In The Between


Today’s readings:
Psalms 43; 149, Job 19:21-27a, Hebrews 4:1-16, Romans 8:1-11

How do you make use of “between” time, like time spent between destinations on an airplane or a train. Or Sunday evenings when – for practical purposes – the weekend is over but the work week has not quite begun? Or in the waiting room after you’ve watched a loved one rolled into surgery and the outcome is uncertain?

Some of us cope by filling those times with activity and finding comfort in productivity. Others use the time for quiet reflection, contemplation, or prayer. Still others take the opportunity to disconnect entirely, to quietly recharge like a fallow field awaiting the next season.

None of these ways is right or wrong, but if we find ourselves in a particularly stressful “between” time, we may have trouble appreciating people who prefer to pass that time differently than we would choose to. The one thing we have in common is the anticipation of a destination, even when we’re not sure where that destination might be.

“Between” times are particularly prone to stress when we don’t feel we have control over the outcome. A plane ticket has our chosen destination printed clearly on its face, but bypass surgery could end in a number of ways. After Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples found themselves waiting, but they didn’t know what for. Some fled. Some stayed in Jerusalem or nearby. A very few took his body to the tomb or later returned to prepare it for permanent burial.

What events are you between right now? Like the disciples, you may be struggling to understand how you have found yourself in this place, and wondering what happens next. During Lent we intentionally enter this space of waiting, but we know the destination. In everyday life, in the face of uncertainty, it isn’t usually a space where we want to linger.

If you can, take heart on this day of Vigil and know that in the waiting, in the tomb, in the world, something stirs. However you choose to endure, the God of the living moves in the darkness and will be revealed to you in the light. Dawn will come.

Comfort: God has not forgotten you.

Challenge: Attend an Easter Vigil service, or read this evening’s scripture for Easter Vigil.

Prayer: I wait for you, Lord. Always.

Discussion: What are you waiting for?

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!

Road Trip


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, Joshua 8:1-22, Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 26:47-56

“Christian” is not always a useful term. To people outside the faith, it’s often defined by a set of assumptions and biases that may or may not reflect the beliefs and actions of any particular person. Inside the faith … well, it’s pretty much the same thing. Not only have we divided ourselves into denominations, within those denominations we differ along liberal/conservative lines and other polarities. Non-denominational congregations often become de facto denominations with a single member church. On our good days we work toward being ecumenical, on most days we are tolerant but pretty convinced we are right, and on bad days we think “those people” are not “real Christians.”

Chapter 14 of Romans offers us some advice. Paul tells those who are strong in the faith to welcome the weaker (even those terms contain judgment), but not to quarrel over opinions. If the weak reject certain foods, or consider some days holier than others, the strong (who had moved beyond the law) should not chastise them, but instead recognize these actions were intended for the glory of God.

Our mistake lies in assuming that once we have embraced the Christian label, we have reached a destination.  In truth, we have only begun a journey. We follow the path to Christ our whole lives and beyond. We’re all at different places on the path, and that’s fine. If our fellows aren’t as far along as we are (and isn’t that a subjective call!) we may feel like they are holding us back and be tempted to drag them forward. Ever physically dragged someone along? Not only is it exhausting, it results in unsafe stumbling for both parties. What we can do is blaze a trail, mark it with friendly sign-posts, and wait to offer the refreshment of bread and wine before resuming our journey together. We can offer guidance when asked, and corrections if they wander off the path entirely or try to drag us backward with them. And we can humbly remember that up ahead, maybe out of sight beyond a curve in the road, someone waits patiently for us.

Comfort: Faith is like a road trip; we’re all trying to get to the same place. 

Challenge: Faith is like a road trip; we all have to stop at different times.

Prayer: Loving God, grant me patience and endurance for my own journey, and patience and generosity to help others on their own journey. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever been tempted to think that someone who identifies as a Christian is not a “real” Christian? Why or why not?

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!

Stepping Stone


Today’s readings: Psalms 98; 147:12-20, 1 Kings 3:5-14, James 4:13-17, 5:7-11, John 5:1-15

Faith is, among other things, a path to wholeness. We may feel we walk it alone, but fellow travelers always accompany us. Therefore we need to be mindful of both the destination and our conduct along the way. On his path Jesus encounters a sick man who has been waiting 38 years to get into a pool with alleged healing properties. When Jesus asks if he wants to be made well, the man replies: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” In 38 years not one person headed to the same destination for the same purpose had offered to help him. Worse, they had stopped him. These people were probably not malicious, but in their desperation and single-mindedness paid him no regard. Instead, he became their stepping stone.

How do we treat our fellow travelers? What goals are we so focused on that we can’t see the need around us? Perhaps we give others what we want them to need, instead of what they really do. Or maybe our need for a perfectly executed church service results in a less meaningful one. Our best intentions to create an inclusive, mission-centered, welcoming community will be short-sighted and potentially hurtful if we can’t place our personal goals in the context of the gathered faithful. Maybe we’ll make it to the pool, but what will we leave in our wake?

On the other side of this equation, today’s story teaches us our wholeness does not ultimately depend on our fellow travelers, but on God’s endless mercy. When Jesus tells the sick man to take up his mat and walk, the lack of mercy from everyone else becomes irrelevant. The beauty of the healing is lost on his fellow travelers who are more concerned he is carrying his mat in violation of Jewish sabbath law. Eyes set upon their own ritual holiness, they attack the uncontrollable divinity in their midst. Sometimes the most important part of our faith journey is the detour.

Comfort: We are never alone in our faith journey.

Challenge: We are never alone in our faith journey.