Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Reflection on John 20:19-31

There is something very strange about this story of Jesus and the disciples. It happens whenever you see the words “peace be with you.” You see it first when Jesus enters into the locked room of the fear-struck disciples and he breathes on them a message of peace. You see it again when Jesus makes a special appearance for the benefit of giving Thomas his portion of Christ’s heavenly peace. Here is the strange thing; whenever Jesus speaks peace, he shows his wounds. Have you ever thought about that before? Isn’t that weird? I mean, would not a person think it strange, if that person were in my office, crying because her husband left her for another woman, and I said, “Peace be with you, here let me show you the scar from the corn on the bottom of my foot.”? I can’t say that I’ve tried this pastoral care technique of Jesus. “Peace be with you. Now take a look at this canker sore! You feel better now don’t you?” It is very strange to put peace and wounds together, but for Jesus peace and wounds go hand-in-hand.

Of course, the problem with revealing my canker sore or the scar on my foot is that they are trivial wounds. They have nothing to do with the woman’s problem of an unfaithful husband. Jesus’ wounds are anything but trivial. They are the wounds of death. They are the wounds inflicted by his own people. They are the same wounds that the people would inflict on Jesus’ own followers. They are the type of piercing wounds that are able to keep the disciples locked away in fear.

The disciples have good reason to be fearful. What if they were to leave the safety of their small bunker? Would they swept up and crucified also? Maybe. Probably. But, is keeping yourself locked away in fear any way to live. It sounds like a coffin to me. It sounds like death.

What if Jesus were to enter into their fearful world, show him his wounds, and prove that wounds do not have the last word? What if Jesus was to show them that his formerly, blood soaked, raw hamburger wounds; are now healed, and that he is very much alive: resurrected even? Would they believe? Would they leave the safety of their bunker, venture courageously into the world, and proclaim the kingdom of God? Would they risk obtaining those wounds themselves, secure in the knowledge that all wounds can be healed?

When I was in college, this disciple’s heart was suddenly hollowed out and left profoundly empty when I began to doubt God’s existence. Word such as, “you just need to believe,” and “God is there for you,” failed to breathe the filling words of the Holy Spirit. Walking around the school in a deep doubting Thomas depression, a religion professor of mine saw my depressed stupor and asked what was wrong. I mustered up the courage to tell this religion professor that I doubted if God was even there. He looked at me and said, “That is one of the most painful things you can go through. I almost ended my life when it hit me.” That was all he had to say. That pretty much ended the conversation, with one exception, he said, “Come to worship this morning.”

Though it seemed silly to come and worship that in which I did not believe, I did come to worship, because he asked. I know where your mind might be going, and it did not happen. He did not preach a sermon directed at my doubt. His sermon, as I recall, was about Abraham, and it was painfully boring. What I do remember was seeing this: I remember seeing a once profoundly wounded, doubting Thomas of a man, stand in the front of a congregation and declare the words “I believe I God the Father almighty…” and later take the bread and say with conviction to every person who came to him to eat, “This is the body of Christ, given for you.” What I saw was a wounded man who had been healed, and at that moment the breath of the Spirit gave me peace. Was my struggle over? No. Did I have hope that God could resurrect my faith and pull me out the door of my dark and empty soul. Yes.

A lot of people get very confused. They believe that the life of faith is one that will have no wounds. Preachers on television will tell you that if only you believed hard enough, you will get money, the love of your life, and yes, even a life of peace with no hardship. Jesus promises no such thing. The life of faith will have wounds. Jesus death on the cross is clear proof of that truth. However, your wounds will not be the last word. In fact, your healed wounds have the power to heal others. Jesus had no shame in sharing his healed wounds. And, in showing his wounds, Jesus freed the disciples from their fear. Look at your hands, your side, and your heart, what healed wounds do you have? Have you ever considered sharing them with someone whose wounds are raw and bleeding? Through them, the Holy Spirit just might bring peace and salvation to someone who is trapped in a coffin of pain and fear. Healed wounds can bring peace. Just consider, you were saved by the wounds of Christ.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Reflection on Matthew 28:1-10 (Easter Sunday)

Lightning flashes, thunder roars, the earth trembles, a stone rolls away; life in times of transition is tumultuous. One moment Mary Magdalene was sitting peacefully, listening to the words of her teacher: “Blessed are the peacemakers…do unto others as you would have them do unto you…love your enemy…do not forgive seven times, but forgive seventy-seven times.” In the very next moment a swarm of humanity, throwing all of those teachings about peace and love of enemy into the wind, pick Jesus up and drag him away, throwing him on a cross. Mary followed close behind the entire time, watching it all, watching in horror as the teacher she loved and supported with her own wealth died a horrible death. And now, as she comes to the grave to grieve the loss of her teacher in peace, lightning flashes, thunder roars, the earth trembles, and a stone is rolled away.

