WHEN GOD SHOWS UP

Psalm 22:19-28
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

That Long Reach Across Time and Space

That Long Reach Across Time and Space

OK, you’ve got an issue,
a problem,
and it’s huge…
You pray.
You ask God for help.
You cry.
You hope against hope,
and you pray,
unceasingly…
Pretty good so far.
But what if God actually shows up
and answers your prayer—
I mean,
like,
really shows up?
What then?
Mind-blowing terror?
What if God has already shown up
but
you didn’t recognize God
as God,
because instead of the otherness and terror,
there was familiarity and sameness?
OK, what then?
I can hear someone
stating that God is not some
big Sugar-Daddy in the sky
and does not run around
doing magic tricks
for us at our
beck and call.
But, while I believe,
you can believe anything
you want,
so can I,
and I believe
God gets involved in our
lives in ways we can’t grasp.
I actually don’t know enough about God
to state that God is or is not,
or will or will not,
or does or does not,
however, neither does anyone else.
That leaves the door
wide open for faith and trust
and belief.
AND I do believe…
But really,
and back to the original question,
what if God companions us so well
that we don’t realize it is happening?
And then,
there’s always the question,
How do we know,
how can we tell,
when it is really God
and not some joker
we’ve been trying to avoid,
or at the least,
have tolerated
for most of our lives?
HOW DO WE ACTUALLY RECOGNIZE GOD?
I suppose
there is no true way to do that.
I think we’d be best served
by considering
everyone,
everything,
in our lives
to be some sort of divinity
and some kind of answer
to some prayer,
at some time,
and respect
and nurture
all of our relationships
in ways that might
allow God to act.

And, as always, the time has come for love…

IN THE MORNING

Psalms 5:1-8
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Blue Lake Forest on a Dewy Morning

Blue Lake Forest on a Dewy Morning

Do you have a special time to pray?
That time when you can
listen and hear God’s voice,
be aware of God’s companioning,
God’s presence?
Yes, God is present always.
Still,
those times when we are
most present to God
seem to be those times
when God’s presence
is closest to us.
Taking time out for God
is, in a very real way,
taking time out for ourselves—
stopping and regenerating.
It does not need to be at
any one particular time.
But making time and
mental/spiritual/emotional space
is required.
The song lyric,
“I come to the garden alone,
while the dew is still on the roses,”
Sets the stage for how best to pray.
Where are our gardens?
How does beauty surround us as we pray?
Where is the silence
to hear the still voice of God?
Where do we turn in crisis,
and how have we practiced
in prayer
for those times
when we most need
God’s companioning?

INNIES & OUTIES

1 Kings 17:5-16
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

A Loaf of Bread - Miracle or Bribe

A Loaf of Bread – Miracle or Bribe

1 Kings 17:5-16 — The Message
Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook. Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.” So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?” She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’” And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!
God sends Elijah to someone
who is not one of the Tribe.
And while The text
says God has instructed the woman,
she knows nothing of it,
and Elijah is left to bribe her
with a promise
of a lasting supply of food
if she will help him.
A good deal for a woman who claims
she is down to her last shuck.
This actually suggests to me
the two stories may be more from
multiple layers of editing and
less about God’s duplicity.
I have heard more preaching
focused on the widow’s
willingness to obey God
with the bottomless abundance
of the jar of meal and the bottle of oil
as the prize
than I want to think about,
and I think those sermons miss the point entirely.
This is an inny-outy story.
Elijah and the hearers of the story,
by the writer’s standards,
would be the innys
while the widow would be the outy.
But what if it is the other way around?
Think about it.
Elijah goes to a whole other area where his God
is not their God,
and he has to beg from a “sinner”—
“sinner” being one who does not keep the Jewish Law,
which is to say, not kosher.
He must bend to her custom
and bless her
in spite of her non-jewishness,
AND EAT HER UNCLEAN FOOD!
Sure, she gets to eat and not die,
but so does Elijah as well.
Elijah’s salvation comes from a non-Jew.
Jesus preached it in Luke 18:17,
with the outsider-children bringing us in,
and Peter’s vision of the “unclean food”
in Acts 10
indicated that real change
might occur,
still,
even now we seem to intensely focus
on our own set of holiness codes.
The ones we construct to
make us comfortable
and keep our lives as convenient as possible.
The challenge in this story is
not how to get abundance
by heeding
some great prophet,
or by allowing ourselves to be bribed,
but for us to allow the
outsider/stranger/most-uncomfortable-people
we know
to lead us
into whatever salvation
God may have for us.

But it’s always about LOVE —

AN OUTSIDER’S VIEW

Luke 7:1-10 — The Message
When he finished speaking to the people, he entered Capernaum. A Roman captain there had a servant who was on his deathbed. He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him. When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and urged him to do it, saying, “He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.”

Jesus went with them. When he was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell him, “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.

A Matter of Reaching Out

A Matter of Reaching Out

An Outsider’s View
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
The Roman Captain got it, big time.
This was a Centurion,
a man in charge of 100 soldiers.
When he commanded,
he expected stuff to get done.
The story itself is a device
the writer of Luke
uses to let us know
what Jesus is in charge of,
and what he commands.
The Centurion
commended an army,
Jesus
commands the forces of life itself.
The Roman Captain
recognized leadership when he saw it.
He trusted
the chain of command
and the strength it sustains,
and because of what he had heard of Jesus,
he overlaid his experience onto Jesus,
and trusted his need to be met.
What do we recognize in Jesus?
What in our experience
recognizes itself in Jesus
when we have a need?
And do we have the
trust, faith, confidence
to give Jesus full rein
to get the job done?
On this Memorial Day weekend we remember
soldiers who understood orders,
who gave up their lifestyles for another way of life,
and for many that meant their entire life.
Today we remember also
our dear loved ones
who have passed on.
As we examine our own hearts we may discover
that they have empty places
where grief
has replaced joy.
What confidence do we have
in this person we know as Jesus?
In the Roman Catholic liturgy
the Captain’s words are echoed,
“Only speak the word and my soul will be healed…”

Many of my educated colleagues, at times including myself,
have developed a cynicism
towards answered prayer.
Many consider
a personal request
to God
for a personal reason
to be more superstition,
more naivete,
than what Jesus might have been about.
Thinking that our
as Christians in the world
have the task to
serve and work to
build and complete
God’s desire for
heaven on earth.
Yet here
is a story a about an outsider
to Jesus’ story
who just took it at face value—
no judgement,
no critical thinking,
or
even post critical thinking,
no expectation except
that his need be met.
In truth are we all not outsiders?
We can paint educated,
metaphor-filled,
suppositions of what God is about,
but where is the trust,
or the faith,
or the hope
in educated metaphor
if we cannot have a personal request
for a personal need?
Maybe it is time for us to
give ourselves
a little time out,
give ourselves to love,
and recognize the possibility
of actual miracle
and the fulfillment of hope—
for ourselves—personally.

Today as our hearts
ache with our memories
of those fallen,
or lost,
or departed from us,
let us echo the Centurion’s confidence
and speak those powerful words…
Jesus,
“Only speak the word
and my soul will be healed…”