Tag Archives: discipleship

And Hath with His Hand

[I’m finally returning to my writing challenge!  My Internet access was down for a couple of days, so I randomly selected a verse the old-fashioned way – with a real, solid, three-dimensional Bible and a quick pointing hand…]

Does God have a mouth? Does God have a hand? …Does God have a face?

1 Kings 8:14-15

And the King turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood:

And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it…”.

The human body is a beautiful and marvelous thing. A thing because each human body has physical shape and form, it is an object of flesh that exists in the world. And, yet, not a thing, and much more than a thing, because each human body is created by God in order to be a beloved creature of both flesh and spirit. Therefore, in grammatical terms, we should think of the human body, not so much as an object, but, rather, as a subject. The human body is subject to nature – and also to the human person. Above all, the human body, being created lovingly and purposefully by God, for God, is subject to God.

Okay… Maybe that’s a bit confusing. But, often, it is confusing to consider the human body in the light of the Christian faith. The confusion comes, most strongly, when we think that the body is sinful. The body is not sinful. Nothing created by God is sinful. Trees, birds, water, stars – none of these are sinful.

What is sin?

Sin is not imperfection. If that were so, then the person with the most imperfect body, one that contains genetic defect, say, and is severely crippled and weak, would be the most sinful. And the person with the most nearly perfect body would be the least sinful. And we all know that that’s not true.

Sin is also not bodily desire. The body craves and desires food – rightly so, for the body needs food in order to survive, and God did not create our bodies so that we would starve them to death. We also bodily desire sleep when we are tired and a good washing when we are dirty. All good stuff. The only bodily desires that are sinful are those that are self-centered. Yes, eating and sleeping are about self-preservation – but a kind of self-preservation that God desires. Imagine, for example, if we were locked in a room with one another, with no escape and with nothing to eat for days on end. We would, naturally, be very hungry and desire to eat something, maybe anything – maybe even one another! But, God certainly would not want us to kill each other in order that we may eat. Healthy bodily desires that turn toward selfishness, toward greed, gluttony, lust, toward actions at the expense of others – these are not God-centered desires but, rather, self-centered and, so, sinful.

For, sin is about the human will, not the human body.

Do we will what God wills? Or do we will only what we will, even if that goes against God Our Creator?

As the Baltimore Catechism states, we are created by God to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be happy with God forever in the next. It is for the purpose of this knowing God, loving God, and serving God that God created us – body and soul. With our mouths and with our hands, with our ears and with our feet, and also, first, with our brains, we communicate with God by receiving and understanding God’s will – and then doing it. We can help feed the hungry who have no food with the bread in our own hands. We can lead the lost or the homeless who desire shelter with our feet. We can listen to those who are bereft and desire comfort with our ears and speak of God’s love and mercy to them with our mouths. We can do these things with our bodies – when our hearts and minds will to do so. If our hearts and minds are in union with God, then we will bodily love one another as God loves us.

Almighty God, who is Infinite and Eternal, the Creator and Master of the Universe, does not have bodily shape and form. God is spirit. God is not physical and, therefore, able to be broken down into parts, able to die. Therefore, it is wrong to say that God has a physical mouth or a physical hand. Or that God has a physical face.

And, yet…

God chose to become one of us.

The Word of God, which is not thought in a fleshly brain or spoken from a fleshly mouth, was made flesh. Jesus Christ is the Word of God Incarnate, made flesh, made one of us. Jesus is fully God and fully human. So, although it may not be proper to say that God has a face, that God has a mouth and hands, because of Christ, because of the Incarnation,  God spoke with a human mouth and worked with human hands… God laughed, wept, and smiled with a human face. And when Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he was speaking of the profoundly intimate connection and union that God has with each and every human being through Christ, Our Lord.

When we wash the dirty face of a poor and orphaned child with our own hands, it is God working through us. We, with our own freewill, choose freely to cooperate with God’s will. To co-operate. And our hands, although they are not truly Jesus’s hands, are like his hands, are like the hands with which God gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and bread to the multitudes. Then, we are truly like Christ – we are real Christians.

And, most profoundly and awesomely, when we wash that helpless child’s face… we’re washing the face of Jesus, the face through which God smiled.

Christ Jesus, who was physically thirsty and tired, desired water to drink from the Samaritan’s well. Christ Jesus, who was physically exhausted and weak, desired bodily assistance to carry his cross to Golgotha. And Christ Jesus, who began his earthly life as a helpless little baby, desired and needed to be physically taken care of, dependent on others for every thing of survival.

So, yes, let us think of God having a face, and mouth, and hands… they are yours… they are theirs…… they are his.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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He That Loveth

Whose side are you on?

1 John 3:10

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

In sports, some people act as though God is on their side. People actually pray for their team to be victorious and some athletes will even say that God helped them gain a victory. Is this really how God works? Does God really care about the winners and losers of a game?

