If you ever felt alone in the way you worship, if you think your theology is the only one, if you follow rules, if you don’t follow rules, you must read Paul’s post today. All are welcome. (Comments have been disabled, please comment on the original post).
In just over four weeks’ time we have a glorious spiritual retreat. A place of recharging our souls and each other. A place much hotter than here. A place to relax. To slow down. A place to have fun. A place with new people. A place we have never been before. A place without church or bible.
And without those two bits we name that “holiday”. The unspoken teaching is that a holiday is of the flesh and indulgence (and a retreat is of the spirit and restoration).
I see no difference.
I wonder why the unspoken knowing is that God cannot (really) be found in a bar or a restaurant. Nor (really) found on a beach by the sea. Nor (really) in the laughter and bawdy banter around a table. Not really in the quiet contemplation of a distant horizon … a small working boat … a passing beach…
I was awakened Saturday morning by a beautiful, red-tailed hawk on a tree branch inches away from my open bedroom window.
I heard the screeching and did not know what it was at first. A bird I did not recognize.
Creeping silently to the window, I raised my head to see this wondrous creature yowling into the morning sun. And then I looked down.
The diet of hawks is about 85% rodent, which is what I expected to see. What I saw horrified me; in the claws of this great raptor was another bird, dead and limp.
These are the birds that usually waken me with soft songs of love and grace. Harmonies of hope and new beginnings. Not today.
“We are under the sad delusion our mission is to be hawks for Christ”
As I watched the hawk attempt to both feast and hang onto her prey, I was further disturbed as she plucked the feathers one by one seeming to ravage her quarry as she laid waste to the spoils.
I wholly recognize this was the hawk’s way of getting to the meat it needed to survive.
Yet, an hour later, as I sat down to write my Sunday poem of praise and love, the Spirit would not allow me to do so. He took me back to the image of that hawk and opened my eyes to the way we treat each other.
We aim our hawk-eye, judgmental sights on one another. We dive down and capture our prey. We pick and pluck and extricate each lapse, defect, mistake. We are under the sad delusion our mission is to be hawks for Christ and hunt down every sinning miscreant; pluck out each feather of iniquity so we can gorge on the intestines of ostracism.
We want to savor the spoils of our “success,” beat them into submission and walk away as we pat our self-righteous, hawkish backs, engorged with a meal of “I did it for Jesus.”
~ ~ ~
Here in my little corner of the world, I continue to beat the quiet drum of the dove.
The drum that says we are to love; we are to be peacemakers. The drum that says we are to show the grace and mercy of God; the compassion of Jesus, the outstretched arms of our Father.
We are to be the light and love of the Lord so people can see and experience Jesus through us, and to bring the Good News to people, creating an open door through which they might step and choose to be embraced by the Father.
It isn’t important what we say but how we are heard. If all we do is rant and screech, we are like fingernails on a blackboard, like clanging symbols.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
Instead of focusing on what we want to say, let’s pay attention to what Jesus says, those red-lettered words. Let’s bang the drum of love:
“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 NASB)
“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34-35, The Voice)
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NLT)
We must not mistake accusation and condemnation for love. We must not mistake what we think of as brutal honesty as ministering in love. We must always test our own thinking and agendas with the Words of God. And we must always yield to love, abiding in the wisdom and fruit of the Spirit.