It is scary enough to try to start over in life again without all of this! Whenever someone close to us dies, we all struggle to figure out a new way to live. Somehow you must figure out how to function without the one you love nearby. If you have lost a mother you may have to figure out who you will go to when you need to cry, or when you need to know how much milk to put into the cookies. If you have lost a spouse you may have to figure out how to do the bills, or how to sleep alone in a bed without someone warm and loving close by. Now imagine trying to start over when the one who has shaped your whole way of life, your whole way of thinking has gone. How do you function when your whole life has been taken? Fear pervades life. Even the earth goes into throws of grief pangs.

When life is so tumultuous, the first words spoken to you are often quite significant. First words can shape a person’s entire future. Think of the first words spoken when a child is born, “Oh, she is so beautiful.” That sets the tone for the rest of that child’s life. What kind of life would a child have if the first words from the parent were, “For heaven’s sake, not another one!”? Probably, not a great start on life.

These are the first words spoken to Mary by the angel, “Do not be afraid.” Easy for the angel to say, the angel has a direct line to God, so to speak. The angel can go up any time and find out what the future will hold. Yet, coming from an angel who does bring a direct message from God, “Do not be afraid” is probably a good word. Times of transition are so tumultuous. Knowing that you don’t have to be anxious about the future is like a moisture filled cream that soothes the soul. Do not be afraid. The future will be fine. He is risen. He is not gone forever. The life you knew, the one with Jesus and his teachings and his love close to your heart, will continue. Your life will continue on. He is risen. Not only that, he has gone ahead of you. He is not left behind, only to be forgotten. He has gone ahead of you.

Most of you know that I backpack. And, I am now going to admit something to you. I have never backpacked off trail. At least I have never backpacked off trail on purpose. Fear of the unknown has probably hindered me. The very real fear that I may die if I take a wrong turn lingers too close in my mind. I like the trail. I like knowing that someone has gone ahead, making sure that the way is safe, and that there is a destination like a lake or waterfall that makes it worth the trip.

Jesus has gone ahead of us. He has laid the trail. He is waiting at the end. Somehow, knowing this makes an uncertain and fear-filled trip easier. He is risen. He has not disappeared. In fact, he has already gone ahead and is already waiting for us, looking for us to show up into our own uncertain future. There is a great freedom in that. Like the women, we can run forward in confidence and meet the future that Christ has in store. Whether it be a future in Towanda, or Philli, or Tanzania; whether it be a future with family, or with hungry strangers, Christ is there. The stone has been rolled away, and Christ is waiting for us to run with confidence toward our future. With Christ, the journey is nothing to be scared of. It is a certain future after-all.

A Reflection on Good Friday

On Good Friday, I heard again the story of Jesus crucifixion and I thought to myself, "Don’t these people know what they are doing? They are killing a guy whose only flaw was that he cared too much. They are murdering a peaceful, innocent man. Don’t they see what they are doing? Just listen to Pilate. He’s trying to warn you that you are making a bid mistake!" But, they cannot stop themselves. They know what they want, and reason will not persuade these people. These people are so broken. The world is so broken. I am so broken.

Love is sadly easy to kill. Once when I came home for a long weekend from college, out of love my father took my dirty clothes out of the trunk of my car. He washed them, folded them, and placed them next to my luggage. Unfortunately, when I saw the clothes, I did not see the love. I only saw one sock that must have accidentally been washed with the reds, it had turned slightly pink. I looked at my father and said, “Why didn’t you sort my clothes better? You ruined one of my socks Dad!” The very next moment, as I looked into the dejected eyes of my father, I saw the truth; love is sadly, painfully easy to kill. You usually do not see the bloody murder until it is too late. I still wish I had not said that. The world is so broken. People are so broken. I am so broken.

