John 13:1-17 CEB
Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.
Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”
“No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”
Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus responded, “Those who have bathed need only to have their feet washed, because they are completely clean. You disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” He knew who would betray him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”
After he washed the disciples’ feet, he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. 16 I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.
I have worked, volunteered, led, followed, counseled, directed and attended Summer Church Camp. I gave most of my young adult life to it. I have discovered there are a few reoccurring things that happens no matter what the camp. (Early Elementary through High School, over four different camping facilities, three states.)
Traditionally, in biblical times, when a guest would enter a house their feet would first be washed. The people wore sandals during the time, the roads were dusty, covered with dung and trash. Naturally their feet would become dirty. In comparison, if you wear shoes your feet would probably be considered clean. Because of how nasty the task of cleaning feet would be, usually it was the lowliest servant who was chosen to do it. It was no wonder Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet. To him, and I am assuming us, Jesus isn't below us, but above. We would rather waste 40K in expensive perfume to wash Jesus' feet than allow a Savior to wash ours.
Jesus, in an act of humility, is living out his own words, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." In all my years of camp, watching the kids humbled before a kiddie pool as their fellow youth wiped their feet, I learned what Jesus was doing. We are terrified of allowing Jesus to push us up because it puts the Christ below us. The foot washing becomes the first real move to the cross: Christ below us. Christ the servant. Christ who understands when we don't want to be real with others; we worry about exposing ourselves. A true leader takes the lowliest job by raising those around him or her. This is a type of humility many of us don't talk about: humility in accepting praise and focus. It is a humility we are not good at because, it either doesn't work and we look arrogant, or we push it away and become Peter. "Not me Jesus. I'm not worthy Jesus." Today, this Maundy Thursday, we are humbled by being raised up. Tomorrow is Good Friday, when death comes. For now, we must accept it at that. Christ will die for us. Christ below us. I am humbled.
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I Want it Now!
Genesis 15:1-6 CEB
Part of me feesl like God is Willy Wonka in this scripture and Abram, or Abraham, is Veruca Salt. It's because this whole piece of scripture becomes a test initiated by God. Either Abram would pass and he would be found to be a 'good egg,' or he would 'want it now' and be a 'bad egg.' In case you are a little fuzzy on my analogy, here is a fun video to remind you:
And egg is a great word to use in this text, because an egg, or an heir is what Abram ultimately wants. Yet something is lost in translation. What is happening in scripture is word gymnastics, of sorts, between "heir" and "seed". An heir is one person. A seed, on the other hand, holds the potential to be a group, a collection, a future.
Abram is less concerned, at the moment of this scripture, with the potential, or the seed. He uses it to up the ante with God, almost like the future generations were poker chips to be wagered. His main concern is getting an heir to inherit all that stuff he has accumulated over his life. (Not something to take lightly. Keeping things in the family was a big deal. So much so, there would later be a law where females were only allowed to marry within their tribe to make sure the 'stuff' remains familial.) Still, I can hear Veruca walking among the Geese that lay golden chocolate eggs singing, "I want an heir, I want a real heir."
God is less concerned with the heir and more concerned with the future. In fact, he bridges the "heir" to get to the "seed". God never compares this unborn heir to anything spectacular. He does compare the seed to something wonderful and beautiful: the stars in the sky. God just needs Abram to be patient and wait.
First of all, Abram passes, he is willing to wait and continues to hold the right to be the Father of a great nation. But secondly, there is a bit that stands out, a takeaway for us: In this case Abram's plan, and what Abram wanted, was too small for God's great plan. Small plans can be thrown together overnight. Great plans take time to prepare. God's plans takes time. That is part of the reason we always need to hear, "Don't be afraid." Our immediate needs seem to creep up on us and overshadow our greater needs. God wants to use us, but only if we are able to work on God's schedule and planning, not ours. I know it's difficult. It is difficult to me. Sometimes I think I could be found a "bad egg" and sent down to the trash. Then I realize this conversation was a second chance for Abram to understand. God and Abram had already had this conversation before, only in relation to the dust that surrounded him. It just tells me, God doesn't give up on us, even if we lose patience with God.
Below I have included the Peace Pilgrim's Prayer. I am sure everyone has something they have grown impatient with. Just remember, God's plan is bigger than your plan. "Peace. Be still, and know that I am God."
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Hello. It's Christmas! Summer is coming?
Luke 21:25-36 CEB
A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope doesn't kill you, nor did it make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems — you ceased hoping your problems somehow get solved, through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself — and you just began doing what's necessary to solve your problems yourself.
Derrick Jensen, in Endgame Volume I: The Problem of Civilization, p.332.
But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence. The least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.
Lord Byron, letter to Thomas Moore, 28 October 1815, in Byrons Letters and Journals (1975), Vol 4, ed. Leslie Marchand
What is hope? Hope passes when there is no longer a future for it to live in. Hope is like a weed because when one loses hope in one area of life it springs up somewhere else. We may want for food, shelter, companionship, but we may always have an abundance of hope.
Pastor Melissa Fain
Our spirituality is rooted in faith. Our faith is grounded in the knowledge we have gained through experience and our understanding of history. Therefore, the bible is the best source we have to learn and grow in Christian faith because it is a collection of accounts of spiritual experiences with God.
Love can spring up from our solid grounding in faith. Faith are the roots. Love is the tree. Love is what we can see; what we experience. Love lives in the now. The tree of love is a statement of our current relationship with the divine; with God. Symbolically, this tree is not an evergreen. The writer of Ecclesiastes has it right: there is a season for everything under heaven and earth. There is a season where the tree of love looks full and vibrant, and there is a season where the tree is bare. In both cases love is not gone nor absent. When the tree goes dormant it is because our actions have ceased to produce good fruit.
Hope is the future of love. Past acts of love become the faith in which we are rooted and grounded. It is actualized hope that becomes the love which brings outward life to that tree. We tend to hope the most when the tree of love looks the most bare. God gives us this gift of hope because hope are the directions, the map to having a fruitful tree of love.
Derrick Jenson and Lord Byron fail to see the purpose of hope. Hope lives in the future. You should not act out hope. As long as faith is rooted in the past, hope is mapped out in the future, and love is present in the now everything will be as it should. Yet people misplace their hope. Instead of acting in love they act in hope.
Five-Hundred million dollar lottery anyone? Buying one of those lottery tickets was not acting in love, it was acting in hope. Hope should not be an action word and using it as one is as fruitful as thinking you can win the lottery. Yeah, it is possible, but incredibly, extremely and very believably unlikely.
If you read the scripture up at the top of the page you will see that Jesus wants to talk about hope. Hold your heads up. There is something to hope for. Yeah, the tree looks dead, but life is within it. When you see the leaves start to grow on the fig tree you know summer is coming. In the same way there is a future, there is something to work towards and hope for. Yes, the future has anxiety and fear but among that fear and anxiety is hope. For us, during this Christmas season, that hope takes the form of a little baby who was born in a manger. Because this event already happened, we take it on faith. There was a time when people hoped for the coming of Jesus. Many were scared and fearful. Yet, God did not take the form of a judge to smite those who were not part of the fold. God took the form of a baby- innocent and helpless.
Today we hope God will come to us in that innocence. Today we can only hope we will be more like the shepherds, staring in awe, and less like Herod, killing all the new babies to keep power. We hope so we can live in the love of God and produce good fruit.
In My Soul
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.