discipline and enjoyment

Work requires discipline. Discipline simply put is follow through by doing what needs to be done to fulfill one’s responsibilities or commitments.

We live in an age which is driven in large part by feelings. If we feel like doing something, we do it; if we don’t feel like it, we don’t. Of course that doesn’t work in the work a day world. You get up and go to work whether you feel like it, or want to, or not. Some of the most fulfilling things I do are in spite of how I feel at the time before, and sometimes even during doing it.

When we don’t have to do anything, we often gravitate to that which is okay and even good, up to a point. What entertains us, what we actually want to do. That’s not to say that we won’t want to do what is good for us to do, take for example in my case, Bible reading. I can thorougly enjoy reading the Bible, especially slowly and thoughtfully, and hopefully prayerfully. I find that things which are okay in themselves which I enjoy doing can actually crowd out the better things, such as Bible reading. Everything has its place, and we do well to enjoy everything we might say, in its place.

What is desired perhaps is to achieve some rhythm which somehow balances the  need to enjoy with the work required to enjoy it. The very best things in life require commitment on our part along with effort to do well, and in a sense finish the work. There is so much left undone, so much potential for good not realized simply due to lack of discipline. Behind lack of discipline may be lack of vision. But one’s discipline can help them find vision. So lacking vision is not a reason to lack discipline. We desire that which is good, therefore we make every effort to achieve or gain it.

Above all practically speaking, we do well to learn to plod along and keep at it, as opposed to a brilliant dash of light in which we achieve or receive something great and good. No, we keep plugging away with discipline, asking for the Lord’s help that we might learn where true, lasting enjoyment lies.

 

miracles and healings: signs of the presence and promise of the kingdom of God in Jesus

John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:12-14

The gospels are replete with Jesus’ miracles and healings, at least most of which even liberal scholars acknowledge as likely historical. Included in the gospel narratives are risings from the dead, by implication of Jesus’ words even done by his disciples in his name. We remember Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Of course Lazarus died again, later. The passage cited above is in the context of more miracles (click the link to see Matthew 14). And as we go on post-Pentecost, we find that miracles in Jesus by the Spirit continue in gifts given to the church.

What are we to make of these miracles? Certainly Jesus did them in significant part out of compassion, just as the text quoted above says. But parallel to that and just as significant: Jesus did them as the sign of God’s kingdom come in him, and that he was indeed the Messiah to come. And they were done not only as a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom come in him, but of the promise of God’s kingdom to come and fill the earth when he returns. At the heart of that promise is Jesus and in Jesus is always death and resurrection. So that the new world to come, this old world already touched by its presence in Jesus, is a world in which all things are made new as in new creation and resurrection in Jesus. Not in terms and values of the old world and age, which is why Jesus often told others not to tell about the miracles he had done. They wanted to make him the King on their terms.

And so we can look to God in and through Jesus to continue to do the miraculous today, and we should pray for such to happen, and even do such, in faith. Some are especially gifted with such a gift as we read in 1 Corinthians 12. But we do so as those living in the old order and age which is passing away, and we with it. But in Jesus destined to become brand new in the new order in King Jesus for us and for the world.

 

meekness, not a valued virtue in America or the world

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

Meekness is not easy to define, but it is essentially the commitment stamped in one’s character to trust in God so that under pressure, one refuses to take matters into one’s own hands. Instead one presses on to do the will of God in Jesus, which means taking the way of the cross.

A strength of meekness is both gentleness and humility. One is willing to give deference to others and is reluctant to act when it may contradict what another wants. And when one does act, they seek to do so with the utmost wisdom out of love.

Meekness is not a virtue that is admired by the world, including America. It has been denigrated and even villified, partly due to misunderstanding it, and also due to a value system that is not only different than that of God’s kingdom come in Jesus, but is in actual opposition to it. Power is strength in the world’s eyes, while weakness is strength in God’s eyes. Why? Because one is dependent on God in the way of the cross.

Meekness is misunderstood in that it is thought that one does not resist evil unless they use force against those who may be victimizing them. Instead the way of Jesus is the way of resisting evil with love, and the faith which trusts God for the outcome even in the face of evil. Wisdom may be to flee. For example no woman should put up with a physically abusive husband (or vice versa), and should not have to live or even remain married to such, if there is no change. And with that abandonment I think there are grounds for divorce and remarriage.

Meekness is not considered practical in the world, but actually may prove effective up to a point. But it can be completely practiced only in the context and reality of God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus. It is in Christ and in his body the church that the gospel is known and lived in and lived out in the world, a fruit of which is meekness.

And so we follow on in the way of the Crucified Resurrected Lord in the way of meekness with each other and in the world. Confident of the full victory of God in Jesus to come, a victory which will be marked by love in overcoming evil in terms of judgment and salvation.

out of sheer joy

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Matthew 13:44

Yes, yes, of course there’s sacrifice in living a life of following Jesus with other Jesus followers in this world. Nothing less than laying down one’s life for Jesus and the gospel and offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. But the value seen in this makes it more than worthwhile. The love one encounters is far beyond our comprehension, not to mention apprehension, that is what we can take in and experience of it. We are in the midst of change in and through Jesus, so that we can take in more and more of it, and share more and more of that love to others. And in this way of life, the grace and kingdom in King Jesus, is sheer joy.

the presentation of ourselves to God in and through Christ

I like the thought in today’s prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, the petition to God that Christ himself would present us to the Father “with pure and clean hearts.” Along with that is a text for today, which also speaks of our presentation to God in and through Christ:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:1-5

The NRSV uses the world “present,” instead of “offer,” and what is going on here includes both. We offer ourselves to God, it being sacrificial in nature. And it is indeed a presentation of ourselves to God. Certainly at its core, God does the work in and through Christ. There is nothing we can do at all. But in that work of God, we are active, not passive. We respond to God’s grace in Christ, and present ourselves, our bodies to him “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” itself being our “true and proper worship.” And as such, we are members in Christ of each other. We are in this together, each having our part to play to help each other fulfill the goal of our presentation to God through Christ: in love seeking to be holy, set apart to him as no less than a living sacrifice to his glory.

 

the light of life dispelling the darkness of death

Yesterday, Father Michael educated us a bit on Candlemas and encouraged us to be a witness of the Christ light which dispels the darkness of death, because of Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus shared fully in our humanity, while not diminished at all in his Deity, except that he fully lived on earth as a human, subject to the limitations which humanity brings, except that he did so as only God could and would, being God. Which meant that he never sinned, though tempted in all points as we are. And as I shared later at the nursing home, the fact that Jesus entered fully into our humanity, and in doing so, into our experience, means that he can help us in our experience in a unique way, as one who has fully gone through that himself. Here is the main text from which Father Michael preached (he uses the NRSV, which you can find on the link):

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:14-18

As Father Michael pointed out, since we share in Jesus’ resurrection, we need not fear death. We certainly don’t look forward to it. But we know it is the passageway into resurrection, into the existence of the eternal life in which all creation will share in the new creation already present and fully to come in and through Jesus. We are witnesses to this faith which gives us a never dying hope in nothing less than the promises of God.