settling down into one’s place

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:7

In Christ’s body on earth each member has a vital part. We in Christ after all are each and every one a part of the one body of whom Christ is the head. Although this is metaphorical, by the Spirit it’s every bit as real as the fact that we take by faith, that the human (who is also fully divine), the resurrected, ascended Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, the place of ultimate authority and power.

Because of all of this, we can be sure that in the way of Christ, but only in the way of Christ, God’s work will be done in this world, as each of us settles down into our own place, fulfilling the calling we have from God through Christ by the Spirit.

This is in terms of the one body in Christ both for its own edification and for its working as a blessing in the world. We each have our part. It may seem too simple, and we might wish we had another part. But it’s crucial even for our own good as well as for the good of all to simply find our part, our place, and settle into that. It will be every bit as touched by God through Christ by the Spirit as anyone else’s gift.

As we continue on in this time and place. In and through Jesus.

Jesus’s invitation to the weary, heavy burdened ones

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30; NRSVue

Jesus gave an invitation during his earthly ministry which written here is still open to us today. It’s made possible through the ascended Christ’s presence everywhere by the Spirit.

And if we’ll just accept it and seek to enter in and remain in that, this will make the needed difference. It’s offered in grace to us, and it’s up to us to avail ourselves of it. We’ll be enabled to follow in the way of Christ. And as Jesus tells us here, we’ll find rest for our souls, since unlike our crushing, heavy burdens, the yoke we take with him will be easy, the burden light. As we learn from the one who is gentle and humble in heart. In and through Jesus.

who do we identify with in the gospel narratives?

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons, and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark 1:29-34; NRSVue

I’m in a devotional time where we’re working through the gospel according to Mark. As we go into it, and consider this writing, I was thinking who I identify with. We’re to be followers of Christ, so one might think we ought to identify ourselves with him. And in a sense, that’s so true. Christ fully identified himself with us, so that we might fully identity ourselves in him, find our true identity in him. But none of us in this life gets everything right the way he did. We have to be far more humble knowing that we simply can’t have the same assurance he did. We not only won’t get everything right, but there probably is some measure of wrong or mistakenness in all we do, everything. That doesn’t mean that God isn’t in it as we depend on Christ and seek to be led by the Spirit.

This makes me think I identify more with Jesus’s disciples, bumbling and slow as they were. I have no problem connecting myself with that. I almost always am struggling over something or another. But I can also identify well with bystanders in the story so to speak, participants like the man whose son was suffering terribly from a demon which Jesus’s disciples couldn’t cast out. Jesus comes, and asks if the man believes he can do this. He says I believe, help my unbelief! Yes, I can identify with that. And with the disciples at what’s called “the Great Commission” at the end of Matthew’s gospel account, when they worshiped him, but as the NRSVue renders it, doubted as well (“they doubted” not just “some doubted”) which might be a better rendering from the Greek.

People in Mark’s gospel account are in a position of receiving from Jesus. And as followers of Jesus we’re meant to be those who can bless others, mostly through our prayers and simply being available to them, hopefully being led by the Spirit to help them in anyway we can, whatever God gives us. At the same time I often feel like I’m the one in need of Jesus’s touch, of his cure and healing.

We are part of the ongoing story. Jesus is ascended, we fast as the Bridegroom is gone, at least in our attitude, though Christ is very near us by the Spirit. But the Spirit was with Jesus’s followers when he was present. How can you beat that? Yet Jesus said it was better that he depart so that the Comforter could come, the Spirit in whom he would be present. So the story continues.

As we read and work through such gospel accounts, may God help us to find our footing, where we fit. And to go on, seeking to follow Jesus entirely in every way to the very end.

In and through Jesus.

what remains a core essential in my practice of the faith

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105; NRSVue

…rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

James 1:21-22; NRSVue

There is nothing more important to me than remaining in scripture throughout any day. What I’m referring to here is to take one verse, phrase, sentence, the next part and turn it over and over again in my head for a time. One ought to be reading through scripture as well. You can listen to scripture online. The intent must be not just to know something, but to be changed by scripture, by God’s word that comes out of that.

