Author: Gary Reimer

Meditation for Monday, September 16, 2019

“There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” Heb. 4:9-10

Isn’t there something odd about this exhortation—make every effort to enter God’s rest? What is the nature of such rest that requires so much effort to enter? It is apparent from the strong wording of this passage that we are called to consider the concept of a Sabbath-rest as a serious goal of our spiritual direction and to cultivate a lifestyle that will allow us to remain in it.

If nothing else this exhortation is a sober word to those who would endeavor to enter into God’s rest to not underestimate the effort it will take. There are obstacles ahead. And it seems, from what is being said here, that our ‘work’ is what is most in the way of our ‘rest.’

The ‘athletes for God’—those men and women of the past centuries (and present ones) who pursued deep relationship with God with such fruit—all seemed to have a particular insight into what they called the ‘mortification of the self’. We shy away from such concepts today, assuming them to be more related to a spirit of masochism than from God. But what inspired these otherwise pretty lucid saints to such an unpopular approach?

As we pursue our rest in God we will increasingly become aware of the commotion of our inner life. These saints recognized this acutely. And, in their efforts to still their souls, undertook the task of dying to themselves in order to live more fully in God.

To rest in God simply means to love Him in the full security of faith—to love being with Him more than anywhere else. Whenever we are able to hold our souls in His presence, not allowing ourselves to be lured away by any other desire or fear of the heart, we have surely entered the Sabbath-rest that has been prescribed for the people of God. Let us hope in anticipation of the finished work of the Spirit in us that this becomes our increasing experience.

“It is necessary before all things to obtain tranquility; it is the mother of contentment. The opportunities of practicing it are daily.” -St. Frances de Sales

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christan Communities
written for November 2004

For reflection:

 1. How do you respond to the exhortation of the text? What about the promise that precedes the exhortation?
2. If rest in God means loving him in “full security of faith,” what obstacles to rest can you identify? What effort or actions need to take place to remove these obstacles?
3.What longing do you feel for God’s loving rest beyond your normal patterns of work and rest?

For Prayer: Lord, we thank you for your promise of rest. We long for this rest, grant us a greater longing. Grant us grace today and in the days ahead to displace useless labor and anxious ways of being with time spent in your loving and restful presence. May the knowledge of your great love and complete provision for our needs grow within us. We give you thanks, Amen.

Meditation for Monday, September 2, 2019

“Samuel, Samuel”……”Speak for your servant is listening.” 1Sam. 3:10

Most Christians I know struggle with the idea of how to hear God’s voice. There are many times in life when we feel desperate to hear a word from God. What should I do? Where should I go? Who am I? Who are you? Our desire to hear from God often comes from a pressing need we have for which God’s clear direction would be the most direct remedy. But here, in the story of Samuel, we see another disposition towards hearing God’s voice—where the need that is being responded to is not ours, but God’s.

How often do we feel God tugging at our hearts with an invitation to approach Him? It might not come in the form of a complete sentence but it’s easy to know what God is communicating when we sense the gentle breeze of desire for intimacy with God pass through our hearts. Perhaps, like Samuel, we need to cultivate the simple response of being attentive to God. Here I am Lord. I heard you call. What would You like? Speak, for your servant is listening. Hearing from God, for Samuel, certainly had more to do with what God might need from him than from what he might need from God.

God does call to us, at every moment of our existence. By His very nature He pours forth speech all day long. And we are always the objects of His communication. “Doug, Doug,….Michelle, Michelle…..Janet, Janet……Greg, Greg………”

Can we hear the voice of the One who loves us, beckoning our names? We have opportunity, every time we sense God calling us, to respond with the simple act of showing up—to go as quickly as we can, find a secret place, and be attentive to the Lord. Here I am Lord. This was Samuel’s posture. And 1Sam. 3:19 says, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of His words fall to the ground.” Samuel was a good catcher of God’s spirit.

                                “Speak Lord, for now your servant is listening.”

