April 2009


prayer1It’s becoming more and more apparent as we journey through the book of Luke.

I suppose any saint would tell you the same thing.  But it is one thing to be told, and another to experience it for yourself. 

Almost every passage in Luke hammers on the theme of surrender.  Of total submission to God.  Just look at the last few posts: surrender to God life’s “details,” sacrifice life’s daily boring work, submit to the heart of God’s law of love, surrender pride, and on and on.

And here we are in Luke 11:1-4, the famous “Lord’s Prayer.”  Guess what big theme jumped out at us through our discussion yesterday?

Yeah, submission.

It seems prayer as Jesus taught is a lot about surrender.

When reading the Lord’s Prayer though the lens of surrender:

“Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.”  Immediately we’re taught to be Other-focused, God-focused.  Prayer is not ultimately about us.  It is not our kingdom come…our plans, ideas, desires, schemes.  God’s Kingdom is about the divine transformation of us and our world, bit by bit, to be fully here in power at the end of the age.

To truly, genuinely pray for God’s Kingdom is to pry open our fists and to release whatever it is that we’ve been grasping to God’s perfect will.  That’s surrender.

“Give us each day our daily bread.”  We are taught to seek God for our being, our needs.  We are to trust Him and surrender our illusion of self-sufficiency, pride, and various other “idols.”

“Forgive us…as we forgive…”  A surrender of grudges, resentment, dark spots, and unhealthy relationships.

“And lead us not into temptation.”  A surrender of our future to God’s faithful guidance.  By this point in the prayer we are in a state of full submission and we certainly don’t desire to leave.  God, please keep us here!

We know these truths.  We’ve heard them again and again.  Do we  live these truths and not merely mentally assent?

The work of total surrender is tough, life-long work.  It is heart work.  And our talks with God, our communication, our prayers aid us in this endeavor.

Well, they don’t just aid us.  They are necessary. 

Do we want to REALLY live?  Then we must learn to pray.  And we must learn to submit.

Or maybe prayer and submission are really the same thing.

choresOver and over again, Jesus teaches us to not allow the details of life to distract us from God.

He says, “Don’t worry about what you wear or eat or your lifespan.  Seek first the Kingdom” (Mt. 6).

He directs the 12 disciples to go on a journey to proclaim the Kingdom without food, defense, money, or extra clothing.  The disciples are simply to obey and not allow the necessary details of living hold them back (Lk. 9).

In contrast to the many details involved with being a good hostess that were consuming Martha, He says that Mary has chosen the one necessary thing, the good part.  Mary has chosen to be with Jesus.  Her focus is wrapped up in her relationship with God Himself (Lk. 10).

And we know this.  We hear these admonishments time and time again.  Why is it  so hard to actually live a life devoid of distraction?

I believe one of the biggest reasons is because the details of life aren’t details to us.  How can God say that what I’m going to wear or eat is simply a detail?  These “details” are concrete…I can see them, feel them, and I know when I do and do not have them.  And I need these “details.”

The same is not as easily said about our relationship with God.  Our spiritual health is more ethereal and hard to really nail down.  If we completely ignore it for a couple of days, we don’t feel the same consequences as if we went without clothes or food.

But Jesus says that nothing is more important.  Nothing is more necessary or better than allowing the many things that make up life remain as details in contrast to our relationship with the Creator of the universe.

How do we live that way?

I believe the resolution lies with our focus, our heart.  By letting go of the details of life Jesus does not mean to avoid them.  He’s not saying to stop buying groceries or clothes or being responsible.  Remember, Jesus is most concerned about our hearts, because from our hearts flow our actions.  Flow our “details.”

Jesus is teaching us to not allow the details of life, especially when they don’t feel like details, to distract us from our God and our relationship with Him.  Don’t be consumed by your future plans, or financial concerns, or daily housework, or schoolwork, or career, or family, or…  Once these things consume us, they have become our gods, mere idols.

So, for Martha, she allowed the work of hosting Jesus and His disciples consume her and distract her from spiritual reality.  She allowed resentment to build up against her sister Mary rather than recognizing how powerful her service was in not only allowing her sister to grow nearer to God, but also in serving God Himself!! 

What Martha was doing was not wrong.  It was how she was doing it.  It was her heart.

For me, I find the challenge is in not allowing the mundane, boring, little daily routines distract me from God.  Rather, I need to make my routine a spiritual discipline of sorts.  A discipline that brings me nearer to God by recognizing each activity as spiritually significant.  To do my Martha work and to choose the “good part” at the same time.  Each day.  Little bit by little bit.