If only someone could take the guilt and pain away. If only someone could take it away with them and put it to death with them on a cross; burying it away in a grave once and for all where it will no longer haunt or hurt people's lives. If only someone would do that for us so that we might have a chance of living a clean, healthy, new life.

Christ, thank you for loving broken people like us. Love may be easy to kill, but it is impossible to keep in the grave for long. May love return to us soon. Amen.

Reflection on John 13:1–17, 31b–35 (Maundy Thursday)

We wash others regularly throughout out lives. We wash our children’s feet, hands, and even their bodies to make sure they get off the grime from the day. We wash loved ones and even fellow Christians in the hospital who are too weak to wash themselves. And, of course, we wash our spouses and mothers and fathers when they get too old and too frail to do it themselves. This is a loving service that surely makes Christ smile whenever he sees it. But, it is not quite the same as the washing Jesus did for his disciples.

The washing of children, the sick, and the frail is a washing that is accepted and even expected in our culture. Those who are parents and those who are strong are supposed to help the young and the weak. It is the right thing to do. But, are presidents expected to wash dishonorably discharged soldiers? No. Are CEOs expected to lick the feet of mail sorters? Hardly. Are divorced spouses expected to make the needs of his or her former spouse a priority in life? Of course not. Yet, Jesus, the Son of God, the power of the Almighty, washes his follower’s feet. The king washes the feet of his slaves. This is true love. It is a love that is different from the kind of love the world has to offer.

The definition of “love” in God’s kingdom is not “having good feelings about another person.” Apparently, before Jesus goes off to die, he wants to make sure that his disciples understand the correct definition of “love.” Love is: “Serving others before I serve myself; especially serving those who do not normally get such devotion or do not even deserve it.”

The disciples have a very real physical need. Their feet are dirty. Jesus washes them…all of them. He washes the feet of Peter who will deny knowing him in order to save his own skin. Jesus does not refuse to wash Judas’ feet; the one who will soon choose silver coins over loving Christ. Love in God’s kingdom is: “Serving others before I serve myself; especially serving those who do not normally get such devotion or do not even deserve it.” Such love is not the way of the world. However, the way of the world rarely saves anyone. The cross, the ultimate symbol of serving those who are either forgotten, or who do not deserve it, manages to save everyone.

But, you don’t have to look all the way to the cross to see the redemptive work of God’s love. All you have to do is look at the hands of a pastor friend of mine. In those hands you will see the imprint of God’s serving love.

He would be embarrassed to know that I am typing this story, but I will anyway. At least I will not use his name. On a recent trip to Tanzania, the Pastor stayed with the Bishop of one of the Tanzania synods. At supper, the Bishop would ask his wife to be hospitable to his guests. She was to cook the meal, serve the meal, and clean up the afterwards. She would eat her own meal in the kitchen only after everyone else was finished. Please understand that this is not unique to the Bishop’s home. This is the way of things in many Tanzanian homes. It is the way of the world. But, the Pastor did not see it as the way of the Christian.

One evening the Pastor stunned the Bishop as he rose from the table, stopped the wife as she brought out beautiful plates of steaming food, took the plates, offered his own seat to the wife, and finished by serving the food to the wife first and then to the others…serving the Bishop last. After cleaning up the meal he saw that the wife had tears in her eyes. She had never been honored in such a way. The Bishop, though he read the story of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet for many years, had never before seen the injustice in his own home.

Did the Bishop have good feelings about his wife? Of course he did. Did he fail to love her by Christ’s definition? Yes. He had failed to love, and he didn’t even notice. But, Christ had not forgotten to serve him. Through the Pastor, the Bishop’s eyes were opened to what true Christian love looks like.

We can make Christian love too spiritualized sometimes. Like Peter, we want to make it more than it is; “Wash my head and my hands then!” Don’t look too deep. The message is simple: to love is to serve. Jesus says, “You need your feet washed? I’ll wash your feet. You need a meal? I’ll feed you. You need sin taken off of your shoulders? I’ll take them. I love you.”

