Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Outed By Grace

An Inkling
It’s a skill we learn at a young age and carry forward into all of life’s endeavors:  hiding the truth about ourselves and our actions, lest we lose advantage or be condemned.  And so, for example, a toddler learns to sneak the forbidden treat, clumsily at first, to his parents’ great amusement, and then with ever greater cleverness, to his parents’ great distress.  But then the parents ply the skill too, and often without any self-awareness, so woven is it into words and ways of humanity.
It’s a skill that will be totally obsolete in the Kingdom, where all will be in the light.  So said Jesus:  Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.  
Being hauled into the light and broadcast from the housetops is a horror in this world.  And so Ashley Madison clients are horrified by the hackers who outed their affairs, and Planned Parenthood officials are horrified by the hidden cameras that exposed their vile calculations. 
It’s funny how political loyalties can shape our perceptions.  Remember Mitt Romney’s 47% speech, caught on a hidden camera?  The cheering that arose for that outing came from a different segment of the population than last week’s revelations.  That’s part of the horror.  In this world being hauled into the light is typically random and often hostile. 
Not so in the Kingdom, where the One who brings ALL to light is the same One who already knows us as we are, and yet remained ready to lay down his life for us, so that we might live in his grace.  And though the Kingdom has not yet fully come, we who live now for Jesus can already begin to live in his light.  God is gracing us to live with him in a transparency that also brings freedom.  May our lives so illumined point to him.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stating the (Not So) Obvious

An Inkling
It’s funny how the truth you’ve taken for granted can jump out at you in a new season.
Just a few days after the Supreme Court took it upon themselves to try and reinvent God’s gift of marriage, I presided at Brett and Gordon’s wedding.  While parts of the wedding service are personalized for the particular couple, many of its words are the same for every couple, and I’ve spoken them so often now that I don’t really hear them.  But with the Court’s ruling still echoing, I really heard them at this wedding. 
Here are the words I spoke on the nature of marriage, taken from centuries old liturgies:
We have gathered today in the presence of God to give thanks for the gift of mar­riage, to witness the joining together of Gordon and Brett as husband and wife, and to ask God’s bles­sing upon them.  God created us male and fe­male, and gave us mar­riage for the full expression of our love.  He gave us marriage for the well­‑being of society, for the order­ing of family life, and for the birth and nur­turing of chil­dren.  Indeed, in a mysterious way the love of mar­riage even reflects the love Christ has for his bride, the church. 
For years that seemed to be stating the obvious.  Not so now.  And I got a second reminder of that this past Friday, when Sarah and I attended a wedding for Peter and Kerestin at the Christian Arabic Church.  The day before they asked me to have a part in the ceremony, and in particular to expound a bit on the nature of marriage.  They realized that marriage with Christian commitment is counter-cultural in some new ways now, and they wanted a native of this land to speak to that.  What a privilege.
Because God’s truth is always of one cloth with his grace, to be reminded of his truth is always a gracious gift.  And now may he grace us to speak and live the (not so) obvious truth about marriage.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Good Life

An Inkling
What is the good life?  We have a vision for it, examined or not, and we’re in pursuit of that vision, conscious or not.  And a cacophony of voices would describe the good life for us – some helpful, some confusing, and some downright devious.  Thus we can be particularly grateful that the One who made us has described the good life himself. 
By good life he means how life works in his Kingdom.  This life is broadly described through the full sweep of scripture, but he offers a particularly pointed description in the “beatitudes” – the traditional name for the “blessed are” statements Jesus offered in his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-12. 
Many of us are quite familiar with these beatitudes, but I invite you to ponder them anew – regularly.  Given the very different visions of the good life that come at us from every side, we do well to have our eyes repeatedly directed to the Lord’s description.
It’s not a “to do” list, nor is it a growth chart.  It’s Jesus’ own description of the good life he led, and would have us lead – not an easy life, but a good life, a God blessed life – one worth pursuing.  And though we pursue this good life, in the truest sense it comes to us as a gift from the One who pioneered it.
And here’s what he said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Most often I sign off these Inklings with “Blessings,” which I’ve offered rather vaguely as a God-aware “best wishes.”  But with the beatitudes in mind, may I offer “Blessings” as a specific wish for you to know the good life Jesus came to bring.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Good News Perspective

An Inkling
It’s always been a challenge to discern the importance and enduring impact of current events.  For example, in the year 30 the news was about Vinicius and Longinus vying for power in Rome, and the death of Shammai, president of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.  Only a few thought the death and reported resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth mattered very much.  But we know where that went…
How can we discern what’s important and lasting?  The challenge has only increased in our day.  Every bit of news is amplified by media hoping to win an audience for their 24/7 coverage. 
Here are this week’s news makers:  Iran nuke talks, Greece’s financial perils, ISIS threats, a South Carolina flag vote, shifting commitments and options after the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, Donald Trump’s latest pronouncement, challengers to Hillary, and the American women’s victory in the World Cup.  (And that’s leaving off such “news” as which celebrity is mad at another, the latest Apple rumor, etc.)
What happens with and around us matters.  And if we’re going to be effective serving the Lord, we have to give the news some attention.  But the 24/7 media can’t define for us what’s most important.  Scripture serves that purpose.  We also get some perspective by checking out the big picture of history – e.g., the attached video reframes what’s important and lasting.
We each have our ideas about what’s important and lasting.  But finally such judgments will be made by the One who died and rose in the year 30, and who is coming again in the year only the Father knows.  As we look in trust to him, we can make our way through the amped up urgencies of our day.  And that’s what makes him not just news, but the best of all Good News!