Our “Texts” For Today

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her cell phone and its many apps, its email, texts, downloads, alerts and websites.
As Jesus spoke of God’s love, Martha was distracted by a news headline about more unrest in the world.
When Jesus spoke of God’s grace, Martha responded to the “ting” of a text message, looking away from Jesus to see who had texted her and what they had said. It might be, Martha told herself, an important message.
Jesus was speaking about turning darkness into light as Martha checked her email for any “alerts” from the various news services to which she subscribed. Something bad might have happened in the world, she told herself, and she needed to know about it.
While Jesus was explaining about the kingdom of God being near, Martha answered the musical ringtone of her cell phone. She had decided not to put the phone on “silent” while Jesus was there because she was afraid of missing any phone call that might require prompt attention.
Her sister, Mary, meanwhile, had left her cellphone in her bedroom. Mary wanted to hear everything Jesus had to say. My, what a blessing it is, she had told herself after Jesus had walked through the doorway, to have the Lord in our home.
The texts and emails and apps and alerts can wait, Mary had decided. They are going nowhere. They will be waiting for me later. I do not need to worry about them now, she told herself.
But Jesus will be leaving us, Mary knew, because the Lord was traveling to many villages, and so I want to hear, yes, she told herself, but also feel everything he has to say.
There was a look of tranquil peace on Mary’s face as she simply sat at the Lord’s feet, drinking in every word, every syllable, as if they were sips of the coolest, purest water from the deepest most refreshing well.
Martha was astonished by her sister’s indifference to everything else going on in the world. Doesn’t she care? Martha asked herself. And doesn’t Jesus care, Martha wondered, that Mary is paying no attention to the horrible headlines that were surely being emailed and texted around the world at that very moment?
“Lord,” Martha asked Jesus, “do you not care that my sister has left me to read all of the texts and emails and website headlines about the world’s troubles? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Just as we, you and me, can choose the better part.
We can put the “Martha” part of ourselves away at least once each day and allow the “Mary” we also have inside us to lead us to the still waters and green pastures of communion with our Good Shepherd.
We can—indeed, we desperately need to—find time each day to sit at the Lord’s feet, to create quiet time in the morning or the evening to pray and contemplate, to read what Jesus has to say to us in the New Testament but also through our communion with the Holy Spirit. Find a time that fits you best and sit there at the Lord’s feet. Any time will do.
Because Jesus is there, in all of our homes. He has crossed our threshold and wants nothing more than for us be like Mary, just once a day, and put away our cellphones, with their Pandora’s box of distractions and worries. Put away the turmoil in the world and just sit and listen to the Lord with our hearts and our minds and our souls.
Only by fortifying ourselves with the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, do we stand a chance of doing anything to address even one of the world’s many needs.
When, like Mary, we choose the better part, it will not be taken away from us. And it is then that we have the power to share that “better part” more deeply with the corner of the world in which we find ourselves.

Voices In The Wilderness

“He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

—The Gospel of Luke

The region around the Jordan River isn’t the only wilderness.
Each of us has our own “wilderness” and our own “wilderness moments” in life.
Around us.
And within us.
Places with fearfully tall mountains that we feel we cannot possibly climb. Or, once they are scaled, that it would be impossible to descend without falling from their great height.
Places with deep, dark valleys of shadows that we fear passing through or feel lost within.
Crooked places that twist us up in knots and where we lose our sense of self and direction in their maze-like zig-zagging.
Rough places that wouldn’t understand the meaning of smooth even if they were surrounded by velvet.
In the passage above, Luke is talking about John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus.
But John the Baptist isn’t the only one crying out in the wilderness.
Each of us has had times when we, too, cried out in the wilderness. And we will have them again. That is life.
But there is another voice, too, crying out in our lives.
Another voice in the wilderness crying out around us.
Another voice in the wilderness crying out within us.
And that voice is the Holy Spirit of God and Christ.
That voice is Jesus with us.
God with us.
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.
And Emmanuel comes.
Emmanuel is there. Is here.
Emmanuel will find a way to make our paths feel straight even if they remain crooked.
Emmanuel will find a way to make every mountain feel as if it has been made low even if it still rises.
We climb.
We ascend.
We reach the summit.
And we do not fall off on the way back down the other side on our continuing journey.
Our rough places have been made smoother, even if they are still rough.
And we see, and we feel, the salvation of God.
We feel the salvation of God so strongly that the only response we can think of is to try and make crooked paths feel straight for others, to take their hand as they cross over their mountains, to shine a light as we travel through their dark valleys with them.
To be a voice of love and compassion in their wilderness.
And a voice of love and compassion when their wilderness is gone and there is nothing left at all but Emmanuel.
Emmanuel all around. In every footprint and every heartbeat.