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Reflection on Romans 8:6-11

The Spirit of Christ dwells in you and you in Christ. This is a common idea that we hear regularly in church; a prayer after the Lord’s Supper asking that we abide in Christ and he in us, so that we might be given the power of his endless life. The idea is that the Spirit of Christ actually lives in us, rummaging around in our soul somehow, directing our ways and our deeds for the good. This is an idea that has been suppressed by many pastors for the last 30 - 40 years, and for a good reason. The last thing we want to happen is to go back to the good old days to when those who thought they were “filled by the Spirit” were allowed to order the rest of us around. These church dictators had had their say long enough. But, the fear of miniature church Hitlers…come on, for years you’ve wanted to call them that also…fear of becoming like them should not allow us to forget that the Sprit of Christ does set up housing within us.

The Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of love and forgiveness, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” does set up housekeeping within us, nailing a cross to the wall, putting words of truth on the fireplace mantle, and setting a large table with room enough for anyone to be seated (NRSV, Isaiah 11:2).

I distinctly remember a very Sunday School Student being told that Christ lived inside her. The young student promptly lifted her dress, slapped her jiggly little tummy, and said “Hello, Jesus, are you in there?” Sometimes I wonder the same thing. “Jesus, are you in there?” Most of my actions are anything but Christ like. Many are made out of impulse; like I need more chocolate in the house; others I think I am doing out of love, but in the end they cause hurt instead. Christ might be trying to drive this RV of mine in right ways, I hear he’s a good driver, but there is a lot of flesh covering the windshield.

Years and years ago a young man desperately wanted to break through the flesh, eliminate it completely, and scrape his life clean thereby allowing the Spirit of Christ to show through. He wanted the Spirit of Christ and his own Spirit to dwell in each other so closely that those around him would not be able to tell the difference between the two. This Christian pilgrim set out on a quest to become one with God. On his journey, he encountered a faithful man who told him that he could get to his destination by praying without ceasing. The faithful man told him that “The continuous interior Prayer of Jesus is a constant uninterrupted calling upon the divine Name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart; while forming a mental picture of His constant presence, and imploring His grace, during every occupation, at all times, in all places, even during sleep. The appeal is couched in these terms, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’” (The Way of the Pilgrim).

And so, with the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” constantly in his mind, like a mantra, he set out on his journey. The idea is that with those words on your mind constantly, you cannot help but be Christ in everything you do; whether it be talking with a homeless man or doing the dishes. The young man is said to have found peace once he mastered the technique.

I tried it once. I mastered a superb way to give myself an instant headache. A fellow religion student in college said that he had pushed beyond the headache and had mastered it to the point that he always felt at one with God and God’s grace. My interpretation, the guy was a pompous pig. He never had time for you, and he couldn’t possibly listen to you because he had all the answers. Maybe the technique works and this college student had actually failed. But, my sneaking suspicion is that somehow the wrappings of our flesh will always get in the way and try to lock Christ away deep inside.

I emphasize the word “try” here. The trappings of the flesh can try to lock Christ away, but don’t forget that hard tomb of death and stone was not able to keep Christ locked away. Flesh is nothing to Christ. The Spirit of Christ cannot be locked away, and it is alive and at work deep inside.

In "The Eternal Now," theologian Paul Tillich describes the hidden but very present work of the Spirit. The Spirit may point out that your life is empty and meaningless, but also tell you that a new life full of meaning is waiting to take over. The Spirit can awaken your soul from sleep, causing you to care for those around you. The Spirit can tell you that you have deeply hurt someone, and will point out that you are the only one who will effectively heal that person’s wound. The Spirit can awaken a love that is able to overcome long held hatred and resentment. The Spirit can open your eyes to new insight on the world that might change the world overnight. The Spirit can create warmth in your soul even while the rest of the world appears to be going cold. The Spirit can pray the words that you are unable utter yourself. The Spirit can reunite you to Christ who dwells within, even when you cannot see him through all the flesh.

Sometimes it is hard to see this work of the Spirit. It is wrapped up in the flesh of our desires and self-serving ways. Sometimes we need other followers of Christ to hear the call to take off our wrappings. As they did with Lazarus, they take off the wrappings of the flesh. As the layers are removed and we stare down at our formerly hidden body, we will see that Christ indeed is within and has restored our life.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Reflection on Ephesians 5:8-14

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” There is hope in these words. The promise of Christ is right here. When light is shined into the dark alleyways of your life and everything in that dark alley is exposed to the light; your life cannot be plunged further into the darkness. Instead, Christ’s light shines on you and you are forgiven. What was once dark, becomes light. There is forgiveness and a new opportunity to live in the light when your darkness is exposed. The promise of Christ is right here. If only we could believe it.

