Two Point Perspective

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Today’s readings:
Psalms 122; 145, Isaiah 11:10-16, Revelation 20:1-10, John 5:30-47


According to Mosaic Law, a lone witness was not sufficient to condemn someone of wrongdoing. Though two witnesses might still seem like a low threshold, it discouraged false accusations unless one could find a co-conspirator. That might be difficult, since a person condemned of false witness would have to suffer whatever fate they intended for the wrongly accused.

Thus when Jesus found himself before Jewish officials who demanded he validate his claim to be the Son of God, he declined to testify on his own behalf, but presented two witnesses – of a sort. He claimed both his own miracles and the testimony of John the Baptist as witnesses to his status. Had this been a formal proceeding his reasoning may not have stood up in court, but for the time it allowed him to continue his ministry.

Part of the beauty of Christian community is sharing our stories of how Christ works in our lives. When we struggle with doubt, the stories of a couple faithful friends can bring us hope. And if not hope, a line pointing toward hope. In geometry, a line is defined by passing through two points. Along that line there are an infinite number of other points, but only two are necessary to make it known. Once that line of faith is established, we can keep following it for as long as we need to.

If you were called to witness on behalf of Christ, to help create that through-line for someone, could you find a second witness to support you? Together, you and the second person define a line pointing toward Christ. We can be part of countless lines. The more stories we hear, and the more times we share our own stories, the more lines of testimony we create. And the more directions those lines run, the greater chance someone has of seizing onto one.

Our testimony not only honors our God, but creates a vast, intertwined safety net of hope. Let us speak often and joyfully of the love of God. Let us pray we may provide a safe landing for those fallen into despair.

Comfort: Your story is important.

Challenge: Make a point of talking with fellow believers about your story.

Prayer: Infinite God, author of all stories, thank you for mine. Amen.

Discussion: How do you feel about sharing your faith story with friends?  With acquaintances? With strangers?

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!

Fragrant

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab / window):
Psalms 5; 147:1-11, Exodus 7:8-24, 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6, Mark 10:1-16


In his second letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul wrote:

“[W]e are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Fragrances are complex. What smells pleasant on one person’s skin may be noxious on someone else. Just as body chemistry interacts with the composition of cologne or perfume, spiritual “chemistry” impacts the impression we make on those we meet. There is no single way to live as a Christian. If we slap on a particular style of speech or manners just because it is popular or endorsed by a celebrity, and it doesn’t authentically line up with who we are, the effect can be disastrous. At best we may seem like a cheap knock-off, at worst we will radiate a stench of deception. Authenticity is more important than brand recognition.

The powerhouses of attraction are not the fragrances we spray on, but those scents other people may not consciously detect. Pheromones are chemical signals secreted by animals and humans to trigger physiological responses in others. We don’t consciously control them, yet they can powerfully influence attraction or repulsion.

What signals of spirit and character do we unknowingly emit? When people encounter us, do they sense we are more interested in sharing the good news, or in showing off how “saved” we are? Do our words and actions leave an aftertaste of love or judgment? If we parrot Christ’s message of love, but demonstrate it through anger and condemnation, our fragrance quickly turns from sweetness to stench.

We can’t control other people’s perceptions, but we can cultivate authentic and loving hearts. Be truthful, even when it means admitting you have doubts. Reserve judgment, for someone sharing a beer and bad karaoke may reach a lost soul more effectively than a pew and a hymn – and vice versa. Don’t let your testimony be the cheap overused cologne that lingers unpleasantly after you go. Let it be the undetectable fragrance others can’t help but pursue.

Comfort: Your way of being Christian, as long as it grows from an authentic relationship with Christ, will speak to the people who need to hear it.

Challenge: Be authentic. God didn’t create you to be someone else.

Prayer: Loving God, may my words and actions be a sweet aroma, drawing the world to your grace. Thank you for meeting me where I am, loving me as I am, and challenging me to be more. Amen.

Discussion: Do any of the ways you express your faith feel artificial? How could you change them, or maybe even abandon them entirely?

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!

Hosanna!

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Numbers 20:14-29, Romans 6:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11


Today’s passage from Matthew is traditionally read during the Palm Sunday passion narrative. Jesus sends a couple disciples ahead to find a donkey and a colt so he can ride them into Jerusalem. A crowd gathers and lays cloaks and branches on the road as they praise his arrival with “Hosanna!” The colt and the donkey are rich with symbolism and meaning, but today let’s think about what it means to hear this story outside the Lenten and Easter season.

As Jesus arrived, word spread. Without social media, television, or cameras, word of mouth quickly drew great numbers – enough people to put the literal fear of God into local religious and civil authorities. A couple thousand years later, this is still true. When Christ is present in our communities, we see and hear about that presence in the testimony of changed lives. Sometimes, maybe unbeknownst to us, we are the ones testifying. When people hear our individual and collective stories, who responds with “Hosanna!” and who trembles? Throughout history, Christ has been on the side of the marginalized and downtrodden. If our lives causes the poor and the outcast to be afraid, and the powers-that-be to celebrate, it may be time to seriously re-calibrate our outlook and message.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Most days we’re in the crowd minding our own business. When Jesus shows up are we more likely to recognize him in a polished preacher who could sell sand in a desert, a person wearing rags and living in a car, or someone who looks like they are from our own neighborhood? It’s a trick question, because it’s the message, not the style of messenger, that counts; any person we meet could be spreading the Word; we need to be open to hearing it.

We should be prepared to greet Christ not just yearly, but daily. The cloaks we lay before him are woven from lives of service; the branches grown from seeds of neighborly love. Though that first road led to the cross, we now follow him down the road to new life.

Comfort: Every day presents a chance to be renewed through Christ.

Challenge: Christ often arrives in unexpected ways, sometimes ways we find difficult to accept.

Prayer: God of New Life, thank you for the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. May my life be a worthy tribute to lay at his feet. Amen.

Discussion: Where have you unexpectedly discovered Christ?

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.