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Rob Des Cotes
written for Nov 10, 2004

For reflection and prayer:
1.What words or posture of heart do you associate with being attentive to God?
2.Reflect on the blessedness of being known, loved  and called by name by God.
Prayer is both an out pouring of our hearts to God in praise and need, as well as receptivity to God’s voice as illustrated by Samuel’s words above. As the fall approaches, with new regimes of activities, work and service, we no doubt seek God’s voice, direction and blessing. Perhaps there are triggers of anxiety associated with what lies ahead, as well as joy and anticipation of good things to come. In the midst of the many things that we may request of God in prayer, let’s be intentional about also spending time in inner silence with our needs and desires set aside in order to hear what God may be wishing to say to us.
Give thanks that as the Lord was with Samuel, so according to his promise, he will be with you this day and the days ahead.

Meditation for Monday June 17, 2019

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”  Mat. 5:6

Hunger and thirst–words that can easily reach a point of desperation. If these words are not satisfied we soon die. For Jesus to apply these to the longing for righteousness implies a level of need that I for one have not often experienced. I certainly agree that righteousness is something we should aspire to, and I enjoy those moments whenever I get to taste it in my own life, but something seems to be missing in me that would cause me to have such an intense desire for it. What is it that I don’t see? It’s obvious that righteousness is something that Jesus wants me to pursue more intentionally in my life-with the promise of blessing. According to Jesus, there is something that needs to be filled in my life by what this word represents for us.

Righteousness – it is a word we rarely use in our day, except in the negative connotation of ‘self-righteousness.’ What exactly does righteousness mean as it applies to you and I? I know a little from experience of the satisfaction of having behaved, or spoken from a place of righteousness. How do I know? Well, I guess because it feels so affirmed in my heart. I sense in those moments that I am exactly the way I am supposed to be, and that it is good in God’s eyes.

I also sense that righteousness is something that is particular to who I am—that there is some unique expression of righteousness that only I can fulfill. It gets worked out through the subtleties of my personality, it comes out in the tone of my voice, or in the particular way I look and respond to people. These are life expressions that each of us, original as we are, uniquely get to be. Just think of it, you have your very own niche of righteousness in the kingdom!

Lest we get carried away with the idea of being righteous though, we read in Scripture that righteousness is not something that we can create on our own. Our best attempts at it are like rags compared to the real thing that can only come from God. The righteousness that we are filled with is in fact the very spirit of Christ flashing its character in us, reflected in the uniqueness of our personality and the actions of our life. It is the grace and beauty of Christ’s life expressed within ours.
It is His righteousness, not ours. That’s why there is no credit to be had, no self-congratulation and especially, no self-righteousness. Our job is to seek to grow in our desire-to hunger and thirst for that which God offers to fill us with, and then to praise Him for the beauty of His actions within us.

The just man justices; Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is-Christ,
For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his,
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

From Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.”

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Rob Des Cotes
written for Nov 5, 2004

For Group Discussion:
1. How would you describe the ebb and flow of your longing for righteousness? What do you perceive to be the conditions of your heart and life that would be favorable to a robust hunger for righteousness?

2. Can you describe occasions in which you’ve been aware of the graced presence of Christ bestowing his righteousness in and through you?

3. Discuss the role of  the disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, an intentional daily awareness of Christ’s presence, as well as the practices of self-denial, humility, simplicity, and obedience in fostering a strong desire for righteousness.

For Prayer:
Our longings and desires reveal much about the state of our hearts, taking inventory of them can be very humbling! In the quiet and spaciousness of prayer, thank God for the measure of desire you have for Him and his righteousness, and ask by his grace to increase this desire to the exclusion of temporal and trivial desires that need to be set aside.

Meditation for Monday May 6, 2019

“The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.” Psalm 19:4b-6

Most of us are familiar with the challenge of settling our hearts to be with God in prayer. As C.S. Lewis noted, this happens “the very moment you wake up. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job in the morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice.”  Then there’s the further challenge at the end of prayer to retain the sense of God’s presence as we enter our day with its demands and distractions. By God’s grace he holds us and is present to us in spite of our awareness of him being easily dissipated. In his great mercy and provision, we are also gifted to see and know him in unexpected times and places.

