1 John 1:8 “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense.”
None of us would ever think to claim that we are perfect. We all recognize that as arrogance. But perhaps we claim to be free from sin by our silence. How often do we truly confess our shortcomings and faults to God let alone another person? In her book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, Ruth Haley Barton suggests,
“Confession is the endgame in the self-examination process, but it is the part we shrink from most. Confession requires the willingness to acknowledge and take responsibility not only for the outward manifestations of our sin but also for the inner dynamics that produced the sinful or negative behaviors. Confession requires us to say our failure out loud to ourselves, to God and to the person(s) we have hurt and to take steps to renounce it for Christ’s sake, even making restitution if that is needed.” (103)
If we are not involved with confession at some level maybe we are claiming to be without sin. Maybe this week God is calling you to explore confession on a deeper level.
Mark 10:51 Jesus said, “What can I do for you?”
The above is Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus, a blind beggar he met along the road. The needs of a blind beggar should be pretty apparent, so why does Jesus ask? The only reason I can think of is that Jesus wants to interact with this person on a deeper level than just that of miracle worker. He wants the opportunity to hear the man open himself at the level of his deepest needs and desires. Maybe that is what he wants with us also. If Jesus asked you this question what would be your response? Ruth Haley Barton in her book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (pg 24) comments on this:
Now if I had been in Bartimaeus’s shoes, I might have gotten a little impatient with a question whose answer is so obvious. “What do you mean, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Isn’t it obvious? And besides, this is getting a little personal, don’t you think? We don’t know each other that well!” But on another level, the level where the spiritual journey is unfolding, it is a question that penetrates to the very core of our being. And it is very, very personal. It brings us face to face with our humanness, our vulnerability, our need. If we let it, such a question strips away the layers of pretense and superficiality to expose what is truest within us. And that is a very tender place indeed.
Live with the question “what do you want Jesus to do for you?” this week. Don’t be satisfied with your first response but ask it over and over on different days in different settings. You might be surprised at what you find.
Acts 20:21 I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.
This is Paul telling his friends what he wanted them to remember about him. What he is emphasizing is that he told everyone he could, everywhere he could, the things he knew about God. We live in a mass media age where TV, movies and music are viewed by millions of people around the world. A recent Utube video made a Scottish housewife an overnight celebrity to millions as clips of her singing on the British version of American Idol circulated around the globe. But when you think of the places in your life where the greatest impact was made I bet you can associate a flesh and blood personal encounter with another human. At our Reunion Sunday yesterday many folks saw pictures of people that God used in their lives to share deep and meaningful spiritual experiences. It seems it always comes down to another human being to spread this God thing; Jesus, Paul, your parents, your Sunday school teacher. Sooner or later it becomes your turn to be that person who embodies and shares the love of God to another. As in Paul’s case, it may be someone you might not expect or someplace you might not have planned. The possibilities are everywhere God is present, and God is present everywhere. If we are attentive to God, we too can become part of God’s story today. Maybe years from now someone will be telling others how God used you in their life. That would be a pretty great thing.
Mark 10:13-14: The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom.
As we read through the New Testament together in our congregation I find it interesting the extent to which conflict is in the forefront. In this passage the disciples are irritated with the people bringing their children, and Jesus is “irate” with the disciples. Some of us thrive on a good fight, but most people find conflict to be negative. We are more drawn to the Jesus who preaches peace and love. But this is the same Jesus who stands up and confronts. Are the two qualities mutually exclusive? Can love and peace be a real presence even in the midst of disagreement, conflict and the attendant emotions that accompany them? The gospels seem to indicate that this can be so. In fact, conflict may open us up to a deeper encounter with God and others, as was the case here. If you have no conflicts in your life this week you have reason to be very thankful. But if you do, and most of us do on some level, you may have the opportunity, albeit a difficult one, of going further into a holy place. May you find the grace to go there.