On Forgetting

December 19, 2015

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

We forget things.  This reading reminded me of something of which I shouldn’t have needed to be reminded.  Judea and Israel were two separate nations.

So what?

So this:  if a Judean King — an outsider — is to rule over Israel, Israel may not like it much.  In fact, political  unrest might be the rule of things.  Politics might get divided and even hostile.  We’ve forgotten how much the people of ancient times — the ones alluded to in this prophecy — had in common with our times, with us.  In the midst of great, disruptive fractures, however, they had words of peace.  And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

We forget things.  We forget that we re supposed to be all about peace.  We forget that we are supposed to speak of peace, and, especially, to work for peace.  We just get busy living our lives, doing all the day-to-day things we hve to do.  The present inhabits us; it fills us up.  The future, or any kind of prophecy, doesn’t have a chance.

Prophecy never has much of a chance in our human world.  Prophecy is a spiritual word, and our reality is just too practical, too raw.  Our schedule don’t make room for it, and our hearts?   Well, our hearts only have the room we make.  We forget that prophecy exists to lead us; to surprise us for certain, but also to lead us on to something yet  unseen.  We forget that prophecy is not just for ancient times, it’s also for us.

We forget what is crucial for the sake of what is current.  We forget.

We forget that we are as sheep, mixing about the pastures without much mind power, following whatever firm voice may come along.  We are still drawn like sheep though.  We are still herded.  Every Christmas season we are herded to the malls, we are herded to Amazon and to every other dot.com, we are herded along through our busy schedules.  But we forget.

We forget w have just one shepherd, just one voice to follow.  And we forget that that one voice calls out to us above the din of political divisions and commercial messages.  And that voice speaks “peace.”

And we’ve forgotten one more important thing.  In a world where the cost of one new fighter jet would feed every homeless person in this land,  we forget that we — we followers of the promised Christ — are supposed to be SECURE.  Do we even remember what that means or what true security feels like?  We forget.

Security is prophesied for us, but we have forgotten.  Peace is prophesied for us, but we have become too busy to think about that.  Overwhelming, awe-inspiring love is prophesied nd promised for us, but we accept a watered-down version of love; the human version, the best we (WE) know how to do.

We forget that there is an all=powerful, all-loving God to secure us and to give us peace and love.

That’s why Christmas comes every year — to remind us:  Emmanuel, God is with us.  And the politics and the day-to-day and the human shortcomings must all step aside before Him.  For they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

Hope Before the Light

April 2, 2015

The Splendor of Living                      Isaiah 25:6-9 & Mark 16:1-8

Easter Sunday

When I first became a pastor – with zero experience – my first visit to a congregant in the hospital was a doozy. I had to go into DC to the 5-Star Trauma hospital to the emergency room to see Tommy. I hate to be indelicate, but Tommy had tried to commit suicide by firing a shotgun held right under his chin. Somehow, he survived, but his face was nearly gone. The nurses warned me before I went in to see him. It was a horrible sight.

What am I doing telling that story on Easter Sunday? It must be about resurrection, right? Tommy must have made a total and miraculous comeback, right? Well, not exactly.

But read the Gospel. It does NOT give us sightings of the risen Jesus. It begins in the hazy dusk of an early morning with the sepulchral smell of death in the air. And it ends . . . well, it doesn’t really end. It leaves the biggest event in history unfinished, only to be guessed at through whatever lens the reader wants to use. Considering that Mark was the first Gospel written, and for a while the only written Gospel, it seems odd to leave the reader without a full picture of the Easter miracle. But that’s just what Mark does.

And that’s how things were with Tommy. His severe injuries did not finish his story, but it did leave things shrouded in mist and mystery. How much could he bounce back? How much could we hope for?

Hope is a pretty amazing thing. It stretches reality even in the worst of situations, especially in the worst of situations. Hope can be tireless, boundless, powerful beyond words. There is no love without hope, and no wellness either. Hope, as the poet says, is the thing with wings.

Isaiah says that our hope is that death will be forever undone. That life will flourish without end. That there is a place where our grandest hope become our endless reality. Jesus’ followers – those first ones – wanted to live out that hope with Him and believed they would. But then He was gone from them and the world was turned on its head. The darkness around them and within them was palpable.