Sun Days

Surprisingly, not until well into my adulthood did I look at the word Sunday and realize the dramatic and theological importance of those first three letters.
They had been staring me in the face my entire life.
Sun Day.
The day of sunshine.
Rain or shine.
The kind of sun that weather forecasters cannot overcome by any prediction of raining thunderstorms.
Not even a 100 percent chance of rain can stop this sun from shining.
Sun Day.
The day of light.
The day of light overcoming the darkness.
The sunshine day of God’s love.
The sunshine day of God’s grace.
Sun Day.
The themes of light and darkness can be found throughout the Bible and most emphatically in the Gospel of John.
“In him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it. There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to all was coming into the world,” John’s Gospel tells us.
The Voice translation of John’s Gospel is even more powerful:
“His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light—A light that thrives in the depths of the darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched.”
A light such as that depends on no weather forecaster’s prognostications. The light of God’s love and grace that we celebrate together on the perfectly named day of the week—Sunday—will find us no matter what the weather is doing in our lives.
No matter how hard the rain.
No matter how biting the sleet.
And no matter how deep the snow.
Or how dark the night.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus left Nazareth and began his ministry in Galilee to fulfill this passage from the Prophet Isaiah:
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
One of the great miracles of what we celebrate on Sun Day was articulated by Jesus during his sermon on the mount.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”
And that God-given light within us is alive and cannot be extinguished because it was placed in our soul by God.
In that sense, every day is “Sun Day.”
Let them all—and you—shine where there is the greatest need of light.

One Last Perpetual Chance

With God and with Jesus, it is never too late.
Never too late for love to triumph over hate.
Never too late for light to rise above darkness.
Never too late for that which is torn to be mended.
Never too late for goodness to make evil cry “Uncle!”
Never too late to find passage through the narrow gate that leads to the wide, open, green pasture that our Good Shepherd has waiting for us.
That is one of several messages in Luke’s recounting of Jesus has appointing seventy of his followers to travel ahead, in pairs, to every town where he intends to go.
And his instructions to those emissaries are quite specific. Carry no purse, he tells them, carry no bag, no sandals.
Furthermore, whenever you enter a town and the townspeople welcome you, Jesus instructs them, cure the sick who are there and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.”
But, Jesus adds—after letting them know he is sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves—whenever you enter a town and its people do not welcome you, go out into the streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.”
Wow, pretty dramatic stuff right there. Wiping even the dust of such a town off their feet sends quite a messages to the townspeople. But a message to his disciples, too, who suffered what would have been an aggressive lack of hospitality.
“Don’t let it get you down, don’t let that experience burden you,” Jesus is telling them without saying it. “Wipe it off your feet.” He knows the physical act of wiping the dust from their feet will make its point in a powerful way to any disciples who find themselves leaving indifference, or outright hostility, behind.
But even such towns and the people who live in them are left with one last perpetual chance. Not simply one last chance. One last perpetual chance. Because that is what God and Jesus offer us—one last perpetual chance, a last chance that is going nowhere. A last chance that will follow us around, perhaps even tapping us on the shoulder from time to time, as if to say, “Hey, remember me? I’m still here.”
Even after all of that dust-wiping, Jesus informs the seventy disciples, there is one last thing they must do before they leave such towns and their people behind. Words they plant. Words that might still one day grow.
“Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”
Those are the last words and while they might seem to be part of a final rebuke they can equally, and perhaps even certainly, be regarded as a marker Jesus has his disciples lay down. Because, going back to the beginning of Luke’s lesson, sharing the news that the kingdom of God has come near you is the precise message Jesus told them to share with townspeople in towns that welcomed them.
So the blessing is the same, no matter what.
A perpetual signpost.
The open hand of Jesus left behind, offering the kingdom of God to any who wish to receive it.
A mustard seed that one day might sprout in the hearts and souls of at least some of those townspeople who think, and re-think, about what Jesus’ disciples had meant when they had told them “the Kingdom of God has come near to you.”
That is the message Jesus sent the seventy off to deliver and he has them share it even in the towns that are callously indifferent to them.
Not a final threat, not a final curse, not a final “this is what you missed.”
Instead, it is a final offer of God’s love. Or, “this is what you can still have.”
A final offer that will live forever somewhere in the memory of those who heard it, no matter how the town welcomed, or did not welcome, the disciples.
There each day, there every day, simply waiting for acceptance.
Because, with God and with Jesus, it is never too late.

