Teacher, I Want To See

Read Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus and his disciples, along with a large crowd, leave Jericho on their way to Jerusalem, there was a blind man, Bartimaeus, sitting by the roadside begging for money.  Hearing a noisy crowd approaching he asked what was happening.  Being told that it was Jesus of Nazarene, he cries out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Many in the crowd rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Unfortunately, Bartimaeus has two strikes against him — he is blind, and he is begging. During Jesus’ time and culture, that was a perfect prescription for being overlooked by society.  It’s difficult for me to imagine the pain of scorn and rejection, of being considered a worthless person in society that Bartimaeus daily suffered because of his blindness.

However, this blind man sees something that no one has yet seen or declared.  For the first time, Jesus of Nazareth is publicly called the “Son of David.”  In doing so, Bartimaeus makes a declaration of faith, conviction, and confidence that this Jesus can completely heal him, physically, socially, and spiritually.

In this miracle story, it is only the sightless man who sees Jesus clearly.  Only blind Bartimaeus correctly identifies Jesus as the long-awaited “Son of David” – the promised Messiah for the world.

For me, it is so reassuring to note that Jesus heard Bartimaeus’ urgent plea, stopped, and called Bartimaeus to come to him.  Bartimaeus makes a quick response, “throwing his coat aside” (used to catch coins), “jumped to his feet” (abandons his sitting position as a beggar), “and came to Jesus” (on his own, without help).  And with amazing love and compassion, Jesus responds to the ready faith of Bartimaeus with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus is a beggar, so he could’ve asked for a bag of gold.  He’s got no status in the community, so he could’ve asked for the respect of others.  He’s unemployed, so he could’ve asked for a job.  He’s made mistakes in life, so he could’ve asked for forgiveness.

I understand Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  as being open-ended, non-directive – a blank check, just waiting to be filled in.  I really wonder how I would have responded, if I were blind Bartimaeus.  How would you have responded

Bartimaeus says, “Teacher, I want to see!”  It’s a simple, straightforward request, but one that is much harder to fulfill than a plea for a job or a bag of gold, or even a place of honor in the community.

Bartimaeus makes his request, trusting Jesus to be both infinitely powerful and endlessly merciful, willing and able to fulfill his request for healing.

“Go, your faith has healed you” says Jesus.  And immediately Bartimaeus could see and follows Jesus down the road toward Jerusalem.  Bartimaeus is spontaneously enthusiastic, and I believe, in all likelihood, he is one of the cheering crowd who surrounded Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, shouting “”Hosanna! …Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.”

Just before this encounter, in verses 35-45, James and John had asked Jesus to do for them whatever they asked.  The difference between Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus’s request and the disciples’ request is the difference between faith and ambition.  Faith, as we see in Bartimaeus, asks for needs, whereas Ambition, as we see in James and John, begs for wants.

“What do you want me to do for you?” What would be your response? What are the deepest needs that you haven’t asked Jesus or anyone else to help you with?  Does the deep darkness of fear, rejection, or loneliness – or the blindness of guilt or unbelief keep you from experiencing the healing of forgiveness, joy, and peace that Jesus offers?  How might you take a leap of faith and against all negative voices, ask for healing of mind, body, and spirit, confidently believing that Jesus will give you all that you need and more?

Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Faith is the catalyst for asking, and asking is the key to healing!  We may not receive precisely what we want, but we can be assured that Jesus is ready to supply our need.

This story, like many others from Scripture, reveals Jesus as the compassionate, all-loving, almighty healer.  Like Bartimaeus, let us together embrace Jesus as our powerful Messiah King, and follow him with courage and confidence, knowing that he is a most trustworthy Savior.

The Ultimate Thirst Quencher

Read John 4:4-26 

The story begins with Jesus, a Jew, seated and resting by Jacob’s well near Sychar, the capital town in Samaria.  It is about noontime and a Samaritan woman comes alone to the well to draw water for herself.  Seeing the stranger and realizing that he was a Jewish man, she hesitated, wondering why he was there, because Jewish people usually avoided contact and conversation with Samaritans.