Unfortunately, human nature tries to convince us that the opposite is true. Human nature says, “Keep it hidden, keep it in the dark. If anyone knew, you would be ruined. You are supposed to be better than that. Pretend like you are better than that. Pretend like what you do in the dark never happens and you will look like a child of the light.” Human nature does not want you to be a child of the light. Human nature only wants you to appear as a child of the light.

He lived like it never happened. The young man took a long business trip to Japan. One day, he was taken out for lunch followed by a massage. The massage was relaxing on his tired muscles until the end when he was told that he could relax even more. She was a professional. He would really enjoy it. It was a long business trip and he was missing home. He said “yes” and that is when he cheated on his wife.

It was just once. He felt vulnerable. It never happened again. He kept it in the dark because the voice of human nature said, “exposing the truth will only ruin your perfect marriage. She will never be able to trust you again.” Maybe human nature was correct. Perhaps, the marriage stayed intact because he never told. “Intact” is the correct word. The marriage was intact, but it wasn’t fine. He pretended that things were fine, but they weren’t. He pretended like he could love his wife the same as before, but he couldn’t. A dark rift started to form between the couple and they both started to fall in, the wife never understanding why she and her marriage were slipping gently into the darkness of a rift and the coffin that lies below.

A woman lived in a similar fashion to the man; she too lived in the darkness. She was in charge of the finances in the home. She started living in the dark when she started buying things that the family income could not afford. She bought expensive shoes, piles of clothes, and expensive perfumes because they temporarily made her stressed life feel better. Those things also hid well in the darkness of the closet. Of course, the relief from the stresses of life didn’t last long and she had to buy again and again and again. So as not to be seen by her husband, she stepped further into the darkness and started putting things of credit cards. She would buy him gifts so that she didn’t feel so guilty. All the while, the household was freefalling into the dark pit of debt. She knew this was dark. She knew she was secretly ruining the family. However, human nature whispered, “This makes you feel better. If you feel better, your relationships with your family and husband will be better. You cannot expose it. The trust will be gone. These relationships will be destroyed.” Perhaps, human nature was right. Perhaps, her relationships would be destroyed. But, how long before the banks would expose her?

Human nature tells us that we must stay in the darkness. Human nature tells us that things will only be OK only if we stay in the dark. Human nature does not want us to believe the words of truth, that everything that is exposed to the light becomes light.

Sleeper, wake up! Rise from the dead! Christ will shine on you. You cannot find healing and hope in the darkness of a coffin. Human nature is wrong. Dark coffins are not the answer. Wake up! Let the light of Christ expose your soul. Let forgiveness enter into your dark places. Rise from the dead and walk in the bright life of God’s forgiveness. It is a wonderful life. It is a life free from hiding from those you love. It is a life free from the bondage on sin. It is a life of running in the warm sunshine of forgiveness and peace. Wake up!

I cannot tell you about what happened to the man who went to Japan, but I can tell you about the indebt woman. Encouraged by a friend, she allowed her secret spending to be exposed to her husband. As soon as she said the words, he stared into her eyes furiously and said, “I have to admit that this hurts me in a big way, but I think we can work together to fix this. I love you.” Together, they did fix it. Christ’s promise of forgiveness was true. Now she not only appears to be a child of the light, she truly lives free and walks as a child of the light. Sleeper, wake up! Rise from the dead! Christ will shine on you.

All Scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyrighted, 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and is used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Reflection on John 4:5-42

Clay jars were a common sight in the ancient world. In a way, they were one of the most important items in the house because they were not only big enough to carry the water for the day, but also store it. Everyday someone (often a wife or a daughter) would go to the well and fill the clay jar for the rest of the family. The clay jar was an essential item.

“Well, duh, Pastor Jira. That's what I needed for the week you know, a blatantly obvious and completely irrelevant piece of information. Thanks, that was just amazing.”

Now, wait a second or two before you take off and go shopping in your mind leaving me to speak to no one. The reason I gave you this blatantly obvious and rather mundane information about clay water jars is because the Samaritan woman in this story from John runs off and leaves hers behind. Why would you do that? You need water to survive. And these large jars, which everybody had to have, couldn’t have been the cheapest item either. Clay pot makers must have had it made. But, the Samaritan woman runs off and leaves this essential item of daily living behind.

