A couple of years ago, based on a recommendation, I read a gritty crime story, written and set in New York City of the 1970’s by Lawrence Block called The Sins of the Fathers. It is the first in a line of books about a depressed former detective, turned private investigator. There was a passage that struck me then and stayed with me all this time and seems especially fitting now, in our new COVID-19 reality.
“Take care. It seems to me that people have only been saying that phrase on parting for the past few years or so. All of the sudden everyone started saying it, as if the whole country abruptly recognized that ours is a world which demands caution.”
“Take care” – we all say it to friends and acquaintances alike. That phrase is now infused with new meaning today.
Taking care is our occupation right now. Our world is a world where caution is needed. Where patience is needed. Where faith is needed. Faith, in the Hebrew understanding, is not a conceptual idea (noun), but an act of trust (verb). IN the face of this world, where caution is needed, we can still trust in a God whose grace is sufficient.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Please know that even in these difficult times of health concerns and social distancing, that God is concerned for you and not distant. God is often found when all our distractions and illusions of control and power are stripped away. Similar to the biblical character Job on the ash heap, we find our true situation that it was always about a God who gives us life, loves us, and longs to be in relationship with us. So, the best way to “take care” in these trying times is to: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22)
Please take care by calling upon the God who is the creator, redeemer and sustainer of your life. Taking great care in our great God will help you find great and lasting peace.
I came across this video (below) while I was … well, you know … consuming content on my phone. It’s from an advertising company out of England, commenting on how to reach and engage potential consumers. This has become increasingly difficult for them since most of us (as they say) are “time poor and content rich.” So, in order to break through the noise, they say that an advertiser must be “relevant, evoke an emotion, be creative, and have a purpose.” Well, yeah, that goes for followers of Jesus too! So, how can Christians and the Church get the story of Jesus’ love, compassion, and mercy to cut through the everyday noise of our distracted society today? Watch this video and see my take below.
Jesus preached, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.” (Matt 7:1). This was as radical as it sounds today. They, like us, lived in a profoundly judgmental culture. Jesus is not saying that people are perfect, but is calling attention to our hypocrisy when we judge other, we conveniently forget our own sins. Living out non-judgmental lives will have a deep and lasting effect on those at the edges of the church. Taking a non-judgmental posture toward others is a beautiful expression of faith as we do not seek to control others and forget our failures. We, like the other, are not free from sin and in humbly acknowledging our moral failures; we grasp anew the nature of God’s forgiveness. So many people have walked away from the church because they have felt judged as inferior sinners by so called “Christians.” They are not. True followers of Christ don’t judge, but trust in the sacred gift of God’s mercy to forgive. We should all see ourselves as the grateful woman with the Pharisees house who washed Jesus’ feet with our tears and expensive oil (Lk 7:36-50).
2. Evoke Emotion
Jesus showed all the emotions that make us human: sadness, gladness, anger, pain. But the teachings and demonstrations of Jesus’ love are the most enduring. We are to love God and then our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:37-40). This will evoke a powerful response in a culture that seeks only self-preservation. Yet, even the religious legal experts knew this. So one wanted clarification on exactly “who” Jesus saw as his neighbor. Jesus responds with the story of the Good Samaritan, underscoring the idea that it wasn’t about neighbor as a noun, but being neighborly as a verb! Making the hated Samaritan the hero of the story deemphasized the “who” and made clear God’s intention on what we all are to “do.”
3. Be Creative
The two creation accounts of Genesis emphasize the goodness of creation. In the first creation account, God creates in seven days and at the end, blesses it, and pronounces that it is good. Did you know that in Exodus, God gives Moses seven detailed sets of instructions on how to build the tabernacle or the Meeting Tent? At the end, Moses blesses the tabernacle and pronounces that it is good. You see, the wandering Israelites now have a moving tent meeting where God can come and be present with God’s people. What a creative and powerful symbol of God’s presence in creation: God is looking for a body to embody! And just like God made creation, the Covenant people are told how to build a tent for God to inhabit. Their community meeting reflective of the cosmos! We as Christians, see a further progression of the story of God’s faithfulness and love with the coming of Jesus, God dwelling quite literally within one human. Creativity is at the heart of God’s unfolding revelation to humanity.
4. Have a Purpose
Jesus’ purpose was to usher in God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Jesus said repeatedly that the “Kingdom of God was at hand!” Then after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, the church was started. Clearly the Kingdom of God is not yet completely present with all the pain and suffering in the world, but we are here to reflect the light of Christ into all the corners of the world. This light was eloquently expressed by Paul as the Fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24) Why wait till you die to enjoy the wholeness of God’s Kingdom? The purpose of your life should not be deferred till after this life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) He’s talking about your life! Living abundantly is God’s desire for your life. What that looks like for you, only you can say. What enlivens you? What are you passionate about? The church must be about helping people to give expression to the God given talents and passions that we all have. That is when earth begins to look like heaven!
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)