Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Celebrating Nothing New

Celebrating Nothing New

Lately I find myself quoting the phrase “There is nothing new under the sun” a lot. I quote it to myself mostly. I have the kind of temperament that has a tendency to get overwhelmed easily.  Some days my own life overwhelms me.  Other days it’s the state of the world. Either way, I can fairly easily head down a path of doom and gloom.  And for some reason I find it comforting to realize that these struggles are not new ones. There have always been wars, ugly political conflicts, and crime. And on a personal scale, there has always been disease, fatigue, and loneliness.  And so although it might feel to me like the world is falling apart, on a global or personal level, it is really “nothing new”.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, it kind of seems like Jesus had some down time with the disciples. They had a chance to ask him some questions, which led to Jesus teaching them about some signs of the end times.  These included wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilence.  (By the way, I had to look up the word “pestilence” – it means “a deadly and overwhelming disease that affects an entire community.” I always thought it had something to do with bugs . . . )

Anyway, I’m pretty sure those weren’t the kinds of signs the disciples were looking for. They were probably imagining a future of political conquest, fame, and vindication. I wonder if a few of them weren’t starting to wonder if they had made a questionable choice in following this Jesus . . .

It’s interesting that almost every generation has been able to point to certain events and create a case, crazy as it might be, for arguing that Jesus’ return was imminent. Every generation has known war, famine, earthquakes, etc. There really is nothing new under the sun.  The question I’m pondering is why might  that be a reason to celebrate?

Maybe it’s because the  frustration of “nothing new under the sun”, that gnawing feeling of “how can the world just keep turning this way?” point us toward the fact that we were created for something more. Much more.  Somewhere deep inside, we know that this is not how it was supposed to be.  The same author who said there was nothing new under the sun (King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes) also said that God has put eternity in our hearts. Some day there will be something new . . . .

We are promised a better future. One without all the wars, and famine, and ugliness. He will one day make everything right and will wipe away every tear , cure every disease, and right every wrong.

And in the meantime, “nothing new under the sun” also means that the good things keep happening too – like babies being born, and futures being planned, and wrongs being righted one small step at a time.  It’s all a matter of what you choose to focus on -- 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Celebrating Anger? 

The original title for this post was going to be “Celebrating Down Times”. Because I thought pretty much nothing happened on Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week. After all, the other days have names – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, etc.  If anything of importance happened on Monday, it would have a name too, right?

Although the exact sequence of the events of Holy Week are not necessarily written in stone, it turns out that Monday is apparently the day that Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the Temple and also is the day that he cursed the fig tree.  So I guess if we were going to give Monday a name, it might be “Angry Monday”.

Uh. oh.

In case you’ve forgotten, I’m a people-pleasing good girl. I don’t do well with anger.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel anger. I just am not the greatest at complicated matters like expressing it appropriately or distinguishing between “righteous anger” and “unrighteous anger”. My anger, when it leaks out unexpectedly, tends to be in the form of snarky little comments (what a good friend of mine once affectionately dubbed “stealth anger”).  These comments are usually “innocent” enough that I can later claim “Oh, I was just kidding about that.”

Other times my anger shows up in a quiet resentment that causes me to sulk alone and throw a private pity party. Those moments are especially attractive (hopefully you can sense the sarcasm there).  

These forms of anger are really no less destructive than violent outbursts or verbal tantrums. In fact, in some ways they are more destructive because they are more insidious.

So where am I going with this? I’m not qualified to discuss the theological implications of Jesus’ righteous anger. Plus it’s not my jam. (I KNOW, I KNOW, I can’t pull that phrase off. I just threw it in there in the event that my teenager ever reads this. It will give her the opportunity to exhibit that adolescent "OMG, my Mom's trying to be cool" eye roll/shoulder shrug thing that they seem to derive some pleasure in offering up. J  (And, don’t get me wrong, I ADORE my teenager. And I think she kind of likes me, too. But we are not above the requisite eye roll/shoulder shrug thing).

I guess what I’m here to say, for myself and anyone else who can relate, is that I’m pretty much a mess when it comes to handling my anger. I’m really good at denying it, pacifying it, or quieting it, until it seeps out in some subtle, yet ugly, manner. In those moments, I come face to face with how inadequate and unworthy I am.

But in those moments when I am sure I am at my worst, when I am pretty sure Jesus is ready to write me off and turn His back on me, I find Him closer than ever. I feel Him not turning away, but , in fact, pursuing me. Meeting me in the mess. Reassuring me of His love. Offering me grace. Picking me up, dusting me off, and whispering that I can rest tonight in His mercy and start new again tomorrow.  The Cross and the Resurrection mean that I never, ever have to fear being the object of His anger.

So perhaps one of the reasons anger is reason to celebrate is because it reminds us that we are no longer the objects of it when we are in Christ.

There’s that, and there’s also the fact that when I see those snarky, subtle, ugly little signs of it in my life, it chases me to the One who can set me free.

Where would I be without Him? Where would I be without Easter?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hosanna  --  Celebrating Because I Need Saving  (Palm Sunday Reflections)

I grew up in the church. I took part in pageants and reenactments of Bible stories. So I’m familiar with the word “Hosanna”. But I have to admit, my familiarity with the word did not necessarily mean I had an accurate understanding of the meaning of the word. I made assumptions. When we were kids, we would wave palm branches and shout “Hosanna” and we knew Palm Sunday represented a time of jubilance, celebration, and happiness. So I guess I always assumed that the word meant “Hallelujah” or “Praise”. Surely it had something to do with worship.

It was just a few years ago that I learned the literal meaning of the word “Hosanna” – it means save us now. Save us, God. NOW. Or if we are trying hard to be good, polite Christians, we might say “now, please.”

I was reminded of this translation again at church today. And it has me thinking. A lot. There is an urgency to the word “Hosanna”.  . .  “save me, God. But please don’t wait. Save me now.”

I want to live within the tension of that urgency. My salvation is secure and nothing can change that. By grace I have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8).   But every day aren’t there countless things that I need Him to save me from?

Mostly, I need saving from myself. I need saving from the me who, on the hard days, wants to just pull the covers over my head and stay in bed.

I need saving from the me who, on the good days, thinks “I’ve got this, God” and then goes on to live my life completely independent of His Voice, His Grace, and His Love.

I need saving from the voice in my head that says I’m not good enough, smart enough, Okay enough to be loved and valued.
I need saving from the part of me who stays in the shadows, unwilling to take risks, afraid of what other people are thinking.

I need saving from the part of me who is now worried that this post has become “all about me” and therefore will be judged as such by others.

I need saving from the me who thinks I don’t need saving. Truth is I am desperate to be saved. Not just in the eternal sense, although that is obviously of utmost importance. I need saving in the everyday sense. 

Maybe shouting Hosanna is the ultimate form of worship. It is announcing to the world and to ourselves how utterly dependent we are on Him saving us.  Every. Single. Day.

 I need saving now.  Hosanna, Jesus. Save me. Save me now.


(see, this good, people-pleasing girl just couldn’t resist putting that last please in. It’s okay. He understands.)