The answer is, yes, God really does care about the winners and losers of a game – God cares about them as human beings, no matter whether they are given a trophy or not. It is God’s perfect intention and will to perfectly love each and every one of us. And God is rooting for us, pulling for us to willingly receive His love and choose Him – for God knows that doing this is our greatest joy, our greatest victory. God is cheering each of us on to respect, integrity, and excellence of mind, body, heart, and soul. So, you see, God has already chosen every player on the field to be a winner – God has already chosen you to wear the crown of champions. The question is… do you choose God?

Whose Side Am I on?

I ask myself this question. I profess that I am created by God in the image and likeness of God – I believe that I am of God… but my created state is not enough. How do I live? With my God-given spiritual gifts of intellect, imagination, and freewill, what do I choose? To what thoughts, words, and actions do I give myself? For, if I do not use my God-given gifts for godly things, then I cannot truly say that I live as a person of God, that I am on God’s side. To be on God’s side requires a commitment to the eternal things of God – faith, hope, and, most of all, love. If, rather, I am committed to the fleeting things of myself – pride, greed, and all things self-centered – then I am not on God’s side. I have, instead, chosen the absence of God: what we call Hell and the Devil. And I’m on the side of delusion, destruction, despair, and death.

When I come to a fork in the road, any dilemma or choice that I have to make, what do I use as my guide? Do I use those feelings of the moment that are rooted only in my ego and hedonism? Am I led by pleasure or by real love? Do I choose what feels good instead of what is good? The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There is deep joy that is the perpetual result of choosing what is good, and this joy can provide some pleasure and good feelings – but not always. Sometimes, the good thing is the most difficult thing. Am I willing to struggle and even to suffer in order to choose God and do what God wills me to do? Am I willing to fight the good fight without heeding the wounds, to work hard for righteousness without minding the labor? Will I love my brother even though my brother doesn’t love me?

Knowing Whose Side We’re on

We can rightly say that God is on our side – every human being can rightly say that. God is on the side of every person because God is willing the true and eternal good of every person. God is rooting for the real and everlasting joy of every man, woman, and child. But, not all of us can rightly say that we are on God’s side, for we cannot all truly say that we are living as people of God. Whenever we choose payback instead of forgiveness – we are not of God. Whenever we choose pleasure indulgence instead of stewardship and respect – we are not of God. Whenever we choose power over others instead of selfless service to others – we are not of God. We are not on the side of God if we seek fame and fortune at the cost of loving and caring for the least of our brothers and sisters. For we cannot hate a fellow human being and love God. We must choose.

We must choose. The way of hate, the way of disdain and apathy, is the way of life that ends in death – eternal death that is the agony of losing eternal life. The way of love, the way of mercy and compassionate generosity, is the way of life that never ends – eternal life that is the bliss of being crowned by eternal love. We must choose every day in every way. And it isn’t easy – but there is an abiding ease in choosing God that is as simple and natural as a beating heart. The world has plenty of complications to complicate that ease. But, being on God’s side is exactly where we are meant to be, exactly how we are created to be – for we are created by love in order to love. If we are truly choosing love, then we are on God’s side.

So, the next time that you or I are really angry at someone, let us choose wisely. The path that we step out on today may end up leading us far away from where we intended to go. There is no guarantee that we will get back on the right path – but know that God is pulling for us, cheering us back to the side of divine and eternal love… to eternal victory.

© 2015 Christina Chase

With Open Face Beholding

Lord, change me, make me new. Make me like you! – the plea of the sunflower.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.

Sunflower

There is a flower in my garden which is named for the sun. In appearance, much like the sun is she, golden arrayed, burning bright from the center with flaming colors outward spread. But there is more – much more meaning to her identity, because with the sun her whole existence is so lovingly aligned.

She does not mean to mimic or fool by merely sporting appearance – for what bird would dare to perch upon an orb of fire, and, so, what would she have to gain if she would scare away her own propagators, the midwives of her progeny with which she will be so heavy pregnant? She is humble and knows that she is merely a creature bound to the life-giving sun, and by no means desires to be a substitute. Yes, she stands tall and bold, but her height and breadth is but a measure of the depth of her humility, for her only wish, as far as a flower can wish, is to look up to that which she adores. It is the looking up that has raised her. It is the love of heavenly light that has opened wide her green-leafed arms. It is her submission to her Master that has given her flowery majesty.

For, all day long, while the sun shows forth his open face, shining full with glory, her rapturous gaze is all caught up in him. Every minute of every hour that passes, she faithfully follows his path with steadfast love. No matter what may come between them, whether mist or cloud or dark of night, it is him she always seeks, it is him that her hope will always find. Some dark days will fall, when a downpour may weigh her head too heavy to lift, but when the rays of the sun are visible again, the drops will slip from down her sunny cheeks and she will pay them no mind, not even to shake them away. She looks upon the sun again, never having lost him, for she has kept the thought and memory of him, the warmth of the gift that he has given, deep in her heart.

