Advent is a time of examination. It is to remember the first coming of Christ. It is to anticipate the Second Coming of Christ. This is a season to reflect and prepare. Continue reading “Advent Reading — Keeping our eyes on the margins of society”
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14, NIV)
Lord, help us not to live for the reward now, but for the reward that is soul-deep and eternal. Let us trade off our weak search for “power” and “photo-ops” for that which gives life to others and brings us satisfaction that can only be from you.
When we are well formed by the gospel and by the pattern of our Lord, any advantages we may have within the world’s set of evaluations do not mislead us or affect the quality of our human associations. Because of our vision of faith, we are comfortable with the poor and the other “unblessables” and are able to be with them in a spirit and manner that does not set them off from us. We share the human condition gladly and without affectation, as did our savior, whose spirit has pervaded us.
By contrast, those without the mind of Christ make distinctions between people that the mature disciple would never make. They cannot respect the poor within their value system. Even their special efforts, no matter how “charitable,” break or emphasize their lack of solidarity with the poor. They are, of course, trying to “be big about it.” But the disciple, whose very life is a gift of incarnation, really sees nothing special in his actions toward the unblessables. He is not “being big about it” because he truly sees nothing to be big about in the situation. That is why his left hand is unconscious about what his right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). — Dallas Willard, Renewing the Christian Mind.
I am not very good at goal setting when it comes to Scripture reading schedules. This should be a week when I am on Luke for the second time… or maybe Matthew for the third time… and I’m in Matthew 9 the “second” time around.
But, what’s my hurry?
As I read through Jesus’ actions and the anger of the Pharisees, I am struck by this thought: Jesus hasn’t angered them by his arguments, but by his actions.
When he healed the blind and mute, the Pharisees accused him of being demon-possessed himself. When he acted, when he did what they should have been doing, they were angry. People in Israel should have been set free in so many areas, but the religious leaders had no spiritual power.
Our call as the Church is similar. We drift into crazy theological arguments that divide us up and get us angry… and sell books and get us blog post time on widely ready sites… but we find this condition all around us:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:36)
When we devolve into foolish theological arguments, people around us stay bound up when we have all the ability, as the Church, to set them free.
Live in the liberty Christ gave you… not for your own selfish pleasure… but for the joy of seeing other set free.
We wrestle with consumerism and materialism. I take that back. Some have long surrendered, actually. We may even fake wrestling because, quite frankly, we like our stuff.
But when I read these challenging verses out of Luke’s Gospel, I am left with an aching heart, quite honestly. I realized today the compelling force of what Jesus says so plainly in these verses really could drive people to forsake all and take up the monastic life (like Anthony of the Desert) or head into a life of poverty serving the poor. These are strong verses I think we too easily explain away.
But let’s be reminded again and again to understand the stuff we have needs to NOT control us.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-34)
Treasure Jesus. Let stuff go.
So easy to write. So hard to do!
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52 He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed. (Luke 1:51-31)
What is always profound to me is the humility of Christ’s coming. It is always a sense of “role reversals.” He doesn’t land in the seat of power. He doesn’t land in the privileged communities.
And that was his choice. He could have landed anywhere. He could have come in any way he chose.
So… he chose humility. He chose the margins.
The past few months have opened doors for me as I have asked the Lord to keep me at “the margins.” How can I keep my eyes open for those society has kicked to the curb? The Spirit has led me in some interesting places. Not many, and I know that’s because I’m not completely ready. It’s my hesitancy, not my “heroics.”
The margins are challenging for me. But in the past few months I have found such deep joy. Every time I come away from a particular encounter I find myself weeping. Just weeping. There is joy as I watch the Spirit work, but there is also a deep cry in my heart, asking God to keep me there. I need that sense of his working in this deep way and even though I’m doing very minimal things at the edges right now, I am finding deep joy.
I am finding deep joy there because I truly believe I am finding Christ. It’s where he chose to land when he came.