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08.21.16 Hebrews 13:1-8 Buddy Breathing Sermon Summary

The reason you can’t hold your breath is because God is always at work in your life.

Summary Points

  • A depiction of how God’s Spirit saves us
  • How Paul applied faith to real life
  • More examples of how we can apply faith to our real life
  • Another image to guide us
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

The word translated “spirit” in the Bible is the same word for “breath.” It’s instructive that God’s breath/Spirit, which gives life to the first human, and makes the Bible’s witness authoritative, continues to flow through our lives to direct us in how to grow into Christ.

One of my favorite depictions of this reality is from the movie Signs. In this scene, biological father and reverend father Graham Hess leads his son Morgan through an asthmatic episode without medication. He invites Morgan to breathe along with him, to not fear, to believe that the air is coming, and that this trial will pass. Eventually the father’s coaching saves the son.

God really is present throughout our lives, and not only interested but involved in every aspect of them. We can trivialize God’s presence by praying for our football team to win or for a favorable parking space. But the fact remains that God is present, like air, whenever we turn our attention to him.

Philemon is the shortest book in the New Testament. It doesn’t even have chapters. It’s written by Paul to a church leader and a slave owner. Paul is sending Onesimus, a runaway slave, back to Philemon. He sends the accompanying letter asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as an equal, as a brother, as a free man.

It’s a fascinating book because it is a concrete application of one of Paul’s principles: In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, man and woman, slave or free. (Galatians 3:28) It’s an example of Paul working out his faith in real life.

In other of Paul’s letters, he teaches principles, and then applies them. These applications must always be read in their context, and then interpreted in ours. The applications can’t be lifted out of their context and dropped on to ours. That’s an abuse of scripture and of our context, and a denial of the Spirit’s leading today. But the practice of applying the truth of God’s Word to our lives remains.

The process is: We hear the principles; we see an example of how they were applied; then we ty to find applications in our day.

Hebrews 13 is a good example. It’s not written by Paul, but shares the same pattern. It begins with teaching and ends with applications. How might we find applications today?

The preacher (Hebrews, scholars tell us, may have been a sermon preserved as a “letter”) begins by urging us to “practice mutual love, but to include strangers also.” The church is to welcome and encourage one another, but also eagerly welcome visitors. God’s Word (through “angels,” that is, messengers) comes to the church through such strangers!

Hebrews says we are to remember “prisoners” as if we ourselves were prisoners, and those who are being tortured as if it were we ourselves. Hebrews is not referring primarily to common criminals, but more likely to political and religious prisoners. This “as if” is an application of Jesus’ summary of all religion to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We’re invited to think of someone in our life—a neighbor, a fellow worker, someone we meet—How would we want to be treated if we were in their shoes? This one question is enough to lead our Christian life!

Hebrews’ statement on marriage, that it be held in honor by all, urges upon us the importance of promises. It directs us to keep our own promises and to help others keep their promises. As an example take the promises of childhood baptism. By their promises, the congregation takes on the role of parents. Baptism calls us to keep our promises, and to help parents keep their promises. The great symbol of this “covenant keeping” throughout scripture is marriage.

We’re urged to “keep ourselves free from love of money,” and to “be content.” We’re reminded of Jesus teaching that we “can’t serve two masters”: One we love, the other we hate. Perhaps this is the principle behind Paul’s letter to Philemon? Philemon needs to be free from an economic system that makes him believe he requires slaves. Onesimus needs to be free from his earthly master to serve a heavenly one. The questions for us are: How are we trying to serve two masters? And, How are we in the role of a master to someone else?

The final injunction from this passage in Hebrews is to remember our church leaders. Obviously to be a leader is to have followers. In the church, everyone, including leaders, is a follower of Christ. Paul tells us that Christ is the head of his Body the church. Together, leaders and followers grow into Christ. We’re always following, and always growing, because, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Church leaders have additional pressure on them because they are leading others in following Christ. How often do we pray for our leaders?

We grow together as the church, but we also grow as individuals. And to do this, we have to be guided by the Spirit. To “conspire” usually makes us think of secretly collaborating with others in some usually illegal activity. But literally conspire means “to breathe with.” Like Graham Hess saving his son Morgan, the Bible calls us to conspire with God, to breathe with the Spirit, and in doing so to live into and bring about the Kingdom of God.

