More Like Him

This week I had opportunity to spend time with two guys I do not see often during this pandemic. They have some interesting things in common. I am blessed to know them both and honoured to have them think of me as a friend.

C. suffered a life altering brain injury when he was a child. His father beat him so badly that his brain was damaged leaving him quite simple. He has suffered a lifetime of rejection and ridicule but somehow has managed to be a loving and caring human. He has been in lots of trouble in his life, mostly because he is easily led into activities he would not naturally choose. A few years ago, when his dad had a stroke he moved in with him and fed and cared for him, while other family members did not. He loves God and says that it is God’s love that helps him.

He called me because he was distressed that someone had been particularly cruel to him. He knew that his “peace” was shattered, and he wanted me to pray with him that he would forgive and move forward in the “peace of Jesus”. We chatted for a while and we prayed over the phone. By the time he said “Amen” his voice and demeanor changed. That quickly he was restored to his usual attitude of simple benevolence for all those around him.

I want to be more like him!

Another fellow had suffered a life changing brain injury through a traffic accident when he was a toddler. Besides his cognition problems he has some physical issues including speech difficulties. Conversations with him are painful both for him and his listener. I often have to ask him to repeat what he says. As soon as our province allowed coffee shops to reopen the phone rang and I knew who it was. We met and had a grand time together! My friend is one of the ‘essential workers’ everyone appreciates with words of praise. He holds two jobs cleaning so people in his apartment building are safe and so university students can return to safe classrooms. Outside the generic praise for ‘essential workers’ as a group, there is little tangible appreciation for my friend. He is more likely to be ridiculed than encouraged. He too loves Jesus and looks to him for ‘peace’.

I want to be more like him!

Our society too often has upside down values. We fail to recognize the wonderful and rich virtues of these simple and heroic gentle men. Jesus was “despised and rejected by men”. We continue this poor track record!

On another note, I had an unique opportunity this week. I was invited to preach to a congregation in Edmonton. Since last March I have only preached once (at my own baptism) and so this was a treat. I recorded a message and sent it off. A year ago I would never have thought of doing such a thing nor would I have the tools or ability to do so. God is good!

Growing in a Pandemic

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

I was in conversation with someone recently about the topic we all chat about, the pandemic. My friend said something that caught my attention. “I think the Church will survive this.” I was a bit taken aback because the Word of God tells us that very “gates of hell will not prevail” against the Church. The end, for us, is not in question but the means certainly are. Rather than bemoan the changes that have been forced on the church, and impatiently waiting for things to get back to normal, we would do well to ask, “What are the lessons we can learn?”, and “How can we apply new learning to our future?”

There are certainly things we miss, during these times. We are not able to physically gather and so miss many of the best experiences of corporate worship. I too look forward to the time we are together to practise our faith corporately in these familiar and biblical ways, but I do want to suggest that we can learn and grow thrivingly during these times!

The western church often seems rife with consumerism. People hop from church to church looking for the brand that will best ‘feed their souls’. Often I have heard people exit a church with the phrase “I was not being fed.” This tells much about our mindset and the mindset of many ‘attraction modeled’ churches.

As a lay person, I want to say that a pastor who is the sole source of spiritual nutrition does that church a disservice and individuals who rely only on pastoral teaching are bound to be anemic.  Amy Grant used to sing about “Fat Baby” Christians. These Christians drank only the milk fed to them and never fed themselves.

Psalm 1 describes a flourishing Christian as a tree planted by the water. The tree is placed in a location that makes growth possible and all but inevitable. The tree only has to sink its roots! Sometimes a horticulturist ‘forces’ the plant by drastically changing the environment. I believe we are in a time where God is forcing us to sink our roots.

Sinking roots is an individual exercise to which corporate worship is a complement. Jesus calls us and we respond personally, and this is how we grow. It is an individual sport!

During this time of Covid we have the supreme opportunity to sink our roots. When we do so we will be richer and better able to encourage one another when we can resume corporate meetings.

There are many ways of sinking our roots, but I want to suggest three.

Reading scripture meditatively.

Praying conversationally.

Obeying consistently.

These practises do not need a lot of explanation. Part of feeding yourself may be in figuring this out for yourself. I do want to emphasize obeying though! If we read God’s Word and converse with him but do not incarnate what we have come to know and experience, we remain ‘fat baby Christians’. When we intentionally sink our roots in this way we can count on God to do His work. If we work on the roots He will take care of the fruits.

Eyes To See

Today the Christian Church looks to the cross. The world gazes on and wonders.https://www.livescience.com/63645-optical-illusion-young-old-woman.html

I am reminded of Elisha’s prayer for his servant “Open his eyes!” The world it seems have eyes but do not see and ears but do not hear. Like Elisha we should pray “Lord, please open their eyes” By a miracle of grace my eyes were opened, and I see the awful beauty of the cross. The hymn writer pens “Did ever such love and sorrow meet?”

I am reminded of a variety of op art pieces. There is a surface image, but the mysterious other image is not discernible to us. We stare and stare but until our eyes ‘are opened’ we do not see beyond our initial view. Then suddenly and mysteriously our eyes are opened, and we see through the mystery which is hidden in plain sight. After seeing it we wonder how we or anyone else could miss it. Now that we see it we can never look at the image the same again. We glance away and the glance back and the once hidden image is clearly apprehended.

To the world the cross is but jewellery or a foolish instrument of death akin a gallows or electric chair. But to those whose eyes have been opened the cross holds so much more. When our eyes are opened it resembles clicking on an icon on our desktop. We find so much more behind the icon when our eyes are opened.

We see the place where life begins for us. We ‘click’ on the cross and we understand scripture itself. We find life and health and healing. All this waits beyond the icon that is the cross and we need eyes to see.

The opening of eyes is a specialty of the Lord. In fact, only He can. On this Good Friday and going forward let us pray this simple prayer that God would open the eyes of those we love. Let us pray with thanksgiving because he and he alone, has opened our eyes to the marvellous beauty of the cross!