Thursday, June 19, 2014
I can still see him standing on the top step outside a dusty little church, the color of sand, on the edge of the desert. His name was Moses and his church, which he served as pastor, stood in a town in eastern Ethiopia.
Moses challenges me, makes me feel ashamed at times … and invites me into the deep waters of the grace of Jesus Christ. It has been nearly 15 years since my one meeting with him, but he haunts me.
He stood on the top step with his arms spread, his soul open, his words pouring out the hope of the wounded hearts of those inside the church who were singing and praising God louder and with greater joy than do most of us.
“Don’t forget us, he cried out, repeating the words several times as we walked to our jeep for our next visit. Don’t forget us.” Wounds and fear drip from those words, his face etched with bitter experiences of hatred and rejection.
Moses was the pastor of a little band of Christians in this town dominated by a group of Muslims and their oppressive clergy. Moses' congregation members were rejected, discriminated against, spit at, denied jobs or fired. Their shops were avoided in the markets. In a hundred small and oppressive ways, they were reminded they were outcasts, stupid and unacceptable because they believed in Jesus.
And every week, Moses would lead their songs and preach trying to lift wounded spirits let they lose themselves and forget they are each of immense value to God, each loved and treasured, each bearing a treasure--the Spirit of the living Jesus, a spirit of love and grace, beauty and joy.
He reminded them they were not what other people said they were. And he told to forgive as Christ forgives them, to seek peace, even when others refused the peace they offered, always offering praise and prayers to God.
Moses face showed the toil and strain of being faithful to Jesus in a difficult place.
His beseeching arms raise a challenging question: Have we ever given ourselves so much to Jesus and the mission of his kingdom that we have suffered for it? Have we ever surrendered to him so much that we are faithful despite the critical opinions or rejection of others?
Everyday we are challenged to ask ourselves: Where can I surrender to Jesus? How can I give myself to seek God’s kingdom, to reveal the God’s mercy and justice? How might I see every encounter with family, friends, even difficult co-workers as an opportunity to live Christ’s love?
As much as Moses challenges me, he also invites me into deep waters of grace and joy.
In his life, and in Jesus words I hear a deep and persistent voice: "Do not be afraid."
Do not be afraid when people call you names or think you strange because you love Jesus and seek to know and live out his mercy..
Do not be afraid to if they think you strange because you pray.
Do not be afraid to give generously to the poor, to your church and it’s mission of serving and witnessing to Jesus.
Have no fear … no fear of anything, not illness or even death, not financial hardship or the next stage of life whatever it is.
Have no fear for God knows every sparrow and finch and cardinal that settles on my backyard feeder to eat. They delight my eye and lift my heart. Each of them sings its song, cries out its call, telling me that my life, too, rests in the arms of God’s eternal love that treasures every sparrow … and me.
There is a connection between knowing this joy and giving ourselves to Jesus. The more we surrender our hearts and lives to him, the more we come to depend on his care … and the more we feel the love who holds us.
Moses knows. So do I.
Pr. David L. Miller
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! … Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
It is the soul that is to be preserved above all else, the depth of heart where we know (but so often forget) who we are.
We are souls, expressions of God, created that the Loving Mystery might live in flesh and blood, sharing the divine fullness and carrying out God’s divine purpose.
Our lives are words of Love, the Love who is God, each of us an individual word of the One who is Love.
We are not what others say of us. We are not their judgments nor even their praise. We are not what we think of ourselves, sometimes feeling good about what we have done, other times accusing ourselves for shortcomings and failures.
Nor are we are not our accomplishments, what we have earned or won, which is a common American and Western distortion of our identity, one that fuels an obsession for winning and being number one lest we feel diminished and less than others.
This reveals our anxiety that we are merely human, just like everyone else.
We are, but there is no merely about us.
For we each are the embodied breath of the Living One, words of the Loving One born into the time and space that we might know … the joyous wonder of the Love who speaks us--and live from depths of soul, knowing who we are.
You are not what others say. You are not even what you say about yourself. You are souls from the Soul of all life.
Remember who you are.
Pr. David L. Miller
Monday, June 16, 2014
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
It is not an easy thing to be ‘like’ Jesus, not when they called him a devil or the son of the devil for overriding ancient understandings and practices.
Only once can I remember being called a devil. It happened amid a fit of anger where I refused to be the verbal punching bag for someone who did not like an article I wrote.
I remember the hatred he spewed when I refused to listen to his rants. At that moment, I felt justified, and his anger didn’t wound my soul.
But too many other times anger and rejection does exactly that. It wounds souls, certainly mine.
Too many childhood wounds move me to avoid offending, to hold back when I have faithful insights that might correct or critique well-worn thoughts and unhelpful words an acts.
Needing to please is a common malady, and it is a spiritual struggle. It is the refusal to be oneself, refusal to offer the insights and wisdom of heart and mind, not in arrogance but as a gift to others who, surely, are free to accept or refuse.
Dissatisfaction and unrest stirs the heart when fear of differences or conflict binds us from being ourselves and expressing the truth we see and feel, bubbling in the reservoir of our souls.
Jesus invites us beyond this, beyond our fear, beyond our need to please and just go along with everyone else. He invites us to unbind our hearts and live from the depth of our soul where love and wisdom abide.
He invites us to be and know … the soul we are in his love.
Pr. David L. Miller