Sunday, February 22, 2009


"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:25-29).

When the lawyer posed this question, Jesus responded with a parable. He told of a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, but was severely wounded and robbed by thieves on his way. They "stripped him," wounded him," and "departed, leaving him half dead." It just so happened, however, that a priest and a Levite passed by that very place--they could help him. But, for some reason, they didn't. Instead, they "passed by on the other side." Later, another man passed by that place as well--a Samaritan. The Samaritan came to where the man was, "had compassion on him," "bound up his wounds," "set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." On the next day, when he had to leave, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper two pence and "said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."

Why did the first two men pass on the other side? Why didn't they stop to help? Surely, if we were to see a man suffering so, we would not ignore him; we would not put our own obligations above the chance to help. I can look back at times in my life when I've seen people begging on the street, and I tried to offer what help I could, and to be honest, I think I can say that yes, I would stop to help that dying man. However, what about those people who aren't "half dead" on the side of the road? What about those people whose afflictions you can't even see?

I can tell you that I am guilty of passing by on the other side every single day. I'm extremely guilty of the tendency to set my own schedule, map out my own obligations, and follow through with them, so that I can accomplish what I need to in my own life. Unfortunately, as I've gotten busier and busier this semester, I've stopped praying for God to give me opportunities to help, and I've stopped actively seeking out those who are struggling. Maybe those two men had a meeting to get to, or a paper to write before midnight. I don't know. All I know is that when I read this parable tonight, I was appalled at their behavior. I could not believe their open neglect towards their fellow man. But then the Spirit whispered to me that I was guilty of the very same offense.

God needs us to be tools in helping His children. For all I know, I could be sitting at a table for lunch, and God has put me next to a person who severely needs someone to talk to. But because my perspective is zeroed in on my needs and my worries, I could potentially be passing by many suffering people who need the assistance of a Good Samaritan.

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:36-37).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

No More Ragdolls

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).

The angel told her that she was to bear a son. When we consider the circumstances, we realize that to accept this call was a profound act of faith and testimony on Mary's part. She had not known a man before this. When the spirit was to cause her to be pregnant, no one else experienced the visitation that she did, and no one else had the proof from God that this pregnancy was divine, and not a result of immorality. She consciously accepted the impending shame and doubt from her friends, family, and Joseph. But, instead of backing away, or asking the Lord to find a different way, "Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38).

Mary is a hero of mine. Despite the fact that she's estimated to be only 11-13 years of age when this happens, she takes the challenge of the Lord and does it with a bold heart. No wonder the angel Gabriel calls her "highly favoured," and "blessed...among women." She, and her son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate examples of aligning your will with God's will. To us, who rely on logic and whatever we can conclude based on our current, limited perspective, believing that God's ways are the right ways is often a big leap of faith. God's way sometimes seems like downright nonsense. But we must remember that He is our Father. He knows best. And we will be blessed, and "highly favoured" if we follow him with an unfailing heart and steadfast faith.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

"And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:35-36).

In that time period, people did not address God as Father. Rather, titles such as Master of the Universe and King of the Cosmos were used. But here we see that Jesus comes before God Almighty and addresses him with the Hebrew and Aramaic title of Abba, Father. Jesus was born through the Virgin Mary and God Almighty by immaculate conception. He is the Son--the true Son of God. Thus, he rightly addresses the Ruler of the Universe as "Father." He falls down on the ground, prostrating himself, assuming the position of ultimate submission in Jewish prayer. Truly he is humbled, and "exceedingly sorrowful unto death" (14:34). He seeks comfort from his father, and reassurance that this is the right time and the right way.

In Galatians 4:4-6, it says "when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."

Christ is not only our Redeemer and Savior, but he is also the mediator through which we are brought unto God. Because of his sacrifice, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God, and thus, we may now rightfully address our almighty god as "Father." So, what does that mean? Why does it matter?

What it means is that now when I fall down on the ground, when I am "exceedingly sorrowful" and humbled by hardship, I too can turn to a divine Father in Heaven. When I seek comfort, when I seek reassurance, when I need to know whether it is the right time or the right way, I too can cry "Abba, Father."

Maybe for others that change in address isn't all that significant. But for me, during those times in my life when I've fallen to my knees in pure desperation, being able to access not only divine assistance, but fatherly assistance is something pretty darn significant. Because I am His daughter, He knows me by name. He knows my joys and my heartaches, my dreams and my deepest insecurities. Because He is my Father, He knows what is best for me.

And so, Abba, Father, you know what is best: not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


In chapter 14, Mark tells the story of the woman who breaks "an alabaster box of ointment," "very precious," and pours it on Jesus' head. Right away, there are some who have "indignation within themselves," and say "Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor." Jesus then tells them to leave her alone, "For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always."

On Friday after class, I sat down and read this passage. I had just finished an extremely busy week, and I wanted to just sit still and think for a while. The majority of my studies this week have been focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the tragic state of Gaza and the obstacles in providing humanitarian aid, and the desperate condition of the "failed state" of Haiti. I'm trying to learn about these things. I'm trying to figure out how I can help. For the majority of this semester I've made a conscious effort to be uplifting to everyone I encounter, I've tried to live righteously and in a way that God would want me to, I've tried to be anxiously engaged in a good cause. But, as I read Mark 14, I wondered if the many things I'm filling my life with were detracting from something higher, something better. This woman came to Jesus, broke this box of ointment, and poured the whole of its contents on his head. She gave him her all. Whether she knew it or not, she anointed him for his impending burial. When I read this woman's story, I felt as though I don't have enough moments in my life where I completely surrender my mind and heart to the spirit. I thought of an Orthodox Jewish community--a community where your life centers around prayer, praise, and fervent study of God's words. I wish my life more resembled theirs. I suppose I do praise God often in the sense that I try to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, I try to help my fellow man, I try to help God's children. But, is that the best way? Would I feel closer to God if my life centered around meditation and prayer? If I spent the entirety of my time reading scriptures and pondering?

In my New Testament class, we discussed the response of the other people to the woman's anointing. Surely they didn't have any evil intents in suggesting that she should have rather given the benefits of the ointment to the poor. However, we discussed that it is a tactic of Satan to distort things into either/or decisions, when instead, this story is raising the question of priority. In this gospel, you do what's right at the right time. I think I would feel that burning in my bosom more often if all my time were spent in praise and prayer and meditation, but to be honest, I don't think I would understand Christ and God as much if I lived a passive life of praise. Because of my efforts to be an active disciple, I've met people who have taught me to love, to worry, to agonize over their welfare and salvation. I've learned, on a small scale, what Christ experienced and how he feels about me.

They must be concurrent efforts. You must be actively engaged in a good cause. But, you must also take those moments to stop, sit quietly, and open your heart to the spirit, pour all your gratitude on the head of the Savior. There's a time for all things. There's a balance to all things.