
Oh, my contrite Soul,
How is it I am free to bring my Sins to our Savior?
What grace Abounds!
What power the Cross!
Come, let us find Release!
         Let us Run into his Outstretched Arms.
                  Let us Fragrant him with our Tears and Kisses,
                         For my many Sins are Lost in His Wounds!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Take Up Your Oar And Follow Me

Take Up Your Oar And Follow Me

    Once upon a time, there was an old holy man, who lived in the high mountain country.  He poured out his life ministering to the native people.  He had become a legend among them.  He spent the long winters making treks to the valley below, securing medical supplies and gifts for the children.  Everything had to be carried up on his back.  In the spring, when the rivers melted, and with his precious supplies bound to his raft, he was buoyed up upon the dangerous waters, with the anticipation of the gifts he bore, and the Good News he had to share.
    The old man had become too frail to continue the grueling trips.  While he was awaiting the arrival of the young recruit to carry-on his life's work, he decided to make one last trip to say farewell to his beloved flock.  As soon as he set out, the rapids overwhelmed his raft, smashing his oar against a rock, and jamming his raft against the shore.  Undaunted, he tied-off his raft, and hiked back to his cabin.
    When he arrived, he found the young recruit waiting to report for duty.  The young man said, “I want to be like you, I want serve the Lord.”  “You may begin then, said the old man, by returning to the valley below, and bring back an oar, that I might finish my last trip.  I know you must be exhausted from your long week’s climb, so eat and sleep well tonight, and leave at first light.  Before you leave, it would do you well to read verse one of the second chapter of Sirach, to encourage your journey.”  The young man said, “I want to serve the Lord.  I shall return with your oar.”  But in his eagerness to be on his way, he forgot to read the Scripture.
    Going down the mountain proved every bit as difficult as the ascent.  He slipped and fell many times, and with each bruise and scrape, he said, “I want to serve the Lord!”  When he finally reached the city, he immediately purchased an oar, a week’s supply of food, and then set off with his face set to climb the mountain.  Dragging that oar made the journey harder and longer than he had planned.  With yet another day and a half to go, he found himself without food.  That night, he went to sleep hungry, telling himself, “I want to serve the Lord!”
    As morning broke, he was awakened by a ferocious roar.  He opened his eyes to an angry bear, rearing up on its hind legs.  The young man grabbed his oar, and began beating the bear with all his might, and with all the might of his guardian angel as well.  As the bear turned to flee, the final whack on its back broke the oar in half.
    The tears in the young man’s eyes told the old man everything he needed to know.  He held the young man in his arms.  “I am so proud of you, he said.  And it grieves me to tell you, that my life is at its end.  I have only a short time to say goodbye to my people.  I must ask you to go quickly and bring me another oar.”  The young man said, “I want to serve the Lord!”  He gathered up his supplies and set off down the mountain.
    Three weeks went by, and the young man returned with a jubilant smile.  He shouted, “See, I have brought you two oars, one extra, in case of bears!”  The old man hugged him in a long silence, kissed both cheeks, and said, “You are a faithful servant.”  Then, tucking both oars under his arm, he turned, and waded into the river to shove off his raft.  But the old man suddenly stood up straight, clenched his heart with both hands, and slumped to his knees.
    The young man jumped into the water and held the old man in his arms, as they watched the oars float away in the rapids.  The young man tried to smile as he cried softly to the old man, “It’s ok, I can get you some more oars.”  The old man looked up to the sky, then closed his eyes, and sighed with a half smile -the kind one would have as one lays his head into his pillow after a l hard day’s work.  Then he whispered, “I don’t need them now, I have these two angels instead.”
    The sun was setting when he buried the old man in the garden.  The young man sat down on the porch to ponder all that had happened.  The day’s last light shone upon the old man’s tattered bible.  It had a faded picture bookmarking the worn pages.  He opened to it, and held the picture toward the sun.  It was of the young old man, standing proudly on a brand new raft, leaning on an oar.
    The young man looked at the bible.  It was opened to the second chapter of Sirach, its pages coffee stained.  The first verse was underlined.  He read it aloud to himself, “My son, if you desire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an oar-deal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I Will Die For You

I Will Die For You

I had been reflecting on the strength of Peter’s faith, his love for our Lord, and our Lord’s immense love for Peter, when I found myself spontaneously praying, “Lord, I will die for You.”  Immediately, this question was planted in my mind: “Then why are you afraid to live for Me?”

I hadn’t intentionally formed that prayer, it just came out.  Maybe it was just a cliché bouncing around in my head, or maybe it was formed by the Holy Spirit, to nudge me into a deeper reality.  The end result was a sense of self exposure -of realizing I was saying the right words, but not yet living them out.  So I prayed with intention, “Lord, show me how I can live for You today.”  The prayer sounded good, but in the realm of my spirit, there was a sense of lacking.  As if God was replaying it for me, with video, and I could see I had my fingers in my ears, and my eyes were shut tight -as one unready to embrace the path that God was marking out.

I clearly possess the power to misrepresent the real me to myself.  I cannot say that I truly know myself.  Only God knows the depths of my heart, my fears, my lies, my inauthentic faces.  Oh, that He loves me more than I love myself, that He believes in me, that I may yet become the son He has created me to be.

I so relate to Peter, who had such great intentions, and made such grandiose promises to our Lord.  Like a child who outruns his own feet and falls, Peter’s love for Jesus spurred him to make promises for which, when life’s events unfolded, he lacked the inner character to keep.

          Lord, I know I have made promises to you that, left to myself, I cannot keep.  I want to be like the Post-Pentecost Peter.  Release in me the power of Your Holy Spirit.  I give you Permission -to open the doors of my heart to Your Light.  Reveal my Self-Deception.  I need your Grace to walk in Truth.  My hope is in your Love and Mercy.