John says in verse 4, “Now he (Jesus) had to go through Samaria.”  Palestine is only 120 miles long from north to south.  But within that 120 miles there were in the time of Jesus three definite divisions of territory.  In the extreme north was Galilee — in the extreme south was Judea — and in between was Samaria.

The quickest route from Judea to Galilee was to go through Samaria.  But there was a centuries-old feud between the Jews and the Samaritans.   The Samaritans were descendants of those Jews who had not been deported into exile and had intermarried with the heathen colonist brought in from Babylonia by the Assyrian conquerors.  And so they were looked upon by the returning Jewish exiles as unclean half-breeds of Jewish blood.   The hatred and feuding between them deepened when the Samaritans’ offer to help rebuild the temple was refused.

So the Jews would cross the Jordan River in Judea, go up the eastern side of the river to avoid Samaria, then re-cross the Jordan north of Samaria and enter Galilee.  However, this alternative route took twice as long — another three days of travel.

Jesus chose to go through Samaria, I believe, because his primary reason for coming into the world was to love the world — all of it, not just some parts of it.  His coming was to break down barriers — all barriers, not just some of them.  And so, Jesus “had to go through Samaria” because he knew and understood the spiritual thirst and yearnings of the Samaritan people.

And why did this woman come to this well, located more than a mile outside of town, when there was a good well in town — and why did she come during the hottest time of the day?  I think this woman felt deeply hurt by the resentment and rejection from her own townspeople.  She knew she was an outcast because of her immoral lifestyle, and was most likely the daily gossip at the town well.   And so, to avoid the pain and embarrassment, she walked the greater distance in the heat of the day along to get her water supply.

As the woman comes closer to the well, Jesus lifts his head and looking at her, makes a simple, unexpected request of her — “Will you give me a drink?” (v.7).   In politely asking this Samaritan woman for a drink of water, Jesus cuts through centuries of suspicion and animosity, and treats her with respect and dignity as a human being.   He treats her with respect even though he knows the immorality and emptiness she tries to hide.

The woman can only respond with undisguised amazement, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?”  She is well aware that any self-respecting Jew would never consider even touching the water jar of a Samaritan, and most would avoid being touched by even the shadow of a Samaritan.

But it is not long before the woman who has been asked for water is addressing the thirsty traveler as “Sir” and asking him for the water he offers.  Jesus offers this morally corrupt, Samaritan woman water that can quench her deepest spiritual soul-thirst, not just for a day, but forever.   He offers her water that is continuously fresh and abundant — “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  He offers this woman “living water” as “the gift from God” and it is hers for the asking.

All through Scripture, water is a rich symbol of varied spiritual meanings — but always of life.  The precious physical water, coming from well or river, bringing life and beauty to the barren desert land of Jesus, had become a symbol of that everlasting spiritual water which could quench and revive the parched, dying human spirit.  So the Psalmist cries out, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  (Psalm 42:1).

And the Apostle John records that on the last day of the annual Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus throws out an amazing invitation to all who hear him, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  (John 7:37-39).  Then John explains, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”

This is the invitation the Samaritan woman is hearing.  And it is the invitation Jesus still gives to all whose lives are empty, barren, and thirsty.  To all who feel unloved, abused, rejected, and lonely, Jesus offers, “living water — a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

Are you drinking living water — the ultimate thirst quencher?  It can be yours for the asking. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  … Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  (Rev. 22:17). 

God Is For Us

Read Romans 8:28-39

We are quick to classify significant events as either “tragic” or “triumphant” based on our very limited knowledge and insight.  However, we need to admit that such simplistic classifications do not and cannot fully describe nor explain the whys and wherefores of such events.