A Different View Of The Widow’s Mite

“A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed from their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

These are not the words that I was planning to write. I was going to write about the Widow’s Mite, noting her total generosity of spirit. I was going to call this meditation “The Widow’s Might,” noting that any act of generosity comes first from the mind and from the heart, and how mighty must have been her spirit of generosity to give every bit of money she had.
And then I did some research on the mite, itself, wanting to learn a little more about this coin of such small monetary value. It was while researching that on line that I stumbled on a commentary that pointed me in a completely different direction. I will never think of this heretofore beloved parable the same way, ever again.
What I found on line was the observation that Jesus never holds the widow up as an example to be followed. He never says that she did the right thing. He simply states the fact that the rich people made a big show over their generosity and gave some of their abundant wealth away, while the poor widow gave everything she had to live on.
That got me thinking about what else Jesus does and, just as crucially, what Jesus doesn’t do in this story. First, Jesus is intentionally sitting in the temple opposite the treasury, specifically watching all of the people make their financial contributions. That’s all he’s doing. An odd thing to do, it seemed to me.
What he doesn’t do is this: He never makes a financial contribution, himself. He sits there watching, and gives nothing, even after seeing the poor widow give everything she has. Nor does Jesus urge his disciples to make a contribution to the temple’s treasury.
Furthermore, even though he knows the poor widow has given everything she has to live on, Jesus does not give her anything at all, nor does he suggest that one of the disciples give her a coin or two so that she has something to live on.
He just sits there watching.
And I think he keeps getting madder and madder. I believe it fuels his desire to cleanse the temple of such oppressive money-making, profit-centric, get-rich scheming by the temple authorities.
In the passage from Mark, not quoted above, Jesus has already warned his listeners to beware of the scribes. “They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearances say long prayers,” he tells them.
So, perhaps the widow isn’t giving from a spirit of generosity at all, but from a sense of guilt that is weighed down upon her by such religious authorities as the scribes. Perhaps after giving the temple treasury her last mite she will lose her house to them and they can sell it for a profit. The poor widow would probably pass any kindly donation to herself straight on the temple treasury. Perhaps that’s why neither Jesus nor his disciples give her anything.
I think it’s important what Jesus does next. I believe that it gives us an insight into his thinking as he watches the financial transactions in the temple. As he is leaving, without making a contribution, someone marvels over the magnificence of the temple. “What massive stones,” they say.
Jesus is not impressed. None of them will be left standing, he flatly replies.
Systems of domination and oppression will not last forever. They have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven may be near, but it is far away from the temple treasury.
Distant, still, from those who walk and rule the earth today with a temple treasury in their heart.

