Monday, December 07, 2009

Second Monday of Advent, '09

" I am waiting to take up my corner of the stretcher, and tear through the roof that keeps my friends from you. Come, Lord Jesus." Luke 5:17-26.

So this morning one of my friends Tweets me asking how I am. "I want Jesus to come, too, she said. "But are you okay???" She's not the only person who's asked me that. I'm thankful to God for their concern. I understand it. Some of my Tweets have sounded a pretty sad and reflective. But they should be! Advent is a penitential season, and penance is often full of mourning.

It's not like I'm sitting here in sackcloth and ashes. I'm just taking these daily little pilgrimages deep within my soul every time I type the words, "I am waiting..." I'll be honest. And sometimes I find sorrow in my longing. But it's a sorrowful joy, because I have so much hope.

Still, this devotion is not without it's challenges. I'm not used to waiting for Jesus. Most of the time I'm certain that, he's here. That doesn't mean I never worry--though it probably should. And it doesn't mean I never miss the mark and sin. The Lord knows I do. What I mean is the gift of his presence is rarely hidden from me now, but I have to admit, waiting for him has surprised me. Most years any sorrow I felt this time of year had everything to do with an unrelenting sense that I'd failed my children. So, I worked and begged for as many Christmas presents I can get my hands on so they could have "a good Christmas." And all I did was create a bunch of people who expected stacks of presents every year, whether or not we could afford them. But this year, I'll have to teach them something else, and if God gives me strength, wisdom, and grace, I'll be able to articulate to them what's really good about Christmas, and what gifts, indeed, keep on giving. Like friendship, particularly the friendship of women.

Lisa and I are doing the same devotion, posting the "I am waiting" prayers, but for several days I found the scope of her longing much larger than mine. I bowed my heart to my dear friend, as she taught me, without knowing she was doing it, to open my heart to include the suffering of many in my holy longing. I'd been so much about me, me, me, but my friend helped me to flip that and include the whole world in my prayers. And so much more is happening in me as the result of being near her and some others in my life, including very new friends. I'm learning that giving love at Christmas is far less about presents, and much more about presence.

The gospel today is about friendship: Luke 5:17-26. I'm going to share it with you, with a few modifications. Indulge me.

"Jesus was teaching one day, and among the audience there were people who were deeply spiritual for a living, and seminarians who had come Lexington Theological Seminary, along with a few teachers from Georgetown, and the University of Kentucky, and one guy even flew in from Colorado Springs! And the Power of the Lord was behind his works of healing. Jesus' work, that is. Not so much the guy from Colorado Springs.

Then some women appeared, struggling to carry a stretcher with a paralyzed woman whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of him. They loved her that much, to carry her by their own hands through that throng of people. But the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting her in, so the ladies went up on to the flat roof and lowered her and her stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. This wasn't easy. Women don't like to make a big mess, and none of these gals wanted to bring a lot of unwanted attention to their friend. They just wanted her to get some help. It was hard on all of them to watch her to languish that way. Her kids had to crawl in bed, just to be with their mom, and her spirits were sagging beneath the weight of her illness. Guilt and shame assaulted her daily. What were four gals who loved their friend fiercely to do? Tear through the roof, of course.

Seeing their faith Jesus said to the woman on the stretcher, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ The ladies gasped in delight, and tears sprang to their eyes. He may as well have said all of their sins were forgiven, and maybe, in some way, they were. The grace given to one affected all, and the five of them began to rejoice. Forgiveness of sins was enough.

The teachers and the professional Christians began to think this over. And you know what happens when church folks think. ‘Who is this man talking blasphemy?' they asked. 'Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Needless to say, the ladies were too busy being happy and healed to have even noticed this conversation.

Jesus, aware of the professional Christian's thoughts, said this: ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralyzed woman – ‘I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’

And immediately before their very eyes she got up, picked up what she had been lying on she and her girls went home praising God, their arms linked around each other, crying, and laughing, all of them healed with the one. And the people were all astounded and praised God, and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’ But the friends never said this at all. They knew what could happen when you love like that: enough to go to Jesus, breaking through the opposition, because you just can't stand to see your girl suffer like that anymore."

Sure, I took a few liberties, but we have to make the Word personal, right? I'm so fortunate. So bombarded with grace. My girls take me, sin sick and paralyzed by insecurity and fear, to Jesus. They break through whatever barriers they need to, with their practical ways of loving. They talk to me for hours on the phone, reminding me when I'm curled up in a ball in bed, of who I am, and what it is I do. They send checks when I'm not expecting them so the rent can get paid on the short months, or for "whatever" on the impossible months. They press twenties into my hand, and whisper so my babies standing beside me can't hear, "Get some of those coats on sale we were talking about for all of you." And they show up with a Christmas tree later that night because they know you can't afford one. These women send emails and Tweets that say, "Are you okay." But only after they've sent a few urgent prayers up for me.

Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have, I'm going to give because of what the women in my life have taught me. I can pick up the phone and call a few people I know would like to hear from me. I can send a kind message or two to a few friends on the net. A new lovie was just diagnosed with breast cancer. If it's one thing I have it's food! This gospel (and my friends) have inspired me to take her a basket of goodies that will bolster her health the natural way. It's my small way of giving her Jesus, who is life, and healing from breast cancer. I want to take up my part of her stretcher, and break a few shingles. And in this small kindness, I may find a few of my sins forgiven.

"Come, Lord Jesus."


Okay, so the icon totally has guys on it. But what could I do? The story about the women is in my imagination! And I'm too busy writing to paint! But I'm trying lovies. Give me a minute. Maybe by Christmas I will have picked up a paint brush again.

1 comment:

Finally Free said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I am praying to be more this kind of friend.