I consider scripture inspired by God to give us the word of God and ultimately to point us to the Word himself, Jesus. It’s not like God doesn’t speak to people in other ways. Without a doubt God does. But scripture, “holy writ” has always been central to the church over the centuries as well as to God’s people before.

The gospel and the church are of course central to the follower of Christ, and a whole host of other things are important as well. But we understand all of that only through being in scripture. Note though that the church universal by the Spirit is quite important in helping us understand what we’re reading, even the point of it all.

For me it’s a matter of keeping myself afloat in my faith with the realization that while I do continue meditating on scripture, only God can give what’s needed. And I need it all. Somehow every part of scripture has its place, and some quite prominent in all the ways needed. As we read here:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17; NRSVue

In and through Jesus.

what we are here for

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might
to all the generations to come.
Your power and your righteousness, O God,
reach the high heavens.

Psalm 71:17-19; NRSVue

St. Patrick’s Day and his story reminds us who we are in Christ and what we’re here for. We’re here to bear witness to Christ, as well as to live in and out of the faithfulness of Christ. Nothing more and nothing less. Much to do out of that, often seemingly mundane, but every part important in the whole. We bear witness by our lives, the difference being not us but Christ working and living in us by the Spirit. With much prayer and love, love and prayer always. In and through Jesus.

what is the peace that’s to rule in our hearts?

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.

Colossians 3:15; NRSVue

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Well, that’s what I’m thinking about, though the peace mentioned in the passage above would cover an entire range of things. Like getting along with each other probably much more.

We have to make decisions every day, and often we do much better when doing so in consultation with others. As church we need to think and act as church and not as individuals. That might seem extreme, and certainly does not pertain to what socks I choose to put on. And we don’t want anything like a cult in which you have someone or some group telling you just what you have to do. Never.

Rather this is something we choose to become and indeed become a part of in Christ by the Spirit. We in Christ are together in this. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to get it all right, or that there isn’t plenty of variation that can happen in the mix. But there will be a beautiful harmony which prevails if our hearts are intent to follow this rule: the peace of Christ himself.

prayer and then whatever else (all in love in Christ)

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2; NRSVue

There’s a critique out there which has a point, criticizing “thoughts and prayers.” But honestly for the follower of Christ in God’s love, that’s generally where all the good begins. Otherwise we’re prone to want to do everything on our own and actually we can do that. But the needed change in us and in the world can only come from God. And prayer is a prime vehicle of that change.

Prayer is communication to God, deeper: communion with God. Through God’s word coming to us from scripture and in answer to prayer, our lives will take on a life and light that they otherwise wouldn’t have, from Christ himself. And there’s nothing greater we can actually do then pray.

Of course all of this has to be in God’s love in Jesus and by the Spirit. Otherwise it will ultimately be empty (1 Corinthians 13). But that doesn’t mean that when we’re upset and angry or struggling with loving someone that we shouldn’t pray. There’s no time prayer isn’t important. Good times, bad times, and every time in between.

And the word above from Paul is addressed to the church. We’re in this together. The more we join together in prayers, the more powerful prayer can be. Potent in God’s love cutting through into our lives and through us into the lives of others. And simply for those in whatever need, while we open up ourselves to be the answer to our prayers in whatever way God might put on our hearts. In and through Jesus.

the nonsense of the end justifying the means

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12; NRSVue

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:31; NRSVue

The contexts are different for this essentially same saying of Jesus. In Luke as part of the Sermon on the Plain it’s in the context of difficult relationships or lack thereof. Whereas in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (two similar sermons) it’s almost a separate saying from what surrounds it (it seems to me that it is). And therefore we can say, connected to all of life.

We’re never going to be perfect in anything we do in this life. That’s an impossibility given a number of factors, although of course God’s work in and out from us itself is perfect, all pure love. But our intent must be perfect. And for that to be so, the end never justifies the means.