Contemplative author and speaker James Finley has a beautiful and helpful expression to describe such gifts:  “moments of spontaneous contemplative awakening.”  In such instances the eyes of our hearts may unexpectedly be opened to God’s presence. Finley suggests that though these experiences are usually fleeting, they are glimpses into eternal realities, and they leave an indelible mark on our hearts. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4 that “the things that are visible are temporary but the things that are invisible are eternal” (vs 18).  In moments of spontaneous contemplative awakening we may see beyond the exquisite beauty of creation and apprehend God himself.

This was the Psalmist’s experience. “The sun lives in the heavens where God has placed it.” Similarly our minds may be awakened from the “lethargy of the familiar” to sense the wonder of the rhythms of the natural order, and we see all creation as being infused with God’s presence and sustaining power (Hebrews 1:3). This kind of awakening includes seeing with new eyes the miracle and mystery of life of all kinds, especially human life: people we encounter by design or in passing, all of whom bear the image of their Creator.

Finley uses a further phrase to denote unexpected experiences of God. He describes moments in which we may encounter “a holiness in progress.” The context of this expression is an address Finley gives on the inexhaustible attributes of God, his infinite love and his eternal power to sustain all aspects of the natural world. Like the psalmist observing the motion in the heavens so we may be witness to the  glorious varieties of motion in creation. Finley describes his own such experience as seeing a large flock of geese take flight from the surface of a lake.

As contemplatives we treasure and practice stillness (“be still and know” Ps. 46:10), and there is also breathtaking stillness in nature. But we may still be reminded that the holiness we seek is not ultimately static but “in progress.” God’s purposes for us and work within us are ongoing even though it may feel otherwise sometimes. We may think of Moses’ surprise experience of the burning bush (Ex 3) as an example of “a holiness in progress.” Fire is such an evocative entity – even more so if we reflect on its place in the ancient world. The bush was not consumed by the flame, and God was explicitly present. Moses had been on the sidelines and dwelling in the obscurity of extreme wilderness, both literally and figuratively. He was not likely living with much expectation. God’s message to Moses: “I see, I know, I am present, I will be with you.” While this occasion was momentous and unique for Moses as God’s choice to rescue Israel, such experiences may be part of any humble quest to see and know God in all things.

Moments of spontaneous contemplative awakening are the seeds of a deeper walk with God and they enlarge our hearts and our view of God. Spiritual director and author Tilden Edwards quotes a beloved elderly nun he knows as saying: “Only the sky is an adequate icon for God.” May we, through the practice of prayer, cultivate our hearts to be receptive to God’s unexpected initiatives within us and to see him in all things.

“And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence.” Ephesians 1:23.

Paul Woodyard
Imago Dei Christian Community

For group discussion:

1.Can you recall/describe an experience in which you were awakened to a wonderful aspect of creation?

2.The dissipation of our sense of God following a time of prayer is natural to a degree. How do you experience this and what practices might sustain this sense of God or bring recall of his presence?

3.How do you perceive God’s “motion” or activity in your life versus the in-between times of stillness and silence?

For Prayer:

Let us welcome God’s initiative within us to awaken, in his good time, our hearts to his glory and beauty; and seek his grace to grow in the knowledge of his nearness.

Meditation for Monday, February 4, 2019

Jesus welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.                             Luke 9:1
People live for many years with what might be called “open wounds.”  Open wounds are places where we feel stuck by the memory of a particular pain.  These memories, still active in our hearts, trigger fears in us that such injuries will reoccur.  Even minor wounds in life can result in unresolved stresses that end up determining, much more than we realize, the way we respond to the world and to others.

Open wounds prevent us from fully embracing freedom.  They act like a tether that keep us from moving forward.  We feel apprehensive about life and less hopeful about the future because our unresolved pains are always suggesting to our imagination the threat of imminent danger.

If this description of an “open wound” resonates in your life, there is a prayer for healing based on the Ignatian prayer of Examen that might be helpful for deepening your dialogue with Jesus in these areas.  Here are some steps to lead you in this prayer of Examen.
·      Begin your prayer by first placing yourself in the loving presence of God.  Here you are reminded that you have always been loved and that, even in the realization that an “open wound” exists in you, there is a potential gift from God that will help you grow in your faith if you are willing to accept it.  You may need the Lord’s help before you are able to fully accept these difficult experiences as gifts from God.  Allow whatever time is necessary to “negotiate” this first crossroads of grace.

