Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Today – for the first time in too long – I actually opened my Bible.
Don’t get me wrong. I do study Scripture. I begin each day in meditation by reading and reflecting on the day’s Scripture and devotional in The Upper Room. The online version of The Upper Room, though, has a convenient link to Scripture. So I don’t need to use my Bible.
During Sunday worship, the Scripture passages are now on the screen in nice, large font. So I don’t need to use my Bible.
Today I started going through a pile of unfinished books with the intent of picking out a few to take with us on vacation. And there was my Bible.
I sat with my Bible on my lap trying to decide what to read and noticed there were two bookmarks. I opened to the page where I had randomly stuck one of the bookmarks.
First, I looked at the bookmark. It was one I had received as a gift from The Hopi Foundation when our mission team was there last summer. The bookmark describes Sumi'nangwa - one of the Hopi traditional values and visions. It reads:
Is one who fulfills the
meaning of Sumi’nangwa
and will come together to do
activities for the benefit of
all, out of a compelling
desire and commitment
to contribute or return
something of value or
benefit to the society.
Next, I looked at the bookmarked page. The bookmark was at Acts 4:32 which, in this Bible, is titled “Sharing Possessions”. This Scripture passage describes how members of the early church lived together. I read, “…they shared all that they had with each other” (Acts 4:32) and “no one went in need of anything…” (Acts 4:34)
Wow. Evidently, early Christians practiced Sumi’nangwa.
How unlike our possession-passionate society of today were the early followers of Christ. Whereas we seem to live in a “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” society, the early Christians knew what they had wasn’t really theirs. They knew everything they had was from God. As sisters and brothers in Christ they shared what they had so that all had enough. I have observed a similar model of community whenever I’m in Hopi.
The people I have met in the Hopi villages share freely and openly with each other. They share their sacred blue corn meal. They share hand-made gifts, fruits and vegetables during the ceremonies. They share in the raising of their children. They even share with those of us who are not Hopi. There is a strong cultural and spiritual desire to make sure everyone has enough. My Hopi sisters and brothers have modeled for me what it is to truly love and care for each other.
So here I sit – convicted by both a bookmark and a Bible passage. I am asking myself many questions. Do I freely share God’s blessings with others? When do I cling to what I perceive as mine? In what ways does God want me to downsize so that I and others have enough? And... what is enough?
I hope to continue struggling with these questions. They’re good questions. It's a good struggle. And, like all good struggles, I know it’s the uncomfortable beginning of change… of transformation.
I can’t wait to see where the other bookmark has been placed...
Monday, July 9, 2012
This morning I decided to update some information on my contacts list. While going through the list, I noticed I still have email addresses for my dad and two friends who have all passed away. I wasn’t quite sure what to do.
The rational response might have been to simply delete the three email addresses, but instead I decided to send each person a short note.
So... through tears and my last three tissues I wrote to each person.
I first wrote to dad. I started by giving him an update on each member of the family. I told him we're all doing OK and that he's a GREAT grandpa now! I also said he'd be so proud of how well mom is doing. Finally, I let him know how very blessed I was to have him for my dad and how much I miss him... every day.
In my friends' emails, I listed some treasured memories of our times together. I also told them that I continue to pray - for them as well as for their families and friends who miss them. Clicking “send” after each email was wonderfully healing for me.
Funny... I still can’t bring myself to deleting these email addresses.
Not just yet.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
If you just attend Sunday worship you’re being a good Christian.
If you just attend Sunday worship you’re being a good Christian.
There are those who believe they’re being a good Christian simply because they obediently and regularly attend Sunday worship. And too often we use Sunday worship attendance as the only metric for determining who is an “active member” of the church. Since when has pew-sitting been considered active? Wouldn’t it be great if we considered as active those members who strive to serve others by following Jesus Christ outside the building?
Don’t get me wrong. Regular attendance at worship is important. I don’t think there is such a thing as a solitary Christian. We need Christian community. As the children’s song goes, Church is not a building – it’s the people. Church is a global community of those who love God and serve others after the example of Jesus Christ. Yes, we need to come together as community to praise and worship God and to study God’s Word. But being an “active member” shouldn’t end there.
First of all, why do we worship? As Christians we gather for worship because we desire to offer praise and thanksgiving to a loving God who created us, sustains us, sacrificed for us, and offers us everlasting life. Our response to worship should be that we want to obey God. We should long to do what God would have us do… which, according to Scripture, is to love and serve others.
If worship is a communal time of Scripture, praise, and prayer that equips us to be sent into this hurting, broken world, then our goal as Christians shouldn’t just be to get our name on the perfect attendance list. Our goal as Christians should be to do what we can, where we are, with what we have to actively share God’s love.
So… after Sunday worship tomorrow, let's all get out there and BE the Church.
Friday, July 6, 2012
Being a Christian does not mean all the pain and heartache of this life will go away. To tell people otherwise is worse than misleading… it’s a lie.
This is the issue I have with proselytizing. In proselytizing, some Christians will do whatever it takes to get people to say, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior” – the magic words – so at the end of the day they can pat themselves on the back for how many lives they saved and then go home. As I see it, there are two basic flaws in proselytizing.
First of all, we don’t save anyone – only God can save. I’ve even heard of “mission trips” where hungry people are fed or ill people receive medical attention only after they say the magic words. Shame on us. Jesus Christ fed thousands and healed the lame, blind and sick with no ulterior motive other than to show God’s love for them. Likewise, our actions – not just our words – should share the hope that we have in God’s love, forgiveness and grace.
Secondly, where is the follow up if we simply leave and go home? This morning an alcoholic may pour out her heart to God then sincerely seek Christ’s healing presence by tearfully declaring Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior… but later today she’s still going to crave that next drink. How can we abandon her after she cries out to God for help? It is very likely that we are Christ’s healing presence she so desperately seeks. She needs the love and support of a Christian community that is willing to surround her and walk with her as she stumbles her way along the uneven road of sobriety.
No… being a Christian does not mean all the pain and heartache of this life will go away. But being a Christian DOES mean we believe that the God who cared enough to create us continues to be active in our lives – even in the painful, heartbreaking times. Instead of simply trying to get everyone else to say the magic words, let’s start living lives that model for the world what it means to BE a Christian… what it means to have Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. That's living the Gospel!