Plastic Bags

Plastic Bagsplastic bags

Walking our dog after the rain had swept through I noticed, caught in the shrubs along the drainage ditch plastic shopping bags caught in their branches.  Looking more closely I realized that most of them had been there for some time, dirty, tattered, deteriorating from sun, mud, wind and rain.  They have no value.

Later in the day after paying for my purchase the sales clerk placed in another plastic bag not unlike those along the ditch back. That bag placed on the seat of my car continued to serve a purpose.  That bag contained something important and was needed until the contents were safely home.

With a new year has come the ever renewed resolution to take better care of our bodies.  In some ways our bodies are like those plastic bags.  Their real value is not in the bag but in what they contain.  Our bodies are NOT us.  Our bodies DO serve the purpose of containing “us”, holding us, keeping us alive in this world and able to do what we were put here to do.

Sooner or later, these bodies fulfill their responsibility and are set aside.  We call this death, passing away, or just “passing”.  We may spend a moment looking at them but then they begin the same journey as those abandoned bags along the bank.

Resolutions to work on our bodies are important.  But infinitely more important is the care of our souls, the contents of “the bag”.  Feed the body.  Feed the soul.

An Old Crumpled Map

An Old Crumpled Map

I remember the ‘good old days’ of crumpled maps and highlighters guiding us along the highway toward our desired destination.
One Sunday morning, my very first Sunday serving a new appointment in a rural church, I found myself lost on my way to my first sermon at the first of three churches and three sermons that day. My confusion arose from the fact that I could not find my current location on the crumpled map in my hands. Though I had been to the church I was following a different route I was assured was faster and better. However, with each passing moment my anxiety grew as the appointed time approached! Joyfully, a member of the church, recalling that their directions were inaccurate and concerned that my following them would never bring me there arrived and led me from there to the church just in time!
Reading Scripture this morning and thinking of the spiritual condition of our modern ailing church I wonder why a similar sense of alarm at being lost does not resound resulting in heartfelt pleas for direction and guidance.
Thinking back to that time of being lost, my anxiety was driven by the fact that I knew what the area around the church should look like and what I was seeing was nothing like it at all!
Rather than take an honest gaze at where we are as a church or as individuals we would rather have a ‘virtual’ picture of our own creation. In this fantasized view of who we are and where we are we are able to add and subtract our own impressions of our spiritual ‘location’ so that we no longer feel ‘lost’? The result of this is that no matter what our actual spiritual ‘location’ is we can feel that we are not lost at all! This is indeed the worst of all positions. Had I not known I was lost, I would have been unwilling to follow someone who understood where we were and where we needed to be. In humility I focused on the back of her car and determined not to turn or stop until she did. The result was that my anxious thoughts were replaced with true joy and peace as I saw the church and knew we had arrived.
Today we have abandoned the ‘roadmap’ of Scripture. Today we have replaced the images of what our spiritual ‘location’ should resemble; the lives of Jesus, the Apostles, intrepid pilgrims before us in favor of more ‘modern’ models. Our current mental portraits of what our spiritual location should look like are shaped by money, things, budgets, popularity, in short… our culture.
Because we are gazing at the wrong picture and we are following the wrong map we no longer feel lost. On that Sunday morning so long ago, no amount of fantasizing or wishing could have changed my lostness. Only with an understanding of the reality of my lostness and humbly following someone who knew more than I would bring me to my desired destination.
Lord help us to become honest. Grant us humility to admit that we are wrong. Grant us a willingness to lay down our crumpled cultural maps and pick up Your Divinely inspired Map. As we read of our lostness grant to us a willing mind and heart to abandon our own misguided sense of direction and follow Your Spirit whom You have sent to safely guide us home from whatever corner of this fallen world we have hung our hope. Amen.

Life and Rescue

Life is fragile. Touching a spider’s web destroys the beauty only this tiny creature can create. We, created in the image of God have been given authority over Creation for this God did on the day we were made.

There is too little in creation to go around. It is not the fault of the Creator. It is the fault of those who have been given authority to govern that creation. We have thoughtlessly, carelessly, selfishly imposed our own individual and collective wills upon creation without humbly realizing that only by means of His Spirit can we possibly manage such a task.

So the consequence is our own destruction. We have long ago passed the point of no return and sown the seeds of our own ending. Yet God in grace is giving us time. He is allowing us to see the beginning of our ending upon this Sacred World. His hope is that we might see what our own hands have wrought. We must see however, not with the seeing of knowing but with the seeing of understanding. We must see not only with understanding but with repentance and with urgency. We must learn the urgency of the deck hand who realizes the ship is going down soon and that priority must change. No longer can we afford the luxury of leaning over the rail and watching the water go by. Every moment our plight becomes more urgent. Yet the task is more urgent than any of us knows and therefore we must work in concert.

To one is given a plan, to another strength, to another wealth and still to another words of encouragement. But for all the vision must be that of helping every soul possible to escape the doom which all of us have helped to bring upon ourselves.

Understanding that we have all contributed to our collective demise should infuse us with humility. Perhaps I did not create the carnage in Tripoli but I have thoughtlessly caused other elements of our joint catastrophe. The time is now for us to forget ourselves and seek in all we do that which will help us all escape into the wondrous world of God’s new Created Order. It is this Order of which the Sacred Scripture refers as the “Kingdom of God”. For the moment we cannot see it. We can however see the effects of its Presence. Whenever there is an action done in trust, there is a new ripple of that Eternal World which moves across this world. As each of us seeks to live by faith alone the ripples become waves. Where enough of us act together those waves help the weaker and more blind among us see, feel, hear and touch the Kingdom of God. This was why Jesus did so many wondrous acts. This is why amazing acts of faith were given to that early church. This is also why the Evil One seeks to destroy our unity.

May God grant us unity and purpose bound to Him so that our trust becomes a mighty wave breaking the power of apathy and selfishness which chains those destined for Glory and Greatness within the dark holds of a perishing planet. My prayer is that together we will live in such a way that we all find our way Home.