Josh j Smith


#Lent, Wednesday, 3/23: Serve others dang it!
March 23, 2011, 5:10 pm
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“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 5.25-28

The Good News of Jesus is so compelling because it is contrary to everything that is natural.  I believe we long for the Gospel because it is provacative.  The Gospel inspires us to be different, to swim against the stream of culture, and to fight the good fight.

But it scares us.  My 3 year old son gets so scared when I jump from a dark room to scare him.  But he always asks for more because he loves the feeling of not knowing.

I admit there are times I am scared of being different.  Thinking about being radically different, watching it on movies, or reading about it is not the same as living it.  I admit I get scared of what others will think.  I am afraid of being embarrassed.

I’m sorry that I am more scared of being selfless than selfish in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Prayer

Jesus.  Help me to fear you.

Help me to be scared of bringing shame to your name.

Help me to be scared of losing the opportunity of seeing your kingdom each day.

Jesus.  Light the fire in my soul to ridiculously serve others.

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Lent, Tuesday,3/22: love your enemies ii
March 22, 2011, 8:40 pm
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7″But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32( “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6.27-36

This is the most radical message of the Gospel. Yet, the most neglected value in the American church. I am brainwashed with the message of my culture that says “it is my rite to…” And when my rites are not honored you are an enemy of mine. Therefore, my rites as an American often trump the call of God’s Kingdom. I am shameful for myself and the American church.

I quickly realized that the phrase “Love your enemies” is cliche. I immediately dismiss the enemies that are close to me and pray only for distant enemies (i.e. al-Qaeda). Enemies that need prayer but are a safe distance from interrupting my agenda. But Jesus gets specific in this conversation – there are no social rites when it comes to loving your enemy. We are not called to only love our enemy when it is convenient.

Co-workers, managers, customers, cashiers at the store, the ebay person who sold me broken goods, employees, neighbors, children, spouses, siblings, and parents all can be enemies. The frightening truth is that I usually do not realize it. I am very quick to notice the problem in them and begin to strategize a plan to neutralize them because they have threatened me in some way. It could be as big as someone mistreating my wife or kids, or something as little as screwing up my sandwich. Either issue, shamefully, forces me to embrace my inner viking rather than the Holy Spirit.

Everyday we are facing our enemies, and Jesus says to love them. Not to pretend to love them, but to love them from the deepest part of our being. To be concerned for their rites even if they are abusing our rites. To be concerned for their welfare even though they might be stealing ours (no pun intended using the word “welfare”). To be concerned for their need to have to humiliate us instead of retaliating or winning even though we could take them.

How can Providence Community love our enemies?
Who would be considered an enemy in our country that we could attempt to love unconditionally?
Who would be an enemy in our immediate area that we could mission together to love?



Lent, Monday, 3/21 : Loving Enemies
March 21, 2011, 4:10 pm
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44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5.44-45

“Prayer allows us to lead into the center of our hearts not only those who love us but also those who hate us.  This is possible only when we are willing to make our enemies part of ourselves and thus convert them first of all in our own hearts.” (Henri Nouwen Show Me the Way, pp47).

This reminds me of the Jonah story.  God called Jonah to be an agent in helping rescue the Ninevites.  But Jonah ran.  Yes he fulfilled God’s call, and the Ninevites repented.  But he was angry that God rescued the Ninevites.  He said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a) gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.“

Jonah hated these people so much he did not desire their salvation.  He was so driven by hatred and bitterness he was suicidal at the thought these people living, or that he might have to spend eternity with them.

Is there a person?  Is there a group, race, or type of people that would make us cringe at the thought of God rescuing them and blessing them?

Our Prayer

O Lord, look with favor on us, your people,

And impart your love to us –

Not as an idea or concept,

But as a lived experience.

We can love each other

Only because you have loved us first.

Let us know that first love

So that we can see all human love

As a reflection of a greater love,

A love without conditions and limitations.

Amen. – Henri Nouwen



Lent : Forgiveness
March 21, 2011, 1:21 am
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Photograph by Engelina SmithMatthew 5.23-25

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.

God really wants to forgive us.  Forgiveness is not merely the consequence of confession, but the motivation for us to return to God.  God’s story in scripture shows God’s radical pursuit to bring his people back to himself so that he could forgive them.

I confess that I do not go to great lengths to forgive those who trespassed against me.  I sit.  I wait.  I plot.  It festers.

Henri Nouwen pointed out that it is hard for me to forgive others because I do not believe I am a forgiven person.  Why would I?  I am bored with how repetitious my sins are.  There are times I imagine God saying the same thing I say when I see Friends on TV, “Is there an end to the re-runs? Please, someone, put me out of my misery. ”  My lack of dwelling in God’s forgiving presence continually restricts me from forgiving others.

“But not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.  A forgiven person forgives.  This is what we proclaim when we pray, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” (Henri Nouwen; Show Me the Way; p44).

Are you going to allow God to forgive you?

Who do you need to forgive?

Do you really want to forgive those who trespassed against you if it was the same thing done to you 490 times (70 x 7)?

Are we a forgiven church?

Are we a forgiving church?

Are we a community where people feel free to seek forgiveness?

Are we able to forgive our persecutors and our enemies?

Do we put limits on who or what we are going to forgive?



Lent
March 20, 2011, 1:57 am
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I have been asked by Providence to facilitate a conversation via Facebook and blog about Lent.  I will try to post daily and the posts will include either stories, scripture, quotes, questions, and/or challenges.

Quick details about Lent:

It is about 40 days/8 weeks before Easter Sunday.  Ash Wednesday is the beginning Easter is the End.  3/9 – 4/24

Traditionally you are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays as a reminder that it was on a Friday that Christ suffered on the cross.  It is practiced by many, not just catholics.

So McDonald’s runs their fish filet special during this time in select markets.

People usually fast from something they really like or are addicted to (i.e. Sweets, coffee, meat, watching TV, etc.).

Ash Wednesday is the day you might see friends, family, or coworkers with dirt on their forehead.  This article was great in providing the significance behind this tradition – The Gospel in the Dirt.

It is encouraged to follow a Lent Reader or the readings marked out in Book of Common Prayer each day.

Resources:

Henri Nouwen’s Show Me the Way Daily Lenten Readings.

Lent on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent

The Book of Common Prayer.

The Book of Common Prayer online – http://www.bookofcommonprayer.net/index.php

Tips for our Conversation:

Please Comment on your journey to encouage all of us.

Comment on Providence Facebook Page.  http://www.facebook.com/providencecommunity

Peace Be With You

Joshua Smith