And things looked very dark for Tommy for a long time. He lived in the critical care unit of the hospital, 60 miles from home, for weeks and weeks. I was his only visitor. Even when he was removed to a nursing home, I remained his only visitor for a time. After all, even when he tried to speak, no one could understand him except for the simplest words. And there was that sad fact that he was missing half of his face. And maybe his friends from church didn’t know how to handle the fact that he had attempted suicide.

But I did learn about Tommy that he had been a person of faith. He was a good husband. He was beloved in his church. And, finally, I convinced some of the men of the church to take turns visiting Tommy. They became a sort of community of faithfulness – practicing a miracle of regenerating relationships instead of waiting for a miracle of some other sort.

My message is that we can be part of miracles and we should expect to be. We can reach out to those who are alone, those who struggle, and those who are left out. Even beyond all the hopes of modern medicine, the mere act of fellowship can mend the greatest of human frailties.  The message of Mark’s first ending – the way the Gospel ended originally – is that whatever we believe and seek, we don’t know what the morning will bring. But . . . and it’s a big “but” . . . we have to live into the miracle even before we see it.

I know just how distressed Tommy was. I’ve honestly been there myself. And my hope is that love and grace will win out for me. That is my hope because that is my belief. I believe in a God of love and grace and miracles. And I am willing to live as positively as I can and be that miracle until the stone is rolled away and the Lord appears to me again.

Right from Wrong

February 9, 2015

See Mark 9:2-9, 2 Kings 2:1-12 & 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

For we do not proclaim ourselves.  We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness;” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Is it possible to do the wrong thing and have it turn out right?  Yes, yes it is.  Now, don’t go taking this as permission to do wrong things, much less encouragement to stick with wrong actions, misguided ideas, or dangerous directions.  It’s far better to do what right.  And by doing right, you are for more likely to end up in the right, best place.

That being said, let’s look at Bible readings where someone goes a little wrong.  In the OT lesson, Elisha keeps ignoring the directions of his mentor Elijah.  “Stay behind,” Elijah says, “The Lord bids me to go further, but you don’t have to.”

Elisha wasn’t having anything to do with that.  So despite the fact that Elijah was his teacher and model and like a father to him, Elisha did just the opposite of what Elijah had directed.  And he didn’t just do this once.  He repeated his disobedience.  In my family, if I had repeatedly done this to my  father, . . . well, I hate to think of his reaction.  Elijah seems to just accept these acts.  He is indeed patient.

How does Elijah’s disobedience bring about good?  Well, that’s obvious:  By pressing on past all barriers, Elisha is part of a miracle.  He sees that Elijah does not die but is taken to heaven bodily.  Moreover, Elisha is  given a double dose of Elijah’s spirit. As we know, he goes on living out Elijah’s ministries and being part of numerous miracles.

I think this reading tells us to press on past barriers, to be bld.  We don’t k now, after all, where the great victories and rewards ahead may lie.

Peter gets it all wrong on the Mount of Transfiguration too.  When he sees Moses and Elijah and Jesus together, instead of seeking to learn from them, he rushes around talking about building huts for them to stay in.  It’s not enough for him It’s not enough in his mind to deeply experience that miraculous moment, he feels the need to make further arrangements.  His focus is in the wrong place.

But just as God wasn’t done with Elisha at Bethany, God isn’t leaving Peter on the Mount to languish.  There is more to come.  The text from Corinthians reminds us that there are many ways for us to go wrong, and, eventually, all of us do.  The gods of this world try to blind us at every turn, but they do not have the last word.  We may be cast into darkness, and afraid, but Jesus is the light of the world and our light, and with Him  there is no darkness.

The story of Elisha tells us to strive on.  The story of Peter tells us not to focus on anything but the spirit of what is; the presence of God right in front of us.  So while we strive, we must keep in mind that there is only one light, only one source of right.  Even as we push on, believing in going further, we must not lose sight of God’s presence and how our spirit connects with God’s Spirit.

As we walk this road, we’ll get off on false starts.  We’ll be hardheaded.   We’ll  go wrong.  But today we’ve seen that we have a God who brings miracles and entire religions out of wrong choices and bad moves.  With our God, we can go wrong, and He will turn it right, . . .  and He will turn US right.  Amen.

