Give Us This Day

The_Flood_with_Noah's_Ark_Jan_Brueghel-the-Elder

The Flood with Noah’s Ark, Jan Brueghel the Elder

Give us this day our daily bread, by which, God,
I confess that I mean, “Prosper me,” and isn’t that
about my heart and not the things I have or have
not? “Let me own enough for generosity.”

Evangelists today assure me, “God wants you to
flourish.” They say, “God’s way is the way of
wealth.” So those of us who struggle simply took
the wrong fork some way back, distracted by the
scenery?

Benny Hinn cites Adam and his Eden, where
“the gold was good.” He speaks of Noah, claiming
that his ark of gopher wood might be worth scores
of millions now; and Abraham was rich indeed in
livestock and in gold and silver. Jacob, Joseph,
David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah “had
exceeding riches,” and to be like them, we only
need obey his covenant, says Benny Hinn.
For God rejoices when we prosper: “Let them shout
for joy, and be glad, those who champion my
righteous cause: yea, let them say continually,
‘Let God be magnified, who does rejoice in our
prosperity.’”

“Here is the key,” says Benny Hinn. “They were
obedient in giving! All were givers!” Solomon gave
“tons of gold to God,” as David did. “They knew
that if we don’t give, we don’t live.” They
understood that when we give, “we bring God on
our side.” And well might Benny Hinn advise, with
forty million dollars set aside.

Look around, says Benny Hinn, at what God gave
to us: “The glory of creation, life itself, the beauty of
the earth, the sunshine, so much more.” Yes,
so much more indeed!

But Benny Hinn came by his riches honestly, and
I begrudge him not one penny. No, my sin is
jealousy… and yet I can’t help noticing: when
Benny Hinn enumerates the luminaries of the Bible,
all those givers who received, he doesn’t mention
Jesus. Oh. Did Jesus Christ give “tons of gold to
God?” He had no gold or silver, sheep or cattle,
yet he was the one whom God called “my beloved
son.” And wasn’t he—was Jesus not—the most
obedient of all?

__________________

Benny Hinn quotations above are from the evangelist’s worldwide ministry solicitation, http://bit.ly/2qrTTaS.

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It Is Finished

Piero della Francesca The Resurrection c 1463-5

The Resurrection, Piero della Francesca, 1463-1465

Meditation for Easter Sunday

All that perishes is done, its temporality
expired, its finite span come to an end.
Love dawns, and darkness runs for cover,
scattering to its mysterious retreats,
its caverns damp and chill and inhospitable to all
except the twisted denizens of night. But light
now floods the caves and crevices, and darkness
has no place to hide.

It is finished. Now everything begins, and
what now is, what has begun, is born of love
and cannot die. Remember this, in winters
that descend untimely, blighted by disease
or grief, when pain extinguishes anticipation,
faith is tested and found wanting, hope is lost.
But hopelessness is finished, and despair died
on the cross.

Now everything begins, and we reside
in that eternal morning where the sun
forever rises, lavishing magnificent
abundance on the living—energy for
what we are and what we shall become.

Like seeds dropped carelessly among dry weeds,
for what seemed an eternity we waited, tiny
miracles of life and possibility. We waited
comfortlessly, frozen, numb below the crust
of earth where we’d arrived, not understanding
why or how, borne by which wind or for what
purpose. There we lay, absurdly small and
weak, without the power to exchange our
situation with what we aspired to be—the oak,
the grapevine, even (if we had no other choice)
the common milkweed—anything alive
and free. We waited, with our destinies
obscure, obeying the imperative of life, until
the earth around us warmed and softened,
waking our imaginations. Smothering in
darkness, blind but sensing that the equinox
had come and gone—the sun returned at
last and lengthening the days—how urgently
we longed to break our bonds and dance.
And still we waited, waited on, exhilarated,
frightened, eager to explore; we would have
chosen to emerge before our time, too soon
discarding our protection but for intuition’s
wise reluctance, warning of another killing
frost… and so we waited, waited on, until
we thought that we must climb out of the
grave or die. Denied, we grew impatient, tried
to plan how it would be, and doubted our
ability to push through the detritus of
innumerable seasons, layers of debris that
moldered as we slept—dead grass; damp,
matted leaves; entangled roots of ancient trees
compounded by neglect and entropy… a feast
for worms, perhaps… for us, a trap, impenetrable
by such means as we possessed, without
momentum, drained of will, and utterly unequal
to the task.

