July 26, 2015

Mary Magdalene and Harold's Crayon

This weekend I’m at a women’s retreat. We are focusing on Mary Magdalene and how Jesus loved her so much, despite her having ‘demons’. In the same way Jesus loves each of us, despite our various demons and issues. At these retreats, I like to read a children’s story. This year, the story is Harold and the Purple Crayon. Would you like to know how Harold relates to Mary Magdalene and to our journey as Christians?
You probably remember the story of Harold with his Crayon. He decides to go for a walk. The first thing he draws is the moon and a path. Just like us, Harold thinks he has a destination in mind. He is willing to use the light of the moon to help him see the way, but doesn’t really think much about it.
Mary of Magdala was healed of ‘seven demons’, and along with some other women accompanied Jesus as he ‘went through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing good news of the Kingdom of God’. Like Harold she was willing to just go along in the light of Son without giving much thought to where the road was going.
We have our own demons, sometimes we call them ‘issues’ or ‘scars’, though. How often do we simply trudge along with our burdens and worries, not even noticing that God, like Harold’s moon, is with us?
Harold keeps on walking along and decides that he needs a forest, or at least one tree. After he draws it, he adds a dragon to protect it and that scares him away from his own tree. Perhaps we sometimes get in over our heads, too, and make decisions that scare us. Then we really do forget that God is with us, don’t we?
Harold’s fright causes him to draw waves and he falls into the ocean and is only able to save himself by drawing a boat. When he reaches land, he draws a mountain, but falls down the far side of the hill. He doesn’t see the moon floating serenely along with him.
For Mary and the disciples, Jesus arrest and crucifixion (Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49, Matthew 27:55-56, John 19:25) were like falling into deep water or off a cliff. There seemed to be nothing that could save them. Like Harold, they can’t even see the glimmer of light and hope.
Harold draws a balloon to save himself from falling to the bottom of the mountain. We find ways to cope, too, when it seems like the bottom falls out. We may use our savings to try and find a cure, or we buy expensive things to mask the pain, or we shut ourselves off from friends who might help. We too often forget that, like the moon, Jesus is there with us in the depths of our despair.
In the midst of troubles, we may decide that with Harold, we want to go home where everything is safe and familiar. Harold draws a house but it isn’t his. He draws many buildings, but they aren’t his window, either. Mary and the women “prepared spices and ointments” (Luke 23:55-56, Matthew 27:61) for Jesus burial. They resorted to doing the familiar, safe things that helped them feel that things could get back to normal. Even when we build our safe fortresses and do the daily, ‘important’ things, when we feel far from God, none of these will do any good. Harold cannot find his window and we cannot find our way home, either.
Eventually though, Harold remembers where the moon is-it is always right in his window. So he draws the window around the moon and sure enough he finds himself safely home. Sometimes we wish it was that easy. And, when we turn back to face Jesus, it is in fact just that easy.
Mary discovered that when she encountered the Risen Lord on Easter morning and he spoke her name (John 20:1-18). She finds the moon in her window when “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’” Mary sees the Reality of the Risen Lord and is transformed. Harold slips into bed and ‘draws up the covers’.
We can only find Truth and renewal in our lives when we live in the light of the Resurrection, which keeps the moon centered in our window! When we find the real truth, then we find that we are safe in the arms/bed of our loving Father. And that’s the only thing that matters.
So remember that the Light of Christ is with us everywhere we go and that God loves us so much more than we can imagine! That’s good news.
Next week we’ll start a new series to take us into the fall (can you believe summer is more than ½ over?).

July 19, 2015

Isaiah 61-Like a Bride

Our look at Isaiah 61 is almost over. We’ve seen how God promises to work in and through us to heal and restore. We have an everlasting covenant with the One who cannot fail us.
The last part of Isaiah 61 is a hymn of joy to God by one who has embraced the promises in the first 9 verses. Isaiah says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:10-11) For me, this calls to mind the vision in the Book of Revelation of the church as the Bride coming down from heaven.
The writer of Revelations tells us, “I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2) For many young girls the idea of being a bride is something that is almost like being a princess. When I was a little girl, dressing up in a long dress and veil was great fun.
Isaiah says that God has covered us “with the robe of righteousness” as when a bridegroom prepare for his wedding. For a Jewish bride, in Biblical times, one of the important parts of the bridal array was the dowry necklace. In these coins and/or jewels was the bride’s security if something should happen and leave her a widow with no family. The groom paid the family for the privilege of marrying the girl. A portion of that, plus, if he was able, a gift from the father of the bride, was given to the girl as her dowry. Most often this was in the form of easily worn jewelry.
Jesus talks about the woman who had 10 coins and loses one. This coin was probably part of her dowry and losing it would be a great hardship. No wonder she calls everyone together for a party when she finds it. (Luke 15:1-xx) And remember the parable about the bridesmaids, (Matthew 25:1-13) who waited for the bridegroom to arrive? Some of them missed the wedding itself because they were not prepared with extra oil.  Jesus warns us to be prepared and ready because we, as the people of God, will one day join with Christ as is promised in Revelation.At the very end of Revelation, we hear, “The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17) 
As the Bride, we are issuing that invitation each day to all we meet. Our lives, lived as those “clothed with the garments of salvation…the robe of righteousness” show that the “Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations”. As we’ve seen throughout this study, we cannot do this without the Spirit of God who ‘anoints us’ for our work. For that work we are given gifts to use to build up the Kingdom. This is our dowry necklace of talents and time and, yes, treasure.
What coins are in your dowry necklace?
How can we, as the anointed of God, become a more true and perfect ‘bride’?

July 12, 2015

Blessed to be More than Conquerors

We are returning to our study of Isaiah 61 after the little 4th of July break. In verses 8-9 we hear God’s promise of an ‘everlasting covenant’ with those on whom the Spirit of the Lord has come. We’ve already looked at promises of the Lord’s favor with joy and rebuilding of ruins. We’ve seen how we are called to be priests of God to minister and serve one another and the world.
Now Isaiah continues “For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.”
God says that those who live into the anointed life of faithful service will be recognized as “a people whom the Lord has blessed.” This can be in spite of outward circumstances. We may not always feel that we are blessed, because life often has twists and turns, and bumps and bruises.
In the Beatitudes Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He continues, ”blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather blessings came in the form of soft kitties and gentle words than in the form of persecution or being reviled. However, it is “the one who endures to the end, [who] will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:13-14)
In the Letter of James we hear “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
What does all this talk about enduring through troubles and trials and tribulations have to do with Isaiah’s promise of an everlasting covenant for the ‘people the Lord has blessed’? In a time when we hear of persecution of our brothers and sisters across the world for their faith, we could retreat in fear. Or we could take heart from the promises of God and rejoice when we hear that they know and testify that ‘our Jeshua doesn’t fail’?
In our day-to-day living, we likely won’t have to face extreme persecution or death for our Lord. We can pray for those who are facing dire persecution. We can work for peace and reconciliation starting with our own relationships. We can persevere in the ministry we feel called to and live out the promises of God who heals, frees, and restores. We can remember that we are ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’ (Romans 8:37)!
We might ask ourselves do we, too, know that our Jeshua does not fail? And then live like we believe it!