This woman has obviously discovered in Jesus something wonderful enough and freeing enough to cause her to leave her precious jar. Tell me, what might God do for you that would cause you to leave your car sitting in a parking lot? Now, I'm assuming here that you have a car worth something. (My family only owned cars that people would have paid to have moved from their sight.) So, assuming you have a nice car, what might God do for you that would cause you to leave behind your car while you run and tell your neighbors what God has done? What have you been lugging around in your clay jar that needs to be lifted from your life?

The Samaritan woman had a few things in her jar bogging her down as she walked through life. The first was her own self-perception…her own concept of who she was. It wasn't very good. How do I know? For starts, the woman was at a well with a handsome young man. In the ancient world, “young woman” plus “young man” plus “well” equals “romance.” Jesus appears to start off the scene correctly, "Give me a drink." Just for your information, that line in the ancient world was often the equivalent of; "Do you come here often?" And she opens this romantic scene with a stellar thought that effectively says, "You want me to give you water, Jewish man? Are you blind? Can't you see I’m only a Samaritan?" Her self-identity as “only a Samaritan” is weighing her down. Have the words, "I'm only…" ever come out of your mouth? Did you know of anyone who stared at the dance floor as a teen, hoping that someone would come over, but somehow knew it would never happen? Feeling worthless makes the jar heavy. Being alone in the world is a heavy thing to carry.

“I'll give you better water than that,” Jesus promises in essence. “Worthlessness is an unhealthy drink. I'll give you better water.”

Delving deeper into the murky waters of her jar, Jesus says to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." Looking down into her jar she saw swirling there her uncertain and chaotic life. Widowed, she has been bounced around to live with many men, many husbands, none of which has kept her around. "I'll have another good squirt of worthlessness and could you mix in a little chaos too, thanks!"

"I have no husband," she says.

Jesus responds, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true?"

Do you know who a prophet is? A prophet is not a fortuneteller who can see events of the distant future. A prophet is someone who is somehow able to look into your closely held jar and describe the murky water inside. That is who a prophet is.

Because he can see her life so clearly, the woman sees that Jesus is a prophet. We need prophets. You can't fill your jar with clean water until you can tell that you have murky water in there. It's amazing how people will put up with bad water for years and think that it is normal. It's amazing how little we can see of ourselves. In a world where we say, "Leave me alone, it's none of your business!" we need prophets more than ever. Through other believers around us, Jesus is present, pointing out the obvious discoloration floating in our jars that we cannot see ourselves. Are we willing to let others look? Are we willing to look into our jars ourselves? Or, is stagnant, murky water good enough?

Naming the murkiness in the water is powerful stuff. It's hard stuff. It's hard to admit that we've been lugging it around all this time. But, you can't throw out the bad water until you can see that it is bad water. It’s hard stuff to throw out though. What will take its place once I throw it out? Will my jar just be empty then? Nothing is worse than emptiness. That's why it is hard to keep people with mental illnesses on their medications, because strange and horrible feelings are preferable to no feelings at all (the effect of some medications). Those of us without mental illnesses aren't any different. Anything is better than emptiness. And, emptiness is a real fear.

But, the woman was willing to take the chance. She wasn't alone after-all, Jesus was right there as she took this chance. None of us should be alone. Christ is right here; in the presence of fellow believers Christ is here. We can take the chance and throw out the bad water of our lives. And whenever we do it, we are filled with fresh, living water; water that refreshes us in a way that allows us to leave our heavy jars behind. Jars are a trap. You can stare into jars for too long and never realize that there is a world out there. But, once you are helped to look up from your jar you see a wonderful new world of opportunity and love and happiness.

You see that other people are walking around, carrying heavy jars, staring into their jars, and you just want to go and tell them, “Look up! Don't you see that your staring down at your own feeling of worthlessness, or at the chaos of their life, or at some doctrine that's unimportant to real life, or at the destructive desire for success?” “Look up,” you say. “Look up and experience the gift of freedom that Christ has given to me. It's good, it's refreshing. Look up!”

And they do. And, one by one people are freed from their heavy jars as Christ motivates more people to be prophets to each other. And, it is a beautiful sight when you look in front of you and see a huge pile of jars that have been left behind. They weren't that important after-all.

All Scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyrighted, 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and is used by permission. All rights reserved.