Presumption and Pressing Higher

January 26, 2015

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Do you hear the presumptuousness here?  “WHENEVER you pray.” . . . “WHENEVER you give.” . . . It is presumed that we WILL pray, that we will give.  We will give even when things aren’t going right.  We will give even when giving of ourselves doesn’t seem to make a difference.  We will pray.  We will pray when we don’t feel like it.  We will pray when we’re not sure it means anything to do it.  We just WILL.

But we don’t, do we?  We make our service to God dependent on the moment, circumstantial.  We make deals about our faith . . . God if you will only do this for me, then I will . . .We keep our vows to God sparingly, occasionally.  We spend SOME of our time chasing after God, but also some of it chasing after other, lesser things.  We’re a muddled picture, made of quick sketch marks and blurred colors.

We could be bright stars with clear sharp colors.  We are made to be all that, and more.  But we accept less than the best.  We do!  In life, we have learned that situations aren’t perfect, others aren’t perfect, and to our surprise WE aren’t perfect!  So we must adapt to working in imperfect situations created by the interactions of imperfect people.  And, for the most part, we don’t expect 100%.  .We accept the ordinary and the limited.  We settle for what we can get.

But God is not into half measures.  Presumptions about God should be marked with 100% tags.  He forgives all sins, accepts all love, works with all in good spirits, and indulges in miracles.  He’ll do anything for us, give anything to us.  He doesn’t have to settle . . . because He is GOD!!  So when God gives the word that “wherever your treasure is, there is your heart also,” He means our whole hearts.  Nothing partial, no half-hearted steps.

What do you treasure?  In other words, what is there in life that you are willing to throw your whole heart into?  What grabs you enough to get you past your reserve?  What will make us press higher and presume for more? Ask yourself.  And deeply believe that you WILL find an answer.  Simply put, God goes all in.  And that is what He seeks from us in return.

A Really Short Message — “Stick Close”

January 18, 2015

John 1:43-51
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”  Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus says that Nathanael will see angels going up and down and see heaven itself opened before him.  The trouble is that Nathanael is never heard of again in the Scriptures.  We don’t know what happened to him or what he saw or didn’t see.

Don’t be a Nathanael.  Don’t be one of those people   The thing to do is stay close to Jesus.  If Nathanael had traveled along with Jesus and stayed close to Him, we might have heard of him more like we have John or Philip or James.  But Nathanael . . . well, he just disappears.  This is a short sermon — Stick close to Jesus.  See what the Lord is up to in the lives of those around you.  Or figure out what you think He would be up to, and what He may be looking for you to do.  Stick close to Him.

Is God Homeless?

January 16, 2015

I have heard any number of people say that they could not “find” God?  I don’t for a second think that they thought God was lost, but instead that they were having trouble feeling or knowing God’s nearness.  God seemed to be “away.”  From the number of times I have heard people say such things — and said them myself — God must be quite peripatetic.

This makes me think of the word “sojourner.”  This is one who takes residence in a place temporarily and then moves on.  Jesus was a sojourner in His public ministry, so was Paul.  The Old Testament also is full of sojourning followers of the One Almighty One.  In fact, the ancient Middle East was a place of itinerants.  As followers, we are told to :shake the dust off our sandals” if we land in a place where the Good News is not affecting change in others’ hearts.  Sojourning is part of the fabric of our faith,

Perhaps this “thread” in our fabric leads right to the Almighty.  We say that God is omnipresent, but that may mean He/She is present in ways that don’t involve being still or being located for long periods.  God’s presence in any given place could be “only” spiritual, something known to us that could never be limited by physical location.  Or it could be God’s omnipresence is a general condition and does not well describe the specific ways God reaches out to us or the pace(s) from which She/he does so.

Perhaps God “paces,” anxiously awaiting the time when one or more of us will approach seeking faith and life.  Or perhaps God is somewhere, moving on, because there is no place to stop and stay until heaven can be shared with us all.  Perhaps God is homeless, sojourning, awaiting fellow travelers.

And perhaps this is a way to tell us to get moving.

Drowned or Frozen?