Yes, even when the sun slips over the edge of sight and pulls the veil of night down behind him, she is patient and trusting, and does not collapse in the darkness. Her head she bends down low – but not in despair, for one who loves as she loves can never hold despair – but in ever recognition of where her beloved lives. Though invisible to her petal eyes, her heart is not deceived and senses, with true love’s faith, his presence beneath the surface of the world. And so her vigilant gaze, ever fixed upon its deathless source, follows him as he shines on realms unknown and unseen, far from his touch get ever near to his soul. And when the night is opened slow, with tender, aching rush, the sun’s rays find her ready face, expectant in faith, and she receives anew the outpouring love of him whom she adores.

From this cause, then, is this flower called for the sun. He is her love, her reason, and her destiny. Her blossomy pledge of devotion is her very blossoming – and she is transformed by and into the one whom she loves.

© Christina Chase

Careful and Troubled about Many Things

Martha, Martha, Martha… We cannot just go out and do and expect greatness – we must first have direction and meaningful purpose.  If we do not first listen to what God wants of us, then our actions are just busy-ness without holiness as our end.

Luke 10:39-42

39. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It wasn’t Martha’s serving of others that was wrong – for Jesus said that he himself had come to serve and that, if others wished to follow him, then they, too, must serve.  However, in her serving, Martha was “careful and troubled about many things,” she was “cumbered about much serving” and complained about it.  Was there, then, true love in Martha’s heart that inspired her serving?  Or was she, on that day, being one of those people who takes pride in being seen as hospitable and laying out a sumptuous table?  Martha’s pride seems rather evident for she questions whether or not Jesus cares about her plight, about justice, and then proceeds to tell him what to do.  Compare that to Jesus’s mother at the wedding feast in Cana when she brought what she saw as a problem before her son – she did not tell him what to do, but, rather, told the nearby servants to listen to Jesus and do what he told them to do, whatever it would be.  There is deference here and trust in Jesus, something which Martha did not demonstrate in serving (but which she did demonstrate later when her brother Lazarus died).

Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, was purposefully sitting at Jesus’s feet to listen to him.  She left Martha with the details that the older sister had chosen to encumber them both with, choosing, rather, to hear the word of God.  Mary’s humility here is visually evident as she sits in a low place, at the feet of Christ.  Her eagerness for and attentiveness to what Jesus says is not lost on him.  She “heard his word” – it won’t be lost on her.

Jesus reminds Martha that there are only a very few things that human beings truly need.  This makes me think of how we need to eat in order to survive – but we don’t need to dine with elaborate meals that are difficult to prepare and serve.  We need shelter to keep us safe – but we don’t need spacious houses appointed with every convenient or luxurious amenity.  And as Christ tells the over-anxious server, “But one thing is needful”.  As he makes clear elsewhere in the Bible, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.”  Martha seeks to attend to Jesus the man in the flesh, but Mary seeks to attend to the Word of God.  By her choice, Mary is truly serving the Word of God made flesh, who is Jesus Christ, because she is attending to what he says and seeking humbly to learn from him as his disciple.  Meanwhile, Martha is busy.  Yes, she is adopting the role of a servant, which should be a good thing – but she is adapting the role of a servant to suit her own self-centered needs, worrying and troubling about many things that are not necessary.  On the other hand, a God-centered servant listens to God’s word, attentive to what is truly necessary for every human being: divine love, mercy, redemption.

The fact that I’m writing this two days before the beginning of Lent is not lost on me.  Soon, Catholics around the world (and other Christians, too) will be “giving up” something for the season of Lent.  We humans, like Martha, can daily encumber ourselves with the care and trouble “of many things.”  How many of these things are needful?  Letting go of some of them for the 40 days of the Lenten discipline can help open our eyes to see how very few things we really need.  Some people think that they can’t function in the morning and start their days properly if they don’t begin with a cup of caffeinated coffee.  If they give up that coffee for Lent (and stick with the deprivation through the first week or so of difficulty) then they will see that they were able to live and function well without that supposedly needful thing.  Someone else may want to give up daytime television or staying up late playing video games or going onto Facebook every day – and the time that that person will gain every day can be spent being with family and friends, thus nurturing essential relationships, or reading to expand the mind and soul, or embarking on that creative project he or she has been dreaming about but has not yet started.  I often see Lent as a kind of spring cleaning – I get rid of the clutter of things in my life so that I can get back to basics and remember what is truly important: love.  The giving and receiving of love that is divinely sourced – this is what is truly needful.  So, I will try, with the grace of God, not to worry and busy myself about things that, in the end, don’t matter at all.  And, being thus freed, I will be more aware of who I truly am and of what – Who – I truly need to be ever joyful, to be fulfilled.  I sit at His feet…

Christina Chase