In scuba diving, if there is an emergency failure of air for a diver, a fellow diver shares air as a “buddy.” They engage in “buddy breathing,” passing the air from the good tank back and forth so that both divers can return to the surface. This is an image we can remember to live into God’s Kingdom. We are to breathe with God’s Spirit, to conspire with God, to turn our attention to God’s presence and leading at any moment in the day.

Imagine the effect upon your life and upon those around you if you would conspire with God in this way?!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Some people avoid interpreting the Bible for their own lives, preferring to simply lift biblical statements out of their context and dropping them into our own. How do you respond to the invitation to the harder work of interpretation? What are some examples of how you have interpreted the Bible for your own situation?
  • When have you been surprised by the Word of God coming to you through an “angelic” stranger?
  • How do you help others keep their promises? How are you doing at keeping your own?
  • In what ways are you trying to serve two masters? Or how are you limiting the freedom of someone else to serve God?
  • How often do you pray for your pastor and the other leaders in your church? Do you just assume they are “covered” by their professional association with God? How do you pray for other leaders whom you follow?

 

08.14.16 Look Up and Head Down Philippians 2:1-11 Sermon Summary

Christians look up to Jesus, but many ever see him. The reason is, if you want to see Jesus, you have to head down.

Summary Points

  • Why we look up to Jesus
  • A clue from Jesus’ baptism as to where to look for him
  • Where a living parable of Jesus teaches us to find him
  • An interpretation that differs from the traditional one

From its earliest days the church has looked up to Jesus. He was “risen from the dead,” “confessed as Lord,” and later ascended out of sight. The angel told the disciples to look for Jesus to return in the same way he had departed. The church took this to mean, “look up!”

In actuality we’re not meant so much to look up for Jesus’ return, as to look forward to the future, and inward to the Kingdom Jesus said was within and among us. This means we can also look for Jesus’ presence today.

Jesus’ baptism reveals where we should begin looking. When Jesus came to the river Jordan for John’s baptism of repentance, John hesitated. “You should be the one baptizing me!” he said. But Jesus was undeterred: “We need to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” By this, Jesus showed his solidarity with sinners. Immediately his resolve was tested in the wilderness, but he held firm. Jesus chose to be with and remain with sinners. This is where we start.

There is perhaps one scene that encapsulates Jesus’ entire life and ministry better than any other. It is described for us in John 13. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, then explains what it means. Jesus often taught in parables. John 13 is an example of a living parable. The disciples experienced it first, then received the words. There is an important lesson here. It is that words alone are not enough to really know God. One has to experience God. This is why the Word had to become flesh.

In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus “took the form of a slave.” Unlike slaves, however, he served his disciples out of love instead of duty. Then he commanded his disciples to do likewise.

Who are the people with “dirty feet” today? They are the ones who remain in the margins of society, alienated, alone, and lonely. They are also the ones who don’t have social power, influence, or representation—maybe because they are poor or undocumented or unable to speak the language. They are the ones society uses as scapegoats—a reality eventually revealed by history, but which can be revealed sooner to the eyes of faith.

The people with “dirty feet” to whom Jesus commands his disciples are any people in some sort of need whom we can help. And Jesus commands us to wash their feet because that is what he would do if he were here.

But the miracle is this. Jesus IS here—right alongside us, and even in front of us—when we wash the feet of these people. In a “words only” version of this parable, Jesus taught, “Whatever you do to the least of these my children, you do unto me.”

It is right for us to look up. Jesus is the exalted Lord whose death was vindicated and who will return in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. But in the meantime we are to head down to the place Jesus promised to meet us, to wash the feet of those in need.

We look up to you, exalted Christ, with faith trusting in your promise to return, with hope in the ultimate triumph of your kingdom, and with love for our neighbors. And so with our sights set higher than this world, we head down to serve the world, even as you demonstrated throughout your life, and in obedience to your example and command in John 13. Reveal yourself to us in these our acts of service, even as you revealed yourself to the world in yours. For it is in your name that we pray. Amen.