·      Ask next for the courage to “take up your cross” in order to accept this experience of life as the very place where you might seek and find the Lord.  Ask Jesus to meet with you there for it is likely that you have long excluded Him from this area of your life, or assumed He is more distant from your wound than He actually is.  In prayer ask instead for a new relationship to this narrative—to see your wound as something that Jesus is fully aware of and that He cares deeply about.

·      Ask next for a deeper understanding of what the Lord might wish to show you—not only for insight but also for the ability to embrace whatever God reveals to you.  Are you prepared to accept your “open wound” as part of the truth of who you presently are?  Speak honestly with Jesus about what you are feeling as you revisit this wound.

·      Because you are no longer trying to manage your wound—to heal or protect yourself—you are now more prepared to let Jesus minister to you.  Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in this process, following wherever He might lead you and stopping wherever He would have you note something particular regarding this wound.  Let God gently untangle the tight knots of your painful history.  Spiritual healing is a slow and subtle process.  It takes time for this type of prayer to evolve naturally.

·      Whenever the Lord shines His light on a particular event related to your “open wound” do not overly analyze it, nor jump too quickly to a solution.  You should simply pay attention to your feelings, acknowledging and bringing these insights into your dialogue with Jesus. Ask the Lord to show how faith can be applied to this otherwise fearful memory.

·      When you have finished your prayer ask Jesus to sustain the hope you have regarding this process, and to protect you from the despair you might otherwise feel around this topic.  Be willing and resolved to return again to this dialogue as often as the Lord requires.

The healing of our “open wounds” is a slow and deliberate work.   A sustained faith will help us remain in the hands of the Physician long enough for a relationship of healing to take place.  We must learn to approach our open wound less as a problem to be solved and more as a place of dialogue with Jesus about the truth of who we are and who we are becoming. As we enter these places with an open posture we will be led to a more genuine encounter with grace.  Gratitude for the God who works out His salvation in our lives will eventually replace the hopelessness of our wounds.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for March 19, 2015)

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:
1.    In what ways are you afraid of life, or with regards to the future?  Can you trace this fear to some past injury?

2.    What relationship do you presently have to these wounds?  In what ways do they overly determine your responses to life?  How do they curtail your freedom?

3.    How does the slow and deliberate process of this prayer inspire hope in you?  In what ways does the memory of past failures to heal yourself quench this hope?

FOR PRAYER:  Take a full week (or longer) to explore this prayer with regards to a particular open wound in your life.  Observe closely the process by which God untangles the knots that such injuries have caused in you.  Once you have established a deep and lasting relationship with Jesus at the place of your wound ask the Lord if there are other areas of your life where He would like you to also apply this prayer.

Meditation for Monday, January 21, 2019

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory. Isa. 6:3

 Adrienne Von Speyr was a disciple of Hans Urs von Balthasar.  So impressed was Balthasar by the depth of Von Speyr’s spiritual vision that, soon after her death in 1967, he started compiling her writings into what has become an important library of over sixty books on Catholic mystical theology.

In one such book called The World of Prayer Von Speyr explores how prayer opens our eyes to the presence of God in all things.  This awakening establishes us in a “world of prayer” in which God’s purposes in and through us become increasingly evident.  She writes,

  • In prayer the Christian receives assurance about everything that God requires and expects of them.  They understand that they are called to remain always in the presence of God, ready to do his will and to receive his word as fully as they can. This assurance gives them certainty that not only is God concerned for them and that nothing in their daily life is an accident, but also that everything has meaning in God and that, as a believer, they are called to seek this meaning.

Our awakening to this fact—that God is found in everything—invites us to re-examine all the circumstances of our lives through the eyes of Christ.  It is the conversion that Paul refers to when he tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2). As Von Speyr writes,

  • When someone realizes that a relation to God can be discovered in everything, they then understand that the only way to attain the correct view of life is to behold and evaluate everything through the eyes and disposition of the Son who reveals. 

