1 Thessalonians 5:23 “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In our journey through Spiritual Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton we have reached the chapter on “Honoring the Body.” Early in the chapter she makes this confession:
“I, too, needed to face the fact that rather than caring for my body as I would any other highly valued gift, I had been using it for my own ends, to the point that it was now protesting. I hadn’t been paying much attention to what I ate, so there was far too much sugar and junk food in my diet. Rather than getting enough rest, I had become quite dependent on caffeine for additional energy. I had never considered the importance of drinking enough water. And, as a busy parent juggling the demands of home and family plus church and career, I thought that I didn’t have enough time or energy to exercise or engage in physical activities that I enjoyed. Just as the angel gave Elijah very concrete instructions about eating, drinking, and sleeping (1 Kings 19:5-9), I needed specific guidance for how to care for my body as a part of my spiritual practice and as preparation for the rigors of the spiritual journey into which I was being invited.” (79)
As Paul reminds us in the above passage, God’s care and concern for us includes our spirits, souls and bodies. Is God saying something to you about your body? Is God saying something to you through your body? Might be something to listen for this week.
Romans 8:27 “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.”
Ever been at a loss for words? Sometimes we encounter things that are either so wonderful or so horrible that we can’t find words that adequately express our reaction to them. Sometimes these become places of prayer. We want to bring them before God but we don’t know what to say. In the passage above Paul tells his friends in Rome not to be overly concerned when they can’t find the words to pray. He says that God actually does the praying for us. If we bring our hearts to God, God will make the prayer happen. This is a mystery but it may be one worth exploring this week.
Hebrews 4:12 “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.”
We have all heard of the horrors of bulimia. A person takes in food but doesn’t let it stay in them to digest. They go through the act of eating but don’t get the benefits of the nutrition. Then there is anorexia where people avoid the food altogether. Maybe we do the same thing with God. We avoid slowing down and spending time listening for God through bible reading, or we read quickly and move on to the next thing without ever letting what we’ve read sink in and become part of us. The verse above promises that God will do a deep work in our hearts and lives if we let God’s word settle in us long enough to become part of our inner reality. Of course, we have to stop and be still long enough for this to happen (see last week’s Afterthought), but it may not take as long as you think. After all, once we are done eating our bodies digest the food often without us giving it another thought. Maybe God does the same. Maybe this is the week to find out.
Matthew 25:22,23: The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’
Jesus is telling a story here about people who were given money for which they were responsible. Two traded with the money (like the person mentioned above) and one just hid it to keep it safe. One of the interesting things about this story is the reward that the trading servants received- more responsibility. We would rather have a vacation or a party, and those can be great things. But Jesus says these folks were given the opportunity to be a bigger part of the action. Athletes understand this. They want to carry the ball more or be up to bat with the winning run on base or take the winning shot with time running out. Artists understand this. They want their success to lead to new opportunities for creativity. According to Jesus, life with God is like that. Finding joy in what God is doing and seeking to be faithful to the role we’ve been given. Even with setbacks and challenges living this way is full and rich. Too many people live their lives each day wishing they were somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. I’ve been there and done that myself. It’s not a great way to live. This week look at your life from the perspective of what God is doing in you and those around you. See if there isn’t some goodness in living this way that you’ll want to be a bigger part of!
Matthew 18:12: “If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one?”
Another sheep story. It may be hard for us to relate to shepherds in this day and age but the massage is clear. There are things we love so dearly that we would risk the safety and comfort of the rest of our lives in order to pursue their welfare. If you have children this is a no-brainer. Parents regularly set aside the maintenance of daily life to tend to the problems and pains of a child in need. There are two implications here. First, God loves and seeks us out in this way while we are lost and wandering away from God. Even when the world feels like a cold and heartless place, God is calling us into God’s care. The second implication is that God is doing the same thing for those around us. God’s heart goes out to them no matter what our assessment of them may be. In fact, we even get to be junior shepherds, God’s agents to show the way back to the flock. Where are you this week? Do you need to listen for the voice of love calling you back? Do you need to be the voice of love for someone else? As the Psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd.”