Thursday, December 24, 2009

High Five

Lectio Divina is a Latin term meaning ‘holy reading.’ This centuries old practice of prayer and meditation involves reading passages of scripture several times. All the time listening to what God might be telling you through what you read or hear. Earlier this year, I was introduced to this spiritual practice and have recently begun practicing it with a close friend.
One of the passages Pete and I read recently was the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). While we read and reread it, we talked about what words or verses had impacted us. Pete wondered allowed why Jesus had asked for God’s “kingdom to come soon” (v10a). As God incarnate, couldn’t He have ordered God’s kingdom to arrive at any time? My query came a few verses later.
In verse twelve, Jesus prays for God to “forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” As I read and listened to this passage, I realized how soul shaking this idea is. If I ask God to forgive me for my sins in the same way that I forgive those who sin against me, I’d better do a pretty thorough job of forgiving other people.
When he walked around town, Jesus knew how to forgive people thoroughly. Whether it involved someone being healed (Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26), caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), or dying for the people He was forgiving, (Luke 23:34, 23:43) Jesus was in the business of offering absolute forgiveness. Instead of offering absolute forgiveness however, we may offer partial forgiveness to others, but expect absolute forgiveness from God. An example of partial forgiveness versus God’s absolute forgiveness is found in Matthew 18:21-35 where Jesus tells the story of the unmerciful servant.
In the story, Jesus talked about a banker who came to collect his dues, but the debtor was unable to pay him. The debtor begged, “please have patience with me sir, and I will repay you everything.” Instead of charging interest, the banker forgave the man outright of his debt. The forgiven debtor must have been at least a little grateful. But instead of expressing joy at what had just happened, he pounced with rage upon a colleague of his who owed him a tiny percentage of what he had once owed.
The second debtor pleaded, “Please, please have patience with me sir, and I will repay you everything.”
Instead of forgiving the man, or simply adding interest to the man’s debt, he demanded that the man be tortured until he paid the measly amount he owed.
After hearing rumors of this, the banker then called the forgiven debtor into his office to set the record straight. “Didn’t I let you off the hook from paying me that huge debt? What is this I hear about you torturing a man who could not pay you? That’s it, your debt has been reinstated, and you must pay me every cent!”
The morel of Christ’s story is known as the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) Or, as I heard recently from a colleague of mine: “Forgive me as I forgive.” Mr. Stevens calls this the “High Five” rule as each of the five fingers corresponds to a word in his paraphrase.
We often forgive people in light and flippant ways. And we believe that we must sugar coat our wrongs so that forgivers may consider forgiveness as an easy thing to do. But the forgiveness you offer should be based entirely upon the amount of forgiveness you need. As we live in whatever season we find ourselves in, may we forgive as the banker forgave. May we remember that forgiveness is something that everybody needs, and may we be generous to give it in full.

Monday, August 24, 2009

John 3:1-18 – Stumping the Teacher

One night, Nic, a leader in the church, came to Jesus with a burning question. But, because he felt ashamed to visit someone like Jesus, he came at night, when he would not be noticed.
“Teacher,” he said, “we know you are someone important who has come from God, because if you hadn’t come from God, you would not be able to do the great things you do.”
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Jesus said, “If you want to live forever with God, you must start life over again.”
“What the heck? Be born again? How do you do that? I’m a big boy now and I’m not getting any younger like Benjamin Button!”
“Again, if you want to live forever with God, you must start life over again with God. Moms and Dads make babies, yes, but the Holy Spirit makes Spirit. The wind blows wherever it wants to and you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. The Wind of the Spirit blows them where He wants them to go. That’s what it’s like for those who have the Spirit in them.”
“This makes no sense, whatsoever!”
“Well it should. You are Israel’s teacher, right? Listen carefully. I'm speaking sober truth to you. Truth is all I talk about, and it is all reliable. So why do you continue asking questions instead of believing? If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don't believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can't see, the things of God? No one has gone to Heaven and back again except Me. Just as our ancestor Moses lifted up that snake in front of the Israelites so many generations ago, I also must be lifted up so that those who see and believe may live forever. God loves our world so much that he is giving me to it, so that those who believe will not die, but live forever. Nobody else needs to die, you know, and those who believe in Me won’t. God didn’t go through all this trouble so He could point an accusing finger at the world, He came to help put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; but anyone who doesn’t, isn’t. And anyone who has the chance to believe in Him should.

