The Whole Longing for Wholeness

It’s complete, this redemption through Jesus.  Total.  From start to finish.

This hope of redemption encompasses emotional realities like shame and fear: those heavy-hitters that often go unnamed by us and unnoticed by others because they’re so close to our core.

This hope of redemption also includes the physical, our bodies, as part of “the whole creation” which, it turns out, is not sitting idly by.  It is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Paul to the Romans 8:22).  Why is it groaning?

The birthing mother groans under the pain, but there is more than pain.  There is longing.  There is longing for what will be, for what was meant to be to come into the world and live.

Don’t silence that longing.  Don’t distract it with busyness.  Peel it raw.  Give it room to seethe and breathe so that it – so that you – may be made whole.

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Like Those Who Dreamed

The deep need for redemption that Jeremiah laments

Why does Jerusalem always turn away?  They refuse to return…no one repents… (Jeremiah 8:5 & 6),

and the hope for redemption that Isaiah proclaims

The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed… (Isaiah 54:6),

becomes the redemption that is celebrated by the Psalmist years later:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.  (Psalm 126)

May God give us courage to turn away from our sin and to long for redemption.

In our shame and despair, may we remember the promise of redemption.

And when the day of redemption comes, when our best dreams are restored, may we celebrate with song of joy.

 

Advent Week Two, Dec. 6 – Dec. 12: 

Isaiah 54:1-8

Jeremiah 8:4-12

Psalm 126

Romans 8:19-23

Luke 1:46-55

The Redeemed Need Not Remember Their Shame

Shame, when you feel it, invites itself to stay.  It moves in.  Puts its feet up.   This will be no brief visit.

Disgrace, if you’ve landed there, is even longer-lasting.  It’s a darkness from which few ever truly emerge.

But what if you could?

What if there were a true and sound pathway out of the darkness of shame and disgrace?  What if there truly, actually, physically, emotionally, spiritually is such a thing as redemption?

In today’s reading (Isaiah 54:1-8), Isaiah says this to Israel:

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
  You will forget the shame of your youth
 and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

 

Advent Week Two, Dec. 6 – Dec. 12:

Isaiah 54:1-8

Jeremiah 8:4-12

Psalm 126

Romans 8:19-23

Luke 1:46-55

When You Know

Whenever I read this passage I’m struck by John’s crystal clear understanding:

He understands who he’s not:

Are you the Christ?  No. Are you Elijah?  No.  The Prophet?  No.

He understands who he is:

He’s just a voice testifying about Jesus, whose “sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

And he understands his place in the story.

He understands that he’s part of a long line of faithful people who have looked to God in their search for shalom.

What we don’t get to hear is how John came to the place of clarity.   That must have been a fascinating process.

“Miracles may show me the saint, they do not show me how he became a saint: and that is what I want to see. It is not the completed process that intrigues me: it is the process itself… Tell me what was churning in his soul as he battled his way up from selfishness and the allurements of sin to the great heart of God.”

– M. Raymond, O.C.S.O

May God bless your process of understanding of your identity and your place in this great story.

 

Christ Has Made God Known

Today’s reading, the first 18 verses of John’s gospel, is, in my view, the most important “Christmas” passage in the Bible.

  • John starts his story in the beginning, the very beginning:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

  • He clearly and powerfully articulates the mind-blowing, history-changing reality of the incarnation:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • And he tells us why it all matters:

18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

The opening words of John’s story of Jesus are worth soaking in for a long time.  May we be moved by the wonderful mystery of God’s great love for us.  May Christ’s coming powerfully proclaim God’s desire to make Himself known.

Christ, the Kiss

The song (Psalm 85) about the past continues with a promise to listen in the future.  And this might be a risky promise, a dangerous one to make, depending on the character of the God who is hearing the promise.

Is God holy or loving?  Righteous or graceful?

Both.

There is no contradiction, no confusion.  There is, instead, this beautiful image of union:

Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other (vs. 10).

Come, Lord Jesus.

Again, and Again

The Sons of Korah sing Psalm 85 while looking in the rear-view mirror.

I94_North_Dakota_March_2005__soul-ampThey’re reflecting on where they’ve been, on the road they’ve taken, on the missteps and the catastrophes and the grand vistas and the sun rises.    And two things stand out:

  • First, God has restored all that has been broken and lost.  Hallelujah! As you review this last year, may you take great comfort in knowing that nothing surrendered to God is wasted.  Nothing.
  • Second, they need God to restore them again. Restoration is not a one-time event.  They (and we) need it again and again.  “Restore us again, O God our Savior!” they cry (v. 4).  “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you (v. 6)?”   May this Advent be a season in which you, and those you love, come to life again.  May you be restored and revived again and again and again.

Here are the passages our community is reading together this week:

Advent Week One, Nov. 29 – Dec. 5:  

Isaiah 45:1-7

Psalm 85:1-7

Psalm 85: 8-13

John 1:1-18

John 1:19-34