As prayer becomes the key to our interpretation of life we come to understand all our relationships and all the events of our day more and more from God’s point of view.  This opens our eyes to the real world—the world in which “we live, move and have our being” in God (Acts 17:28).  In Von Speyr’s words, ”All things become signposts mysteriously leading to God, revealing proofs of His existence and presenting ever new ways of drawing closer to Him.” 

The old hymn says that, “To those who live a life of prayer, God is present everywhere.”   This is the experience that Von Speyr is trying to identify—of a growing awareness of God’s presence that is the natural fruit of prayer.   Jesus promised that the pure in heart would be blessed, “for they will see God.”  (Mat. 5:8).  May such an awakening to His presence in our lives be the fruitful outcome of our own spiritual practices as well.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
 (written for Oct 16, 2014)

 

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION: 

 1.      Would you say you are more aware of God’s presence in your life today than in the past?  If so, how has God brought about this awakening in you?

 2.      What effect does it have on you to know that God is present and active in all of life?  What posture does such knowledge invite you to assume in your relationship to all things?

 3.      How does your growing perception of “God in all things” also create, in Von Speyr’s words, “ever new ways of drawing closer to Him?”

 FOR PRAYER:  Spend time in prayer observing whatever takes place in you through Christ’s eyes.  Note how this different perspective offers new insights as well as new possibilities for relationship with yourself and with the circumstances of your life.  Thank God for the hope that this gives you.

Meditation for Monday, December 17, 2018

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  Luke 2:25

 

One of the noblest examples of Advent faith is found in this passage from the gospel of Luke.  Simeon is described as a righteous man who patiently “waits for the consolation of Israel.”  In spite of the discouraging political and social realities all around him, he has kept this unfulfilled hope alive in his heart for many years.  We know very little about Simeon, but it is difficult to imagine that his prayers are overly tinged with anxiety or impatience over the delayed fulfillment of God’s promise.  We picture rather a man who is peacefully resigned to the fact that God will reveal to him, according to the Lord’s good timing, all he needs to know.

 

Unlike Simeon, most of us are not as patient with God, especially when it comes to waiting for our destiny to unfold.  We often feel stuck in the mud with the slow “progress” of our lives, and have trouble understanding why God seems to delay the promises we feel He has made.  Why is there such a lapse between the Word and its fulfillment?  What is God’s purpose in allowing so much in-between time?  Perhaps it has everything to do with how the God-given necessity of waiting—the very posture that we highlight at Advent—helps purify our faith.

 

There are many dispositions from which to wait on the Lord.  Some postures honour God while others simply highlight our anxieties or lack of trust.  We often despair when we are made to wait too long for something we feel our hearts so desperately need.  And yet those who are peaceful in their waiting exhibit a unique grace that must surely be the fruit of God’s purposes in the protracted delays we often endure.

 

Scripture is full of examples of people who deal poorly with their unfulfilled needs.  Most obvious are the many episodes of the Israelites in the desert, acting out their impatience when things don’t unfold as expected.  The prodigal son is another example of someone being impatient with the slow progress of their lives.  We know what we need.  God is taking too long.  We can’t wait.  And so we act on our own.

 

But Scripture also offers examples of how to wait well for God.  We see quite a different disposition, for instance, in Abraham—a much more gracious expression of godliness in waiting.  The Lord tells the patriarch to leave his homeland and “go to the land I will show you.”  Without questioning the vagueness of this command, Abraham seems to exhibit no anxiety over the where, when or why of its fulfillment.   He just keeps walking, trusting that God will reveal to Him what he needs to know, when he needs to know it.

 

And then there is Simeon—a man Luke characterizes as righteous and devout—who waits in the temple each day for the “consolation of Israel.”  Because of his devout prayer life Simeon is able to maintain a posture of hope with regards to the mystery of God’s ways.  He waits in the certainty of faith, and his faith is rewarded.  Like the wise virgins, he has kept his lamp full of oil in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise.  And, like Abraham, such devout and patient faith is credited to Simeon as righteousness in God’s sight.

