Category Archives: faith

What do you want me to do for you?

There was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside, or so the story goes, when Jesus and his disciples were passing by on their way out of Jericho. Of course, the blind man did not know who was passing by, only that there was a commotion. But when he heard that the stir was about Jesus of Nazareth he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Perhaps it was the plaintiveness of this man’s voice or the sincerity and desperation in his tone that got Jesus’ attention. Or maybe it was the man’s perseverance and increasing volume as he shouted to be heard that gave Jesus pause. Possibly it was simply the potential and possibility Jesus saw in the life of this man that inclined Jesus to ask that the man be called upon.

The story leaves no doubt about the delight that filled that moment. Throwing his cloak aside the man jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“I want to see.”

The circumstances in our world and particularly in our nation today, leave no doubt that I am that blind man. I’m that beggar. I am Bartimaeus, son of the unclean. Lord, have mercy on me.

Help me to see where my place of privilege has kept me in the dark. Show me where my teaching has been sparse and my learning was filtered and faulty. Hear my pleading, my sincerity and my determination to come face to face with the truth — a truth I have seen but not recognized, a truth I have heard but not responded to, a truth so ugly I have turned away from it in disgust and disbelief, even as it has been shared by trustworthy friends.

Today it is clear that the truth doesn’t disappear just because it remains unacknowledged. Truth stands its ground, waiting to speak. It waits for us to address and set aside the falsehoods, biases and preconceived notions which currently cloud our vision. It waits patiently for each of us to respond to the question Jesus asks: what do you want me to do for you?

I want to see.

Lord, heal these eyes and expand my vision. Grant me the courage to look at what’s hard to see and to listen to what’s hard to hear, so I can walk closely with you and with those who bear the weight of injustices leveled by me and by those like me.

Lord, have mercy, as we learn to walk by faith into new sight.

Pass the Peace, Please

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~ John 14:27

This devotional meditation was originally written in December of 2019 and published in the Devotions for Lent booklet created and distributed by The Church of the Good Shepherd UMC — before the world changed for us all. It appears as the reading for today (April 4, 2020). I pray the words may offer you a peace that passes all understanding in your time and place this day.

I’m well acquainted with sweeping things under the rug to “preserve the peace,” buttoning my lip in order not to “disrupt the peace” and occasionally inserting myself to “restore the peace,” but I confess that being asked to “pass the peace” during a church service leaves me somewhat uncomfortable. While others seem to revel in the greetings with warm handshakes and hugs, I suspect there is more to this than well-wishing and the opportunity to visit with those in the next pew or across the aisle.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. When Christ offered these words of comfort to his disciples he was preparing them for the days he knew lay ahead. We are heirs to this same peace, one that is both personal and relational, a shalom. Because the Light of Christ has come into the world we are invited to enact that peace, offering it to each other in an expression of warmth, comfort and welcome.

This is such a simple act, yet brimming with faithfulness and trust, because how well do I really know you? True, you are my pew-mate, my neighbor, my co-parishioner or perhaps my guest, but what about the politics you practice, the parenting style you’ve adopted and the lifestyle you lead? Whoa, what a risk Jesus took in leaving His peace with us!

I do not give to you as the world gives. This is not a worldly peace – nothing so temporary as a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities, nor so transient as a handshake or a hug. The peace Christ gives is insurmountable and uncontainable, yet when I hold it in my hand it weighs nothing and means everything. It is the peace that settles on a prayer-filled room where everything is at stake but there is nothing left to be done. This peace passes all understanding, yet it extends tangibly and undeniably from hand to hand and heart to willing heart.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. As I extend my hand to offer the peace of the Living Christ to you, my friend, my neighbor, my companion on this journey of faith, may the weight of our world be lifted and the love of Christ take its place both within us and between us. For there is nothing in the universe as constant as the presence of Jesus who promised that “where two or three are gathered in my name I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Today: Consider these words of remarkable dialogue from the beautifully conceived play, Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson: “I choose to measure you in light.” If the hand we extend is filled with the peace of Christ, how now may we see the other by the Light of Christ? Blessed indeed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

Hand Washing as Prayer

How kinesthetic is this act of hand washing? Of soap and water sudsing, hands a-rubbing, fingers folding, interlocking, palms compressing and releasing, slipping one past the other, slick even slippery, signaling finally that it’s time to rinse.

What if, instead of counting obediently 1,2,3… instead of singing happy birthday mindlessly… we prayed intentionally?

The Lord’s Prayer, as we who follow Christ have been taught it, takes just over 20 seconds to pray if we rush through like a Sunday morning congregation. But what if, in the privacy of our own sinks, in thanks for the soap and the water, in fulfillment of the commandment to pray, in facing the world crisis which meets us today, we each gave God thanks for the cleansing?

I dare you to try it. Then, prepare to be blown away by the A-MEN. Speak AHH–, as the clear water rinses one hand completely and –MEN as you rinse the other. Forgiveness has never felt so real.

Here is my friend and sister-in-faith, Yoon, washing her hands as she prays the Lord’s prayer in Korean, her first language. How great must this chorus of voices praying in all languages sound to the ears of our God.

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