January 14, 2015

There was a scene in an episode of Gray’s Anatomy where Meredith, the main character, fell into the icy Puget Sound.  She couldn’t stay afloat and went under. It looked as if there was no one to save her.  The only question seemed to be.  Would she drown?  Or would she freeze to death first?
I feel sometimes as if I am in that situation.  Will I be pressed into non-being by outside powers?  In my life, this would be the lack of connection I feel and the hurt I carry from being unemployed and having fallen away from my call to pastoral ministry.  Will I succumb to the freezing cold that immobilized me?  This would be the anxieties inside me that take hurt and slights and collapse them into me like a collapsing star.
Yes, I have these faults.  And yes, I have spent a lifetime wrapped around them until it’s hard to tell what’s part of my biology and personality, and what’s been created as I’ve tried to deal with all of that.  Yes, some of the fault is mine.  And, as therapists have told me for years, only I can make things better.
But years of therapy have taught me that fixing things may not always be possible, and even the smallest improvements may elude me.  I’ve had therapist cease my appointments because they didn’t know what to do with me.  I’ve had more medications than I can remember.  I’ve been to prayer groups and healing services.  I still feel deeply lonely, seeking desperately for any sign of hope.
As it worked out, Meredith Gray survived.  In fact, being in the icy water slowed down her body functions and helped her survive.  Heroic measures were needed to keep her going, but she made it.  The cold helped keep her from drowning, and the near drowning and struggle kept her from freezing.  There was a third option — as hard to believe as that is, it existed.

I can only hope that somehow crushing forces around me counteract each other.  I can’t see how it could happen.  I can’t imagine it, won’t be able to produce the effect.  But I can try to keep hope –. as hard as that is — in a third, unseen option.


December 27, 2014

My poems for Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year.




O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;

Angel hosts, His praises sing;

Powers, dominions, bow before Him

And extol our God and King.

Let no tongue on earth be silent,

Every voice in concert ring

Evermore and evermore.


(Verse 3, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” words by Aurelius Prudentias, 5th century; music by John M. Neale.)


Come then tho’ the nights shall lengthen

and believe in coming day,

and in the lives that Light will strengthen

and in the Love that comes our way.

Let no tongue on earth be silent,

Christ the King has come to stay

evermore and evermore.


Take His fulness out to your world.

Take His love to one and all.

Keep the promise He’s made to you

Live it, strong and wide and tall!

Be His grace and sing His glory!

Let no see the Christ made small!

Evermore and evermore.

Remember (Christmas)

darkness falls around her

as she finds a place to rest.

it’s hard to say out here which spot is best.


tired from such a journey

she thanks her gentle man

as she clasps so tight upon his hand.


“remember glory,” she whispers.

“remember angel’s promises.

remember, and hold on.”


animals attending,

wind rattling the beams;

surely, this is something from bad dreams!


“remember glory,” he tells her.

“remember angel’s promises.

remember, and hold on.”


hope is beyond falt’ring;

love goes beyond pain.

somewhere angels sing their glad refrain.


“remember glory!” they sing out.

“remember our Emmanuel.

remember, and hold on!”


love is seldom easy . . .

for what good would easy do

in a world where pains are seldom few?


just think of new beginnings

and hope that won’t desist.

think of a mother’s first morning kiss


and remember glory!” and sing out!

remember Christ has come to you!

remember, and hold on!”




a tiny heart is beating

but within there’s room for all.

it echoes angel voices

and the prophets’ ancient call.

follow its beat and walk on!

follow, and take to the heights!

the Lord is King of heaven and earth,

and His grace and goodness excites!


a shepherd kneels there, breathless,

remembering the song

of angels from the heavens

of what’s been awaited so long.

follow these men to the stable

where the poor and the rich abide

along with the animals and God Himself.

follow to the Infant’s side.


make a way for the Almighty!

remake the roughest roads.

leave your doubts and sins behind

and take up better loads!

follow, and do as Christ does!

follow Him all the way.

take up your cross, and follow

into the eternal day.

Christmas Card 2014


the star that shone brought light

the angels brought their song

and through the long, cold night

the hills echoed along

for even the mountains shall sing

and the hills rejoice as well

when the King comes to live with us

the Lord, Emmanuel.

Christmas Eve


it’s raining and the temperature is stuck in the 30s.

tonight will be colder and that makes it rough.

there will be people on the streets with nowhere to go,

roaming, taking whatever comforts they can find.


the Christ child comes and we talk about love.

but doesn’t love depend on who you know?

families have it, and as their ribbons unwind

bright wrappings will be their greatest worry.


