Tribulations? You got this! (Or at least God does)

I am trying to make it through the Old Testament.  I have read Genesis many times, but usually get bored after Noah.  This time I have made it to Deuteronomy, which is a first for me.  It has been a lot of Moses since Genesis and I find myself waiting for Moses to die.  I am getting tired of the people whining, God and Moses getting mad, the people turning back and then, within a chapter, the people are doubting or failing once again.  I did not realize how much of the Bible is taken up with Moses.

It is very easy for me to judge these early Israelites.  Don’t they realize how much God has done for them?  He brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  What more do they want?  But then again, I don’t know how positive or trusting I would be wandering in the desert.  It’s not always easy to see the good that God is leading us to.  And although I am becoming bored with the repetitive nature of the people’s shortcomings.  It is comforting to know that no matter how many times they fail, the Lord God is still there.  Today Moses reminds them, that they can always turn back:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice, for the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers which he swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

This is a wonderfully repetitive message in the Bible.  And one I should turn to every day.  There is no promise that there won’t be tribulation.  Indeed, Moses tells them “when you are in tribulation” not “if”.  There will be tribulation.  We all face it.  Sometimes we go from one tribulation to the next.  The Israelites went from slavery to the desert and, yet I am reading it thinking “suck it up.”  “Don’t you know that God is bringing you to the Promised Land?”   It is so easy to judge thousands of years later when we know the outcome.  And thousands of years from now, people will look back at us and think the same thing.  God is leading us to the Promised Land.  There will be tribulations along the way.  We will be challenged, physically, mentally, spiritually.  We will fall along the way.  We will fail to trust and be led astray.  But God will not fail us.  When we search with our whole heart and whole soul (in other words, when we really want to find Him), we will find Him.  When we turn to Him, no many how many times we have failed before, when we turn back and obey Him, He will show us mercy.

My God, My God,

I know you will never forsake me.  I know the tribulations bring us closer.  But sometimes I need the reminder.  Thank you for being merciful.  Thank you for loving us through our darkest times.  My heart and my soul seek you.  I feel your love and your strength.  May my struggle through every tribulation and my rejoicing at every mountain top honor you.

 

God’s Book or Facebook?

The billboard on a local church had some poignant words:  Which do you open more? God’s book or Facebook?

This morning God’s book opened to Jeremiah:

When someone falls, do they not rise again? If they turn away, do they not turn back? Why then do these people resist with persistent rebellion? Why do they cling to deception, refuse to turn back?  I have listened closely: they speak what is not true; No one regrets wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Everyone keeps on running their course, like a horse dashing into battle.

Jeremiah 8:4-6

I have never been a huge Facebook fan.  But I do flip through it from time to time.  And post a few pictures from time to time.  And I notice when I do, I generally start feeling doubt.  I feel regret.  I feel jealous of the perfect lives that others seem to have.  And when I post something, I wait for the affirming “likes” and approvals.

It is amazing how many of us look in the wrong places.  We cling to deception.  The deception that the world sells us.  The deception that we sell ourselves on Facebook and other social media platforms.  We speak what is not true.  And when we do wrong, when we make mistakes, we blame others.  We lash out at others.  It can never be our fault.

The courtrooms are filled with blame.  And the confessionals are empty.  Marriages are marred with divorce.   And children are being raised to believe that they are perfect and no one should tell them differently.  We do not ask “what have I done?”  Instead we exclaim, “Look what was done to me!”

We have convinced ourselves that we are perfect.  We are never to blame.  We are smarter and stronger and richer than others.  We don’t need God.  Our Facebook page proves that we are “liked” and “loved”.  And yet, our society is more depressed than ever.  Clearly we are wrong.

When I turned the page in the Bible, I read this:

Thus says the LORD:

Let not the wise boast of his wisdom, nor the strong boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches; But rather, let those who boast, boast of this, that in their prudence they know me, Know that I, the LORD, act with fidelity, justice, and integrity on earth. How I take delight in these—oracle of the LORD

Jeremiah 9:23-26

I am not wise.  I am not strong.  I am not rich.  Although I sometimes play those roles on Facebook or otherwise.  I am sometimes headstrong and keep running my course, when I know I should turn back, turn back to God.  I know God, but I want to know Him better.  I know that He acts with fidelity, justice and integrity.  But sometimes I forget.

Lord,

I know that You are the Truth.  In this world of deception, You are the Way.  Your book brings me Hope and Joy.  Your book reminds me what true Love is.  I know that no matter how far we fall, we can rise with You.  Thank you for always being there to remind us.  Thank you for always welcoming us back.  Help me to boast of you, not of me.  Help those who do not know you to find the way back to you, so that they too may boast of your goodness.  You are my God.  I boast of your goodness. I boast that I am your child and I am loved by you!

 

Faith of Abraham

So this past week, I took my only son to college, and dropped him off for a new adventure.  And as proud as I am of him, the separation is heart-wrenching.

This morning the Bible opened to the story of Abraham and Isaac:

Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance.  Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Here I am,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”  “My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”

Genesis 22:2-12

This story challenges me, even more so this week.  This is faith.  This is putting God before all else.  Do I have the will and desire to put God before all else?  I like to think I do but my actions rarely carry this out.  Could I have done what Abraham did?  I feel pretty strongly that as much as I would like to say yes, the answer is no.  It was hard enough just to drop my son off at college.  Thankfully, God has not tested me in this way.  Probably because I don’t pass the much smaller tests.  All too frequently I fail to put God before work, before social media, before my favorite TV show, before sleep, before whatever it is I want to do.  I blame the lack of time, the busy world, the need to be there for others.  After all, the world is exhausting.  These seem like good excuses, don’t they?  Of course, they are not.  Especially since God promises us the rest that we need:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30

Why then do I let the world get in the way of what I need.  Why do I let it stop me from coming to God, putting Him first.  The only answer is a lack of faith, a lack of patience and a lack of a willingness to sacrifice.  I know God is the answer.  I know He will provide.  I know that it is only through Him that I will find rest and peace.  But my senses are bombarded with the worldly promises of happiness, which never quite come true.  I don’t want to give up what I want.  I don’t like to sacrifice.  I am stuck in the world and mindset of “I want it now” and if I can’t get what I want now, I will settle for what seems like the next best thing.  This is what keeps me from having the faith of Abraham.  And as I say it out loud, I know how stupid it sounds, how childish it sounds, and I pray, as my son heads off on his own, that he has not learned this from me.

God,

I know that you are everything, everything that I want, everything that I need.  I want the faith of Abraham.  I want to put you first above all else, but I am struggling.  Help me, Lord.  I am burdened and weary.  Fill me with your love and your peace.  Fill me with your strength so I can resist the temptations of what seems easy.  Give me the patience and faith when I cannot see you or feel you to not settle for something else.  I love my son and I miss him dearly, but I love and miss you more.  Pull me back into your arms, so that I may do your will and stop worrying about my own.  (And please provide the same for my son as he begins to embark on his own in this world of distraction).

Blame No More

How many times have I cursed Adam and Eve.  How could they be so stupid and selfish to ruin it for the rest of us?  I like to think I would have been better.  I would have resisted the temptation.  If I were in the Garden of Eden with all of the goodness around me, where everything was easy and happy, I would never have been so stupid and so ungrateful.  I would have been satisfied with what I had.  I like to think that…  But I probably prove daily that I too would have fallen, indeed I do fall.

Today, I re-read the story we all know so well,  and what struck me is Adam and Eve’s response to God and God’s response to Adam and Eve:

When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.”

Genesis 3:8-13

Wow!  Not only do they disobey God, but then they blame others for it.  Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake.  They almost sound like 5 year olds.  “It wasn’t my fault.”  “She made me do it.”  Our shame often makes us blame others for our actions.  Society seems to encourage us to ignore individual responsibility.  We fill the courts with lawsuits blaming someone else for things that “happen” to us.  It’s the gun manufacturer’s fault, the bartender’s fault, the drug manufacturer’s fault.  Social media, video games, movies and TV all cause us to do things we know are wrong.  Its hard to correct our behavior when we refuse to accept that we make the choices that lead to evil.  There are plenty of snakes out there, plenty of temptations, but we make choices.  And as much as I want to blame Adam and Eve for all of the misfortunes in the world, or blame politicians or media or others, I make choices everyday.  I cannot hide from my actions.

I do not want to be like Adam and Eve blaming others. When we blame others, it is easy to become victims and feel helpless.   I cannot control others, but I can control my choices.  I need to open my eyes to my choices.  I need to take responsibility, and seek God’s forgiveness, for my actions.

We often focus on the man and the woman in the story, Adam and Eve.  But the best part of the story is God. God knows His children have sinned, have disobeyed Him, have not trusted His goodness, but He does not turn His back on them.  He searches for them.  He calls for them.  Just as He calls us back to Him.  We think of this as the greatest sin, the original one, the one that started it all.  But look at what God does.  Adam and Eve have turned from Him, but God doesn’t give up on them, or us.  He comes down to earth to meet Adam and Eve.  He meets us where we are.   They are hiding in the darkness of the trees and God calls for them. God calls us out of the darkness.  He questions them about what they have done.  He helps us recognize our sin because He wants us to do better.  God does all of this for Adam and Eve, and He does the same for us.  We chose to know evil, and God keeps calling us back to know good.

Lord,

You show me again and again how great you are.  Your plans for us are good.  You know better than us what we need and what we don’t.  Forgive me for the times I have turned away, for the times I have thought I have known better, for the times I have blamed others.  I want to know good.  I want to know you.  I don’t need anything other than you and your plan for me.

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

It is Pentecost.  The day we celebrate the gift (and gifts) of the Holy Spirit. What an amazing and blessed day.

Last night my church celebrated Pentecost with a beautiful vigil.  To the outside world it may not have seemed that way.  The attendance was low.  The music quit working not once, not twice, but multiple times.  The wind blew the candles out in the candle-light procession, not once, not twice, but multiple times.  Rain began to fall during the celebratory bonfire.  To the outside world, perhaps not a success.  But what the outside world didn’t know — what the outside world never fully appreciates — is the true beauty of God’s presence.  And God was there.  The Holy Spirit was there.  I felt His presence almost immediately.

For several weeks, I have been struggling because I felt disconnected from God.  The world had become too busy.  Human events had dominated my life.  I had tried, and failed, on several occasions to welcome God back in, but quickly became distracted again by what the world deems important.

Last night, when the man-made speakers failed, and the flames from the man-made candles blew out, I felt the presence of God.  I felt His Spirit fall upon us.  And it was good.

Today the Bible opened up to the last verse in Matthew:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

This passage tells me a few things, all of which reinforced my experience last night.  First, the apostles who had spent three years with Jesus, doubted, even when He stood right before them.  This is comforting.  Because I too have doubted.  I have felt disconnected.  I have felt lost.  I have doubted.  Even when God is right there in front of me.

Second, of course, is the commission by Jesus to all of us to go and make disciples of all nations.  His name, His love and His commandments are not something we can keep to ourselves.

And third, and the one that I could use a reminder of every day, is the last line of Matthew’s gospel: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Sometimes I can feel God’s presence in a powerful way.  I become overwhelmed and am often brought to tears.  Other times, particularly when I am distracted by the world, I miss that feeling.  But He is there.  Behold, He is with us always.

And like last night, when things seem to be going wrong, or not in line with what we as humans have planned, God shows us that His plan is better and can not be judged by human standards.  He is with us.  As a Father who loves us, as the Son who carries our burdens and as the Holy Spirit who guides us.  He is with us and He will love us, carry us and guide us when we least expect it and in ways the human world cannot fully understand.

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

 

 

Joy in the Morning; Separating Light from Darkness

Do you ever lie awake at night just waiting for the morning to come?  And it seems to take forever?  The morning brings light.  It takes away the darkness and shadows.  The morning brings renewal, a fresh start.  But sometimes the night seems long. The darkness seems eternal.  Will the sun ever shine again?  Will the sun really come out tomorrow, as orphan Annie sings?

David reminds us in his Psalm:

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5

The night is dark.  And sometimes it sneaks up on us.    And sometimes it lasts longer than we like.  It tarries. It lingers.  It waits.  But God created light from darkness.  And His light brings joy.  There is no darkness that He cannot shine through.  From the beginning, God has created light where there was darkness:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—  and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1-4

We do not have the power to create light, but we can find it.  We tarry in darkness, searching for the light, hoping for the light.  And sometimes we forget that the light is right there in front of us.  Because we struggled to see it on our own, God sent us Jesus.  Peter reminds us of this:

Therefore, I will always remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this “tent,” to stir you up by a reminder, since I know that I will soon have to put it aside, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me.  I shall also make every effort to enable you always to remember these things after my departure.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.

2 Peter 1:12-21

God sent us Jesus — to be our guiding light in the darkness.  He is our lamp in the dark world “until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  We do well to be attentive to Him.  No matter how dark the place is, no matter how dark or long the night, the day will dawn.  The day will dawn.  Jesus will be our light until it does, until we fully allow the morning star, God’s light and love to rise in our heart.

Jesus,

You are my light!  I do not want to tarry in the darkness.  Help me make it to the dawn.  Help the morning star rise in my heart.  I want you to fill my heart and my life, with your light and love.  You separate light from darkness.  Help separate me from the darkness.

 

Go, Set the World on Fire

The last few weeks the words “go forth”, “don’t be confined” and St. Ignatius’ words: “ite, inflammate Omnia” (“go, set the world on fire”) have weighed heavy on my mind.  I sit at mass and honestly think mainly about myself, my relationship with God, what I want, what I need.  But then at the end, we are sent out.  Go forth.  Glorify the Lord by your life.  Spread the Good News.

Today the Bible opened to Jeremiah:

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”

But the LORD answered me, Do not say, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:4-8

There is so much in this passage.  First, God knows us.  He formed us.  But even before He formed us in the womb, He knew us and He knows us.  He knows you.  He knows me.  He knows what we are capable of and He dedicated each of us for a purpose.  He knows us, better than we know ourselves. As I read that and feel this realization, I have tears in my eyes.  What an incredible feeling to realize this.  He knows us.  I don’t know that any person really knows me.  But He does.

Now to the second point.  As great as the first point makes me feel, the second makes me hang my head, because I feel like I answer God’s call, much like Jeremiah did.  Not me God.  I do not know how to speak.  I am too young.  I do not have the knowledge.  Someone else could do it better.  I don’t know all the rules.  I don’t know all of the scriptures.  What if I say the wrong thing.  What if someone else disagrees with me.  I need someone else to lead me and guide me.  I have lots of reasons why it shouldn’t be me.  Lots of reasons to say no when I feel God nudge me or even out right shout to me.

Which leads to the third point.  God knows us.  He has dedicated us for a purpose.  And when He tells us to go, we should go.  When He tells us to speak, we should speak.  “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”  Do not be afraid.  God will lead.  We may not have this, but God does.  He’s got this.  And when He tells us to do something, it is because He knows the plan.  And although we may not know everything, He does.  He knows what we are capable of.  It may be beyond dispute that we cannot do it on our own, but we can do anything through God.

Lord,

Thank you for forming me.  Thank you for knowing me, even when I don’t know myself.  Thank you for having a purpose for me.  Help me be ready to say yes.  No matter how many excuses I throw up, knock down my resistance and my fear.  Send me, Lord.  Help me to hear your call.  Help me to listen.  Help me to respond and follow your plan.  I want to spread your Good News.   I want to help set the world on fire with your Spirit.  Send me, Lord.  Fill me with your Spirit and send me.

 

Comfort dog? Or Comfort God

As humans, we desperately search for comfort.  Hotels, cars, furniture, clothes, even foods, all advertise and try to lure us in because of the comfort that they provide.  We long for comfort.  We long for true fellowship and the comfort that it brings.

We struggle to find it in ourselves and in each other.  So we look for it in things.  And we look for it in God’s other creatures.  Comfort animals have become the latest “in” thing.  No one asks to bring a comfort human with them wherever they go, but there are plenty of requests for comfort peacocks, comfort rabbits, comfort bearded dragons, and, of course, comfort dogs.  In the last several years, the numbers of individuals carrying comfort dogs in their arms, or on leashes or in crates, wherever they go has greatly increased — why?  They help fill our need for comfort.  They don’t talk back.  They don’t judge.  They are fully present and attentive with us. They appear to love us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

We so long for that comfort, and we so often miss the mark as to where to find it. As usual, we have it backwards.  We look to a comfort d-o-g, when we should be looking to G-o-d.

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded where we can take comfort.  King David frequently rejoices in God’s comfort in his psalms:

My soul rests in God alone,

from whom comes my salvation.

God alone is my rock and salvation,

my fortress; I shall never fall.

Psalms 62:2-3

St. Paul also rejoices in the comfort of our Lord who has enriched us with spiritual gifts and provided us with grace through Jesus:

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ].  God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

We don’t need a new car, or the softest fabric.  We don’t need a certified comfort animal.  God will keep us firm to the end.  He alone is our rock and our salvation.  Where our human comfort fails, God is faithful and by him we are called to fellowship with Jesus.  It is only through Him that we truly find peace, rest and comfort.  How did David and Paul know this?  Because God tells us.  He told Moses and Joshua (and tells us):

Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

He told us again through his son, Jesus:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

Although this world may make us feel alone and afraid, God is always with us.  He has spoken back to us, in a good way, through His word.  If we truly turn to him, we will find ourselves buried in His chest before we can even fully turn around, because He is in fact that close.  He is the peace and the comfort that we crave.  He is always fully present and attentive with us.  He loves us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

Lord,

You are my rock and my salvation.  You are my comfort and my peace.  When I am lost and afraid, help me to remember to turn to you.  I want you to be my comfort.  I want to rest in your arms.  Thank you for telling us time and time again that you are here.  Help us to listen, every day and particularly when we need it most.  It is so easy to get lost in this world.  Thank you for all of your beautiful creation, including the animals that bring us comfort, and all of mankind.  Help us to do a better job of bringing each other comfort (through love and fellowship rather than material things).  Help us always know that true comfort comes when we turn to you, when we are in fellowship with you.  I want to live in that fellowship.  I want others to share in that fellowship. Help me to bring your love and comfort to others.

Proclamation

I am done with the labels of the world.  I am done with being pigeon holed into a man-made category or group.  I no longer want to identify or segregate myself into divisions that we create.  I am done with picking sides.  I am neither a Republican, nor a Democrat.  I am neither a Patriot, nor a Ram.  I am not American or German or French or English.  I am neither a man, nor a feminist.  I am not white or black or Hispanic or Asian. I am neither clergy, nor laity.  Our human “teams” are wrong.  We are fighting the wrong battles.  We are playing the wrong game.  We are fighting against each other instead of helping each other reach the ultimate goal that we all should share. I do not fully agree with any side and yet I easily get swept up on one team, angry, or even hating, the other team. No more!  Let this be my proclamation.

I am a child of God.  I am no longer going to conform my words or actions to any group other than the one God has called me to be.  God has not chosen one political party.  God has not chosen one country.  God has chosen you and me.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.  For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.

Romans 12:2-5

Lord,

Your team is the only team I want to be on.  Your side is the only side I want to take.  Help me not to get swept up in the “teams” and “sides” of this age.  Help me not to try to fit in.  I belong to you and you alone.  Help me to uplift and unite rather than split and divide into teams or sides.  Guide me to your will and to seek only what is good and pleasing to you.

A house divided: what side are you on?

A house divided cannot stand.  I have heard this saying many times.  But I am not sure I ever realized that it came from the Bible. Today as I read the Gospel reading, and then re-read it and re-read it again, I struggled to understand what Jesus was saying.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”* and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

Mark 3:22-27

We are a nation divided. Deeply divided. How can we stand?

Currently we do not stand. We do not stand together. We do not stand at all.  We cower behind social media.  We attack children who wear red hats and call them racists; we attack infants in their mothers’  wombs and call those who oppose it sexist.  We build walls that only divide us.  We oppose the death penalty for even our most heinous criminals but celebrate murder of our most innocent victims.  A house divided will not stand…  but are we standing now?

My first thought when I heard this passage, was a call to unity.  We must come together as a country, or we will fall.

But as I read the full passage, Jesus compares the kingdom and house to Satan.  At the end of the day, I am not sure it is necessarily about coming together as a country, although that would be a nice by-product.  It is about coming together as God’s people.  Kingdoms fall.  Houses fall.  These are human creations.  And when Satan gets a hold of them, Satan causes division.  Satan does not fight himself.  Satan will not drive himself out.  He will not go against himself.  Only God can defeat Satan.  Only God can drive him out.

But God gave us free will.  We can choose Satan.  We can choose division.  We can stay quiet and not stand.  We can choose not to oppose what we know to be wrong.  We can choose to take our fight to social media, instead of taking our plight to God.  We can be weak and allow Satan to plunder our house, plunder our country, because we are not strong enough, on our own, to stop him.  Or we can choose God.  God has the power to bind Satan.  God has the power to unite.  God and only God has the power to save, to destroy Satan, to destroy the division that Satan creates.  To heal our country.  But we have to choose.  God will not stop us from choosing Satan.  We have to choose.

I choose you God!  I am not strong enough to defeat Satan.  I am not strong enough to fix the division that permeates our country.  I need your help.  I want your help.  We are weak.  As a country, we are lost.  Guide us.  Lead us.  Show us your way.  Help our leaders find your way.  Help each of us, leader or not, seek you.  Help us come together united as your children. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  You are my Way, my Truth and my Life.   I reject Satan.  I choose you!