John 14 - One Way Jesus

Don't worry. Be Happy instead! You trust in God, right? Trust in me too! There are many rooms in my Dad's house, and if you believe in me, I will be going there soon to make one ready for you, and you, and you, and you! In fact, everybody is invited!
When everything is ready I will come back and get you, so you may join the party with me. You already know where the party will be.
Thomas, one of the disciples, said "Lord we have no idea where you are going. We don't know the way to the party! Can you give us directions?"
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." If you follow My directions you will get there. My Dad is waiting for you. If you know me, you will know my Dad too because we are one and the same. 'Like Son, Like Father.'
Phillip was getting frustrated, "Can you just show us your Dad and stop just talking about Him? That would be perfect!"
"Jesus said to Phillip, "You've been around me and have seen a lot of me. Don't you know me yet? As I said before, 'Like Son, Like Father.' So, why are you asking to see Him? Remember, my Dad and I are one and the same. In fact, I'm not saying any of this by myself. Instead, my Dad is, because He lives in me just as we can live in you."
Jesus continued, "In summary, my Dad and I are one and the same. And it is my Dad who allows me to do the things you have seen me do, the miracles and all that.
The truth is, he or she who believes in me can do the same things I am doing: feeding thousands of people, healing others, bringing the dead back to life, and other great things like that. If you believe in me, you can do all of these things if you ask me to. So, go ahead .... ask."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Tribute to Parents

I am a teacher. I was born from the first moment that a question leaped from the mouth of a child. I have been many people in many places. I am Socrates, exciting the youth of Athens to discover new ideas through the use of questions. I am Anne Sullivan, tapping out the secrets of the universe into the outstretched hand of a blind girl named Helen Keller. I am Esop and Hanns Christian Anderson, revealing truth through countless stories. I am Marva Collins, fighting for every child’s right to an education.
The names of those who have practiced my profession ring like a hall of fame for humanity: Booker T. Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Leo Besaglia, Moses, even Jesus. I have wept for joy at the weddings of former students, laughed with glee at the birth of their children and stood with head bowed in grief and confusion by graves dug too soon for bodies far too young to have died. Throughout the course of my day, I have been called upon to be actor, friend, nurse, doctor, coach, finder of lost articles, moneylender, taxi driver, psychologist, substitute parent, salesman, politician, and keeper of the faith.
I am a paradox. I speak loudest when I listen the most. My greatest gifts come when I am willing to appreciatively receive from my students. Material wealth is not one of my goals. But I am a full time treasure seeker in my quest for new opportunities for my students to use their talents, and in my constant search for those talents that sometimes lie buried in self defeat.
I am the most fortunate of all who labor. A doctor is aloud to usher life into the world in one magic moment. I am allowed to see that life reborn each day with new questions ideas and friendships. An architect knows how to build with care and knows that if he does, his structure may stand for centuries. A teacher knows that if he builds with love and truth, what he builds will last forever.
I am a warrior, daily doing battle against peer pressure, negativity, fear, conformity, ignorance, prodigies and apathy. But I have great allies. Intelligence, curiosity, individuality, creativity, parental support, faith, love and laughter. All of these things rush to my banner with indomitable support. And who do I have to thank for this wonderful life? I am so fortunate to experience but you the public, the parents. For you have done me the great honor to entrust me your greatest contribution to eternity, your own child. And so, I have a past that is rich in memories, I have a present that is challenging and adventurous, and fun because I am allowed to spend my days with the future. I am a teacher. And I thank God for it every day.
- John W. Schlatter