What is so visible to us in regards to our every experience or situation in life is, in fact, so small, so miniscule, in comparison to what God knows, sees, and purposes for us.  He sees and knows the big and eternal picture of the world in which we live.  And he knows every little detail about us because he created us and breathed life and purpose into our bodies.  And so it is only reasonable to believe that his perspective of any event or situation happening to us would be much different and more accurate than ours.

The Biblical story of Jesus, from the cradle in Bethlehem to the cross in Jerusalem, has dramatically revealed to us the amazing extreme of God’s everlasting love, and gloriously confirms that God is for us.  That story is summed up in these two verses from John’s gospel – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (3:16-17).   

I will always remember one of my seminary professors, J.C. Wenger, frequently saying, “The yardstick of God’s love is Golgotha.”      

In these verses from Romans 8, the apostle, Paul, inspires our thinking and response by asking two questions.  His first question is this – “What then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (vv. 31-32).   

Paul is emphatically trying to convince us that written on the underside of every experience in our life, both the good and bad, is the holy seal of assurance, God is for you.”  Unfortunately, some have misunderstood verse 28 and being disappointed, have become confused and discouraged.  I think it is very important to note what this verse does not say as well as what it does say;

  1. It does not say God causes everything that happens. He doesn’t.
  2. It does not say that everything that happens is “good.” It isn’t.
  3. It does not say that all things are working for the “good” in terms of health, wealth,and success.  They are not.
  4. It does not say that everything is going to work out for “good” for all people.           The truth is that God can do some things for those walking with him that he cannot    do for those running away from him.

Verse 29 clearly identifies the “good” promised in this scripture as the ability “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  To accomplish this, God uses all things, the good and the bad, the joys and the tears, the successes and the failures to shape us into the likeness of his Son, Jesus.  And most certainly, God does not waste any events or experiences in our life and world toward accomplishing his work of transforming us into the person he created us to become.

Paul says we know this because God is for us.  Pause and think about what you just read.  God is for us,  -not “may be” -not “has been” -not “was” -not “will be” — but “God is for us.”  Can it really be so?  Today, at this very hour, this very minute and every minute, he is for us.

Paul’s second question is this – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Illustrating from his personal experience of hardships and sufferings, Paul lists those things that can cause us to question God’s love for us, and emphatically declares that none of these things can ever separate us from Christ’s love.

Rather than separating us from the love of Christ, Paul declares that the love of Christ makes us “more than conquerors” over all these difficulties and sufferings.  (v.37).  In other words, our sufferings do not defeat and separate us from the love of Christ, but rather the love of Christ defeats our sufferings and strengthens our bond of relationship to him.  Truly, we are the dearly loved, adopted children of God.

In verse 38 Paul answers his own two questions, with a powerful, all-inclusive declaration regarding the love of God for us – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This is Paul’s testimony of faith from his own life of many very difficult, life-threatening experiences.

I know that if all I had to go on was what is visible and tangible to me in difficult and tragic events, I would soon become discouraged, afraid, and without hope.  However, as a follower of Jesus Christ I can live joyously and hopeful, in spite of these circumstances, because I have confidence in the truth and promises of Romans 8:28-39.

God is present with us every moment or every day.  He has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  He is by our side cheering us on, applauding our accomplishments.  He is there to pick us up when we stumble and fall, and he puts his arms around us to comfort us when we hurt and cry.  God is always for us, and in every situation of life working for our good.  Thanks be to God!

Taming The Wilderness

Read Mark 1:9-13

Because of unexpected and difficult circumstances or events that come into our life, we sometimes find ourselves in a scary wilderness of physical, emotional, and spiritual testings, where wild animals threaten to separate us from a trusting relationship with our Father God.

Jesus’ wilderness experience immediately followed his baptism with water and the powerful affirmation from heaven of who he was: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  I believe this must have been a very reassuring moment of encouragement for Jesus as he begins his ministry.

