Hearing the Music!

The Horror

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Welcome back — to me! It was great to get away for a couple of weeks, relax, spend time with family and friends and enjoy our beautiful state. But it is also good to be back among friends and colleagues walking through the ups and downs of life together. 

As we have opportunity from time to time to break away for vacation, we are often reminded upon return that the world has not “rested”. I was reminded of this vividly with the two mass shootings that happened in our country while we were away. Once again we are confronted with the atrocity that one of God’s image bearers is willing to inflict on another image bearer.

Perhaps not coincidentally both Lisa and I read Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness on our break. For those not familiar it is a novella that is often included in the list of best books ever written. It definitely does not make the list because of its cheery theme or its uplifting title. I suspect it makes the list because of it penetrating honesty about the human condition. In short the book follows Marlowe as he makes his way up the River Congo during the imperial period in which Belgium was colonizing the African country we now know as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of particular interest for Marlowe is a man named Kurtz, who works for “the company” and has penetrated deep into the recesses of the country. As a true renaissance man, Kurtz came to the Congo with wonderful intentions to benefit the natives. However, when Marlowe locates him he is physically sick, but more to the point his soul has been corrupted and he has set himself up as a sort of demigod among the natives inducing them to worship him and in return taking advantage of them and their natural resources (ivory). Marlowe is able to get Kurtz aboard his steamer and begin to make their way back up the river towards civilization. But before they can arrive Kurtz dies. Just before he expires, Marlowe observes him wrestling with himself as he recounts his days. As his musings come to an end and his life ebbs away, with great clarity of realization he exclaims, “The horror. The horror.”

What a picture it is of man without the healing touch of a Beautiful Savior. Conrad has captured so poignantly the trajectory of our lives, no matter how good our intentions, without the life transforming power of the Gospel. It is easy to judge the shooters in our land or the militant members of the social and political “tribes” different than our own (Antifa, BLM, MAGA, MeToo, Alt-Right, Manosphere, SJA, etc…). We isolate ourselves with our favorite voices and newsfeeds, but we must watch out lest, like Kurtz, we find that “the wilderness loves us, embraces us and gets in our veins.” Always our hope is that in the midst of our wilderness YHWH holds us close as our Guide and Friend.

So this Sunday we will be heading back out to the wilderness, in particular Exodus 18, and we will be reminded that YHWH is indeed the hope of nations. We will be reintroduced to Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who “rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. (cf. 18:9)” May YHWH meet each of us and rescue us from our own heart of darkness.

 

 

Photo by Iqx Azmi on Unsplash

God's Presence

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Most of us are familiar with this scenario: a child is fed, washed up, teeth brushed, prayed over, and tucked in. Everyone says goodnight. You know what happens next...

“Mom!”  

And thus begins a series of appeals. Another drink of water, a trip to the bathroom, a stuffed animal (who you thought had been forgotten, but who is apparently very important), and the list goes on. 

As a parent, I remember going through the motions – getting the water, finding the beloved stuffed animal – only to realize that what my little one really wanted was just for me to sit down and stay for a few minutes. 

My child just wanted my presence. 

And so it is with me and I suppose with most of us. I have this notion that if I could just get this or that thing, or if I could just sort out a certain problem, then I could breathe easier. My life would be better. But what I really need is presence.

The whole summer has been filled with this theme. At Arts and Rec camp we saw over and over again that the Lord was present with his people, and that God promises us a heavenly city called The Lord is There. In our Exodus series we have learned that although God does not promise to take away our troubles, he promises something better. He promises to be with us, to be present. 

And he is. He is present with us by his word, by his Spirit, and in the fellowship of his people.

I am thankful that these are the actual things that can make us breathe easier. These are the things that make life better. And I am thankful that God offers his presence to me through you, the church. May God help us all to draw near, to consider one another, and to gather together (Heb.10:22-25) so that in this way, as the body of Christ, we are the hands and feet of Christ. In this way we see his face tangibly.

So, just like that little kid, someday I might need a drink of water or a long-lost teddy bear. I might someday come up with something else. But what I truly need, every day, is the presence of God.

Thank you for being Jesus to me. 

 

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

in Rest

Nameless

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One of the effects of our internet age is the chance to be noticed. We can post pictures and articles, thoughts and reflections that interact with hundreds of “friends” and are literally accessible to the world! On the one hand it is an incredible opportunity for the message of the Gospel to go forth and reach to places that might otherwise be neglected or unreachable. On the other hand we struggle with the notion of obscurity. I love the following question from my friend Matt Redman (not the singer) in his book, God of the Mundane:

So many pastors today, famous ones and otherwise, are asking young people and everyone else if they are willing to give it all and go overseas as a missionary. It’s not a bad question to ask. There is no question in my mind that this question needs to be out there. But they -- or someone -- also needs to ask, “Are you willing to be numbered among the nameless believers in history who lived in obscurity? Do you have the courage to be forgotten by everyone but God and the Heavenly Host? Are you willing to be found only by God as faithful right where you are? Are you willing to have no one write a book about you and what you did in the name of Christ? Are you willing to live and believe that -- in stark contrast to the world around you -- there is a God of the mundane?”

This is a call to the ordinary, everyday faithfulness of living present. This is a call to bringing cookies next door, working together to shovel snow, being faithful in our cubicle, in all things operating with honesty and integrity, weeping with those we love, and offering a word of grace when needed. It is almost always unnoticed (except by the recipient). It comes with little fanfare. And did you notice how Matt put it? — it takes courage.

So here’s to the mundane. Here is to being the hands and feet of Christ in the places he has put us. Where will we find the courage to live anonymously? Immanuel. God with us. Just as the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night accompanied the Israelites -- the manifestation of God’s presence during their wilderness days -- so we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who gives us the courage to be unnoticed by all, because we know He always sees us. 

 

Photo by zhgn_ on Unsplash

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