Saint All Of Us

(Note: I am sharing this meditation with my home church this week, but it applies to everyone)

Great. Wonderful. Just right. But look around you and see for yourselves.
We’ve all got our costumes on. We’re wearing our All Saints Day Sunday outfits. Yes, you and you and you. And even me. All of us sitting in these pews or, for those who are reading this digitally, wherever you are sitting or standing.
And the really strange thing is that they’re not really costumes at all. We’re wearing the stuff we wear every Sunday or every day of the week.
That’s the point. As hard as it is to believe.
Me? A saint?
Not hardly. Couldn’t be. I know myself too well to stake any claim to sainthood. But the rest of you? Absolutely.
I know. Each of you is shaking your head, as well. You have the same doubts as me. You don’t believe for a moment that you’re a saint. You know yourself too well to stake any claim to sainthood.
But, that’s really the point. Saints aren’t perfect. The actual canonized, hall-of-fame, stained-glass-window saints weren’t perfect at all.
Look at Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for crying out loud. They were as flawed as anybody. You and I can’t walk on water. But neither could Peter, even with Jesus there reaching out to him.
And, gosh, how about Paul?
During the time he went around calling himself Saul, he was an accomplice to many acts of violence, and at least one death—he was there holding the cloaks of those who stoned Saint Stephen.
None of us has done anything like that. Still, we doubt our saintliness. So, consider this:
Jesus has called each one of us the light of the world.
To me, being thought of by Jesus as the light of the world is more amazing than being a saint. But it’s true. Jesus said so. We’ve all been lit up by Jesus in our lives. We’ve all been kindled by God to shine evidence of heavenly love and grace in the world.
If we’re good enough for Jesus, and good enough for God, that should be good enough for anyone. Good enough, even, for ourselves to realize how loved by God and Christ we really are.
Loved as individuals and collectively as a church family.
And how brightly that love shines through us out into the world, filling corners of darkness with light. Because that’s what saints do and, trust me, none of the saints ever thought of themselves as saints. Only we think of them that way. But saints, in spite of their human foibles, give people a glimpse of God’s presence in the world.
Or maybe, just perhaps, it’s actually through their—through our—fractured places that God is most able to shine into us, and out through us into the world.
A second way to look at All Saints Day is to consider how all of us together are very much an obvious saint in this world. All of us together have been canonized, in a sense, because we are—you and me—St. Anne’s.
Each one of us is a part of everything St. Anne’s is doing in this world.
And that means that each of us is a part of so much, from the food pantry to the clothing exchange, from the grocery bags full of Thanksgiving feasting to the Angel Tree, and from the space in Rose Hall that we share with others to that small, freshly-painted wooden box of non-perishable foodstuffs set on a pole next door for anyone in need at any hour of any day. And that is only part of it.
There is so much that we do collectively and individually, small moments of compassion that change a minute in someone’s day. But that changes an hour in their day, and so alters their day. That, in turn, changes their week and so redirects their month. Which changes their year and so transforms their life and, very truly, changes the world for them.
And so, too, changes the world for us.
All saints together.
Giving, and receiving, God’s love and grace through each other.

A Deeper Vision

“Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.”