But then Mark says that “At once the Spirit sent him out (compelled Jesus to go) into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with wild animals, and angels attended (took care of) him.”

No one chooses to journey into difficult and troubling wilderness experiences.  Not even Jesus.  However, wilderness experiences are a part of being human in a world of evil.  Many different and unfortunate events may cause us much pain and suffering.  During these difficult times of uncertainty we may struggle with inner feelings of being forsaken and unloved.  Many would describe these times as being very desolate, lonely, agonizing, and scary.

The wild beasts of anxieties and fear crouch in the brush nearby, ready to pounce and strangle us emotionally and physically.  The wild creatures of various temptations slither around waiting for the opportunity to strike with their deadly poisons.  And the vultures of doubt and despair circle overhead, waiting to devour whatever hope we are still clinging to.

I think I can say with certainty that all difficult wilderness experiences have their wild animals.  They threaten us.  They challenge our Christian faith, our moral and spiritual values, and our belief and trust in a loving, caring Father God.

The good news is that our loving, caring Father God is present with us and strengthens us to confront and overcome the threats these wild animals of the wilderness throw at us.

Mark says, “He (Jesus) was with the wild animals.”  And then he says and angels attended him.”  Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated as “angel” mean “messenger.”  And so these angels are God’s messengers of hope, providing encouragement and strength when he needed it most.

And so he is with us.  We are not alone in the wilderness.  God’s angels are there providing the strength and reassurance we need to remain confident of God’s ever-loving care and provision for us, and journey through the wilderness experience with increased faith and trust in him.

The apostle Paul wrote our of his own wilderness experience, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but now destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

The writer of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus Christ is our great High Priest – a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and who in every respect has be tested as we are, yet without sin.  He then says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus understands the wilderness and its wild beasts.  Jesus understands our loneliness and despair, because Jesus has already been there and in every way stressed and tested even as we are.  And he is with us in our wilderness journey, promising never to leave us nor forsake us.

Thanks be to God!

Fully Known and Dearly Loved

Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

In concluding my blog last week, I stated that many persons struggle with low self-esteem and worthlessness, largely because they never heard nor experienced God’s dignifying affirmation through the human beings that work, play, and worship with them.  I should have also said that most, if not all, of us do experience feelings of low self-esteem at certain times in our lives.

That’s why I recommend reading Psalm 139 frequently and listening closely to God speaking your name and telling you why and how he loves and cares for you every moment of every day.

This psalm is a prayer in which the psalmist, David, is astounded by how thoroughly and intimately the Lord knows him.  God’s presence with him at all times and in every circumstance is more than he can comprehend – but it gives him a grand sense of self-worth, inner security and comfort.

In this prayer, David declares the following dignity-filled truths about God’s relationship with us.

God knows me (v.1-4).  Yes, God is like a doctor giving us a physical exam; a psychiatrist exploring our inner selves; or an intimate friend who probes us until we reveal all.  As a result, God knows us thoroughly and completely – even our deepest and most secret thoughts and desires, both the good and bad.

He knows what we think about people.  He knows our motives as we engage in conversation with others. He knows the path we take through the day, each pause, and each detour.  When trouble comes, God knows!   When life is joyous and delightful, God knows!   There is nothing we do, say, or think that is hidden from God.

Although we might at times feel that God’s knowledge and involvement in our lives is a little too invasive, too uncomfortable, David finds it to be a joyous comfort and encouragement particularly during the difficult times in his life.

God surrounds me (v.5-6).  God not only knows our whereabouts and thoughts, He also protects us from harm.  Wherever we go, God is there surrounding us with protection, and abundantly providing for our needs.  Like a human father, God goes before us preparing our way and behind us guiding and encouraging us onward in our life journey.  He is always present in our personal moments with fatherly care and concern.

It is so mind-boggling for me to think that God would know me as He does, that God would be as involved in the specifics of my daily living as He is, that I say with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand.” (v.6). 

