Sometimes I express myself better in song. I arranged this version of Phillip Bliss' words as a small prayer to all those who have lost recently.
Which version of the bible do you use? Are you a King James person? Do you use the New International Version? Perhaps you have a Living Bible, or the Message. The bible I received for my baptism was a Revised Standard Version. I would later use mostly the New Revised Standard Version. Today I read the newest translation, the Common English Bible.
Choosing your translation is an important endeavor. Depending on what you want you can find a translation that is easy to read, like the Message, or close to the original like the NIV, NRSV, or CEB. A translation also has a theological leaning. There is a reason why you cannot go to a Family Christian Bookstore and find a NRSV. There is also a reason why many top tier seminaries avoid study bibles that use the NIV. Any good translation uses multiple scholars looking at the original text and trying to decide the best English word to fit the Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic word.
I choose the CEB because the translators were trying to accomplish two tasks: use common English to translate and translate as close as possible to original. It is not for people who are traditionalists. You will not find the term 'swaddling clothes' in the CEB. You will also find another term has been translated differently: Son of Man.
When the Common English Bible first came out an email was sent explaining how Son of Man was now the Human One. At first it really bothered me. I grew up calling Jesus both the Son of God and the Son of Man. I didn't realize Son of Man, is a way to hide that Jesus was also the Human One. They really both mean the same thing.
Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. God didn't come just to be a symbolic act. God related personally with us by becoming one of us. I appreciate the CEB because they are not trying to hide the human side of Jesus Christ. Many ministers point to the table turning in the temple to show Jesus' humanity. For me, Jesus' humanity is best seen in relating to Martha's sister, Mary. Mary is heart broken that her brother has passed away and part of her sorrow is knowing Jesus could have helped. In that moment Jesus is humanity: he weeps.
Knowing Jesus Christ cries with me lets me know when things go wrong, when we lose someone close we are not alone. The divine knows and has lived our human form and cries with us.
Jesus is the Son of God, who made the heavens and earth and told the waves of the sea where to stop.
Jesus is the Human One, who weeps for the loses of the world whatever they may be.
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I leave you with this thought: Jesus called the Disciples and they stepped up and did their part. We are where we are today because of the work of those disciples. They did their part, now it is time to do our part.
Mark 10:13-16 (Common English Bible)
People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
My childhood is filled with trust walks, falls, and group building exercises meant to grow trust within the group. I remember quiet a few of those experiences would end in bruises, bumps, and small cuts when someone would accidently get dropped or walked into a pole. After concluding the activity some counselor director or minister would sit us down and talk about faith in God. I would silently question the connection because it gave the illusion that blind faith only led to a major headache. When I became the counselor, director and minister I learned trust exercises were really less about the connection and more about filling up empty space in between activities.
When it comes to actual blind leaps of faith our perceptions can keep us perched on the ledge. We only have a human understanding of relationships. Therefore, when we consider 'letting go and letting God' we sometimes remember moments we put our trust in a person and that person became distracted, forgetful, jealous, or something else and we just ended up with a big headache. We cannot understand when God wants us to take the leap there is perfect focus and support. If it is God's will there will always be something there to catch us when we leap.
I have a confession to make, when I was a child my faith was clearer. I would be like a leaf on the breeze and freely lept when I felt God's call to do so. My faith was only dependent on myself; today I have a husband and two kids. Leaping is now a group effort. It muddies up the water a little. In a way my faith has turned into a three-legged race. Faith becomes a cooperative effort. I have recently learned the trick to this three-legged race: don't forget where the finish line is. As adults we make our connections to people and things allowing ourselves to be pulled in other directions. We lose track of where we were initially heading. Keeping our childlike faith is keeping our focus on the goal. The only difference between healthy childlike faith, and adult faith is you are not leaping alone.
If this sounds scary or overwhelming... well, that is usually the feeling the called have before somehow they get the message, "Don't be afraid."
During the Lenten season, and important times in our lives, Christians choose to fast. Fasting, today, is the choice to give up something for a 40 day period. I can still remember the children's sermon back when I was only 9 or 10 years old. It was the Lenten season and the adult leader passed every kid a bag of chocolate coins. Then, to a bunch of children, the leader told us we couldn't touch the chocolate for 40 days. (Plus, the Sundays. Lent really excludes Sundays, but we were supposed to abstain for those days too.)
The only goal this really accomplished was making me want chocolate even more. I spent Lent staring longingly at the bag. I opened the bag and counted the coins. I touched them every night. I wanted those candies.
Christian fasting is symbolic of Jesus' 40 days in the desert. Jesus' 40 days in the desert is symbolic of the Israelite's 40 years in the wilderness. If we really want to understand the purpose of fasting we should look to the purpose of the Israelite time in the wilderness. The Israelites didn't spend 40 years in the desert with God hanging some sweet treat over their head. The Israelites were not living with less. Remember, they were slaves before they spent their time in the wilderness so they actually had more in the wilderness: freedom.
The purpose of the wilderness time was preparation. The Israelites couldn't handle the Promised Land. It was through 40 years of controlled freedom they gained the skills to be able to lead themselves. If we spend the time focusing on what we are without we are making idols out of our want. Instead, we should spend the time seeking out what we need. Fasting is a time to get the tools for the work God is calling us to. Fasting is a time to learn the skills for the job ahead. We go without because it gives us focus, not because it turns our focus away.