—The Gospel of Mark

One can read a piece of scripture many times and feel complete familiarity with the words and their message. Then read it one more time and find a new kernel of revelatory truth. That happened to me with this passage from Mark.
What hit me right between the eyes—this time—was that, rather than go to the blind man, Jesus instructed that the beggar Bartimaeus be told to come to him, instead.
I thought that was just a bit insensitive. It would have been much easier for Jesus to go to the blind man. But Bartimaeus had no difficulty at all. “So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus,” the Gospel of Mark tells us. No problem. And that is a crucial point.
Despite the potentially confusing presence of the disciples and the “large crowd” leaving Jericho, a man who cannot see was able find and stand face to face with Jesus, not having to hunt and search by trial and error, person to person. Surrounded by the darkness of being blind, the man was able to zero in on the light of Christ.
It was as if he had a homing signal. As if his soul had radar and sonar capabilities that led him unerringly to Jesus.
Jesus, of course, heals the man, telling him that his faith has made him well. But the events leading up to that healing are relevant to everyone. As is the healing, itself.
We all suffer from some form of at least momentary “blindness.” There are events and circumstances (both past and present), fears and anxieties, any and all of life’s challenges that can make us feel that we are surrounded by darkness, suddenly blind to the light of Christ and his message of God’s love and grace.
When that happens—and at some point in our lives it happens to us all, at least once—it is best to follow the example of Bartimaeus and shout with our soul for Jesus to come and heal our blindness.
And continue shouting with stubborn persistence, no matter how much the darkness that has blinded us tries to keep us silent, as those around Bartimaeus had attempted to silence him. Because: when our yearning soul persists in crying out for Jesus, we will be found by Christ.
Our eyes will be opened to his light.
And in that light we will understand that Jesus never went anywhere. He never left us behind, outside the walls of our own Jerichos. In our blindness, we couldn’t see that he was right there beside us all the time.
In our moments of blindness, it is our faith that truly is a homing signal for our soul, radar and sonar that will unerringly lead us to the truth of the ceaseless presence of Holy love in our lives.
But there is something else we need to remember:
We mustn’t forget to throw off our cloaks, just as Bartimaeus did. That cloak had become a cocoon of imprisonment. That cloak was the “skin” of Bartimaeus’ former, blind existence.
Throwing it off, as he sprang up and came to Jesus, he became like a butterfly pulling free of its chrysalis.
Spreading the wings of his new life of sight.
So, too, can we realize that vision.
Because the deepest “sight” we possess has nothing at all to do with our eyes.

Giving Jesus A Home

This is how much Jesus loves us:
Foxes have their dens to call home.
But Jesus has none.
Birds of the air have nests to which they can fly.
But Jesus has nothing.
In his own words from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
But he could have. Anytime he wanted to, Jesus could have settled into his den, made himself comfortable in a nest, laid his head down in his own bed. Wrapped himself up in his own blankets.
He chose not to, however.
And that is how much Jesus loves us.
He left everything he could have had behind to tell us about the love of God.
That’s how much he loves us.
Jesus could have married. Could have had children. Could have lived a normal life. He could have contented himself with a devout and holy life for himself, going to synagogue like everyone else.
Instead, as Luke tells us, he set his face toward Jerusalem.
He set his face toward the Garden of Gethsemane instead of his own garden behind his own carpenter’s shop.
He set his face toward Pilate rather than pilot his own fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus set his face toward Golgotha.
He could have gone off in any other direction.
Jesus set his face toward the hammer and the nails.
He could have gone anywhere else.
Jesus set his face toward crucifixion.
Every other point of the compass offered him escape, but his face was set.
Because he set his face toward the only place he could find us.
That is the only place he could find you and me.
That is the only place he could find St. Anne’s.
And that is the only way we’d ever find him.
Up until the very end, Jesus could have run off, walked off, pleaded off and saved his life.
Jesus could have gone off anywhere and begun a new life, a safe life, a devout life, a life with a wife and with children and a stable career, a life where he could wrap himself up in his own warm blankets.
Even Pilate gave him a chance to do so.
Had he done so, however, his mission, his ministry, the message and the meaning of his life would have been gone from the face of the Earth forever.
Instead, he set his face toward Jerusalem.
He set his face toward us.
He set his face toward you and me.
Jesus gave up what even the foxes and the birds take for granted, gave up every creature comfort, for you and me.
And so there is one thing we can do in return.
We can set our face toward him.
We can invite Jesus into our own lives.
Into our own homes.
And not just the living room or front hallway.
Invite him into every room in the house.
Attics and basements, too.
And by that I mean every aspect of our lives, all that we are, warts and all.
Jesus knows us, warts and all, and loves us, warts and all.
So, yes, come live with us, Jesus.
Here is a comfortable bed, Lord.
Here are warm blankets for the Son of Man.
Wrap yourself up in them.
Sweet dreams, my Lord, and may all of them come true.
Because all of his dreams are set toward me and you.