ADDENDUM

I’m including the Eucharistic prayer for this week because it incorporates a different interpretation of the Philippians passage, one that is new to me but debated among scholars. It teaches that the “Carmen Christi” is based on an ancient form of praise speech, called an “encomium,” and that it contrasts Jesus with Adam. This interpretation differs from the traditional understanding which teaches that it contrasts Jesus’ heavenly pre-existence with his earthly and post-resurrection existence.

We thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gift of life which we receive from your hand. You fashioned us from the dust of the earth, and breathed into us your Spirit, animating us for worship, calling us to care for your creation and for one another. Made in your image, we regarded equality with you as something to be exploited, and with Adam we grasped for divinity of our own making, only to realize the limits of our humanity with suffering and death. Refusing to abandon us, you came to us in Jesus Christ, a man who shared both our fallen humanity and your godly nature. Unlike Adam and us, he did not grasp for divinity, but lived faithfully as a human, following your Spirit into baptism, temptation, teaching, serving, and even unto death. Seeing his faithfulness, you vindicated his unjust death by resurrecting him from the dead, and exalting him above every name, so that we may worship you with him again without fear, and so that we may aspire to live as you created us, and as you call us anew in Christ. Send your Spirit to feed us in Christ’s body and blood, through this bread and cup, that we might be formed once again by your hand, and live as those who faithfully await your kingdom. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Prayer For Orlando, 06.19.16

Oh Lord, heaviest upon our collective hearts this week are the consequences of our culture’s tolerance of bigotry, rage, and violence. We of course offer our prayers, so often with groans that our words cannot express, trusting that your Spirit intercedes according to your will for us. We pray as we did a year ago after the mass shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church, motivated by hatred of people of color. And now a year later, we pray after the mass shooting in Orlando, motivated by hatred of people who pursue love according to their nature. We are shocked that our own Vic and Karen wells so narrowly escaped gun violence as they left this worship service last week. Our culture allows such violence by glorifying incivility, by fomenting fear of those who are different, by facilitating the acquisition of weapons of mass murder. Forgive us, we pray, for our neglect of our duty to protect the lives of all your children. Forgive us, we pray, for failing to be the peacemakers who are blessed according to Jesus’ preaching. Forgive us for only praying and not acting against the forces of evil that rob us of joy, tranquility, and love. Guide us by your Spirit into the way of peace and justice revealed by Christ.

06.12.16 Love Yourself—God Does Romans 12:3-5, 9-18 Sermon Summary

Fulfilling the “greatest commandment” is, at root, a matter of letting God’s love flow through us.

  • Why God doesn’t love some more than others
  • 9 observations on Christian love
  • How Paul is really just writing about God’s love

According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Can we love others if we don’t love ourselves? Paul’s letter to the Romans teaches us how God’s love transforms us so that we can fulfill the greatest commandment.

I’m sure that God loved Paul as a teacher, but he didn’t love Paul more than anyone else in the Roman church. This is why Paul writes that “by the grace given to me, as a teacher, everyone else should think with sober judgment about themselves, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” God loves Paul, and you, but not more than anyone else.

But aren’t we all different? Clearly we contribute in unique ways. Wouldn’t this demand different levels of love? Paul recognizes a variety of functions, but he asserts that none is more important than another. This is what it means that we are one in Christ. He says there is no place for pride, haughtiness, or lofty, exclusionary thoughts of oneself in the one Body of Christ comprised of many diverse members.

Instead, what ought to characterize a diverse Christian fellowship, is love. Here are some thoughts on what Christian love looks like.

