God’s Delight

Scripture Text: Psalm 119: 9-16 (Lent 5B Alternative Psalter)

9How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

10With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.

11I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

12Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes.

13With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.

14I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches.

15I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.

16I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Do you delight in God?  It’s a strange word, probably one we don’t use that often.  The dictionary says it means to “please someone greatly”.  I don’t know if that really works here.  I mean, I don’t really think of God as “pleasing me greatly”, as if that’s what God is trying to do—just please me, like it’s all about me. (Because I’m clear that it’s not all about me!)  No, this rather make me think of some of the wisdom passages that speak of daring to have a love for God that is deeper than you even thought possible, a love that comes from the very depths of one’s soul, (read Song of Songs or Song of Solomon when you get a chance!) from the place that you did not think it was even possible to access.  It’s a love that is so deep that you seem to become a part of what you love, a part of the very experience that IS God.  I think THAT’S what delighting in God is.

See, so many of us think of God as some sort of barely accessible character on the outskirts of our lives, watching over us, maybe even supervising us.  But I don’t get the impression that that’s what God desires.  Why in the world would God have created everything that is and then filled the earth (or, I don’t know, maybe even some other places!) with humans and other creatures just to watch them and make sure they behave.  That sounds very exhausting to me.  No, I think God created us because we are God’s delight.  We are part of what makes God delight, along with all the rest of Creation. 

So, perhaps delighting in God is coming closer to the delight that God has for us.  And if it is something that God does, then, by my calculation, it is holy.  Perhaps, then, delighting in God is to acknowledge that holiness, to dare to come closer, to actually get out of ourselves, and experience it, to know delight.  In Hebrew thought, to “know” is not just limited to intellectual capacity.  It is not just understanding facts or that something exists.  To know God is not just to know OF God.  To “know” connotes a familiarity, an intimacy.  To know God is to delight in God.

In this wilderness season, we have encountered the unfamiliar, a strangeness that is not that to which we are accustomed.  And yet, as we travel, we have grown to know it, to know the path itself rather than the destination.  That is delight.  The whole idea of delighting in God just as God delights in us sort of, to me, loosens some of those limits that we have placed upon our relationship with God.  No longer is God that overwhelming deity that supervises me or controls me like a puppet on a string.  No longer is God something for which I’m required to clean up my act or be presentable to encounter.  No longer is God waiting until I have enough faith or enough belief or whatever else before I can approach God.  God does not wait for us to change; God waits for us to delight in God.  God is always there delighting in me, delighting in all of us.  And when we come to understand that, when we come to know God with the intimacy of our Creator, of our very source of being, then we, too, can delight. 

This season of Lent is one that reveals to us that deep and abiding relationship with God.  It is a relationship where God delights in us and we delight in God.  And rather than following the rules that we’ve laid out or acting “appropriately”, delight can almost be characterized as a type of holy play, a conversation between our soul and its Creator.  To delight in God is to know who God created us to be.  It is a oneness with God (not a BECOMING God—that will never happen.  God is God; we are not.)  Delighting is not being “godly”; delighting is knowing God in the deepest part of your being.  What a delight! 

With so much in creation, why did You bother to make this blue planet so beautiful?  Why was it worth the effort?  This blue planet is insignificant, seemingly unimportant, yet You have made it painfully beautiful.  Why?  The answer, I think, is that is the way You do everything.  Beauty—mighty and small—delights You.  This tiny planet delights You.   (Andrew Greeley)

Grace and Peace,

 Shelli

Do This

 

jesus-in-the-garden-of-gethsemane-16-12-203Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13: 3-17)

I thought of that last night that we were together.  It was wonderful.  It was a cool evening and the breeze was blowing into the room through the open windows.  All of our family was there and all of Jesus’ friends were all together at a table near the door.  It was the Passover festival and we so enjoyed ourselves.  Jesus sat next to me.  He had been unusually pensive, almost as if he were grieving.  Several times he looked around the room with a faraway look in his eyes.  He put his hand on my shoulder and then he got up and went over and joined his friends.  They had all been through so much and they finally seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I turned back to the table to talk to the family and when I looked again, Jesus was kneeling down and washing the disciples’ feet.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.  Most had seen him as a leader of those men that could at times be almost over-zealous.  But the one I knew was kneeling there—compassionate, loving, almost a servant.  I realize now that he was showing us who we should be.  He was showing us how to love one another, how to put others first, how to see God in others’ eyes.  I feel so blessed to be able to say how much I learned from him.  Many parents cannot say that.  I learned to love; I learned to be gentle and compassionate; I learned to serve.  I am certain that future generations will picture this night and see only Jesus and his disciples.  But it was Passover.  We were all there.  We were all watching, although we were careful not to disturb the certain intimacy that was in that moment.  We did not understand in the moment what the next day would hold but we knew that this was a special time and a special place.

