Love Story

Today’s readings:
Psalms 122; 145, Isaiah 5:8-17, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Luke 21:20-28

“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
– Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, Scene I

Every classic love story involves obstacles the lovers must overcome before finally reuniting. Whether it’s warring houses a la Romeo and Juliet, or Heath Ledger’s bad boy reputation in 10 Things I Hate About You (a modern take on The Taming of the Shrew), problems both tragic and comedic arise. The basic storyline has become cliched if not outright hackneyed, yet its appeal endures.

Maybe that’s because history’s ultimate love story, that between God and humanity, has repeated this pattern over and over. In this case though the obstacles are all one-sided. We repeatedly abandon God, but God never abandons us. It may feel that way when the fallout of our actions leaves us in an unGodly place – whether metaphorically or in the case of Isaiah’s exiled audience quite literally – but God never initiates the “breakup.”

If today’s readings about destruction were part of a dramatic plot structure, we’d be squarely in the middle of Act IV: the lovers who thought they were destined to be together forever have been torn apart by [insert plot point here]. Ironically the party who seems to hold all the cards – in this story, God – is actually the one helplessly wounded by the split. We are undone by our own pride and foolishness and must suffer terrible consequences we were warned to avoid. We know that in the end love triumphs in the person of Jesus Christ, but during Advent – and all the Advent-like seasons of our lives – we live into the uncertain waiting.

We are called to ever deeper levels of communion with God, and this season encourages us to examine the personal and communal obstacles we need to address before that can happen. As the cycle of obstacles continues, so does the cycle of reunion; at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and at various points in our lives when we reach Act V, we are reunited with God. God has assured us this great story ends with great Love, so hang in there until the last act. Be sure to stick around until the credits roll!

Comfort: Your love story with God has a happy ending.

Challenge: Meditate on what obstacles  you may be creating  in your relationship with God.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your unconditional love. I will do my best to return it every day. Amen.

Discussion: Are there any obstacles you have a habit of inserting into your relationships?

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  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!

And then … ?


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 412 146, Hosea 7:8-16, Acts 23:12-24, Luke 7:1-17

One hallmark of a good storyteller is knowing the best times to begin and end the story. Start too soon and people tune out; start too late and the setup may confuse them. Ending at the right time leaves the reader satisfied, yet longing for more; ending later than needed dilutes the impact of the story. The author of Luke, who many scholars agree is also the author of Acts, certainly knows how to keep a story moving.

In Capernaum, Jesus encounters a Roman centurion whose beloved slave is ill. Jesus is amazed by the faith of the centurion, who needs no more reassurance than Jesus’s word that the man will be healed, and so he is. A little later in the town of Nain, Jesus feels compassion for a widow who is preparing to bury her only son. Jesus raises the young man back to life.

In Jerusalem, Paul’s nephew overhears a plot involving more than forty men who have sworn to neither eat nor drink until they have ambushed and killed Paul, who is currently in the custody of the Roman tribune. The tribune, who wishes to protect Paul because he is a Roman citizen, organizes hundreds of men to usher Paul safely to Caesarea.

These stories offer lots of action, and leave us wondering: “What next?”

Who was this slave, that he was so important to the centurion? How did the neighbors feel about living next door to the widow and her formerly dead son? When did those forty conspirators decide it was time to eat again?

We could shrug these questions off as unanswerable, but our speculation could teach us a lot about ourselves. They might reveal whether we are optimists or pessimists. Or whether we really think people can change. Maybe they could help us explore what we believe about how and when the divine intersects with the ordinary.

Biblical stories, like all great stories, are about more than the events described. If we open the gift of our imagination, they tell us – and help us discover for ourselves – deeper truths of the human condition.

Comfort: A good story lasts long after it ends.

Challenge: Pick one of today’s stories, or other stories from the Bible which have unanswered questions, and discuss the possible outcomes with friends.

Prayer: God of infinite imagination, teach me to see the deep truths of your amazing world. Amen.

Discussion: Is there a story – Biblical or otherwise – that leaves you wondering what happens next?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  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!