…generous act…perfect gift
September 2, 2018
Scriptures: Hebrews 8:8-1, James 1:17-21
As I have shared in the past, I approach each week’s readings with both expectation and apprehension…never sure of what the Spirit is going to place before me each week…holding faithfully to the idea that almost always there will be a word or thought found within them that needs to be shared with you…a word that will hopefully shed light on the nature and call of our Lord for each one of you if I rightly interpret it.
And sometimes those thoughts come out of the passage as a whole and other times it is a simple single word or phrase that catches my eye almost demanding to be repeated out loud. And that was the case this week. I had looked over the scripture passages several times and as a whole they seemed to have much to say and numerous possible directions and points of departure for a message with value and meaning. But that one little phrase near the end of our passage from James kept stopping me and insisting on being looked at more closely. And perhaps it is because it is such a foundational word for me personally and for my own understanding of God, but nonetheless I felt that I needed to look at this idea of the word of God that has been, as James says, ‘implanted within us’ just a little more closely.
For somewhere I believe that the word of our God truly still is alive and active, not just in the world around us but within our own lives, whether or not we know it, believe it, or acknowledge it. Indeed, I believe, now in the seventh decade of my life, that the implanted word of God is a guiding force that remains ever willing to help write and direct the life story of each one of us in ways that are ultimately redemptive and glorious.
My own life has been such an interesting story, as I imagine everyone’s is actually. And it seems the longer I live the greater is my awareness of and appreciation for the intertwining of the hand of God throughout and within the whole of it. Perhaps many if not most times unknown at the time, now later on those divinely revealed strands of connection within the different parts of my story seem to appear almost magically as events, people, tragedies and victories all seem to come together as in a needlepoint that makes sense in retrospect and from a certain distance but which seemed so often to be such a jumble of threads and knots while it was going on. I’m reminded of what I long thought was a scripture from 1st or 2nd Peter…and which I have gone back and looked for on more than one occasion…a verse that I thought read something like…‘When you bring your deeds to the light, when the whole of your story is brought forth into the light of Christ then the light of Christ turns the whole of that same story into light’. Almost as though the good, the bad, the ugly, the regretted, the joyous and wondrous elements of a life lived can come together by grace to become a song of wonder and joy unto the Lord. One who is willing and able to compose beauty out of disharmony, a sonnet out of jumbled words and thoughts, a wondrous rainbow-like moment, a story of love even out of a lifetime that includes moments of injury and wounding words and acts…when that story is brought forth into the saving and yes transforming love and light of Christ. When our life story is surrendered unto the touch of our Lord it becomes the light, it becomes a part of the hand-work of our God of love.
And you know, when I was writing these words down on Friday morning I decided to look once more to see if I could find that passage that has long proved so elusive…and in fact it was not in Peter at all, but rather hidden within the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in verses 8-14. The Apostle writes, ‘So you must live like people who belong to the light, for it is the light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light. And when all things are brought out to the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed; for anything that is clearly revealed becomes light.
There it is…our life story, my life story, and yours as well can become a song of joy unto the Lord, if we are willing to allow it to be seen in the light of Christ…if we are able to let the Spirit take us there…take us to that place of seeing all of those moments of grace that have literally filled our lives whether or not we are aware of them. It is so amazing to me, the numerous opportunities there are each week, and sometimes each day to be a witness of the grace of God in my own life to others. And not as some may think of ‘witnessing’, often envisioned simply as standing out on the street corner and climbing up on a ‘soap box’ to preach what I believe and to try and convince others that my views are the only ones that will insure them of salvation and a ticket to the hereafter.
But rather I am amazed by how often the ways and the words I feel led to use are simply words of kindness, of concern and understanding, simple words of welcome and friendship or the honest desire just to listen. And I truly feel blessed by those opportunities, no matter where or when they occur, no matter if they are with someone I know, or perhaps with a complete and now previous stranger…no matter if they are theologically deep or just delightfully light and free of deep thought. I feel blessed when I am able to listen and then to respond honestly and from the heart, sharing words I hope are helpful and needed. And I feel blessed as well when I feel the need to challenge and encourage another to look in a different direction, to consider perhaps another possibility, another way to continue writing their own story.
But I think I feel most blessed when I feel the gentle affirmation of the Holy Spirit that blesses my inner soul after sharing words that truly seem to be transformative for the one before me…when I can share the deep love I have for God by sharing that same love with another…and when that other person is visibly touched by God in that same moment…those are the moments I live for and the moments in which I feel most alive.
And then…then there are those times when we find ourselves placed or called into the middle of a wrestling match…not one we ourselves are necessarily involved in, but one involving others who have been led to you for a blessing. And sometimes those are the most difficult, the ones requiring the greatest personal surrender on my part…not to ignore the personal thoughts that come to mind, not to push aside my own story or experiences whatsoever, but more, or perhaps most importantly to listen to the Spirit in that moment for instruction on just what might be most helpful from the treasure trove of good, bad, and worse memories from my own story that can be or should be shared in order to usher in the light of Christ that all might be bathed at least for a moment in its glow and warmth.
And you never know when, who, or what will be placed at your feet…relationship difficulties, health crises, depression or loss due to difficulties with work, or even YAV’s going out into a very uncertain future. There are so many needs, so many possibilities when it comes to ways the Lord may call on you to share elements of your own story, when the Lord chooses to use that which has blessed you to become a blessing for others. Truly it never ceases to amaze me how many ways there are for God to use each one of us to help write a tiny chapter in the life story of another…a seemingly small word or paragraph perhaps, but perhaps as well a critical chapter in their own story and the presence of our God within it.
The word of our God is a most precious gift…a generous act and perfect gift planted deep within your soul…a guiding force throughout the whole of your life turning you towards the saving grace of God either for yourself or as a healing balm of grace for another. And whenever you are blessed with the insight or vision, knowing what God has done and continues to do for you is a great gift indeed…
It is a gift that…offers a peace that underlies all turmoil we may ever encounter with an assurance that somewhere, it will someday, and in some way be all right.
It is a gift that…offers an undeniable call for patience and for the willingness to wait for the revelation of goodness that is within each of our brothers and sisters…and within ourselves.
It is a gift that…offers a certain and deep inner passion for fairness and justice along with the knowledge that such justice for all can only be found with a decided commitment from each one of us, and at a certain cost for each one of us as well.
It is a gift that…offers us an opportunity to become a part of the fullness of God’s vision by teaching us how to be a clearer reflection of God’s love as shown in the life and witness of Jesus
It is a gift that…teaches us how to live, to love, to laugh, to weep, and to cherish one another.