Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Meditation XXIV -- Facts

it [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

In the well-known parable, the prodigal son returns home to his father after throwing away his inheritance and coming to the realization not only that his wasted life has brought him to ruin, but also that his father's servants are fed better than he is. He makes up his mind to go home, and prepares a speech of repentance. The father, upon seeing his son, throws his arms around the profligate and kisses him. Then he orders a feast to be prepared and they celebrate.

But the older son, the one who had been good, obedient -- righteous, if you will -- was resentful. We are told "he was angry and refused to go in" when his father encouraged him to join the party. Perhaps the "good" son has a point. What sense does it make to celebrate an adult who acts irresponsibly, who worries the father and throws away what everyone else seems to have worked for so he can live in debauchery. Those are the facts, and the older brother cannot see past them to the truth.

We might note that Jesus tells his parable in response to the charge that He "receives sinners and eats with them." He had already told the Pharisees and scribes "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Does God then ignore the righteous, those who do good? No. Remember the father says, "all that is mine yours." The father does not say the son who abandoned him, who insisted on his own way and has reaped the fruit of his sin, has done right. The father does not accept the wrong. But he is happy to have his child (and what parent doesn't see the child in the adult?) back safely: "for this your brother was dead, and is alive."

There are facts and there is truth, and we should not confuse the two. The good son could only see the wrong, and not the repentant sinner. And how can we share the good news of Jesus if we only see sin and evil, but not the greater truth of what was done to reconcile all of us with the Father?

Lord, whether we sin or live in Your grace, You are with us and Your Love never fails. It is stronger than the riches You bestow on us or the blessings we think we earn. Make us mindful of your mercy and help us to celebrate every face that turns to You. Amen in Christ.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meditation XIII -- Mercy

Whoever is wise will ponder these things,
   and consider well the mercies of the Lord.
I am not, whether by nature or upbringing, an upbeat, look on the bright side sort of person. Even when good things happen, I sometime look for the other shoe to drop right on my head. I could ponder this about myself or explore all sorts of theories of personality, but that is for another time. For now, let's say I'm not alone in this way of seeing the world.

What I can say is that most people so much ask "Why me?" concerning their suffering that eventually all suffering becomes an indictment of God. God allowed this suffering or caused that pain for this or that reason. Eventually the question becomes "Why, God, did You do this? Why did You let this happen to me? To those innocent people? To those I love?" I can then speculate, as so many do, or merely give up on God. We can decide He's mean or that He does not exist.

I must be honest. I am not equipped to answer such questions. Perhaps I never will be.

And perhaps I will not be able to quite answer another question, one that may well be even more important: Why is God merciful?

You see, we may be programmed in some way to avoid even considering first that God has mercy. I know that when calamity comes for me or those I care about, my first thought is so often to ask God, "Why this? Why me? Why them? What are You trying to get across to us?" It takes some time for me to consider that even amidst my woes, God has had mercy on me. God has been kind and generous to me and to others (even those who do not acknowledge Him.). A truth unseen does not become less true; however its power may not be evident and even diminished.

Father in Heaven, open us to seeing your beautiful, even if painful, mercy. Let us, today, realize how good You have been, especially when the world seems so lost. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

After reading

The cat spread on the book in front of me. That book was my Bible, but I suppose I was done reading for the day. I cannot say I was still contemplating the words, but I was not ignoring them either, but perhaps I was expecting them to bounce inside me until something happened. What happened was the cat, who lay across the open words and rolled onto his back and looked up at me expectant.
    I obliged. I stroked his fur and bent my head to listen to him purr. I made a humming sound as I breathed in.
    Then I coughed, and suddenly felt the rawness in my throat I realized had been there some time. The cough, slight though it was, shook the cat, and he looked at me a moment, I was sure with the pinched look of the irritated. But cats can't make that face, can they? Or do they was look so when they stop purring?
    I bent my head against his.face, feeling the loose fur mingling with my beard. The purr returned. I lifted the cat up to my chest and listened.
    There were no other sounds but the fan and the scrape of my feet against the floor. My coffee sat cooling in its cup, and the cat and I waited for God to speak.