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Standing at Attention

Before Jesus was nailed to a cross on Skull Hill, he was offered wine mixed with gall, a mild painkiller. However, he refused their generosity because He knew that several weeping disciples of his would need His undivided attention over the next several hours.
In Luke 23:27-29, the author tells us of a Christ who comforts when He should be comforted. Several women were following the Christ-turned-criminal, up Skull hill, weeping bitterly. “But Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children’” (v 28). Christ was never someone to feel sorry for Himself. Even now, when His fate was signed, sealed, and delivered, He encouraged the women to weep for themselves and the hard futures they would walk into, rather than for Him, who was walking in, one-step by painful step, into glory.
Luke 23:34 tells us that Jesus forgives His captors as he is hanging from the cross and the high priests laugh as they gamble for his tunic. “Father, forgive them . . . ” I could imagine that this is the first line to one of Jesus world famous parables, often labeled at people like the ones several meters away. I could imagine that instead of being taught the ultimate lesson, which was the point of crucifixion, that Christ would turn the tables on them yet again “. . . for they don’t have a clue what is going on.”
In Luke 23:43, Jesus expands the boundaries of grace even more by welcoming a renowned criminal to join Him in the last place he would expect to be. What these criminals were hanging for is debatable. But it was probably theft, murder or both. This man truly knew that Jesus was his last and only hope of doing anything good with his life. He was an impoverished man who spent his last dime on his last hope and hit the jackpot, for “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The next, but probably not the last, words Jesus utters from the cross are recorded in John 19:26-27. Here, He provides a way for His mother to continue to be cared for when He could not be the person to do so. Though His ministry was probably funded by several well-to-do women, Christ’s mother was probably not one of them. As it was the responsibility of the oldest son to provide a home for his aging mother after her husband died, Mary may not have been grieving for her Son. Rather, she may have been wondering what would happen to her when Joseph, who was probably nearing the age of retirement, finally passed on. “And from then on this disciple took her into his home.”
From the cross, Christ said many things. He comforted the weeping women, forgave the unforgivable, welcomed the criminal, and arranged a home for his mother. Even as He died, His words provided life for His hearers. How would the dying Christ provide life for you?

On Good Friday, we remember the Man who healed us by His scars.
On Good Friday we remember the Christ, who sacrificed His life so that we might gain ours.
On Good Friday, we remember the Redeemer who forgave, so that we might forgive.
On Good Friday, we remember the Word of Life who gave so we might receive.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Playing Hockey in Heaven

Recently my roommate asked me, “Do you think there will be hockey in Heaven?” I remembered all the hours as a child trading hockey cards with my friends, playing it at the elementary school next door and watching as many games I could set my eyes on. I remembered the Vancouver Canuck cards I took to a game at the Pacific Coliseum, hopeful that they would be signed by role models like Kirk McLean, Sergio Momesso, Tim Hunter and Ryan Walter. When my hopes were realized, I was on cloud nine.

Living with a visual impairment and other challenges I acquired due to a stroke has been a challenge, and I have often wondered what it would be like if I was playing with the Canucks rather than watching them from the couch. I assume I will keep watching for the rest of my life, but will my sight be perfect, and the results of my stroke be corrected, so I can finally play when I get to Heaven?

As a teenager, I went to the S.C.O.R.E. computer camp, for students with visual impairments, and attempted to get as close to the game as I could. In addition to receiving air-faire to, and accommodation in Mississauga, Ontario for the duration of the camp, and a five thousand dollar cheque from the Wayne and Walter Gretzky foundation to kick-start my post-secondary educational career, I was told I would meet the Great One himself to express my thankfulness. Though the cheque was cashed, framed, and used, my hope to meet Wayne never materialized, though I did meat his dad and the money he gave me evaporated quickly.

My dad has shared his excitement with me that I will be able to play hockey with Gretzky in heaven because I would be able to see everything perfectly there. This hope is based on Romans 8:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:43-44 where Paul says that “we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering,” which seems to preclude that we will receive new bodies in Heaven.

If I could choose from any kind of Heavenly body I wanted, I might decide on one that is 6’3”, 250lb and muscular with a German accent like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then at least I would have the body I always wanted when I was on earth. But what would I do after that. Would I strut around, flex my muscles for all of Heaven to see because I had finally received the body I always wanted?

I have heard people say things like, “Everything will be better in heaven when we don’t have to ______,” completing the sentence with reasons why life on earth sucks so much. However, if you were given exactly what you were lacking, would it be helpful?

A couple of weeks ago, several members of the staff I am apart of talked about how winning the lottery often causes great grief in a family, even though their joy was intense for a short time. Family members may soon squabble over money that had miraculously appeared and they realize they cannot handle their new wealth. Some winners of ABC’s show “Extreme Makeover,” suffer head and heartaches after their house is renovated and refurnished, because they are unable to afford the new, more expensive, lifestyle they receive as a result, and are forced to sell their home.

These are stories of people who expected great things, but were disappointed in one way or another. In the end, they realized that these material possessions, though helpful for a time, are useless. As Christians, our first desire is to be where Jesus is. Nothing more and nothing less. The personal possessions or the perfect bodies we may or may not have here on earth do not change the Lord’s willingness to welcome us into Heaven. But we must be willing to let them go, because what we will receive is much greater than anything we may acquire here.

When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout for victory!

Eli­za E. Hew­itt