Joseph and Mary wandered to and fro

seeking a place . . . their faces lined

with exhaustion, and their was a hurry

their child was due. angels flew above.


the portents and prophecies are aligned

but no one understood there’d be a down and dirty

side to the incarnation. on the streets of

any city, perhaps those folks absorb the story.



8/11/14 — The Noise Within, the Noise Without

August 12, 2014

Robin Williams died today.  He was 63.  Early reports say he committed suicide after a period of depression.  He had recently been in treatment, but was at home when he died.  Since I got the news, I have been on Facebook, looking at what people are saying, and responding to some of them.

But the things I have said there are not all I want to say.  I have struggled all my life with what I called depression.  In recent years, I have discovered that I am bi-polar, and that has helped explain why years of medications and other treatments for depression didn’t get far.  Still, even with a better diagnosis, I am finding that “getting better” in the case of psychiatric conditions is sometimes a slow and stunted and highly frustrating process.  I can’t claim to know what Robin Williams dealt with, but I think I can claim a certain kinship.  He’s gone.  His pain must have been brutal to drive him to that point.  Just knowing that a brilliant and successful and beloved person can get that far down has reaffirmed what I have long known — mental health issues are incredibly tough.  They are hard to diagnose, hard to talk about, hard to share with others, hard to treat, and hard, indeed very hard, to survive.

Two things about that:  1) I am feeling shaky and very sad since I heard the news.  2) I am still here.

These last couple of weeks I have been thinking about a Sunday School lesson I am scheduled to teach on August 31.  Now, I will need this lesson myself, so I need to dig into preparing it.  The topic is hope.  I have been planning to read the ending to Steven King’s novella “Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”  (The movie based on the book is just “The Shawshank Redemption.”)   At the end of the book, paroled felon Red (Morgan Freeman in the film) is on a bus heading for a seaside town in Mexico where he will meet his jail friend Andy Dufresne.  In the film, you hear Freeman’s famous voice talking about hope.  Red is almost shocked to find that he hopes . . . at all, . . . for anything!  After all he has seen in his many years in prison, it is not surprising that he was a stranger to hope.  What is surprising is that he finds his way back to hopefulness.  Or, perhaps, it would be better to say that hope finds a way to break through to him?

I just remember the words . . . “I hope I find my friend.  I hope.”

I am feeling shaky and sad.  But I am still here.  Hope exists.  I think of hope as a way to pull something toward me from the outside when there is too much distracting noise on the inside.  I also find if can be a soothing presence within me when there is something awful without.  Yes, there have been times when I couldn’t find hope.  I guess Robin Williams must have known what that was like too.  Sometimes, the multitude of noises drown out the peace.  Still, even in the midst of all this sadness, I feel safe in saying that Robin Williams also knew that hope was alive all around us . . . at least, I know he was aware of its presence most of the time.

I know he understood because I know an actor faces and must overcome all kinds of doubts.  I know he heard the noises from all around him telling him what he couldn’t do.  I know he heard the voices from within doubting what he could do.  And I know he went on.  I know he understood hope because there is no humor without it.  I know he understood hope because he played it so well . . . in Good Morning, Vietnam, in Dead Poet’s Society, and in Good Will Hunting among others.  I know he understood hope because he often took its message to our servicemen and women on bases around the world.  His life tells me hope is real and present.  Still, his passing reminds me that there are times when the presence of hope is illusive . . . a wraith.

Against that knowledge, . . . against the sadness, . . .against all the darkness that pervades everywhere, my only weapons are the presence of God and the temerity of hope.  I hope my Sunday School friends will take well to a lesson that does not use the Bible as its main source.  I hope that they have insights on hope that will fill the time I know I won’t be able to fill that day.  I hope in the future I can find more people who are willing and able to dig into how our culture and our churches deal with mental health issues and the struggles people are having all around us.  I hope to change things in some small way.  I hope to fight the noise with God’s peace.  I hope to support others wherever I can and I hope I find the support I crave . . . somewhere.  I hope to keep trying . . . I hope.

Sermon 8/3 — (Isaiah 55:1-5) — “Overwhelmed by Grace”

July 28, 2014

A  couple of weeks ago, our pastor was talking about renaming July “the month of weeds.”  With all the hours of sun, weeds seem to go wild.  Even when there’s not much rain . . .  well, the grass may not grow, but the weeds don’t let up.  And if we get rain, we just get more weeds with it.

