From Wreck to Restoration: We Cry Out

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Jeremiah 8:18-9:1.

Eustace is one of the main characters in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace is a sullen little boy that is critical of everything and landing on the Dawn Treader’s latest voyage was absolutely the last thing on his list of desires.

Actually, it was not on his list of desires at.all.

The longer the crew sailed, the more incorrigible Eustace became. His arrogance, self-centeredness, and anger worsened ten-fold.

One day the ship docked on an island and the crew set off to explore their surroundings. Eustace made his way into a cave and stumbled upon a great treasure! His greed was all consuming. He eagerly pulled valuables towards himself and stuffed whatever he could into his pockets. Finding a gold cuff he placed it on his arm, which initiated a chain reaction across his skin. His soft skin was transformed into scales, his bones lengthened and stretched, and horns replaced his hair.

Eustace transformed into a dragon.

At first he thought himself quite grand. People did not usually pay particular attention to Eustace unless he was causing an arrogant, self-centered, angry tantrum, but now everyone would pay attention to him! He would show them – all of the thems!

But the longer he sat, the more distraught Eustace became. Feelings of pride became feelings of panic and Eustace realized that he did not want to be a dragon. He was bound to the treasure he had taken that was not his. He had become the treasure’s captive and while everyone else could leave the island on the Dawn Treader, he would be left alone.

Try as he might Eustace could not change himself back into a boy. Eustace attempted to scape away his scales to only find layer after lay underneath. In hopelessness he cried out. In this, Eustace’s greatest moment of humility, Aslan appeared and peeled away Eustace’s dragon skin.

Remembering the encounter Eustace said,

I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…

He peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.

And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again…*

Only God could free Eustace from his scales, which were a visible prison built by his sin, and Aslan – Lewis’ God-figure, did just that. Eustace cried out to Aslan and Aslan saved him.

We are incapable of saving ourselves; only God can save. Try as we might to remove our sin on our own, we are incapable. We need God’s help.

When we cry out to God our God frees us and forgives us. When we cry out to God our sin is peeled away and our hearts are rendered tender. We might feel frail or weak, but in humbling ourselves before God to be forgiven and made new, what may look and feel like weakness is evidence of true strength.

At times we can feel captive to our sin in prisons of our own design. Find rest and receive comfort, dear friends, that our God is the God that has come, is coming, and will always come to “bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isa 61:1 and Lk 4:18-19).

Thanks be to God.

Prayer: “Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness. Come, my Life, and revive me from death. Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds. Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins, kindling my heart with the flame of thy love. Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there. For thou alone art my King and my Lord. Amen.”**

*C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader 108-109.

**”An Invitation to Christ,” The United Methodist Hymnal 466.

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Faith and Works: C – P – R

Sunday’s Scripture ~ James 5:13-20

What? A sermon/blog titled C-P-R with Scripture from James? Is this where the medical community first got the idea for cardiopulmonary resuscitation?

Alas – no.

But there is some definite life-saving and life-giving business marinating in this passage of Scripture.

C – P – R

Confess – Pray – Reconcile

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Last week I spent my vacation serving as a member of a mission team with Surfing the Nations in Wahiawa, Hawaii. It was an incredible week of service and community building – not only with the students and adults from St. Luke’s UMC Orlando (the church Andrew serves) but also with the people of Hawaii.

We hosted a surf-n-swim party for children and families living in a transitional shelter. We fed 3500 people in 5 hours in a “supermarket” that we constructed from set up to serve to tear down under an overpass of one of Hawaii’s busiest highways. We entered and found solidarity with the working poor by spending a day walking – and riding the bus – in their shoes from looking for work to paying bills to buying groceries to seeking a safe place of refuge for the night.

As my friend Jed said, “It was a good hard week with eyes tired from holding back tears.” Tears of joy for the happiness the children shared for us, tears of restoration for the families that would have food to eat that day, tears for the healing of complacency, tears crying for justice.

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A week ago today our mission team was invited to join the StN staff in their day of Sabbath. We fasted. We worshiped. We experienced what the StN-ers phrased “speaking truth into one another’s life” – and that speaking truth came through C-P-R.

Confess – Pray – Reconcile

Confessing – Praying – Reconciling will help bring the wanderer back. These acts are our road map. These acts sustain us in this life. These acts draw us close.