I didn’t go with them when they left and walked down to the Garden.  I wish I had.  I know that I couldn’t have done anything, but maybe I could have comforted him or something.  There in the garden, Jesus was arrested.  It was said that one of the disciples had betrayed him, pointing him out to the guards.  I didn’t concentrate too much on that.  All I know is that they took him away that night and I would never be able to hold him again.  Now I know that what happened that evening would spark the change in the world.  What happened that evening to that baby that I held, the baby that I lifted out of that hay-filled stall so many years ago, would begin a sequence of events that I know now was God’s way of leading us all through the story, leading us all home.

In that Garden, Jesus surrendered not his innocence but his control.  And only in surrendering will we know what God intends for our life.  I see now that if Joseph and I had not surrendered so long ago, giving ourselves to whatever it was God had in store, that I would not have been blessed with this life that I’ve known.  But, more importantly, the story would have been different.  Each of us has a chance not to write our own chapter but to be a part of a story that is already beautifully written.  What Jesus taught me was that each of us has to do this.  God did not create us as robotic characters following the one in front of us.  Instead, God placed a tiny piece of the Godself in each of us.  It’s called free will.  God created us to choose.  And then on our journey of faith, we are asked to choose to surrender it back to God so that we will finally understand what it means to be loved by God.

It’s not what you do for God; it’s what God does for you.  Instead of trying to love God, just let God love you. (Richard Rohr)

FOR TODAY:  What is God asking you to surrender so that you can be a part of the story?

Peace to you in this often-hectic week,

Shelli

Mine to Walk

path-795x380Scripture Passage (1 Corinthians 10: 12-13)

12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

 

Well, this is enough to rattle anyone’s self-confidence! We like to think that if we “get there”, you know, confess our sins, profess our belief, get baptized, do what we’re supposed to do, check all the boxes of good church people, that everything will turn out alright. The problem is that it’s not a one-time thing. (Yes, I’m Methodist. Sadly, we are not “once saved, always saved”.) I mean, really, what good would that do? We just spend a little bit of time on our best behavior and then we’re “in”. I don’t think God works like that. It’s not about what we’ve done; It’s about who we are. It’s about who we’re becoming. It’s about relationship. Our faith journey is long and sometimes hard and sometimes glorious. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we know we get it right. Sometimes we find ourselves diving into deep and wonderful pools of clear reviving water and other times we seem to wallow in the shallow mud pits of life. Sometimes we can feel so connected to God that there is no doubt in our minds or our hearts that the Divine is right there, almost touchable, almost approachable. But we cannot rest on the laurels of our past. That’s not the way relationships work.

 

Living a life of faith really does not allow us to become complacent. It doesn’t allow us to sit back and bask in our glorious history that we bring to the table. God’s not really concerned with the fact that my grandparents were good, church-going people (at least not as far as my faith journey is concerned). It was good for them and they taught me well. But, now, it’s mine. God wants to have a relationship with ME. That’s the reason that “inherited” faith can only go so far (which means that, thanks be to God, that whole “sins of the fathers [and the mothers]” thing also only goes so far. My faith journey is mine. It is my relationship with God. It is my walk toward and with the Divine. It is mine to walk, mine to navigate, mine to mess up and get all turned around and not know where to go. It is mine to choose to stop and stay mired in what I think is the “right” way or what hymns I like to sing or what style of worship in which I like to participate. It is mine to halt at any point and sit down and bask in what I’ve done or become laden down by what I’ve neglected to do. And with God’s grace, it is mine to begin again. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We help each other along the way. Hopefully, we can give each other what we do not have. And that, too, is God’s grace.