So suddenly the moment comes, we are astonished
by the ease of our ascent despite our lack of
preparation, effortlessly rising through the loam
into the gentle light while slender threads roam
underground, revealing infinite supply.  Around us,
pomegranate, lavender, mesquite, and rose bloom
copiously, bearing fruit and indiscriminately offering
their attributes to creatures winged or crawling, great
or minuscule. We have been here before, astride
the grand continuum, awakening in spring, disporting
gleefully on endless-seeming summer afternoons, then
wonderfully ripening, as if we had reserved our true
magnificence for this extravagant display, this final
surge of life before the cycle of decay begins.

But we shall not descend again. Nature now is
satisfied, her laws suspended. She requires nothing
further from us. It is finished, and there will be
no more winters. Without limit, light becoming life
eternally, joy flows in rivers; bliss crowns the forests,
fields, and groves; and we have just begun to live.

All is as the Gospel promised:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.*

It has begun, will be—and we shine on. Amen.

____

* From the Canticle of Zechariah, Luke 1:78-79

Where Shall We Dwell?

Fishermans Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville-Claude Monet-1882

Claude Monet, Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville, 1882

Poem for the Nineteenth Day of Lent

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. —John 15:10-12

Where shall we choose to dwell: in a palace or
the love of God? Bricks and mortar have no soul;
oak and cedar cannot take the place of joy. But a
cottage swept clean of malice, with anger and
jealousy washed away, is hospitable to gentleness
and tranquility. They grow and thrive there, and
make the pleasantest of neighbors. Sweet and
fragrant is the household where God’s
commandment reigns: Love one another. The
gardens flourish and the larder swells with the
fruits of the spirit. All the castles on all the
continents cannot shelter God’s children with
security if love does not abide in them as well.
Sons and daughters of God, build your house
upon the firm foundation of compassion, charity,
and kindness. Let the walls echo with songs of
praise. Furnish your house with wisdom and
justice. Open wide the windows, let the spirit flow
through every passageway, refreshing every
room and cupboard, flushing out all that spoils
and decays. From this moment forth, abide in the
love of God and the truth of Jesus Christ, and live
in peace.

What Is the Good News?

El_Greco_-_Christ_Healing_the_Blind_-_WGA10420

El Greco, Christ Healing the Blind

Meditation for the Thirteenth Day of Lent

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:2)

HOPE AND NEW LIFE. Turn away from evil and embrace the Good News.

Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised. Death comes to people because of what one man did. But now there is resurrection from death because of another man. I mean that in Adam all of us die. And in the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again. (I Corinthians 15:20-22)

ETERNAL LIFE. The body dies and decays; the spirit lives on.

I gave you the message that I received. I told you the most important truths: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say. (I Corinthians 15:3)

FREEDOM. If we had to pay a fine for every unkind thought or angry word, we would all live in a culvert. But, having done the best we can to right our wrongs, we needn’t carry guilt and shame around with us, punishing ourselves for our sins and hating our sinfulness. Indeed, these take a toll on our bodies as well as our hearts and minds. They paralyze our ability to love. In Christ we are given innocence at any time we choose to claim it. In the resurrection we are set free to experience joy, which blesses us and all whom we encounter.

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5)

HEALING. Physicians have told me they see miracles all the time. That the body inclines toward healing is a miracle in itself. The body and mind want to be healthy. Torn skin scars over, and scars fade. Broken lives are mended. Broken relationships are restored. These are laws of nature lived through Christ.

“In the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul.” (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

VICTORY. God is supreme. Good is greater than evil. If we didn’t believe this in one form or another, we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Every minute of every day would be lived in dread of calamity.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

PEACE. Much misery arises when we try to control everything—ourselves, other people, circumstances…. Who, having gained a measure of power, does not seek even greater power? When we realize how little we can truly control, we can lean on the infinite strength of God. Thus are we free to live and love in this moment.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

HAPPINESS. The Spirit brings “mystic sweet communion” with Almighty God. By sowing its seeds, in prayer and meditation, we will harvest well-being in all its spiritual dimensions. Having that, what more can we ask? What else do we need for happiness?

Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

LOVE. We don’t have to wait for love to rush in and sweep us off our feet. You and I can make a decision to walk in the way of love… the love of God, the love of others, and the love that our Sunday-school teachers failed to mention: the love of ourselves. There is nothing noble or generous about neglecting our own needs or being easily manipulated.

Jesus “did not command self-love; he assumed it and made it the measure of neighbor love: ‘As you would that men do to you, do so to them.’” (John Piper, desiringgod.org)