He took on flesh

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“The daily practice of incarnation–of being in the body with full confidence that God speaks the language of the flesh–is to discover a pedagogy that is as old as the gospels. Why else did Jesus spend his last night on earth teaching His disciples to wash feet and share supper? With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, he did not give them something to think about together when he was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do–specific ways of being together in their bodies–that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when he was no longer around to teach them himself.

After he was gone, they would still have God’s Word, but that Word was going to need some new flesh. The disciples were going to need something warm and near that they could bump into on a regular basis, something so real that they would not be able to intellectualize it and so essentially untidy that there was no way they could ever gain control over it. So Jesus gave them things they could get their hands on, things that would require them to get close enough to touch one another. In the case of the meal, he gave them things they could smell and taste and swallow. In the case of the feet, he gave them things to wash that were attached to real human beings, so that they could not bend over them without being drawn into one another’s lives.

Wow. How did you get that scar? Does it hurt when I touch it? No, really, they’re not ugly. You should see mine. Yours just have a few more miles on them. Do you ever feel like you can’t go any further? Like you just want to stop right here and let this be it? I know, I can’t stop either. It’s weird, isn’t it? You follow him and you follow him, thinking that any minute now the sky is going to crack open, and you’re going to see the face of God. Then he hands you his basin and his towel, and it turns out that it’s all about feet, you know? Yours, mine, his. Feet, for God’s sake.

I am making this up, of course. Read the Bible commentaries and they will tell you that the foot washing in John’s gospel is an eschatological sign of Jesus’ descent into flesh before his exaltation to God’s right hand, or a symbolic representation of first-century baptismal theology. But I will tell you this. After years of watching bodies being dug out of craters in Manhattan and caves in Afghanistan, after the body counts coming from Southeast Asia, Gaza, and Iraq, most of us could use a reminder that God does not come to us beyond the flesh but in the flesh, at the hands of a teacher who will not be spiritualized but who goes on trusting the embodied sacraments of bread, wine, water, and feet.

‘Do this,’ he said–not believe this, but do this–‘in remembrance of me.'”

-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

for the hard days

The hard days just come.  Suddenly, you realize you’re going to have one, when you thought everything was going just fine.  When what was going along suddenly careens off course.

And the soup you made tastes like fish, and sour.
And the bread in the breadmaker is a flop, something went horribly wrong, and its barely cooked or edible (and how can you mess that up?)
And its a small failure but it wipes you out.
And you cry and your husband holds and says he’ll make dinner.
And you hear the news that the car is dead.
And the numbers in the budget won’t crunch down any further.
And you’re clinging hard to Jesus, to that simple sentence that is packed with power, that “perfect love casts out fear” {1 Jn. 4:18}
And you’re not feeling power at all.  And it doesn’t feel like perfect love at all.
And you realize for all your clinging, you are not so much holding on as you are held.

And there comes rushing in the hope: nothing can shake this one truth.  Nothing can change it.  The mountains might crumble and fall into the sea, but this one truth will remain:  I am His, and He is mine.
Forever and for all eternity.
And if by faith, and by quiet surrender, I let it be, it can be, enough.

In this life I will have trouble… but He has overcome the world.

I will suffer, but I don’t have to fear suffering, because I will survive it to glory and I know the sure end.
I know my sure end.
And it can be enough.

There’s nothing as effective as pain and need to wake one up, and I want to live awake.

I want to live awake to the reality that my tight-fisted grasping for control isn’t possible.  And in knowing that comes rest because I cannot hold onto my life, but I am HELD.  My life and all that concerns me is held in the hands of another–and He is good.  He is love.  He is out to give me ultimate joy and life.  And He says, “Do not fear for I am with you” (Isa.41:10) and He promises that His presence with me is enough.

When you don’t want Jesus

What if at the bottom of it all, at my deepest core, I don’t really care about Jesus.  I don’t really want Jesus.

What is wrong in my heart that the greatest gift could become of so little consequence in my estimation?  What is wrong in my heart that some new clothes, books, or a device are more appealing to me than Jesus?  What is wrong that I could be more excited over birthday and holiday parties to come, over planning for events and chopping down a Christmas tree and decorating the house, over Christmas cards and music, than Christ Himself?  What could have caused such a shift that what is priceless and perfection and the answer for my every longing would be lost under the pile of material things?  (Things supposedly done in the name of celebration over the Savior’s birth.)  That when the words “He is the greatest gift are whispered to my soul, my soul isn’t satisfied?  Or exhilarated?  That I don’t feel much of anything.  Maybe it’s just me.

This is why I need Advent this Christmas.  This is why I need the journey, the slow and steady and deliberate plodding from the Garden to the Manger to the Cross and the empty Tomb.  Because my heart is bent away from God.  Because lesser things continually come in and slowly, quietly, choke out the good things.  Because I want to see Him again, anew, as the greatest gift, as the best and highest and most precious thing this Christmas season.  Because I don’t want to miss Him and I don’t want a Christmas I can buy.  Because I want my heart at its core to want Jesus.  Because “the greatest gift we can give our great God is to let His love make us glad” (Voskamp, The Greatest Gift).

May He be found anew and treasured more highly than all else!

“We must be sure of the infinite good that is done to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that we may be ravished in love with our God and inflamed with a right affection to obey Him, and keep ourselves strictly in awe of Him.”  -John Calvin