Lent Day 16

Questioning God

What have you to do with me..? Mark 5:1-20 Should I just eat the candy this one time or can I be strong enough to sacrifice one moment of pleasure in order to lose weight? Every now and then we all struggle with our conscious. From craving sweets to fighting peer pressure or battling serious addictions, a struggling conscious can be tormenting. When Jesus is confronted by a man with an “unclean spirit”, he pleads with Jesus not to torment him. Christ already knows that this man has suffered and struggled with himself and his community long enough. Jesus is not interested in tormenting him any further. Christ’s ministry is about healing. I think the fact that we are struggling is an indication that the Holy Spirit within us is striving to be at the forefront of our lives. Once we realize that our arms are simply too short to put up a fight, we can begin to allow the Holy Spirit within to take precedence and do what it does best; bring us to healing.

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Inward Parts

“I have compassion for the crowd…”  Matthew 15:29-39  Remembering the year I spent as a chaplain in the MICU of a Hospital, always by the third visit to this “mountain” in which the patient was holding to the hope of healing, I yearned to give more. I wanted them to be physically healed. Yet knowing that my presence and prayer was all I had, I was grateful that the relationship went beyond the physical. In this reading a crowd on the mountain is amazed at the healing that is taking place, but that wasn’t the end of it. Something more was about to happen. They’d followed Jesus up that mountain and he tended to their every need for three days. It seems clear that there was a deeper relationship in Christ which the disciples had yet to conceive. The root of the Greek word used for compassion is translated as “inward parts,” figuratively meaning that what Christ is feeling is coming from deep within. Jesus knew what he needed to do. Perhaps his compassion for the crowds on the mountain that day went beyond the lack of food, and directly towards his yearning to feed this hungry crowd the Glory of God. Today, like the disciples we are often overwhelmed asking ourselves, where, why, and how long. Yet we’ve been in this relationship with Christ long enough to know what to do. Always giving thanks, we feed on God’s Glory. For in the fullness of Christ, the righteous are not forsaken nor his seed begging bread.

Featured Image Credit:Grade Level: K-5
Content Area: Creative Arts, Language Arts
Created By: Christine Kolstoe and Kelly Kerani, Lynnwood Elementary, Lynnwood, WA, USA (Edmonds School District, north of Seattle)

Faithful Cries

a Canaanite woman…came out shouting… but he did not answer at all…  Matthew 15:21-28  After a long night, I awoke to rare early morning barking, but payed no attention. Apparently, my Italian Greyhound needed to go out, but it was 6am! By the time I came down it was clear that indeed his barking was an emergency cry. The mess he created left me frustrated as I had far more important things to do that day than clean up his mess. Today, Jesus focused no his ministry, ignores the cries of a Canaanite woman, and his disciples, for their own reasons, implore him to send her away. To be clear, me ignoring my dog isn’t anything like Christ ignoring the Canaanite woman. My reason for ignoring Orpheus is more like the disciples – selfish and self serving. He was bothering me and interrupting my rest. Although it was the will of God that caused Jesus to keep his focus, in no way could he keep ignoring her. To do so, I believe would support the disciples insensitivity. At the very least Jesus must acknowledge her and make clear his mission. For that, God makes clear his mission. Even the faithful cries of the broken, marginalized and the forgotten are heard by Him and are healed.

Justice To Victory

He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick…   Matthew 12:15-21 (Isaiah 42:1-4) Healing is a delicate matter. The process can take as little as a few hours or it can take years. Early in Jesus’ ministry he began healing, initially defining his call to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt.15:24), but in just three years he would heal anyone who came before in faith and believed in his authority. In him was their hope and in him they found healing, bringing justice to victory in administering the law of God’s love for his creation. Today we are the benefactors of that victory. Bruised and smoldering, yet steadfast and immovable in our faith, we too have hope. We are not alone. We too will find healing.

Breaking Through

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  1 Corinthians 12:1-11  I remember the day I started this blog, April 3, 2011. A friend of mine had started a blog and I was so empowered by it, I knew it was something I needed to do. Initially, to a great extent it’s purpose was for self preservation as I struggled to find my “place.” I felt alone, bitter, and in desperate need of healing. Much like the woman who reached in faith, breaking through the wilderness of the crowd to touch a piece of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:18-26), this outlet was my reach in faith towards Christ, in order that my own “hemorrhaging” would be healed. I’d like to say that all of my anxiety went away immediately the day I wrote my first post, but as we know healing is a process. What I can say is that the achievement of that first post was the manifestation of the spirit within me that desired to reach and refused to give up. In return, Six hundred fifty posts later, not only has God’s grace preserved my life, he has allowed me the joy of sharing his Word with a community larger than I could have imagined. Truly, faith in God is meant to be shared. I praise, bless and thank God, for you all for sharing it with me.

