Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email, provide your email address.
"Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand."
- Verse 1 from Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (4th cent. text)
This familiar tune, which you'll hear this Sunday both online and at our Drive-In Worship service during the anthem, always makes me feel funny. I don't mean in a bad way, but rather, it leads my mind to ponder the more abstract, mysterious qualities of God. Especially now during the pandemic with so much uncertainty, I tend to seek logical answers to all the difficult questions I face. Perhaps it's because we simply don't yet know when all of this will be over, and that kind of constant stress makes everything difficult!
But I think there is real value in pondering on the mysteries of our God. Do we take enough time to keep silent and stand in fear, trembling before God? Do we ponder things beyond the earth, even as fear and doubt surround us? Do we realize that the Word Made Flesh demands our full homage, our loving God lowering Himself to our level, yet coming full of blessings? Do we stop the painful and tumultuous paths our minds lead us down during these dark days to realize that there is more going on here than we can ever see, feel, or know?
God is here. He has always been here. Even now, the Holy Spirit twists and turns through my life and yours, taking our actions and circumstances and interweaving our very lives with other people to eventually bring about the plans that God has for us, but instead of sitting back and pondering in this way, we so often jump to action, responding with heated and sometimes hurtful words, not realizing what we are doing or where God is leading us. We so often stand firm in our own "truths", spouting judgement and anger at others who don't agree.
But if you just take a moment to step back from everything, and let your mind wander into the deep mysteries of God, you might find a kind of paradoxical and profound peace. Despite pondering on something that we can never understand, there is a sense of comfort in the strange, illogical wonder of God. Give your mind a chance to slip into the abstract yet all-encompassing love of God and find rest for your soul.
Prayer for Today
God of wonder, let us give in to your mysteries and abide within your infinite love. Let us keep silent as we come before you and draw us nearer to your limitless blessings. Open our eyes to your glory. Amen.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
"I like to remember that when someone asks, 'What Would Jesus Do?' that a perfectly acceptable answer is yell and throw things," a friend of mine once remarked. They were right. I've tried to remember this in my walk with Christ and my ministry. You probably remember Gray referencing Aslan, the lion of Narnia who represents Jesus in those C.S. Lewis stories. When the girl asks if he's a safe lion, she's told he's not safe at all, but he is good. The Jesus of most of our artwork, our movies and TV programs, our imaginations, that Jesus is tame. Safe. But that's not the Jesus of scripture. The Jesus of scripture is gentle and compassionate when it is called for and a lion of strength and ferocity when that is called for instead.
My friend, singer-songwriter and activist, David Lamotte has a song about this more whole, more complete person of Jesus. The refrain is meant to be sarcastic, "Sing me a song about Jesus, but please don't sing about the poor. It's already been a long day now. I really don't wanna hear any more. Sing me a song about Jesus that'll make me feel happy inside. Sing me a song about Jesus that'll make this lifestyle feel justified." He's even had people come up after his shows to thank him for that song and say how weary they are of being challenged by Jesus and they just wanna be happy. They miss the whole point. Jesus was a troublemaker when necessary. Trouble that was intended to speak up for the oppressed loudly enough to disrupt the lives of those in comfort and power.
I've been reflecting all week on the life of Georgia's own John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and all the other unnamed men and women who marched and spoke out and endured the scorn of the people of the law, the lashes of the soldier, the mockery of crowds of angry people, and all for the hope of God's Word that they could be free and have life abundantly. I haven't had the words to express my gratitude for their work, their words, their lives, their example, and their inspiration and transformation. My nation is better for their lives. But I don't need new words. God's words led them and inspired theirs. John Lewis studied them in seminary and from a young age. And he found the Jesus who was killed for being a dissenter. He captured the essence of Jesus and told us, "Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." And so I aim to misbehave, for Jesus.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me not to despair, but to find those in need and get into necessary trouble, good trouble. Amen.
Last Sunday, I talked about lament as a response to suffering. Recently, one of our church members was lamenting about how we seem to be losing the ability to disagree respectfully with one another. I agreed with him and shared my perspective that while this is true in our larger world, it can also have a negative effect on our discourse within the church. So, how do we "speak the truth in love" as scripture commands us to do?
Over the ten years I have been serving as JCPC's pastor, I have shared on a number of times some guidelines our PCUSA created for how we Presbyterians can have positive, productive interactions, even during times of disagreement. Here is the link to those guidelines. (click here) So, think of these guidelines as a reminder of something we all need to work on daily. I would invite you to download and print them. Put them in a place where you can see them, like your refrigerator or dressing mirror. My hope is that instead of being influenced by our world to be less respectful of one another when we disagree, we might be the "salt and light" that Jesus talks about -- seasoning and enlightening our world with a better way of living. When I was serving a previous church, I shared these guidelines when they first came out. One of our elders liked them so much that he later shared them at his work, after editing out the religious references.
As I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday, our Session met this past Monday evening to talk about some very difficult topics related to possible plans for both the short term and the long term. I was impressed with our Session and how they were able to speak the truth in love, listening to one another first, while maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I think the way our Session handled these things was an answer to prayer and I appreciate many of you for praying for us!
Prayer for Today
God of love and grace, help us to be your salt and light in our world that needs to be seasoned with your grace and enlightened by your love. May we be the peacemakers you have called each one of us to be. In the strong name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.