When I was disciplined as a child, that discipline never served to separate me from my family or to change the status of my relationship to them. When my timeout had been completed, or when my grounding was finally over, I was welcomed back into my family with open arms, the punishment and its inciting incident behind us all, and the lessons learned weaving their way into the fabric of my world view for years to come.
Confrontation is a sticking point for many people. Upon reaching an impasse with someone in our family, our workplace, our neighborhood, our church, we’d much rather avoid than confront. It feels easier to sweep the event under the rug or to press it down inside of us. At face value, this seems like the less painful option.
More often than not, however, the thing just won’t let us go. Each time we see that person or think of them, the impasse rises up to meet us. Thank God He has given us clear instructions for moments such as these.
Maybe you’ve heard people in your workplace express some version of the adage that says, “I’d rather ask forgiveness than permission.” It’s a witty expression, and it points to a desire to just go ahead and get something done, without having to go through the bureaucratic channels established by an organization.
Culture making is a sacred reflection of the God-in-us. Culture making is our response to God’s call to humanity to cultivate the world we’ve been given. Culture is what we are making, in our day-to-day interactions and through the work of our hands.
I think we’d all agree there comes a time when we look at all the stuff we’ve accumulated and we either decide to build a bigger barn or face the fact that we’ve accumulated more than we could ever want or need. When that happens, what should we do? Apparently, according to the passage today, building a bigger barn is probably not the best, first choice. I’m not saying we need to give everything away, or pile a mountain of clothing on our beds. But how do we keep from wanting a bigger barn?
I have had the jobs that are passion-less rituals of meetings and projects and lunches and annual reviews and disappointing but acceptable raises and days filled with mindlessness. That kind of work has its positives (hello, benefits), but never enough to make me want to jump out of bed in the morning. Maybe you’ve had a job like that, too. Maybe you’re in one, now? If so, maybe it’s out of necessity, and I think there’s something to that. But I do hope and pray for passion, too.
I know the idea of following your dreams often gets a bad rap. I know some people think it’s foolish to keep going after some things. But I always end up right back in the same place: I honestly believe God gives us the desires of our hearts. Not in some kind of “name it and claim it” theology. And certainly not in a way that promises life will be a bed of roses. But, if you’ve got something stirring in your heart, and it keeps agitating your hope and making it rise to the surface, I say pay attention to that thing. Keep offering that thing up to God.
At the center of everything, when it comes right down to it, how in touch are each of us with the person God created us to be? I’m writing this at the start of a brand-new year, and in the year or two that came before this particular new year people have been talking a lot about truth. Truth has been the topic of many of our news cycles, church sermons, podcast episodes, and dinner table conversations. For better or worse, we, like Pilate in his response to Jesus, have been asking, “What is truth?”
This feeling of chaos, hopelessness, and utter despair was the mood du jour for the people of God at the time of the events that unfolded in today’s scripture. The first verse and the beginning of the second verse remind us that the rulers of the day were heavy-handed, tough-minded, and corrupt. It was into this cultural moment that John predicted the arrival of the Messiah, one who would usher in peace at just the right time.
The entirety of God’s love towards us tells this story of God himself—all-knowing, all-powerful, all- and ever-present God—bending toward us, reaching out in our direction, coming toward us before we even knew there was a difference between up and down. God loved us first, before we could rack up points or accomplishments or ever-increasing feats of genius to impress God and make him want to love us.