In the name of Christ, “Christians” have gone to war over the centuries, and so-called Christian causes, steeped in some form of Christendom are engaged in using a lot of un-Christ-like, essentially antichrist ways of supposedly achieving it. Of course what you accomplish won’t be good if the way you accomplished it was bad.

Jesus showed us the better way. We should pay no attention to that done in his name which doesn’t line up all the way with that way, with the Way himself, Jesus. It’s the way of the cross, of self-sacrificial love. Done in the Spirit; we can do it by the Spirit. In and through Christ, that is what is laid out before us, indeed given to us to live and walk in. Love for all in all we do. That certainly will involve confession of sin and repentance along the way as we inevitably fall short. But as individuals and the church, that is the only way in the Way, Jesus. Doing to others as we would have them do to us. Tough love a small minority of the time, yes, we all need that. But by and large, gentle. But always love, through and through. In and through Jesus.

the difference maker

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

So then, brothers and sisters, we are obligated, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we in fact suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:1-17; NRSVue

In and through Christ, God meets us right where we live. Of course, we’re to be active and alert and try to understand how we’re supposed to think, what we should do. Indeed dwelling within us to help us individually and together get through life in a way that is pleasing to God, even pleasing to ourselves and to each other in Christ (Romans 12:2), and ultimately for the good of all.

When we depend on our own spirit, our own thoughts, whatnot, then we’re going to find ourselves lost and burdened, definitely weighed down, because we’ll want to live up to God’s just standards of love in all things, something we’ll not do well enough, or have the discernment to know what really matters to God in the first place, what we should be concerned about or do in any given situation.

The Spirit is the difference maker for us. Otherwise, we’ll likely be in something like a religious mentality in which we’re trying to figure things out on our own. Yes, the Spirit helps us, and often through others in Christ, and at times even through those who make no profession of faith in Christ. The important thing for us to remember is that in this life we’re not left on our own. The Spirit is our needed difference maker, ever present, giving us the assurance that we’re indeed God’s children. And with that assurance giving us all that we need to navigate life. Yes, with our individual situations of course, often through each other, as well as through scripture, in answer to prayer, listening for that “still small voice,” and intent on doing and living in God’s will. In and through Jesus.

proceeding according to one’s gift

Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the wadi and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:38-40; NRSVue

The first big event after David was anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as king of Israel is the account of David slaying Goliath. Maybe it’s still a mainstay with many children Bible story books, but not sure how parents should approach that passage today. It seemed innocent enough when I was growing up, but I wonder if it shouldn’t be included in the passages for more mature audiences. Of course, how such stories are told can make a big difference, too.

The point I want to take from this account is the simple fact that David couldn’t proceed the way Saul wanted him to in taking on the giant. David was a shepherd who knew how to wield a slingshot with stones to protect the sheep from predators, having become quite adept at such. To fight the way the Israelite army did was outside of his parameter; he had never been trained for such. Later he would be very much accustomed to normal warfare, and in fact because of the bloodshed in doing so, would not be allowed to build the temple. Though he was allowed to make important preparations, the actual building of it would be left to his son.

The point here is that David did what he was accustomed to. And we need to take that home for ourselves. What might work for others, may not work well for us. That’s not to say that we can’t learn new and better ways of doing things. But our gift is as different in operation as we ourselves are. We should never think that we have to do it exactly like someone else does, whose gift we admire. No. We should be happy to proceed in our own gift, how we do it, and let that develop. Maybe in David’s case, and probably quite likely, what he learned in protecting the sheep was somehow utilized in his later practice of warfare which may have helped set him apart, and perhaps could have influenced the mighty men as they were called in David’s fighting entourage. We don’t know since Scripture doesn’t say.

The point though is that we should be happy to use whatever simple gift we have in the simple way we do it. God gives such gifts and God is in them. We don’t want to do it differently, since when we do, we’re no longer operating in that God-given gift, so that God is no longer in what we’re doing, at least not in the same way. Something to prayerfully think about and try to apply. In and through Jesus.