Friday, August 27, 2010

The space between believing and doing

As we continue to 'walk through the Bible', a quick reminder that you can find today's daily lectionary passages here:
There were several things that struck me about the passages for today, I will try to briefly highlight them in some sort of coherent fashion.
First, to be honest, I usually struggle through the Psalms.  I mean I get that they are beautiful poetry, written to and about God, but I just don't usually get anything out of them.  In fact, I often find myself unintentionally skipping through them or skimming them so that I can get to the 'real' meat of the day's passages.  
For some reason, though, the past couple days I have been struck by the Psalms.  I haven't been moved by the language or caught by a phrase, but just by the simple fact that they exist and how, in a very real way they are evidence of a kind of relationship and intimacy with God that I can only imagine.  
I mean, seriously, have you ever written a poem to someone or about someone?  I think I may have tried a few times in the foolishness of my youth (okay, I know I did, but I don't want to talk about it!) That kind of expression only comes from a depth of feeling and an intimacy that is incredibly rare, not just in relation to God, but in any relationship.  I truly think my attempts as a youth were so awful and inconsequential because they didn't come from depth of feeling and intimacy, but from a desire to have those things.  
And as I have read the Psalms the past few days, it has become so apparent to me the relationship that these verses imply.  The psalmist, speaks frankly and directly to and about God.  Sometimes praising in beautiful intimate language, which is engaging - but even more gripping is when the psalmist complains or confronts God, often directly asking for God's specific intervention in one element of the writer's life or another.  
Do you talk to God like that?  I don't, and it is hard for me to even imagine anyone talking to God like that.  But isn't that what happens when we are in a close relationship with someone?  The barriers and guards that we put up are slowly stripped away and we begin to truly be ourselves around that person.  We show who we really are and we share how we really feel: even when that makes us vulnerable - by sharing deep love, care and affection or when we are concerned or upset or mad.  That honesty is one of the truest signs of a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God.  And I think that is, for me at least, the real value of the Psalms.  They can serve for us as a witness and a reminder of the type of relationship and conversation that is available to us with God.  They are a goal to be aiming for.
Wow. That was a lot more than I meant to say, but I think it is important stuff. But anyway, a few more quick thoughts.
What struck me in the Acts 10 passage is that, here you have Peter, beginning his address to those gathered (mostly gentile friends of Cornelius) with the words, 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality'  and then a few verses later we read that all of those with Peter (mostly jewish converts to Christianity) were amazed when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the gentiles (who were not circumcised).  
The seemingly obvious contrast made me think about how often we stop at simply 'knowing' or 'believing' something.  Obviously, that is where things have to start, we have to believe in Jesus Christ and know him before we begin to live according to the plan and call of God on our lives, and so on.  But, for me at least, I think when the Holy Spirit gives me a new insight or I hear someone explain a part of scripture in a new way or whatever, I am all too often content to just know it or believe it.
But I think that isn't enough.  Once we know and believe in Jesus Christ we have to live like we know and believe in Jesus Christ.  As we know and learn more about God's call on our lives and grow in our faith and belief, we must continually be incorporating these new understandings into our daily lives and into the way we act and interact with others.  Otherwise, do we really know or believe them?  
Finally, a quick word about the Gospel passage from John 7.  In this passage today, for at least the 3rd time in the last week of readings we read something to the effect of, 'and they wanted to hurt/arrest/stone/kill Jesus, but nobody laid a hand on him'.  This is a much (much) longer discussion, but the only reason given for this seeming inability to touch or harm Jesus is that 'his time had not yet come'.  Again, a much larger and longer discussion, but what occurred to me is that if there was a certain time for Jesus' suffering - suffering that was his ultimate goal and purpose on earth.  Then maybe, just maybe when we go through difficult times or trials and tribulations, they are happening just at the time they were supposed to happen.  
And that in all of this there must be some reason.  So, easier said than done of course, but maybe the next time we are enduring a difficult time or season in our lives we might begin with the question, why is now the time for me to be in the midst of this?  How, now, in this circumstance am I to be glorifying God?  What from this particular time and place can I share with others to point them to Jesus Christ?  
Thats all for now.  
I may post tomorrow or Sunday, but I will definitely be back on Monday.  
See you then.

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