Sunday meditation 4-22-18

Once a week isn’t enough to show that I love God, to remind me that I am a servant of God. But it isn’t just at a church service that you do that – but life. The church service should give you fuel and marching orders – and the rest of the time you are out in the field – working – planting seeds of hope and love, and reaping joy.

It is where you put into practice what you learned.

I like what monasteries do – you meet at least three times a day to pray. This reminds me of how AA works – you go to as many meetings as often as you would have gotten drunk. So now that you are sober, you pray instead. This keeps you from slipping into sin (of whatever sort) and you stay on the path. It keeps you on the wagon, on the Way.

Sin and addiction are closely related – and are cured the same way. Turn away from your own way of doing things, because those obviously weren’t working. Turn away from the world’s ways of “fixing” problems, which often end up causing more. Turn towards God – the One who is the true Healer. Work out your problems by yoking with God.

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A choice to return

It is tiresome to hear someone point out negative things all the time. Like a coworker I had who was always talking about the bad things – patrons, news stories. Like the friends who have to share only bad news on Facebook – their own, the world’s. It is hard to stay centered and focused and calm when this happens.

But we are told to love our enemies. That is the test. It is easy to love people when they are good. Jesus tells us that even unbelievers do that. But the rubber meets the road when people and situations are difficult. That is when we must rise above our human nature.

The only way to do that is to ask Jesus into the situation, to take up his yoke. It is when things are hard that we are given an opportunity to grow, to get stronger, to get better. It is when things are difficult that we have a reminder an opportunity to recommit to our path. It is then we can choose again to follow Jesus, and not the world.

Knowledge of Father and son.

Then Jesus became filled with joy from the Holy Spirit and said “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because it pleased you to hide this knowledge from those who are wise and educated, and have revealed everything to children. My Father has entrusted me with everything. Only the Father knows the son, and the Father is only known by the son, and those who the Son has chosen.”

MT 11:25-27, LK 10:21-22

“Come to me, everyone who is worn down by life, and I will raise you up. Everyone, work alongside me and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and with me you will find rest. If we share the work together it will be easier, because I will give you only light burdens.”

MT 11:28-30

Speaking privately to his disciples he said, “Your eyes and ears are blessed because of what they see and hear! There are many prophets, kings, and righteous people who wanted to see and hear the things you see and hear now, yet didn’t.”

MT 13:16-17, LK 10:23-24

What does “acknowledge” mean?

I was trying to find a better way of understanding what Jesus meant when he said “If you acknowledge me before other people, I will acknowledge you before God.” (Found in LK 12:8-9, MK 8:38, MT 10:32-33, LK 9:26)

What does the word ‘acknowledge’ mean? I looked it up, and then I looked up several of its synonyms. These are the words and phrases I found.

Acknowledge means – Profess, proclaim, speak for, put in a good word for, affirm, publicly declare, officially or publicly announce.

Declare means – Openly align oneself with. Express feelings of love for. Reveal the truth about. Thoroughly make clear. Admit the truth of. Recognize the fact of. Accept the validity of. Confirm, avow, openly claim.

All of this points to not just following Jesus, but admitting it openly. Does it imply going up to people and telling them about Jesus? I’m not sure. But it certainly means that if someone asks you if you are a follower of Jesus, you should say so.

But then let’s look at Peter, Jesus’ head disciple. He denied Jesus three times, when he needed him the most. But Jesus said all along that this was the person responsible for starting his church. So is Jesus going to deny he knows him to God when it is time to come back?

Doubtful.

I certainly like the idea of living in such a way that people can tell you are a follower of Jesus by looking at what you do. They don’t have to see the rhinestone pin spelling out “Jesus” on your sweater, or notice the forearm tattoo of Jesus on the cross to get the clue. They should see it in what you do – that you are kind, you volunteer, you are patient, you serve. You help people, and you are helpful.

Is that acknowledging? I’m not sure. Surely some of what is in there is the idea that you can’t just say you follow Jesus, you actually have to do it. It isn’t an easy life – he tells us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.