Jesus reminds us that where we are and what we do MATTERS.  Right now.  Here today.  And it is all about our hearts. 

Defend your heart from distractions as you go about the details of life.

This is the work of a disciple of Jesus.

empty-tombAbout 2000 years ago God became man, walked among humanity and taught them.  He was born of a virgin, was sinless, and performed various miracles.  Around the age of 32, he was wrongly accused of blasphemy and of starting a rebellion (among other things), he was convicted by a  “judge” persuaded by some public opinion, suffered for the sin I’d commit thousands of years later, and was crucified.  Three days later this same God-man came back to life, ascended back into heaven, and lives there today.

I believe this.  I believe what to most sounds outlandish, crazy, mythical, and simply wishful.  Yet, and certainly not without evidence, I believe it.

Frequently I find myself repeating the plea a father made to Jesus in hopes that Jesus would heal his boy, “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” 

I believe these things actually historically happened.

That claim provides quite a jolt to my daily perspective of life, especially in relation to difficult tasks to which God is calling me.

Tasks of self-sacrifice.  The daily grind of many small and boring yet spiritual significant decisions.  The larger big and exciting projects and their various necessary elements and steps.   

I’m beginning to believe that self-sacrifice is the root of all of God’s calls upon my life. 

He calls me to sacrifice the common things of  time, energy, money, possessions, and comfort.  But underneath  and deeper than these “objects” of sacrifice, He is concerned with shaping my heart.  Here, He calls me to sacrifice my feelings of inadequacy, of being overwhelmed, of self-sufficiency.

Especially self-sufficiency, and the pride that entails.  When will I get it?

Jesus sacrificed so much more.  He displayed a power that goes beyond understanding.  My struggles in comparison are nothing.  They are child’s play.  When will I actually live like I need to literally, daily depend on Jesus’ strength in order for me to meaningfully sacrifice anything…for me to grow?

It is ludicrous to imagine that Jesus can’t help me with my own areas of self-sacrifice.  Consider His crucifixion and resurrection.  Look at what He already did.  Look at what He already proved. 

I need that perspective.  I need that divine power.  I need that help so I can take the next steps God has for me.  My next small, but significant steps.

I need all of it daily.

good-samaritanBut he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my  neighbor?” (Lk 10:29)

Perhaps this expert in the mosaic Law was a bit flustered, or a bit embarrassed, or a bit prideful.  He just asked Jesus a question to which he answered himself: the way to inherit eternal life is by loving God with all that you are and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps he was flustered because Jesus didn’t provide any new law or nuance of the Law.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his question.

Perhaps he was embarrassed because he took the time of this popular teacher in the presence of many people to ask a question to which he already knew the answer.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his keen mind and “expertness.”

Perhaps he was trying to prove what his pride told him, that he already did love God and his neighbor as himself.  In a way, trying to argue his way into eternal life.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his entrance into heaven.

And then Jesus does provide something new for this lawyer: an “interpretation” of the Law that had gotten lost in time and humanity’s drive for black and white rules.  Jesus clears away the distraction and comfort of rules and gets to the point.

This expert in the law had completely missed the Law.  He missed the intent.  The “spirit.”  He missed the heart of the Law.

To communicate this to His interrogator, Jesus tells a story about getting back to what is basic.  Back to what actually matters.  He tells the story of the Good Samaritan.

What doesn’t matter:  the nuisance and hassle of having to ceremonially wash oneself again after touching a beaten, dying, unclean traveller.  Walls we create between ourselves and others we dislike for whatever reason.  The various self-inflicted, informal rules.

What does matter: loving your neighbor.  

Even if, especially if, that neighbor is your enemy.  To the Jewish lawyer, a Samaritan, a “half-breed” who twists and edits parts of holy Scripture to validate their corrupted religion.  In the story, this very same Samaritan “got it,” while the pious Jews didn’t.

Jesus tells the lawyer to be a Samaritan.

That’s the Law.  The Law in action.  And it has everything to do with your heart, and nothing to do with jumping through hoops. 

For me, it means loving a particular employee of mine that I can’t stand.  Even if that means taking shots without returning fire, forcing my pride to break under love, and continuously extending grace even if none is returned.

All because I’m called to foster a heart to love God and my neighbor.  To touch, support, and heal the “unclean.”  To live a life that actually “gets it.”  And to let all the chips fall where they may.  

Because unlike our hearts,  the chips don’t matter.