As we kick into August, it just gets hotter.  People call it “the dog days” this time of year.  Every bit of work you do, even just walking from air conditioned car to air conditioned house, leaves you panting like a dog.  We get thirsty.

Here’s a few words from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 55:1-5).  These are words that reach out to people who know what struggle is.  These words  aim for those who have grown thirsty in the exhausting, draining heat of life.  These words point to a God who provides.  “Come to the water!”  “Even without money, come and eat!”

Those are welcome words.  They remind us of other Scriptures where living waters are promised, and of Scriptures where our cups overflow.  Even with all of that, an embarrassment of riches, in this Scripture, Isaiah points to how God will give even more!

Remember that story where Jesus promised the living water?  That’s another example where God brings even more to the feast that what is needed.  There’s a woman taking water from the well in the heat of the afternoon, and Jesus stops by to talk to her.  When she talks about getting the water her family needs for the day, Jesus reminds her that there is such a thing as “living water,” a resource that will never run out.  You don’t drink from this water and turn up thirsty the next day.  This water prevents a person from being thirsty again, it changes everything about their lives.  It takes them from a place ongoing need to a place of everlasting fulfillment.

Here with Isaiah in the OT, we have a similar arrangement.  Isaiah points away from merely focusing on getting water and food for the day.  Even though a feast is promised and no price is required, Isaiah turns to speak of more.

God is using the riches He brings to change the way of living for His people.  You’ve heard the saying that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he is fed for a lifetime!  That’s analogous to what Isaiah is saying.  God doesn’t merely bring us a feast for the day, He prepares a world where we will eat from His feast every day.  And even more, God will change us into leaders of nations, and God will cause nations to come and follow us as their earthly leaders.

Those who thirsted shall be the ones who bring water.  Those who hungered shall provide the feast.  Those who were lost and confused will be the leaders of people and of nations.  God’s gifts will so thoroughly change us, He promises, that through us the world will be changed too, . . . not only for a day, but forever.

God offers not only to meet our needs, but to overwhelm us.  God offers not only to sustain us, but to change us so that we are beyond any concern for our needs.    God offers to take us from a day-to-day, hand-to-mouth economy to an economy where all cups overflow.

I wonder if this is one of the reasons people don’t come to God.  I wonder if they’re too overwhelmed with a change this great?  Moreover, I wonder if part of the reason that many churches don’t grow, don’t thrive is that even “good church people” people come to God with their own expectations.  They see a God that supports them, . . . and their church, . . . but they don’t get to the point of accepting that God may also be looking to overwhelm them and to change them.

The problem is that if we seek a God who supports us, but leaves us where we are, we miss out on a God who wants to overwhelm us with better things and higher wonders.  If we cling to the status quo, the status quo is what we are likely to get.

So I would ask you (as I ask myself) when was the last time something significant changed in your inner being?  When was the last time you opened up enough to God that you saw real growth?  When was the last time that your church, or your community, or your nation was overwhelmed by the extreme nature of God’s grace that they found a bold, new thing and grabbed onto it for the better?

If we’re willing to look for the glory in change, if we’re willing to look for more and be daring, that can open a place in your life for God to enter in and work.  If were willing to b overwhelmed, . . in the best possible way, . . . we can accomplish anything with God.  We can be leaders.  We can raise nations.  We can do anything.  That’s what I believe.  I don’t always live out this belief very well, but I believe it.  And if  we’re willing to believe and live out the powerful presence of God in our lives, we will find that He not only gives us enough for today, but He overwhelms us with grace after grace, gift after gift.  He wants to overwhelm us with gifts to the point that He presence flows out of us and changes the world around us.

But He won’t force it.  He’ll wait for us to come to Him and seek more.  He’ll wait for us to open us and let us become a temple for Him.  A temple, . . . hear this now, . . . a temple is a place that people are drawn to because the presence of God may be found there.

Isaiah heard God promising, “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, (of) my steadfast, sure love.”  This is a love beyond our expectations, a love beyond bounds.  Can we say that we have really opened our lives enough for God to find a place in us for such an expansive and expanding gift to live?


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