Sunday, 30 December 2012

Experiencing Love

Here we are with a storm day and no church service.  Here are a few of the thoughts that I would have shared in the message.

My understanding of human nature is that all of us go around with a sign on our forehead that reads, "Love me." Now, if we said that to everyone we met, they might call the authorities. However, that is one of our soul cravings - to be loved unconditionally. Loved in spite of our faults. Loved because we matter. That is why Jesus is so compelling in how He treats people. Everyone matters. Everyone is welcome to receive all that He has to offer.

While we are looking for that type of love, we still hold on to a suspicion that some people matter more than others - that some people are more worthy of love than others. I've been in a restaurant where a street-dweller was refused service - regardless of ability to pay. I've been in a church where someone wanted to put up a fence to keep undesirables off the property. I'm even guilty of telling jokes that speak of some group not being as worthy of respect. All this is not good.

In Jesus I see people treated in a way that makes us uncomfortable, because it challenges us to love in the same way. After all, that's what being Jesus' disciple is all about. But if we have received this love, how can we hold back from loving others?

I admit, I like certain people more than others. I will enjoy a night out with certain friends. But I must learn to love deeply, even as I desire to be loved. A priest was asked by a TV host why he did not turn in the gang members with whom he ministered. His response was that he did not make his vows with the police department. When a gang member was aksed why the priest did not turn them over to the cops, his response was, "God... I guess." He understood something of unconditional love.

Jesus tells a story in Luke 14 about how we are to think of ourselves and treat others. We are to be humble in our estimation of ourselves. We are to show hospitality to those who cannot repay. And the result is, God will lift us up, and God will repay our obedience.

As followers of Jesus we must learn how to live this way. Our world continues to promote self-fulfillment and entitlement while Jesus commands self-denial and unconditional love. It doesn't make sense. But when I look at the lives touched by Jesus (including this month) the results are supernatural. The Kingdom of God, with all the love to receive, and love to give, is the best gift of Christmas.

Think about your own need for love. How does Jesus meet that need in spite of who you are?
Think about how you love others. Do you have "standards" for giving love, or are you able to be unconditional?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Joy to the World in the Midst of Tragedy?

Like most of North America and beyond, my thoughts have been with those suffering the loss of loved ones in Newtown, Connecticut. It's an unimaginable tragedy. I hope the lessons learned can make a positive difference in the future.

There are a lot of questions surrounding this shooting, and any other incident like it. What goes through the mind of a young adult male to exercise violence against the innocent? Are we even aware of those like him who are so wounded that they they act out so violently? Where do we find healing for broken lives before this happens? How does the Christmas angel message fit? "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

In this short space I cannot adequately answer these questions, but I do have a few thoughts to share. It would seem that young adults are hurting and somewhat lost with respect to the cravings of our soul. We all crave significance -- that desire to move forward and have a destiny. We all crave love and intimacy. We all crave meaning -- knowing why we are here. I think this last one especially ties in with the sanctity of life, which seems to be lost as well. The theme is "lostness" and pain. And as we can see, hurt people hurt people. Hmmm... Jesus said he came to seek and to save those who are lost. Are we looking for them?

My take on what Erwin McManus has written is that searching for God is like looking for a Balsam Fir at Christmas. The signs are everywhere. You just have to know what you're looking for. On the one hand there are many looking for God and not sure what they are looking for. On the other hand, there are many who follow God who are not sure how to look for and identify the lost.

We are all searching for truth. We are all looking for God. We crave meaning. We long to trust. We need to believe in something. We need to believe in someone. We need to believe in God. Is it possible that Jesus is like a sign that is obscured at Christmas? The seekers can't see it, and the Christ-followers aren't obvious.

When Jesus came -- as light to a dark world -- as healing to broken lives -- as freedom to those held captive -- he did not immediately transform the physical world into paradise. What he did do was offer something that would change the way we live. He said we are a light on a stand, which gives light for all to see. Not "you should be," but, "you are" a light! As he brought healing to the broken hearted, the broken bodies, and the broken psyches, he called his followers to do the same. "Carry each others burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

We wish all was well in our world, and we believe Jesus Christ will set it right. But for now we hold onto his words to us from the Psalms: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."

As in times of disaster, times of war, and times of unspeakable horror, we look to Jesus. Born into a politically unstable and cruel regime. Born to bring hope, peace, joy, and love to those who need it most. It would seem our young adult population are missing this message. Maybe they haven't been able to read the signs. I hope we haven't been standing in front of them.