 

Rob Des Cotes

Imago Dei Christian Communities

written for Advent 2014

 

FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:

  1. Why do you think faith, expressed in waiting, is credited to us as righteousness? How does our waiting in faith honour God?
  2. What characteristics of waiting do you see in the prodigal son story? Can you think of examples in Scripture where people did not wait well?
  3. In what areas of your life have you been tempted with impatience or a challenge to faith over unfulfilled hopes? Have you found a way to wait?

FOR PRAYER:  Take time in prayer to express your trust in the Lord’s timing for every God-given hope you have.

Meditation for Monday, December 03, 2018

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills.
Isaiah 2:2

How good are you at waiting? Remember when you were a child how you waited for the arrival of Christmas? You counted the days, made lists, listened carefully to your parents’ conversations for clues as to what you might be getting, or even started snooping in closets and shopping bags because it was just too hard to resist? The excitement and restlessness built, and on Christmas Eve, it was so hard to even sleep!

In that context, you expect that the results will be wonderful—what you dream, anticipate and hope for. In adult life, how do you wait? Waiting for fulfillment, for vocation, for signs of God’s activity and leading, for transformation, for resolution—what is the posture with which you wait? How we wait shows something of our faith and trust in God. We might, like the people of Israel in the wilderness, feel that God is either not acting, or not acting fast enough. We decide to take matters in our own hands. There is a spirit of anxiety and fear underlying our urge to manage life instead of waiting. We don’t always trust God to do something, let alone what we dream of.

But waiting with complacency or resignation, even a sense of fatalism diminishes the value of that which we wait for. Some of the women waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom were waiting with anticipation, fully prepared. The others let things slide, and didn’t have enough oil for their lamps when the time came.

What is your posture as you wait for God? As you prepare your heart in anticipation of what is coming? Paul speaks in many places (Romans 8:23, Galatians 5:5, Philippians 3:26, 1 Corinthians 1:7) of waiting eagerly. The word is defined as assiduously and patiently waiting—in a way that is constant, unremitting, diligent, attentive or persevering. Advent is a time of waiting, preparing to receive our king. But it requires sustained faith that continues with stamina. God seems to have intentionally created life which requires this leaning forward and learning to wait well in faith. He has given us reason to hope, even in this life of ‘already/not yet’.  Even as we, like the people of Israel, look forward to the fulfillment of God’s reign among us, we can and do experience the present reality of his presence and work.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”                                               Psalm 122:6-8

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
(written for Advent 2014)

For Group Discussion:

1.      Think of a situation of waiting. How well did you wait? What was your posture? Note the sources of restlessness, anxiety, fear, despair or resignation.

2.      How do you hold the ‘already/not yet’; the darkness is passing, the true light is already shining; the hour has already come and our salvation is nearer than we first believed (Romans 13:11-12)?

3.      What helps you wait well? Where is your focus?

For Prayer: Teach us, God, to wait in faith and trust. Help us to protect and preserve the hope we carry with one another for the coming of the true light into our world.

Meditation for Monday October 15, 2018

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him.  
2Tim. 2:11
 
Consider this alternative version of the Lord’s Supper:
The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, sat at table with His disciples and there suddenly appeared on the table a golden crown.  Jesus lifted up the crown, and when He had given thanks, He passed it among his disciples saying, “This is my crown, which is for you.  Take it and put it on, each one of you.  Do this in remembrance of me.  For whenever you place this crown on your head, you proclaim the Lord’s victory until He comes.”
 
Why didn’t Jesus choose this as a sign of remembrance?  Why not call us to remember Him with a symbol of His ultimate victory instead of the graphic reminders of His suffering and death on a cross?  Wouldn’t a celebration of His resurrection be enough to inspire hope for us in the worst of our circumstances?
 
At a recent Imago Dei fellowship we explored, at a very personal level, the nature of lost things in life—lost health, lost relationships, lost hope, lost opportunities.  We all expect more from life and it is so disappointing when our experience falls short of the hopes we had for ourselves.  We feel robbed, short-changed, somehow singled-out by this diminishment of our expectations.  And it seems especially unfair when we can readily think of scores of people who do not suffer similar losses. 
 