God created me (v.13-16).  David acknowledges that the God who knows him so intimately is also the God who wonderfully created and fashioned him in his mother’s womb and now lovingly cares for him.  He knows us the way a painter knows his picture, or a sculptor knows his statue.  He remembers each little detail of his work in shaping us into the special person we are – a unique image of himself.

This amazing truth really comforts and encourages me; because it affirms and reassures me we are not an accident of nature or evolution.  We are not a mistake in God’s great scheme of things.  There is a holy, grandiose reason and purpose created into each one us. Our life, our soul, our human self is filled with the very breath of Almighty God.  With David we say, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

God thinks about me (v.17-18).  Not only does God think about us as he is forming us in our mother’s womb, he also is thinking about us as we are being shaped and fashioned beyond the womb. Moment by moment, day after day, we are in his thoughts as he watches over us.  David says that his thoughts of us outnumber the sand itself – impossible to count.

As amazing as it is – as unlikely or even as impossible as it might seem – imagine this; you and me are known by and in relationship with the Holy, Almighty God, high and lifted up, who is completely beyond our understanding, our thinking – and yet comes down to care, provide and lead us individually as his treasured, unique, and special creationhis own beloved child.

David concludes is prayer of praise with, “When I awake, I am still with you.”   David takes comfort in being able to rely on God’s safekeeping – falling asleep in the presence of God and waking up in the presence of God.  And so can we.

In her book of meditations on the Psalms, “I’m Lonely, Lord – HOW LONG?” Marva J. Dawn concludes her meditation on this psalm with these words.  “Truly this picture of ourselves, marvelously designed, made with his tender care, should fill us with dignity and self-worth.  We don’t have to win God’s approval; we had it even before we were born.  We don’t have to prove our worth; he wove it together.  We don’t have to impress him with our goodness; he just wants to show us his.” (p.156).

 I wholeheartedly agree.  I leave you with this question to ponder, “What do you think God was thinking on the day you were created?  What beautiful and attractive things, what grand and perfect things, was God thinking and planning for you while He was putting you together in your mother’s womb – and what is he thinking about you even now as he continues to shape you by the experiences of the past week and year?

Created With Dignity

Read Jeremiah 1:4-8

 “Dignity” is defined as “inherent nobility and worth; the state or quality of being worthy of respect” in our dictionaries, but seems to have been far removed from our daily thought and practice.  When it comes to the practice of affirming and protecting the dignity of others, it seems our society has largely lost its heart and way.  We find it so easy and, sadly, popular to “trash” those we don’t like or with whom we disagree.  Political conversations have deteriorated into such sickening trash talking about opponents that any possibility of learning truthful facts about a person or situation is almost non-existent.  Unfortunately, this childish, prejudiced, and disrespectful name-calling has become the normal character of our American culture in both secular and religious arenas.

For that reason, I urgently invite us all to hear again God’s word to Jeremiah and reclaim the dignity with which God created and gave birth to each and every one of us.

God was about to send Jeremiah as a prophet into a culture that had lost all reverence for human life.  They were corrupting themselves with the most flagrant disregard for human dignity.  In calling Jeremiah to this unglamorous and frightening lifework as prophet to his own people, he said, “I formed you in the womb.” 

With our small and limited understandings we imagine our conception as only a biological event between our parents.  Yet God’s words to Jeremiah should cause us to rethink the deeper truths surrounding the origins and purposes of our birth into this world.

In pondering these words, we learn that you and I are created and formed with a divine glory which is infinitely more than just being biological children of humankind. The Psalmist acknowledges this glory when he praises God, saying “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139:13-14)

But listen carefully as you reread God’s words to Jeremiah.  Our conception and birth is not our real beginning of existence, nor will our death be the end.  God said, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

Wow!  What a mind-boggling, heart-stirring thought for us to ponder.  Think about it.  Before the day and moment of our conception, God knew us.  God dignified us by thinking and calling us into existence.  God names you and me in his mind and dignifies each of us with a special purpose and plan.  It’s hard to imagine that even before our mothers lovingly cradled us in their arms, God wrapped his greater arms around us and whispered his uniquely designed purpose and plan into each of our soon-to-be created selves.

