Monday, January 23, 2012

The Wisdom of God

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. --James 1:5
Having skated down a steep hill in a snow storm recently, after the car came to a sliding stop I seriously questioned my wisdom for starting down the thing in the first place.  We all have mental lapses where we do or say things, which on second thought we would have been smarter not doing.  Smarts are not exactly the same as wisdom however.  Smarts connote personal intelligence (therefore, under one's control), whereas wisdom (sophia in Greek) connotes God-wisdom that leads to salvation or unity.  So James is not saying, "If you are dumb and don't do well on tests, just pray and you'll get an A."  (Surprisingly, I have known some Christians who have tried to sell this notion to me.) No, sophia - God wisdom - is a whole different kind of idea.  It is a steady or constant joining into the on-going enterprise of God's creative and saving acts through Jesus Christ.  The wisdom James is speaking about is a Holy Spirit kind of energy that brings God's insight and perspective to daily living.  It is not a voluntary talent one exercises at will, but a gift that comes through the daily trials and long journey of walking hand-in-hand with God.  The asking for God-wisdom is a multiple times a day process over the course of one's daily life.  As we discipline our minds to pray and not forget God through the hours of a day we do gain a centered awareness of God's guiding influence, which we then can use for ourselves or others.

Greatest God, we need Thee every hour.  Every hour grant us your wisdom to make the differences in life that you have aimed us to make for you.  Through Christ we pray.  Amen. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Ladder to God

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.  Genesis 28:11

St. Francis of Sales (1567-1622) is author of Introduction to the Devout Life, which I started reading this year.  Reading old Christian classics is oftentimes so insightful.  In all of our modernity we can slip into a "know-it-all" arrogance that what we hear and know today is all we need.  Yet, many intelligent and grounded people have gone before and they were gracious enough to pass on to us some of the insights and wisdom they had.  Frequently, this wisdom is nothing we hear of today.  Such is the case with Introduction to the Devout Life.

To set the scene: Jacob is on the lamb, after snookering Esau of his birthright, and he has escaped to the wilderness.  Jacob falls asleep with a rock for a pillow.  He dreams of the ladder going to heaven with angels going up and down.  He hears God give him the land and a promise to extend the promise made to Abraham and Isaac to bless him and be his God.  Jacob wakes in the morning and builds a monument to mark the sacred place.

St. Francis of Sales speaks of this story, finding affirmation in it for how near the heavenly realm is to the earthly realm; a simple ladder being all that separates us, and the nearness of angels, heaven, and God.  He then uses the ladder as a devotion tool.  The two upright sides of the ladder representing The Word and the Sacraments, while the rungs are the spiritual disciplines we can use to go up and down the ladder ourselves and meet God.  This is a useful meditation; I thought of it while receiving communion this past Sunday.  Here i had heard scripture read and then partook of the bread and wine, all I then needed to supply was the prayer time, fasting, meditation time to continue ascending and descending the ladder with God simply a breath away.  Try it!  I found it quite amazing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Keeping Purpose Focused

...but one thing is needful.  -- Luke 10:42
Martha was encumbered with many things -- cleaning, cooking, sweeping, serving.  She was in a dither.  While she was sweating all the things needing to be done, she had not only Jesus sitting there in her midst, but her lazy sister, Mary, was sitting right there beside him soaking up all he had to say.  Jesus said, " thing is needful: for Mary has chosen the good part."  When we get so wrapped up in our service that we fail to notice that Jesus is the reason we do that service, it is time for a timeout.  Many churches do a lot of good in their communities.  Many members push their churches to do more.  When service comes ahead of worship, or when service comes before connecting in some overt way with Jesus then we have our priorities mixed up.  Service is a necessary component of any strong faith, but it can never replace the contemplative, searching time for hearing the words and feeling the presence of God.  If you feel like the total purpose of the church is to serve the poor and needy, then people have forgotten the needful thing - the good part, the time with Christ.  Without that spiritual food and sustenance, those serving burnout, and may even get irritable.  The needs of the poor will be with us always Jesus said, but what we are all in need of is the time with Him.  Set aside a time for some kind of prayer/meditation at least once a day.

Help us, O God, to pull up a seat near to our Savior and rest for a bit in his presence and grace-filled words.  In His Name we pray.  Amen. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Tabernacle of God

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. -- Revelation 21:3 (KJV)
The tabernacle of God is with us.  The tabernacle of God is with us.  Think about that.  The tabernacle was the ancient tent reserved as the Israelite's home for God.  Inside it was the Ark of the Covenant and a huge array of fixtures, furniture, and objects - many made of gold - that were all singularly aimed at directing the attention of all who entered to one place: the worship of Yahweh.  When the nomadic 12 tribes of Israel moved the tabernacle came down and went with them; in their new location it was set up in the center of their midst.  God dwelt among them.

The tabernacle of God is with us.  In this new day, in this new year following the observance of the Christ entering into the center of our midst, the tabernacle is with us.  The Christ Child has come, He has entered our hearts and He has set up the tabernacle of God within us.  He will dwell with us.  We shall be His people, and God - true God of True God shall be with us: center stage, in our midst.  Come to this revelation and realize He is born within you.  Ponder that for several minutes in silence - God has set up the ancient tabernacle within you.