Thursday, August 30, 2012

Necessity for Discipline

Besides this, our earthly fathers used to discipline us and we treated them with respect, and shall we not be still more submissive to the Father of our spirits, and live?  -- Hebrews 12:9 (Weymouth New Testament)
I recently picked up a book called Driven to Distraction.  It is about Attention Deficit Disorder.  I realized as I read through the list of symptoms that this has been a life-long problem for me.  One of the listed symptoms that jumped out at me was "trouble in going through established channels, following "proper" procedures."  I have wrestled like Jacob with rules and boundaries.  I perpetually feel hemmed in by "reality."  My innate natural intelligence got me through school --thank God --because I always lacked the self-discipline to sit down and actually study.  If I was told to read certain books, I would glance through them looking for the "fun" parts and then go find other books that I felt were better suited to the cause.

In these later years of my life, however, I have started to awaken to the fact that discipline is a valuable thing.  Discipline and order are necessary components to remaining focused on things that are more important than my whims and endless pursuits for new and exciting.  In addition, as one of the growing "old codgers," I find myself bemoaning the fact that "discipline today isn't what it was when I was growing up."  As the rods have been spared the doors have opened for sassy, belligerent, rude behaviors being the norm.  Respect for a lot of things appear to have slipped.  Personal opinion and individuality have become an authority with full rights to "creative self-expression."  Now I look through a different magnifying glass with knowledge of my attention disorder and see how I, too, subscribed to this free-wheeling liberty.  Now in my 50's I can see some of the ways it has not served me particularly well.

These verses in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews (v. 5-11) speak of how out of God's love God disciplines.  God disciplines us because we are intimately included in God's family as daughters and sons.  I would really hope God's family would have some high expectations for each of it's members.  If we were not being disciplined it would be a sign we were not considered important or worthy of notice; further, that the family itself lacked self-respect and opinion for what others might think of us.  As members of God's family we have a mission in the world, a focus: to spread the Good News.  The love, God's very own love, for the world is real.  God stands beside us and lifts us through the hard times and punishing moments as much as through the good times and uplifting moments.  God is real.  Our relationship as beloved sons or daughters is real.  Be proud you're part of The Family.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lessons from Bible Characters

Joseph of Arimathea appears out of the blue and just as quickly vanishes.  In the few brief moments that he is in the spotlight the Kingdom of God shines.  What can we glean from his brief appearance?

And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.  And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.  (Luke 23:50-54, KJV)

We don't know a lot about him; all we know is present in the scripture passages.  Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the ruling council.  He had prestige and honor.  He did not agree with the decisions of the Council in regards to handling Jesus.  All the closest disciples of Jesus had fled the crucifixion scene for fear of being caught and pulled into the Sanhedrin's elimination of the Jesus problem.  Mary, the Mother of God, was facing loss of her eldest son with all the attending social questions that attached to a widow in that patriarchal society.  The soldiers had already shown little respect for protecting Jesus' body.  Nobody had a burial plan to our knowledge, as the arrest and trial occurred rather quickly.  The moment was filled with powerlessness and threat to personal dignity and social respect of the dead.

Into such a time and place, set by this vacuum of concern, stepped Joseph of Arimathea.  At the risk of offending and alienating friends and colleagues, he steps forward.  He extends the cloak of his respectability and his position on the Council to surround the body of Jesus and his mother.  In doing so he did the right thing, the Kingdom of God is revealed: the widow was defended from social embarrassment.  The dignity afforded the dead was upheld.  The sacred honor of the individuals involved was preserved.  Joseph takes the body down and, with Pilate's permission, has Jesus' body placed in a grave on his own property fixing the large stone across the opening.

None of us know the time and place when we might find ourselves faced with needing to affirm or demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God.  Joseph of Arimathea teaches that we should be ready always to give an answer for the hope within us; to stand with the downtrodden and oppressed.  Be prepared!

Dear God help us to be ready.  We never know when one of the least of these will need an advocate to stand there with them in Your stead.  Help us to see the needs around us and to respond.  In Christ's name.  Amen.