  1. We are capable of it. Paul writes that love should be genuine, by which we means we “reject (‘hate’) what is evil and hold fast to what is good.” Love is the choice of good over evil, and ironically our capacity to do this goes all the way back to Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Instead of bad thing, this disobedience led to our ability to love. What the rest of the Bible teaches, is that we need God’s Spirit in Christ to be able to choose good over evil, to be able to love.
  2. Christian love is to show honor. Paul urges us to outdo one another in showing honor, to be zealous and ardent in our practice of love. When we show honor to others, we are in fact serving the Lord, Paul says. Because the reason we love others is because we see Christ in them.
  3. But what about when love is hard? Christian faith teaches that love is our destiny. God created in love, redeems us in love, and will restore us in love. Christian faith believes this is true, and so it is the basis of our hope. So Paul invites us to “rejoice in hope” (not in present pleasantness), to “be patient in suffering” (our present situation), and to “persevere in prayer” (when there is nothing else we can do). If the suffering caused by someone hinders our loving them, we can at least pray and hope for a better future.
  4. When saints have needs, love contributes to them. And when strangers come to us, love welcomes them.
  5. Love blesses our enemies. The reason we love our enemies is because God loves our enemies. In other words, love includes our enemies in the hope of redemption and restoration (above).
  6. Love accompanies the sad and the joyful. This is hard to do when we are not sad or joyful. Our ego gets in the way of moving towards the sad when we are not sad, and towards the joyful when we are not joyful. Ego wants others to move towards it, not the other way around. But love overcomes ego.
  7. Love relates to all people without prejudice. “Don’t be haughty,” Paul writes, “but associate with the lowly—do not claim to be wiser that you are.” It’s not the prejudice against others that Paul warns us about, but the prejudice about ourselves. It’s not that we think others are lower than we are, but that we are higher. Here again, love overcomes ego.
  8. Love does not seek retribution, but reconciliation. Love doesn’t repay evil for evil, but pursues what is “noble in the sight of all.” This “all” includes even the offenders. Love seeks the “third way” that benefits everyone involved, not the “reactive way” which seeks only to balance the scales of offense. True justice doesn’t just balance scales; it restores relationship.
  9. Bottom line, love pursues peace with all.

These are the characteristics of Christian love. And the best example of Christian love is God himself.

God loves us zealously and ardently because we are in Christ—and God loves Christ.

God desires to meet our needs, and we recognize it when we are candid about our needs. This is the transforming power of prayer—candidly expressing our needs reveals to us later how they are met and leads us to thanksgiving.

God welcomes us even when we consider ourselves strangers to him.

God blesses us even when we act as his enemies. He blesses us; he does not curse.

God rejoices in our gladness, and weeps in our sadness.

In Christ, God does not consider himself higher than us, but associates with the lowly—us.

God does not seek punishment, but reconciliation.

“As far as it depends on God,” to use Paul’s phrase, he seeks peace with us. And in Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection, God shows that it all depends on God.

God loves us—that is the message of the Bible. If this is so, then we can love ourselves. And if this is so, then we can love others.

Will “the sins of the father . . .”?

Today my ten year old nephew came up beside me as I was reading by the pool and said, “Hellooooo.” It was quite a shock. I haven’t seen him since last summer. He doesn’t know he’s my nephew–or that I’m his uncle. He thinks we’re more distant relatives. His parents haven’t told him the truth.

I was awed by the purity and beauty of childhood innocence. In choosing not to tell him that his grandfather is actually my biological father, his parents have preserved his “ignorance is bliss” affection for me, an affection his parents have long lost. It is an affection I suspect his parents aren’t keen to encourage. I embraced him as a loving distant relative–and a loving uncle–would, might, and should. For I am, or I at least would be, these to him–and his sister, and his cousins.

But I can’t be this while he only knows me as a distant, remembered relative whom he only very occasionally sees. He looked for me because he saw “my son” in the pool. He doesn’t know my son’s name any more. Surely he would if he knew that my son was actually his cousin and not merely another even more distant relative.

By living in denial of his grandfather’s true identity as my biological father, my nephew’s parents have also preserved my nephew’s image of his grandfather as a loving, faithful, upstanding man. And he may well be that now and for the rest of his life. But he wasn’t always. He abandoned my pregnant mother, let his brother raise me, and hid that fact from his wife and their family until he was forced to reveal the truth.

I feel for my nephew’s parents, my brother and his wife. Not only do they wish the past wasn’t true for them, but they also want their children’s present and future to be free of the family drama. I can’t blame them. But the past is true, and it cannot be changed. And I can envision my nephew coming to me someday and asking why I and my family aren’t close to his dad and his family. And then what my brother will have avoided for however many years will be the burden I have to bear, the burden of telling the truth.  And then my nephew will have to bear the burden of truth also.

Maybe it’s better that he bear that burden at that future date. Maybe his maturity at that time will be such that he takes it in stride, incorporates the truth easily, and goes on with his life with little disruption. But maybe not. Maybe the revelation will have a similar effect for him and his generation as it did for his father and our generation. My brothers and sister and I do not have a relationship. My biological father and I do not have a relationship. My uncles and aunt and I do not have a relationship. Our children do not have a relationship. This despite the fact that most of us live in the same city. “The sins of the father will visit the generations that follow,” the Bible portends.