Again the Psalmist acknowledges this glorious truth in his praise to God, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” (Ps. 139:16-17)

Such awesome truth lifts our eyes to a loving God and brings healing to our discouraged and downcast spirits. This is good news indeed, but there is more.  If this is true and believe it is, then there follows another, possibly more difficult truth, which is equally important to accept and live out in our relationship with others.

The true reality is that what God did in bringing me and you into existence, he does for every other human being in our world.  It is important that we let this truth continually permeate the deepest recesses of our minds and hearts in all or our relationships and conversations.  For if we don’t, it becomes easy to not accept and dignify their God-given personhood.

In my years of ministry as pastor and chaplain, I’ve encountered many individuals who do not live up to the dignity God instilled in them at their birth.  And neither do they live up to God’s purpose, plan, and potential for them.  And I have also ministered to many who struggle with a low self-esteem and worthlessness, largely because they never heard nor experienced God’s dignifying affirmation through the human beings that work, play, and worship with them.  Do you hear me?

I sincerely believe we can change our churches, communities, and world by resolving to be more earnest in our efforts to dignify the personhood of all others in our conversations and actions regardless of their race, religion, politics, or nationality, even as our creator God does.

Exploring the Emptiness

Read Mark 16:1-8

Emptiness can be very frightening.  The empty house on a dark night.  The empty gas tank on a deserted road.  The empty bed when you loved one has died.  But even more frightening is the emotional and spiritual emptiness that drains us of hope, strength, and purpose in life.

For many persons, going to work is empty of fulfillment, even recreational and vacation times are empty of satisfying fun, and times of spiritual meditation and worship are empty of meaningful ecstasy.  At the inner core of their self, with its thoughts and emotions, is a dark frightening emptiness.

The good news of Easter’s resurrection story is the invitation for us to enter the emptiness we may be feeling and to explore it.  The Easter story begins with a visit to an empty tomb.

And so, imagine yourself being one of the three women who visited the tomb early in the morning after Sabbath, coming with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus.  You are filled with uncertainty, fear, grief and emptiness.  Your whole self aches because of your great lost.  The man, Jesus, whom you have dearly loved and believed to be God’s promised savior for you is dead, having been crucified with two other criminals.

As you near the tomb you see, to your utter amazement and consternation, that the large rounded stone sealing the tomb’s entrance has been rolled away.  Entering the darkened tomb, you find it empty, except for the folded shroud and napkin.  The body of Jesus is not there. But sitting close by is a stranger dressed in white.

Being so overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, you cannot speak, but you do hear the stranger say, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you.’”  Shaking with much fear and bewilderment, you run from the tomb saying nothing to anyone.

There are two things that happened in this early morning event that I find helpful for my times of emptiness.  1. The women fled after they had explored the tomb and confirmed its emptiness.  2. The stranger in white pointed them outward and away from the empty tomb and toward a place where Jesus would meet them alive and in person, just as He had earlier promised, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”  (Mark 14:28).

The first important response in my times of emptiness is to explore the reason for my feeling and to acknowledge and confirm the emptiness.  This is followed by my going out from that darkened tomb, even though I may wish to stay and grieve my emptiness, turning my thoughts and face toward Jesus and going toward Him who promised “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

The women explored the emptiness of a tomb and discovered that death is not life’s final act.  Exploring the emptiness of our own heart and mind requires the courage to admit emptiness.  But to all who admit to being empty – the sad, the lonely, the broken-hearted – emptiness brings opportunity to examine the empty tomb in their own experience.  It is they who discover the deeper truths of resurrection and to realize that “He (Jesus) has risen!  He is not here.”  It is they who receive the promise, “But go,…He is going ahead of you” and in your going “There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Yes, Jesus is alive and my hope in Him is not in vain.  Because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, I believe He is not just a person to be remembered in history, but a living presence in my life and world.  I believe He is not just someone to discuss, but someone to meet in relationship.  The question I daily ask myself is – Am I awake and aware of His living presence in my personal world, and am I sincerely desiring a living, loving relationship with Him?

