Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One Thing Needed

In a world full of distractions, our faith guides us in making the right priorities.  The Bible story in the Gospel of Luke of Jesus visiting the home of his friends, Mary and Martha, helps us see that setting priorties is not always easy.

Quick... Your boss has told you that she is coming over to your home tomorrow to meet with you. What do you need to do over the next 24 hours?

What ever came to your mind, I'm sure there's a good chance it sounded a whole lot like this: "But Martha was distrated by all the preparations that had to be made (Luke 10:40)."  There's a children's Bible I like a lot.  It's a smiplified verison of the Bible, but in the case of the story of Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus in their home, it gives us a whole lot more detail.  Maybe your preparations for your boss would look a bit like this. "Martha, on the other hand, was very busy. She didn't have time to sit down! She cooked - olives, fish bread. She cleaned - sweeping the dirt floor and shaking the mats. Martha worked to make Jesus' visit special."

After thinking about what you would need to do to prepare for your boss's visit, maybe your final conclusion might be: "I need to convince her to meet with me somewhere else."

In the text, Martha becomes of frustrated with Mary, she approaches Jesus to help her get Mary to help out. "Tell her to help me!"  Jesus response is a lesson in priorties and compassion.  With compassion in his heart Jesus knows Martha is struggling and opens her eyes to truth. "'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about may things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her' (Luke 10:41-42)."

What is the one thing needed?  What is preventing Martha from doing the one thing needed?
I can think of a lot of words here: stuff, pride, appearances, fairness, frustration, fear, things. 

What is the one thing needed?

Living the Kingdom of God, living the spiritual reality we have been baptized into means making the one thing needed our priority in all things and in all our realtionships.  We view the world through the lens of that one thing needed.  We do our chores in light of the one thing needed.  

On that day Mary chose what is better because her actions were centered on the one thing needed.  She was free because of that one thing needed

What is preventing you from living in the light of that one thing needed?  Are you ready to place those discrations in their proper place in your life?  Are you open to being released to live for Christ my making that one thing needed your number one priority?  Are you ready to pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire you to center on that one thing needed?  Can that one thing needed become a spiritual habit that becomes second nature... I mean... first nature?

When that day comes, you will be ready to welcome your boss today, tomorrow, and anytime.  Mi casa es su casa when your life is defined by that one thing needed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What in the World is Water?

What in the world is water?
I read this joke in Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business: "There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says 'Morning, boys. How's the water?' The two young fish swim on for a bit and eventually one of them looks over at the other and asks 'What in the world is water?'"

Ash Wednesday is about encountering realities we tend to not think about. When we are marked on our foreheads with ashes we remember the reality that "we are dust and to dust we shall return."  We are mortal and this life is finite. We are completely dependent on the graciousness of God to make through this live and beyond.

The fact that the ashes are marked on our forehead in the sign of the cross reminds us that we belong to Christ: "You belong to Christ in whom you are baptized." Our mortality is not the end of the story for us. Isaiah 43 is our reality: "I have called you by name. You are mine."

Which of course also reminds us of our baptismal reality. On Ash Wednesday we can see that we have been marked with the cross of Christ... but that marking lasts forever.  Our baptism lasts forever.  Reality is that marked with the cross long after the ashes are washed away.  Reality is that we are wet in the waters of baptism long after the water dries.  Christians who forget their baptisms are blind to reality just as much as our two young fish are blind to the reality around them when they ask: "what in the world is water?"

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us about treasures on earth and treasures in heaven.  Both heaven and earth are real, but too often we neglect the Kingdom of Heaven reality we are free to live in today.  We trudge on head in our earthly reality forgetting that we are free to live Christ's love... a Kingdom reality that is a real as the air we breathe... and as easily forgotten. 

The disciplines of Lent: self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love are Kingdom habits that we can focus on in Lent with the hope that they endure for a lifetime.  They are the treasures in heaven we are free to live right now.  The world might try to convince us that they are burden and weigh us down.  They don't. Living Christ's love in that way actually liberates us.

There is a battle going on between two realities... both very real but only one with the power to give us life.  Paul shines some light these realities well in 2 Corinthians 6:8b-10:

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
as unknown, and yet are well known;
as dying, and see - we are alive;
as punished, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making may rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

People often say that Lent is a time of sorrowful mourning... of dirges and misery. Don't believe it. Through the disciplines of Lent. Through the Kingdom habits we live of prayer and kindness, of generosity and repentance our spiritual eyes are opened to reality.  Christ reveals to us "fish" the real "water" we swim in.