I respect the sanctity of the parent-child relationship too much to force the issue. If my siblings choose to live in denial and raise my nephews and nieces in that same region, I won’t challenge it. But their denial is adjacent to the truth, which is where I have chosen to live and raise my children, and eventually someone is bound to cross the border. At that point, I pray the strength of the parent-child relationship can survive the weight of the truth. If so, the next generation will have proven stronger than mine.

 

06.05.16 Love of a Different Kind 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Sermon Summary

There are many ways to love God; maybe as many ways as there are people. And there is one sure way NOT to love God.

Summary Points

  • The Cornelius and Peter ways of loving God
  • The new way in the Spirit
  • What love’s got to do with it

Few episodes in the early church depict the New Covenant in Jesus Christ more effectively than the meeting between Cornelius and Peter. The passage is so powerful, it has been used throughout the church’s history to extend its welcome not only to non-Jews, but to non-whites, non-males, and non-heterosexuals.

In the passage which reports the events, Cornelius is described as a “devout man who feared God.” In this context, “fear” refers simply to the seeking of God’s will. This is why Cornelius “prays constantly” and “gives generously.” These are the ways Cornelius loves God: Devotion, submission, prayer, and generosity.

Peter also demonstrates various ways to love God. He also prays, and the passage suggests that he is fasting at the same time. When the time comes to break his fast, he has a vision that tests his fidelity to his religious tradition: He is invited to eat unclean food. In addition to loving God through prayer and fasting, Peter is committed to upholding the tradition as a way of loving God. It is then that the Spirit invites him to a new way of loving God.

The new way of the Spirit involves first opening oneself to God. The Spirit commands Peter not only to eat the unclean food, but to welcome some unclean people into his house—the very people Cornelius has sent to Peter. In obedience to the Spirit, Peter next opens himself to others. He gave lodging to the emissaries, then followed them and received lodging. It is unimaginable that Peter, the faithful Jewish disciple of Jesus, would dine with a centurion of the empire that occupies the Promised Land and crucified Jesus. Yet, there he is.

In a word, the new way of loving God is hospitality: First one hosts God in the new way of the Spirit, then we host those God brings with him.

As a side note during this month of Ramadan, note that four of the five Pillars if Islam are attested to in this passage: salat (prayer), zakat (generosity), sawm (fasting), and hajj (pilgrimage). Only the confession of faith is different between Christianity and Islam. The practices for growing closer to God are the same, and we find them in other religious traditions as well.

Paul’s ode to love in 1 Corinthians 13 recognizes these ways of loving God. The Corinthian churches were extraordinarily gifted by both the world’s and God’s kingdom’s standards. They were intelligent, wealthy, and of high social standing. They also had a lot of pride, a lot of ego. Spiritually they were gifted as well, and Paul comments specifically about their fascination with the gift of tongues (the Spirit-enabled ability to speak and/or understand other languages). Much of the letters to the Corinthians is dealing with the ego problem, and especially the “love chapter.” (No, it was not written for weddings.)

In this chapter, Paul acknowledges the value of Cornelius and Peter’s ways of loving God. He refers to “faith so great as to remove mountains,” and “giving away one’s possessions, even one’s body,” and “prophetic powers, knowledge, and understanding mysteries.” These are all related to loving God. But Paul makes this extraordinary claim: They are valuable, but they amount to nothing without love.

For Paul, love is the purpose and power of the Spirit. It is the role and direction of the Spirit. Love is the foundation of God’s gracious hospitality towards us, and of our hospitality towards others. As in the passage from Acts, here the new way of loving God paves the way for hospitality, even among the Corinthians who were so hostile towards one another.

“Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude,” Paul writes. Peter could have been all these things, and with religious justification. “But love is patient and kind,” Paul continues, and “does not insist on its own way.” Rather than on insisting on his own way, Peter followed God’s Spirit, even though it was not the way with which he was familiar.

Paul writes, “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” Peter discovered this also. He followed the Spirit to where truth could be found, even when at first it appeared to be wrongdoing (like eating unclean animals and welcoming unclean people)—even when it was to the home of a Roman Centurion.

