Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why isn't this working and other dangerous questions

So a new year has begun and I am (finally) back at daily lectionary blogging here at the leaky pulpit.  I am excited to be back to it as I have found the time I have spend engaging in the word here on this blog to be incredibly important for me, both in my individual faith walk with God and in how I am open to God using me through my vocation as pastor.  
Anyway, lets get to it, shall we?  There are many places to find the daily lectionary, but this is one of the easiest:
I actually started out writing in about 3 different directions this morning.  First, from the Psalm, then from Joshua, but I finally settled on discussing the passage from John 15.  
This passage is a fairly familiar one for many that are 'regular' church goers and it is one of the best descriptions of how we are connected to God in and through Jesus Christ.  Jesus tells us in verse one that he is the True Vine, that God the Father is the vine grower and that we are branches.  
In our adoption into God's family we have been grafted onto the body of Christ.  We are not just 'followers', we are not simply to be 'like-Christ', the very definition of 'Christian' instead we are called to be more than that.  We are called to be part of - a living, breathing, working and loving part of the very Body of Christ.  
That is pretty neat.  And I might stop there.  But that is not what I have been thinking about today.  I have had a couple of conversations over that past week with people and one of the topics that has come up a few times is things (life, work, relationships,) just not going as expected or as we had hoped.  This is, of course, just a part of life.  We don't always get what we want, we don't always become who we hope and we don't always accomplish what we set out to.  
But, as I was reading these passages this morning, I was struck with the question, why?  Why don't we get what we want, become who we hoped, or do what we try to do.  After all, look at these words: those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit (verse 5); If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (verse 7).
So, in light of that why don't we get what we want, become who we hope and do what we want?  I think there are only two possible reasons - and they are not necessarily easy for us to hear or think about.  And I say that as one who is both saying and hearing these words to and for myself.
Both reasons are simple and the first is, that we just aren't 'abiding' in Jesus.  What does it mean to abide?  To abide means to accept or act in accordance with.  Have we really, I mean really accepted Jesus?  I don't mean this as a 'salvation' issue, but have we accepted Jesus' Lordship over our lives?  Have we invited and allowed Jesus to come into the center of every area of our lives?  Our family life, or work and school life, our personal, when-nobody-is-watching life?  If the answer to any of those questions is no, then we are not 'abiding' in Jesus. If we haven't truly and fully accepted Jesus then we can't live into the second part of abiding which is 'acting in accordance with'.  When we fully accept Jesus into every area of our lives, then we can begin to act more like and be more like Jesus in those areas of our lives.   So, if I am not who I want to be and if I am not doing and accomplishing what I feel like I am called to be doing - even what I was made for, before I do anything else, I need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide if I am abiding - accepting and acting in accordance with - Jesus Christ.  
The second reason we may not be, do or become what we aim for is because we aren't letting Jesus and his words abide in us.  Verse 7 contains this amazing promise that 'if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  You see, this isn't genie in a bottle time.  Jesus isn't telling us to make a wish list and he will check it off.  Except that he is, with one big footnote - 'if you abide in me, and my words abide in you'.  
If you have accepted Jesus into all areas of your life and are striving to act according to God's will in all areas of your life and you are engaged with the Word of God in such a way that you have accepted it and it lives in you - then your wishes and desires, through your relationship to Jesus and your acceptance of him will be sanctified and pure desires in line with God's call for your life and his world.  If you haven't fully accepted Jesus and God's Word is not living in you then you may be hoping for and longing for, striving to become the exact wrong thing.  
I don't think living a life of full acceptance of Jesus is easy - not at all.  I think abiding in Jesus is a daily task that requires persistence, patience and humility.  But it is also, the key to connection with God and it is the door to the storehouse of God's blessing.  
May we learn to live our lives abiding in Jesus, accepting him into every area of our lives and may our hearts, minds and desires be sanctified by the Word of God living inside us.

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