About

My name is Ray Geigley and I am enjoying retirement as pastor and chaplain.  I was ordained a Mennonite pastor in June 1966,  and pastored four different congregations until May 1993.  During this time I graduated from Goshen Biblical Seminary, Goshen, IN, and also completed Clinical Pastoral Education at Philhaven Hospital, Lebanon, PA.

In June, 1993, I began serving as a chaplain and Director of Pastoral Care at Menno Haven Retirement Community, Chambersburg, PA, until retirement in October 2013.  I also served on the Brook Land Board of Directors for 18 years, and as Board Chair for 9 of those years.  Brook Lane is a multi-site facility providing a continuum of both inpatient and outpatient mental health services, and various related educational and training opportunities for the community.

I graduated from Lancaster Mennonite School 1957, and married my classmate, Dorothy Shue, two years later.  We were blessed with 1 son and 3 daughters.  Our son died suddenly at age 23 with a heart attack while playing soccer.  This was a life crisis that dramatically changed our family and my relationship with God and significantly reshaped my pastoral ministry.

It is my hope and prayer that in writing this blog I may in some measure refresh and encourage my readers by sharing from my experiences as a father, pastor and chaplain, those understandings from biblical scriptures that I have found to be helpful in deepening my relationship with Jesus, “the sun of righteousness” – and which continue to lead and nourish me toward a daily healing of mind,  body, spirit, and enables me to sleep well and awake each morning, ready to “go  out and frolic like well-fed calves.”

“Yet, O Lord, You Are Our Father”

Read Isaiah 64:4-9

“But” and “yet” are two three-letter words that turn the tables on any situation, and when read in the Scriptures regarding God, make a significant impact on our relationship with Him.

In these verses, the prophet Isaiah speaks of agony and hopelessness until we come to verse 8.  The first word, “yet” is the most important word in the entire text.  “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.”

This affirmation of faith is made in spite of the fact that there is absolutely no external evidence of any sort to support it.  There is  not one single thing left in the life of this captive people to suggest to them that they could possibly be cared for by a loving God, who loved them like a Father.

The exile itself seemed to demonstrate that either God no longer loved them, or that God no longer had power to protect them.  Either way, for them everything was gone – hopes and dreams were gone, faith was gone.  There is nothing left.  Nothing but that one little “yet.”

And that “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father” brings us full circle back to our own faith.  We are indeed “nothing” as stated in verse 6 – “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  But we are “nothing” in the hands of the Creator who fashioned an entire universe out of “nothing.”

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  The glorious truth is that in God’s hands we are never without hope.  It is the skill of the potter alone which can see in a glop of mud the lovely creation which will emerge when that mud is  worked upon the wheel.

It is only the love of God that can take the deepest darkness and despair that life can throw at us, and use it to re-mold and re-shape our lives into new creations – with new life and new possibilities.

The Lenten journey is a walk of faith in the midst of much agony and hopelessness, for the great triumph of Jesus’ resurrection emerges out of the “nothingness” of the cross.

On Good Friday, the hopes of Jesus’ followers  were shattered, and their faith turned to ashes.  On the cross, everything was stripped away from Jesus and he was left with a despair that cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Yet, on that cross was our salvation.  On that cross was our new life, abundant and eternal.  God worked in the darkness and the despair to redeem mankind – to save you and me.  God’s love and grace, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, brought us from ashes to life.

In the “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father” is our eternal salvation, our hope for  tomorrow, and our sufficient strength for today.

Thank you Jesus!