To God.

To our neighbors.

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I presently find myself in a dry spiritual place. I spend so much time planning and preparing for the life of the church that I, at times, cast off – or eliminate – my faith presence in the church. That’s when what I do becomes a job instead of a calling – something to do rather than a true vocation.

I confess my wandering.  I don’t like where I am. I need a spiritual resuscitation. Confess – Pray – Reconcile are these steps I need to get there. God will lead me. Loved ones and accountability partners will walk alongside me.  But I have to first engage these practices.

If you find yourself in a dry place, consider what it is you have been doing or not doing. How can C-P-R aid you? How can C-P-R revive your spiritual life? How can C-P-R put an end to your wandering and guide you back to a sure course that is led by God?

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Prayer of Confession: God of creation, giver of life: we confess our anxiety about this very day, which you have made. Forgive us. Lord Jesus Christ, bread of life: we acknowledge our refusal to receive the grace that sustains us. Have mercy upon us. Holy Spirit, giver of new life, we declare the limitations of our energies; our resources; our gifts. Grant us your peace.

Words of Assurance: Hear the good news: God leads us beside still waters and restores our souls, and in God’s presence there is sanctuary. Let us give thanks for the eternal presence of the One who is life and peace. Amen.*

*”Self-Sufficiency and Pride” from Prayers and Liturgies of Confession and Assurance, Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), 25.

Almost 2013

Sunday’s Scriptures ~ John 1:1-18; Luke 2:25-32; Romans 13:11-12; II Corinthians 4:4-11; Ephesians 5:8-14; and I John 1:5-7.

Reading lots of Scripture – it’s a beautiful thing.

This week we turn our attention towards New Year.  We have celebrated Christmas, our houses are wrecks, our fridges are over-flowing with left-overs, college football bowl-season is in full swing, and people are beginning to make plans for the new year.

2013…

What will it hold?

What will I resolve to do this year?  What will I resolve to not do this year?

This Sunday’s service is based on a Watchnight Service, which is a service typically held on New Year’s Eve.  It begins late in the evening and typically concludes after the clock strikes *NEW YEAR*.

(Reeves will be having our service at 10am on Sunday, December 30…same time…same place…same Bat-channel…see what I did there?!)

A Watchnight Service provides us with an opportunity to reflect, confess, and prepare:

  1. Reflect – upon the year that has come to an end; what was started, what was accomplished, and what was left undone; the joys and successes alongside the trials and the losses.
  2. Confess – our sins, individually and communally, and be reconciled
  3. Prepare – for the new year through prayer and resolving.

As I consider the spiritual opportunities in a Watchnight Service I see a fantastic opportunity for growth in spiritual discipline throughout the new year.  What if I (what if we) resolved to have this sort of reflection time each week during 2013?  A time to:

  1. Reflect – upon the week that has come to an end; what was started, what was accomplished, and what was left undone; the joys and successes alongside the trials and the losses.
  2. Confess – my sin and be reconciled.
  3. Prepare – for the new week through prayer and resolving change and to be the change.

Each weekly watchnight would be an opportunity for private worship, study, journaling, and prayer.  Each weekly watchnight would be an opportunity to commune with God, center oneself again on the being who is our true center, and then proceed into the world as God’s hands and feet.

Perhaps…

Perhaps this is what God is calling you to resolve…perhaps this is not what God is calling you to resolve.  If a weekly reflection experience is not your cup of tea, then seek diligently the way God is calling you to resolve more time in the divine presence.  Seek it.  Name it.  Engage it.  And on the cusp of 2014 we will celebrate it!

Happy New Year!

Prayer: For “Seeking God’s Will” through Confession and Words of Assurance* by Bishop Ken Carter, Resident Bishop of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

O God, we seek you, and yet we hide from you.  At times we draw near, and at other times we move away.  If we are honest, we sometimes prefer darkness to light; despair to hope; confusion to clarity.  Help us receive the call to rebirth as a gift, and open our hearts and minds to the Spirit that makes all things new.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pray in silence.

Brothers and sisters, hear the good news.  The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent, and believe the gospel.  In the name of Jesus, you are forgiven.  Amen.

* Kenneth H. Carter Jr, Prayers and Liturgies of Confession and Assurance (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), 37.