Those who love God, in other words, follow the Spirit on a journey. We grow from “childhood faith to adult faith,” to use Paul’s testimony. This maturation can’t be hurried, but neither can it be avoided. Faith evolves—we must welcome it and not fight it. Later Paul writes that we are, “transformed from one degree of glory to another . . . by the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

“Now,” Paul testifies, “we see in a mirror dimly.” Looking in a mirror, what we see is the image of God in ourselves. But eventually, Paul promises, we will see “face to face.” We will see God not in our own face, but in the face of another. We will see God face to face, but we will also see God in the faces of others.

How can this be? Paul continues, “Now I know only in part, but then I will know fully, even as I am fully known.” As Paul grows in the assurance that God knows him fully, Paul is able to know others fully. They are different, but he no longer sees them as a threat. Difference is not a threat to his ego. He is able to love them, even as God loves us. This is the key to resolving the Corinthians’ conflicts. And it is key to our own spiritual growth.

And so, Paul concludes, “faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” Why is love the greatest? Because faith evolves and culminates in knowledge. Where there is knowledge, there is no longer a need for faith. It is obsolete. And because all our hopes will be realized someday, and so hope becomes redundant.

But love—the very nature of God, the very definition of God—is greatest because it is eternal.

A lot is at stake. Listen to these words from Brian McLaren’s book We Make the Road by Walking:

The dirty energy of fear, prejudice, supremacy, inferiority, resentment, isolation, and hostility is cheap, abundant, and familiar. That’s why our societies run on it, even though it’s destroying us. More than ever before in our history, we need a new kind of personal and social fuel. Not fear, but love. Not prejudice, but openness. Not supremacy, but service. Not inferiority, but equality. Not resentment, but reconciliation. Not isolation, but connection. Not the spirit of hostility, but the holy Spirit of hospitality. (p. 217)

We all love God in various ways, and if we are faithful, those ways evolve. So there are many ways to love God, but one sure way not to, and that is refusing to show hospitality, refusing to show grace to those God has called us to love.

“Where Are You?”

Once again Fr. Thomas Keating has invited me to see something entirely different in the Bible simply by changing how I look at it. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of the Garden. When they do, they hide from God for the first time, and God comes in his customary way  but not finding them, asks, “Where are you?”

Traditionally I have always attributed their motivation as fear–fear of being punished for their disobedience. Keating says it is the pain of their separation from God that has driven them “into the Woods” (a phrase wonderfully resonant with Sondheim’s brilliant musical by that title).

“Where are you” is a question of relativity. We can answer the question only in relation to some point of reference. It is a positioning question, a question of identity. It is a question of generative quality. “Where am I . . .”

  • in relation to God? Am I hiding? Running away? Avoiding? Denying? Am I resting? Am I at peace? And what is the emotional motivation for where I am? Is it fear? Pain? Confusion? Love? Gratitude?
  • in relation to others? Am I competing? Comparing? Critiquing? (See Covey’s Seven Habits here.) Again, am I hiding? Avoidant? Am I collaborative? Generous? Vulnerable? And again here, what are the emotional motivations for where I am?
  • in relation to myself? Keating says “Where are you” is the question which begins the spiritual quest–the quest for God which is also the quest for ourselves (echos of Calvin’s introduction to the Institutes here). So am I hiding from myself, just as I hide from God? Am I avoiding the true self–imaged of God in Creation, revealed by Christ, being redeemed in the Holy Spirit? Am I hopeful for this self? Or do I despair its loss?
  • in relation to where I thought I would be? Or where I want to be? Am I even aware of these anymore? Has all my hiding and avoiding stolen from me the dreams I had as a younger person–the dreams God has for me today?

“Where are you?” it is important to note, is really not a question of “where am I?” which is a self-determining question. “Where am I?” could be easily asked of oneself and come out of a self-help book. But “Where are you?” is a question asked of us from an Other. At its source is the assumption that where we are is relative to the One asking. So it isn’t enough to contemplate where we are relative to others, self, or intention, but where we are relative to God. This is the fundamental question, and it is also the fundamental answer. The question contains the answer.

Before I saw the question as a threat. In fact, the question is a call, an invitation, a beckoning. It is a journey, a quest, a return home. And I want to go home. That’s were I want to be.

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