Believing In Santa Claus

“‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus.
I believed in God.
And I believed in Jesus.
I was told by adults that all three of them are real, and I unequivocally believed what I was told.
There was no doubt in my mind, or in my heart, of their existence.
When I was a child, all three of them were as real as real can be.
For years, I believed that all three of them genuinely existed. I clung to that faith long after many of my friends had peeled away the veneer and discovered the fiction behind it all.
Eventually, I grew up, and also accepted the truth that I’d been trying to avoid.
I learned that Santa Claus lives in our hearts.
But that is all. That is the only place where Santa Claus resides. The North Pole is a frozen wasteland. None of the animals there have red noses. Only the wind-chilled scientists and explorers have red noses, and none of them guide Santa’s sleigh.
As an adult, I have also grown to understand that God, too, lives within our hearts. Or can reside there.
As does Jesus. If we let him.
But—and this is a gloriously hallelujah ‘but’—that is not all.
That is not the only place.
God is real.
Jesus is real.
Both of them genuinely exist whether I let them live in my heart or not.
I simply know that to be true.
I believe it to be true.
Nor do I feel compelled to prove it to anyone in order to reinforce my own faith. But there is still plenty of evidence.
The existence of God and the risen Jesus are demonstrably proved by the post-crucifixion turnaround in the disciples, from cowering cowards to bold preachers who feared nothing for their physical safety.
Only a genuine encounter with the resurrected Jesus can account for that. And Jesus can only exist as our resurrected savior if God exists. Therefore, the fact of Christ confirms the fact of God, and a loving God, at that.
Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, transforming him from a murderer of Christians—an accessory before, during and after the fact—to an obsessed disciple of Christ, is another stunning piece of forensic evidence.
Nor are those two examples the only New Testament “exhibits” one could place before any jury that doubts the existence of God and Christ.
But I have also had enough “thin moments” and “close encounters” with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus (therefore with God, as well) to personally cement my faith.
And I accept those “thin moments” as genuine encounters, as a child would accept Santa Claus, sitting on his lap at the mall. I do not look cynically for any other “explanation” that might seem more rational to an adult mind.
I can pull on the beard of Christ all I want, but it isn’t coming off. He’s no seasonal, moonlighting phony. The kingdom of Heaven is real.

Praying Our Way Out Of The Avalanche

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray … The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up … The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective…”

—The Epistle of James

Life can sometimes make us feel as if we’ve suddenly been caught in an avalanche or a collapsed mineshaft.
We’re buried miles away from our former happiness.
Nearly suffocating in the darkness.
Unable to reach the light of day.
But we are not helpless.
Nor are we abandoned and alone.
Prayer is the tool we can use to dig our way out.
Every prayer.
Each day.
All of our spoken and silent words of prayer can tunnel through the layers of darkness that cover us just as if we’d literally been trapped in an avalanche or a mineshaft that had given way.
“The Lord is my shepherd…”
And we penetrate a little further toward the light.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
And we dig ourselves a bit closer to the fresh air that we were breathing only yesterday.
“I will fear no evil…”
And now the Holy Spirit can feel us praying.
“Because you are with me…”
God knows where we are and what has happened, and why would we ever think that God doesn’t pray? And Jesus too.
Digging down toward our words of faith.
So we must keep praying so they can reach us.
Praying and believing that they will.
It is too easy for some people to dismiss prayer as merely a ritual. True prayer can be far more than that.
The words in the Epistle are powerful reminders of the true power of real prayer—the prayer, as James tells us, “of faith.”
James is speaking to us as a compelling firsthand witness of what the early church experienced through faith-filled prayer after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
There is no avalanche too heavy.
James knew this.
And no mineshaft too deep.
Do we understand everything about prayer and how it works? No, not at all. We never shall.
But that is what makes the prayer of faith so powerful. It is all about the faith. Faith that taps into the deepest recesses of our soul and connects us to the power of God’s love and grace.
When that happens, God is surely digging with us, too.
God has joined us in the tunneling.
And the heart of Christ is beating for us all.