“You can only be my disciple if you deny your desires, bear your own cross, and follow me.” (LK 14:27, MK 8:34, MT 10:38, LK 9:23, MT 16:24)

Some translations indicate more about what it means to “deny ourselves”. We are to get over what we want and get into what God wants. We can no longer put our needs first. It isn’t about our desires or wishes. Jesus was asked to die in a gruesome and painful way – nearly naked, slowly suffocating, for hours in the hot sun. Not a nice way to go. He knew that was what God required of him, and he did it. He didn’t really want to, but he submitted to God. That is denying yourself. It is putting God’s wishes first, and trusting that God knows best.

Now, how interesting that Jesus said “Take up your cross” – did he know he was going to die in exactly that way? He knew he was going to die, sure, but did he know it was going to be crucifixion when he said “take up your cross”? Or was that a clever rewriting after the fact? The Gospels weren’t written immediately. People thought Jesus was coming back soon, so they didn’t think they needed to write it down. It was at least a hundred years later, after all the original witnesses had died, that the stories that had been passed on by word of mouth were written down.

In the big picture, you don’t even need “Take up your cross” if you deny yourself. That takes care of it. I get it as the idea of taking up your responsibility to God, your burden. I also like that each Gospel says “your” cross – not “The” cross or “A” cross – yours, specifically. Take up the duty that is specifically yours to do.

Let’s tie it into the idea of yokes instead.

Jesus said
28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (MT 11:28-30, HCSB)

Yokes are used with beasts of burden – cows, oxen, horses. They fit across the shoulders of two animals and help them do work together. The two animals need to be equivalent in size and ability to make this work – you wouldn’t put a 300 pound animal working with a 100 pound animal – it would be lopsided. But, it also means that both animals are now able to do more together than they would separately.

This is how we are with Jesus. We are to work with him, taking up his yoke and working together. We aren’t alone. He is working right along with us, and through us. When we take up the yoke of Jesus, we are suddenly able to do more than we could alone because we aren’t alone anymore.

But that doesn’t mean we work for our goals. This isn’t about tying into the power of Jesus to pay off your mortgage faster, as the prosperity liars say. And then it goes back into acknowledging Jesus. When others notice that we are able to do more than we could, we need to say where we are getting that power. We need to tell them about Jesus, and how being yoked with him means we aren’t doing it all by ourselves anymore.

Write it out, and the yoke.

Sometimes I write to get into a problem. Sometimes I write to run away from it.

I process information by writing. I learn a lot. It is paradoxical. I am not writing things down. I am pulling them down into a language I can understand. I will often write a question down and pry at it from different perspectives in order to find out the answer. It is always surprising to me.

But them sometimes I need to be quiet and just be with the question. I need to actually live through the experience rather than trying to document it as it happens.

I’m trying to do this with my abuse as a child. I’m tired of continually facing these doors and walls in my life. I’m tired of these trials. I’ve really worked hard recently, and I’m just tired right now. Sometimes I want to sit down and just cry rather than work on it and be brave. Sometimes I would rather be blissfully ignorant.

Sometimes when I do decide to work on a problem, I don’t know whether to lean into the problem or push at it really hard. So I wait and I pray and then I find myself doing whatever it is that I should be doing.

A little bit of the disease will heal you. That is how antibiotics work. This is how immunosuppressive therapy works. A controlled amount, administered with a healing intent, will build up a tolerance in you that will make you stronger. Avoidance is not the answer.

I’m tired of these doors. I’ve asked Jesus into it, and he says we can sit right here beside this door as long as I need. I don’t have to knock them all down right now. I don’t have to do this hard work all at once, or alone. I can take some time off and pace myself. It is ok to wait. And he will wait with me.

This is part of what Jesus means when He says “take up my yoke”.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30
“28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He’ll carry our burdens with us. He won’t carry them for us. We’ll work together. But it is heartening to know that when we are working with Jesus, we’ll get a lot further than we would alone.