Naked and Unashamed

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Genesis 3:1-24, Hebrews 2:1-10, John 1:19-28


“Who told you that you were naked?”

That’s the question God asks Adam and Eve when He finds they have covered themselves in fig leaves because they are ashamed. No one had to tell them; they knew as soon as they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What exactly about their nakedness was shameful? Minutes earlier it hadn’t bothered them – or God – at all. Perhaps it wasn’t the physical nakedness that shamed them, but the spiritual nakedness. That’s a lot harder to cover up.

Was there really anything special about the fruit? If God had commanded them not to sit in the Lawn Chair of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the serpent would have reminded them how tired their legs were. It was inevitable.

Our reason for desiring “forbidden fruit” always seems solid … right up until we begin to pay the consequences. Like every human being, Adam and Eve already had the capacity for good and evil, but because they had not been disobedient, they did not have the knowledge of it. Immediately upon disobeying God they became aware of how deeply flawed they actually were. Like any one of us, they didn’t want those flaws exposed to the world or to God. Fumbling to conceal themselves only made mistakes more apparent. Whether or not we believe in a literal Eden, the story teaches us that as soon as we are aware of our disobedience, we feel separated from God.  The knowledge is not contained in the fruit, but in the bite.

It took a Christ who was willing to die on our behalf to reveal to us that God loves and forgives us despite our flaws. Our vain and impossible attempts at perfecting ourselves – our fig leaves – only further separate us from God, because we inevitably fall short and condemn ourselves. We’d be better off never having covered up at all. Christ invites us to drop the fig leaves and return to God on God’s terms – spiritually naked and humbly dependent. Christ uncovers our shame, and covers us in love.

Comfort: God loves you just as you are.

Challenge: In what ways are you still trying to prove yourself to God? How can you let go of these “fig leaves?”

Prayer: Loving Creator, I present myself humbly before you. I trust that you love me despite my sins and failures. I thank you for Christ who strengthens and redeems me. Amen.

Discussion: What tempts you? How do you feel after you give in?

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Spit, Mud, and Healing

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new window/tab):
Psalms 20; 145, Joshua 3:14-4:7, Ephesians 5:1-20, John 9:1-12, 35-38


All four gospels tell the story of Jesus healing a blind man on the Sabbath. The mechanics of it are simple: he spits on the ground, makes mud, and rubs it on the man’s eyes. Afterward the man rinses the mud off and can see. Mud and spittle were a common enough medical treatment in the Greco-Roman world of the period, so it’s very likely someone had tried this remedy before, maybe more than once. What was so different about Jesus? We could say “He was the magic son of God!” and be satisfied with that answer, but the story reveals more.

Jesus started from a different perspective than the people around him: they believed the man was blind because he had sinned, but Jesus told them that was not true. Instead, he saw an opportunity to reveal God’s glory by helping someone who hadn’t even asked for help.

How much dirt and spit have we wasted by pre-judging a situation? How could a different perspective help transform the most common, mundane elements in our lives into opportunities to reveal God’s love to the world? Residents of Cateura, Paraguay are a fine example. Their survival depends on harvesting recyclables from an enormous trash dump just outside one of the poorest slums in South America. But in this, they have found beauty: they have crafted a world-renowned children’s orchestra of instruments made from discarded articles pulled from the dump.

A blind beggar turned into a prophet. Broken pipes turned into flutes. The people and things in our lives that seem broken or useless transformed by the power of the Spirit into … what? We may not restore someone’s sight, but we can help restore hope, peace of mind, or the simple comfort of a hot meal and a warm bed. What if we have dirt or spittle (metaphorically speaking) but not both? Then we have an opportunity to combine our resources with another person’s, and the invitation for the working of the Spirit is doubled (or tripled, or…). Looking with Christ’s eyes, we see brokenness as only the first step toward wholeness.

Comfort: No matter how broken we may be, God can put us back together.

Challenge: What relationships or situations in your life have you written off as too broken to fix? Ask a friend or mentor how you might change your perspective on the situation to better resolve it.

Prayer: Gracious God, teach  me to see opportunities instead of problems. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever witnessed or experienced healing where others had written off any such possibility?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Love Dangerously

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Readings: Psalms 90; 149, Haggai 2:1-9, Revelation 3:1-6, Matthew 24:1-14


Love hurts.

More than a pop song cliche, it’s a truth which is unpleasant and unavoidable – unless we opt out of love altogether. Whether we cause the pain or feel it, every relationship is eventually tested. Marriages struggle. Children leave home. Children fail to leave home. Friends let us down. The songs are usually about romantic love, but it’s true even of the agape love practiced by followers of Christ.

How many times heard someone say (or said ourselves), “I just don’t want to be hurt … again?”  Maybe they were cheated on. Maybe they were taken advantage of. The reasons for hurt are endless but here’s the thing: we already hurt, because we are already broken people in a broken world. There is no “again;” there is only “still.”

The pain of love is different from the pain of brokenness. The pain of love is like a bone being set, a wound being drained, or the pain of pouring out our secrets to a therapist. It is a productive pain and if we choose to avoid it, healing eludes us.

When Christ asks us to love God and to love one another, he promises us a spiritual comfort but does not promise us a life free of pain or danger. To the contrary, he warns us our choice to follow him into a life of agape love will cause many to scorn us and possibly put us in harm’s way. That harm isn’t always physical. Sometimes it is an injury to the spirit that occurs precisely because we have chosen to help others. Loving leaves us vulnerable.

Like our bodies, our spirits have an instinct to recoil from that which hurts us. As the Great Physician, Jesus tells us the remedy often means taking a greater risk and putting ourselves in danger of more pain – not to become victims or masochists, but to improve our spiritual health. Eventually love mends the breaks and wounds in our spirit, but we must take risks.

Love hurts. Not loving hurts more, because improperly set spiritual bones leave us as hobbled as physical ones.

Comfort: It may take a long time, but loving others heals our own brokenness.

Challenge: For an example of love that valued risk over comfort, read this perspective on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Prayer: Loving God, give me the courage to love, even when doing so is dangerous. Amen.

Discussion: Different people have different methods of expressing love and recognizing when they are loved. What are yours? (If you’re not sure, maybe take a look at the The 5 Love Languages site of Dr. Gary Chapman).

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!