Pushing God Away

…the whole town came out to meet Jesus; when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. Matthew 8:28-34  What a bizarre event! This scripture refers to “demoniacs”, coming out of the tombs to meet Jesus, knowing what could happen to them. No doubt they were cast out of town because of a disorder in behavior. Yet, Jesus heals them by casting out the behavior. The town then wants to cast out Jesus! It leaves me to question; what’s going on in this town? What might they be trying to hide? What are they afraid of? These same questions could be asked of what is happening in society today? Is not God stronger than the “demons” of the world? To be clear, I’m not talking about mental illness. I’m referring to the kind of conscious behavior we exhibit against one another. I’m referring to the kind of behaviors God is willing to purge from us, yet knowing God’s healing power and authority, we like the towns people find our selves pushing God away. Paul encourages us to strive to be partnered with Christ (1 Cor. 10:14-11:1). If we are going to draw closer to God we too must be willing to come out from the tombs in which we’ve been cast or the town in which we find “safe” familiarity and God will meet us spiritually and emotionally where ever we are.

Crumbs Will Do!

“Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  Then he said to her, “… you may go– the demon has left your daughter.”Mark 7:24-37  I remember my mother as someone who always seemed to have the answers. Once when I was a child, we were on one of our many day trips and apparently I had asked one too many questions. Finally my mother turns to me and says “You ask too many questions!” For a while I tried to contain myself but the silence was more than I could bare and I quietly responded, “If I don’t ask questions, how will I know the answers?” Another brief moment of silence and she thoughtfully said; “You’re absolutely right.” Although I felt somewhat vindicated, I decided that whatever else I needed to know could wait another day. The woman in this story needed healing for her daughter. She knew Jesus could give her daughter that healing. Although Jesus wanted to stay focused on his ministry to the people of Israel her humbling faithful response caused him to rethink. She knew that any residual from Christ’s presence among his people was far more effective than anything else for which she could possibly wait. Thus, the crumbs would do just fine! She didn’t have to wait any longer, the woman’s daughter was healed and I kept asking questions.

Healing – WWYD

If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath?  John 7:14-36   One of the news highlights of this past weekend featured a 911 call and conversation between a nurse at a private nursing home and a 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher did everything she could to convince the nurse to perform CPR on a resident who was dying. The nurse vehemently refused to be guided by the dispatcher to perform the procedure because the rules of the nursing home did not allow their employees to perform the procedure. After the call is made, their responsibility is to wait with the resident until the medics arrived. The good news is that the nurse performed her duties perfectly. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The bad news is much deeper than the reality of a woman dying as a result. Immediately the first thing we want to do is judge the nurse. Admittedly, I asked myself why didn’t she just allow herself to be instructed to perform the CPR? However the second question that immediately came to mind was; “What might have happened had she chosen to ignore the rules of her employer?” Of course we like to think the resident may have lived; but for how long – who knows? Then there is the issue of whether any additional damage would have occurred because the nurse either received bad instruction or she did not follow the instruction properly. Most prominent in my mind is the fact that the nurse may have lost her job. Unless of course one is a CEO of a major company, I don’t know of many people in today’s economy who can afford to lose a job. Had anything gone wrong 10-1 she would have been the scapegoat. The saddest thing is that there are those who have already made her the scapegoat because she chose to follow the rules. Perhaps we all like to think that if we were in her position we would have chosen to help the resident. The reality however is that fear is the enemy’s most precious and favored tool against a willing heart. Who among us can say that fear has never played a part in making a decision to do something or not do something? This nurse’s dilemma is a glaring example of the “work” of the world. Christ was very aware of this. We may never find ourselves in a situation surrounding a life and death decision that will affect both ourselves and someone else. Throughout his ministry, this is what Christ did for us; he gave his life. Now we know what Jesus did; the question is “What will you do?”

In the Spirit

Sir, …even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.  Mark 7:24-37 Two thousand plus years later and the  Syrophoenician woman is still right today. Some owners even treat their pets better than they treat people. Dogs know that all they have to do is wait and eventually something will end up on the floor. Jesus’ ministry may have been to the lost sheep of Israel, but as one of God’s creations, the woman and her sick child were no less valuable or deserving of God’s healing grace. It makes no difference what other people see, but what we know and understand our selves to be in the spirit that matters.

The Gift

‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ (Mark 1:29-45).  A man with leprosy approaches Jesus who then stretches out his hand to touch him saying; “I do choose.” Leprosy is a disease that causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness that gets worse over time. Since there was no cure in biblical times, there weren’t too many things that could be worse than being struck with leprosy. Today we have various remedies and effective antibiotics to heal the physical ills the body often endures. Yet I believe Jesus’ desire to heal the man with leprosy has little to do with the body but is more about his desire to change the man’s way of thinking concerning who he believes Jesus to be. So too today, Jesus’ grace and mercy desires to meet with our faith even in in the most difficult times because while the body is a temporary gift, in the end it is the gift of the spirit which endures that is raised up with Christ.

All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses,… But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 2:1-10