Where is God when our circumstances end up being so much less than we conceived possible?  Where is Jesus when we are down about our lives?  Where is the hope that comes from His victory when it doesn’t seem to apply to us?  Our ritual of remembrance, the bread and wine of Eucharist, answers us in those times in the same way as when we are feeling on top of the world—He is right there with us.
 
We celebrate Communion.  We contemplate how Jesus curiously invites us to form an intimate relationship with Him around this symbol that commemorates His place of greatest loss.  The broken Body and poured Blood that these elements represent invite us to come and fellowship with Jesus at the point of His greatest sense of bankruptcy, His ultimate aloneness, and the apparent sacrifice of all His life opportunities.  And it is from such a place that we are called to draw realistic hope.  Take and eat, every one of you.  In such places of loss, He stands with us.
 
No other religion celebrates, in the way we do, the signs of their leader’s vulnerability.  Jesus invites us to do just that.  No other God personally demonstrates grace, even in the diminishment of life.  Jesus does just that.  That the Lord Himself would invite us to the very depths of lostness, and assure us that He stands there with us, victorious, is what makes Christianity the precious pearl that it is.
 
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for May 4, 2006)
 
For Group Discussion:
 
1.      Consider a time when you have felt a ‘lostness’ in your life, or a place of great desolation. What was your response to God in that?
 
2.      How does Jesus’ vulnerability and humility strike you, as you consider your hopes and expectations of God and life?
 
3.      Do you have a sense that Jesus is standing with you in the changing or difficult situations in your life? How do you experience that?
 
For Prayer:
Help us, O God, to recognize that you are standing with us in the hard places of our lives. Thank you for the gift of grace you offer us in Jesus.

Meditation for Monday October 01, 2018

“Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”   Gen. 2:19

This passage is very revealing in what it teaches about the relationship God chooses to form with us.  It shows us how our Father delights and is keenly interested in how we participate in the act of finalizing creation.  When we read how the Lord brought the animals to man “to see what he would name them,” it implies a certain amount of uncertainty that we don’t usually ascribe to God.  He is curious about our response, waiting for us to put the final label on what He has created, to define it according to our relationship to it.   Perhaps this delight is the same as that of a father giving a kitten to his child and waiting to see what she will call it.

A name, of course, is more than a label.  It is a word of relationship that expresses the impression we have of something, of how we respond to the thing before us.  In this way, God leaves the interpretation of His creation up to us.  I wonder if the relationship that is implied in this passage is also the template through which God invites us to name the various circumstances of our lives.  Does He still bring things before us in order to see what we will name them?

What are the ‘names’ we put to the life we find brought before us?   Fearful?  Opportunity?  Good?  Bad?  Punishment?  Reward?  Success? Failure?  A test?  A blessing?  How do we interpret circumstances as they appear before our eyes?  And how does the ‘name’ we give to various life experiences contribute to our experience of that very life?  “And whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”

The naming of things is one of the more noble privileges of being co-workers with God, but it can also be a two-edged sword if we’re not careful with the names we choose.  Adam would’ve been in big trouble if he had inadvertently chosen to call a sabre-tooth tiger, “Cuddles.” God is very attentive to how we name the various experiences in our lives because these names create lasting impressions in us, and in His work with us.

Jesus once told His disciples “what is bound on earth is bound in heaven.”  We should be not be too hasty in choosing names or labels for experiences or other people.  But we can also be grateful that, in Christ, old names that no longer apply can also be exchanged for new ones.

Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for July 21, 2005)

For Group Discussion:

  1.       Think of a particular situation(s) in your life and how you have responded to it. What does that tell you about your relationship to it?
  2.       Is there a circumstance or person you have ‘named’ which God might encourage you to re-think?
  3.       Could this question also apply to parts of yourself which you have labelled? How might these be offered to God?


For Prayer: O God, we look to you for who we truly are. Save us from mis-naming our experiences in life, people around us, or even ourselves. We thank you for your great mercy in changing our names to new ones.