 

This journey of Lent is sort of a microcosm of our whole faith journey. We begin where we are (wherever we are) and we look at our self and we look at our lives and we see what we really are—beloved children of God. And then we look at the ways that we’re NOT what we really are, the ways that we have allowed ourselves to overstep or overreach or overindulge or somehow become a little too full of what we imagine we can be. We look at the ways that we do not walk with God. And then God offers a hand (or someone else’s hand) and we begin to walk. And the road twists and turns and the storms come and the sun’s heat bears down on us and the winds whip around and the sand gets in our eyes. And then we see the light of the path ahead once again and we follow it, at least until we get off track again. And in those times when we feel the path beneath us, those times when we are aware of God’s presence, those times when God’s grace seems to wrap around us and hold us, we realize that the hand we hold never lost its grip on our lives. And we relax a little. We become comfortable. We might become a little complacent again. We become a little too certain that we’ve got it figured out. And then the winds begin again and the curtain tears and the darkness descends upon us. But this time, we know to wait, to wait in holy silence until the stone of our lives is rolled away so that we can begin again. That is faith. That is the journey. We don’t travel it alone but no one can do it for us.

 

Deep within us all there is an amazing sanctuary of the soul, a holy place…to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us…calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions…utterly and completely, to the Light within, is the beginning of true life. (Thomas R. Kelly)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

In Our Search for Belief

Cross-Abstract
“Faith, Day and Night”, J. Vincent Scarpace, 2012

Scripture Passage (Romans 10: 8b-13)

 

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 

 

You know, this whole faith journey thing would be a whole lot easier if the rules were better laid out! So, are you supposed to confess your beliefs first or believe what you’re saying first? (because did you notice they get switched in this passage?) I mean, just make it easy! How DO we get this right? Just tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it! Just tell me what to say. I’m a pretty fast learner. I could probably remember enough to get through the initial exam anyway.

 

That’s what most of us want. That’s what those that Paul was first addressing wanted. Good grief, just tell us what we’re supposed to do to get this right! They wanted him to tell them what acts, what righteousness needed to happen so they could check off that they were following the law. We’re no different. We’re used to racking up points or grades or salary levels (or for churches, it would be members or attendees or giving patterns or apportionments—aaaagggghhhh!—there, I’m better!), all so that we can check off that we’ve achieved something. But when you read this, Paul isn’t even laying out what it is we’re supposed to believe. There’s no talk of original sin or not, no mention of which salvation theory Paul thought was the right one, and no list of rules or beliefs to which we needed to adhere to get “in”. Paul’s answer instead was to just believe. Just ask. Just open your mouth and pour out your heart and say it. That’s all. Because, see, it’s there. It’s all right there. Just call on the Lord and start walking.

 

But there’s another side to this. If we’re not told exactly what it is that we’re supposed to believe, then why would we think that our beliefs are the way everyone should believe? The passage says that “everyone—that means all of us—who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In other words, desiring God is enough. Desiring God is what leads us toward God. Wanting to pray is praying. Yearning to be with God is being with God. Confessing our belief is believing. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have what seem to be crises of faith. (I have one about every week lately!) It doesn’t mean that we will ever get to the point where we don’t have questions. (If you meet someone that tells you they don’t question God or question what they believe, personally, I’d run! I mean, are you really willing to stake your whole existence on what YOU’VE figured out God is going to do?)

 

Desiring God, wanting to be with God, wanting to follow is enough. Beginning is enough. I mean, I’ll be honest, if God had some prescribed list of rules and definitive beliefs in mind, why in the world would God have chosen Paul to be the head writer of the greatest treatise on salvation of all time, with his circular thoughts and grammatically incorrect run-on sentences? Maybe God’s whole idea is that we wander and we explore and we question and we journey not until we “get it” but until we realize that the journey IS the way we live with God, that this wilderness in which we find ourselves IS the Way to God and, at the same time, the way to ourselves. That is the reason that in this season, we find ourselves in the wilderness. It is not a punishment. It is a reminder that the God who created us has never left us. It is for us to realize that in the deepest part of our being, we desire to be with God almost as much as God desires to be with us. That is the reason that God came, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, to walk with us, to perhaps wake up our God-given desires to be with God. So, begin. Wanting to be with God IS being with God. And THAT is something in which you can believe.

 

There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every [person] which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ. (Blaise Pascal)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli