This week’s headline-grabbing events have displayed the highs and the lows of life on planet earth.
There were celebrations and tragedies, triumphs and losses, laughter and tears that touched both the well-known and ordinary folks. There were longings fulfilled and achievements noted, dreams and nightmares that both came to life, hopes raised and crushed.
And all of it presses us to Jesus. How?
+ You may have heard that there was a little $34-million wedding in London, England. Prince William and Kate Middleton wed in a ceremony marked by all the majestic pomp that the British monarchy could produce. It was talked about from every angle for weeks. Over 1 billion people across the globe watched the proceedings on television.
Where does this fascination with royalty come from? Something tucked in our hearts longs to experience the privilege of monarchy’s position, wealth, and beauty. Our imaginations whirl over the possibilities of taking Kate’s journey, from commoner to royalty.
And yet, Jesus’ gospel promise is that everyone who trusts in Him to save is adopted into His Father God’s family, as God’s own child. “You received…the adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba, Father!’. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ….” (Rom.8:15-17)
The eternal King of the universe, Creator of heaven and earth, the Ruler of before whom all earthly rulers will bow, calls you “child”. By mercy, He transforms common sinners like us into royalty- princes and princesses who bear our King’s name, have access to our King’s presence, and can lay claim to the King’s treasures. This forever, Almighty King is our Father.
Instead of a crown and a king’s riches…please…give me Jesus.
+ Thousands of pilgrims (many from Poland) are flooding Rome this weekend in anticipation of the beatification of Pope John Paul II. In the Roman Catholic tradition, this act advances the former Karol Wolewjia one step closer to sainthood. The official investigation has resulted in at least one person (a French nun with Parkinson’s disease) claiming a miraculous healing after prayers directed to Pope John Paul II.
So, in the words of one commentator, this is a strong example of how to live the Christian life, to “do what one must do in order to achieve this sort of life and become a saint.”
Of course, that is precisely the opposite of what the gospel says. The gospel reminds us that we have nothing on our spiritual resume that “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6) Even after we have trusted Christ for forgiveness of sin, we only display what we have received from our Father by grace. (John 3:27, James 1:17)
Sainthood is not a position attained by our consistent work at doing and saying saintly things. That makes sainthood a movement from earth to heaven, and limits sainthood to a few who are evidently faithful in their walk with Christ.
Sainthood is a position given by grace through the completed and applied work of Jesus Christ. That makes sainthood a movement from heaven to earth, and opens sainthood to all God’s people, who are then empowered to live out who they already are in holiness, righteousness and joy. “…. to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. (1 Cor.1:2)
If sainthood is our responsibility to achieve, faith spirals into a guilt-producing burden of religious performance. But is sainthood is a gift, it can be gratefully received and calmly lived…because of Jesus.
Instead of religion’s effort…please…give me Jesus.
+ The horrific aftermath from the tornado outbreak in Alabama and Georgia is almost beyond comprehension. The sheer number of lives lost is staggering. So many homes and possessions were destroyed in an instant. The future course of lives and communities has been forever changed because of a storm that lasted minutes and swept by most in seconds.
It’s been a joy to watch so many volunteers, many of them Christians, descend on the storm-ravaged areas to do what they can to help. There’s been an instant outpouring of real-life, real-time compassion for people. People have come to put skin on Jesus’ invitation: “ Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
But…do you ever get weary of the brokenness of the world? Broken hearts, broken bodies, broken lives are everywhere. Earthquakes in Chile. Devastating floods (and an earthquake) in Australia. An earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Wildfires in Texas. Tornadoes in the South. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Social unrest in Syria, Yemen and Egypt. Terrorism threats everywhere. Economic distress and rising gas prices. Arrogant political gamesmanship instead of humble statesmanship by so-called leaders at every level and from every political persuasion. Trashy talk and a cesspool of morality in entertainment. Murder and abuse (physical and verbal) that tears apart families and seems to hit the youngest the hardest. Bullying in schools –in person and on-line- that leads to suicides. Cynicism from all generations about the world and each other. And sometimes, brokenness is evident in Jesus’ own church.
What do you do with that? You remember the promise:
“Consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he already has. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom. 8:16-25)
Then you cry out even when words fail. “We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words…according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27)
You cry out, trusting His purposes (Rom. 8:28-30) and His love from which we can never be separated. (Rom. 8:31-39)
You cry out, three simple words: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
All the joys, longings and sorrows of this world find their fulfillment or meaning in Jesus.
So, instead of them… .and even in the midst of them…please….give me Jesus.