Sometimes It’s Easy, Most of the Time Not
I do a lot of writing. Sermons, Episcopal Addresses, presentations on the current landscape of the United Methodist Church, articles, daily devotionals and on and on. On rare occasions, the words flow freely and easily. Most of the time, however, it is a painful and lengthy process to conceptualize what I want to say, put it into words that at least somewhat resemble what I’m trying to say, make it concrete enough to be understood and nuanced enough as to not be simplistic, and edit, edit, edit. And in the end, I’m seldom satisfied with the words on the screen. Yet I’ve come to accept this as normative, at least for me. And so even though writing still takes its toll, I know it’s a process to go through to get the result I desire. The same thing is true with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it comes easily, with little effort. Most of the time, however, it takes hard work, significant commitment, a willingness to learn from mistakes, and a passion that keeps you going when you seem to be stuck. And in the end, you’re probably seldom satisfied with how you’re doing. But here’s the thing. What you do matters. But what Jesus matters a whole lot more. And ultimately it’s his grace that will get you where he knows you need to go.
I was blessed yesterday to help a church celebrate its 75th Anniversary. It was a wonderful morning filled with memories and joy, including using an older form of the liturgy the church used the first time it celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps the most striking thing about that service is the prominent role the Prayer of Confession plays with words that might seem harsh, or even offensive, in today’s world. But I was struck by the truth of the words. And their power. And how I felt free saying them. All of which makes me wonder what would happen if we Christians spent a whole lot less time trying to fix other people and a whole lot more time confessing our own sins to God and to one another.
May the prayer I pray today, be the prayer I offer everyday.
May I experience Your love more fully.
May I follow Jesus more faithfully.
May I love others more completely.
I pray this in the strong name of Jesus.
It’s one thing to know intellectually that life changes, and that it often does so unexpectedly and quickly. It’s another to experience it in real time. It’s one thing to believe with all your heart that Jesus’ grace is always sufficient. It’s another to experience it in every fiber of your being when you need it most. The fact of the matter, however, is that sometimes you don’t experience it in those most difficult moments. So you work harder trying to get it, and the result is that things seem to go from bad to worse. But here’s the thing. Jesus is already right in the middle of all that is going on in your life. Every bit of it. And the more you are willing to trust that, the more you will experience the most powerful reality in all of life – he’s already at work giving you what he knows you need.
The Arkansas Annual Conference held our Clergy Session last night, just as Methodist preachers have been doing for nearly 280 years. However, we did it via Zoom. There were significant upsides to meeting online. We were able to get our work done efficiently, put people on screen to speak and answer questions using a Q&A feature. What is more, we saved untold gallons of gas and thousands of dollars, not to speak of all the time people would have spent traveling. There was also a huge downside. We missed out on the fellowship that is such a vital part of conferencing. Deciding when to meet using technology and when to meet in person is a balancing act that is as much art as it is science, and as much intuition as it is data analysis. But that’s not surprising, because life is always a balance between competing interests, each of which has some validity and some liabilities. That’s why what Jesus says in the Gospel of John is so instructive. He talks about both abundant life and eternal life. And what you discover is that both are part of the salvation he offers every human being. Both are essential. And both are a gift.
Sometimes I look in a mirror and have an orange hue. At other times, I see every pore, wrinkle and age spot magnified 10X. At still other times, I look as good as I’m ever going to look. The difference? The light. Different kinds of light literally change how you look in a mirror. The same thing is true in real life. And it’s why you need to see yourself through the light of Jesus’ love. When you do, you’ll see how beautiful you are even with all of your quirks, miscues and mistakes. How strong you are in the face of all you have struggled through. How Christ-like you are becoming as Jesus lives in you more and more. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise. After all, Jesus is the light of the world.