Line of sight

The Great One

Last weekend my parents and I took a flightseeing tour to one of the tallest peaks in the world, Denali. In the entire history of human civilization, it was just over a hundred years ago that a person finally reached the summit. In 1952 someone measured its altitude at the summit–a measurement that was corrected just last year.img_3204

From our tiny plane it was impossible to move our eyes fast enough to see everything. It was difficult to mentally comprehend the scale of the thing. A cliff that looked so close you could reach out and touch it could be a mile away from the plane. The images I captured on my phone were even less adequate to capture the scale of it than my eyes were… It was impossible to frame more than just a tiny fraction of the grandeur of the mountain on my little screen. I thought of Bradford Washburn, who attempted to photograph the mountain in 1936, a time when there simply weren’t any good photos for climbers to use–a scenario almost impossible to imagine when I can call up thousands of images on my phone.

“Rising to such an altitude and in almost complete isolation, it is virtually impossible to find a spot from which a truly undistorted view of its whole mass may be obtained.”

Bradford Washburn

Washburn hung out of a plane tied to a rope to capture his images. Even though I could snap relatively good photos on my little phone seated comfortably inside the plane, it is still impossible to comprehend or even SEE more than a small part of the mountain. My field of vision just isn’t wide enough.

But God knows every side, every cliff, every glacier, nook, and cranny of it. He knows its exact height as the snow falls on it and as the wind erodes it–second by second. He knows every sheep and bear and fly that ventures up into its peaks. He knows what rocks lie under the mile-deep glacier that carves the side of the mountain. He knows what rocks are under those rocks, and how they got there. He knows the forces that pushed the mountain up miles above the hills and plains around it. And I couldn’t even accurately estimate how far our plane was from the face of the cliffs as we flew by.

“Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:12‬ ‭

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Quietness and Trust

I will spend nearly a third of my life asleep (or try to). I love to sleep in, but I’ve never liked going to bed. Sleep has seemed like a waste of time–sleeping in, a lazy luxury. In tough times in the last few years, though, I’ve come to recognize the importance of rest to my life of faith.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Isaiah 30:15

When I have felt incapable of doing what is right, I turn my gaze and rest. When I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). I decrease and He increases (John 3:30). There are many ways to opt into resting in Him (1 day in 7, 1 year out of 7), but in His grace he’s made us to require about eight hours of rest a night. If we refuse to sleep, our bodies eventually force us to do it. Our bodies push us into eight hours of vulnerability and trust. Vulnerability is inevitable with sleep–we cannot see, we are lying down, our thoughts are even open to verbal suggestion. Sleep can be had without trust, but it is difficult and ineffective. If we cannot trust the person next to us or the environment around us, sleep does not come, or it comes violently and does not bring rest with it. If we sleep without trust, we continue to crave more sleep; we lose our strength. Vulnerability is in our makeup. Trust is crucial to our well-being. We practice both every single night.

Sleep well.

Communion

The following is something I read at church a few weeks ago. It’s ready to go and people have asked me to make it available… Makes my first post easy-peasy. I left some of the style in that I’d added for emphasis when I was reading it. Feel free to imagine me banging on a non-existent pulpit as you read it.

Hi, I’m Amy. It is such a privilege to stand up here and talk about the God I love in front of people that I love. Today I’m talking about communion.

I want to start with Genesis 2:18  “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

This verse is referred to a lot when people are talking about the relationship between men and women, but it’s also about the birth of human relationship. Adam and Eve weren’t just the first married couple. They were the first community. The first family. The first church. Eve wasn’t just the first woman, she was the second person. Her appearance was the birth of human relationship and community.

And she was described as a helper. The word “helper” comes from the Hebrew word ezer, which comes from root words meaning to be strong, to rescue. It’s used 21 times in the Old testament, usually alongside other words that denote strength and power. It’s also usually used to describe the Holy Spirit:

Deuteronomy 33:26 describes God as: “The Rider of the Heavens in your strength (`-z-r), and on the clouds in his majesty.”

“Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield of your strength (`-z-r) and the sword of your majesty.” Deut. 33:29

In both verses, ezer is translated as strength. The spirit of God is a helper/fighter, and we are clearly created to imitate him in that way with relationship to each other.

Another ministry of the Holy Spirit is to unify believers. I do not think it is a coincidence that He is a helper, a unifier, and a fighter. Unity can take every ounce of our strength to obtain and maintain. Sin divides and isolates us in so many ways. Think of the first sin, and what came after. Adam and Eve hid themselves under leaves and ran into the bushes when they heard God coming. Sin destroyed unity and community. Sinning and being sinned against cause us to hide in shame.

You may hear people quote the Bible a lot about things God hates. I won’t go into what the most common things that people bring up or whether they’re right about them. But I will say the Bible does talk about things he hates, and they tend to come in lists. One list is in Proverbs 6:

There are six things the Lord hates,

   seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,

       a lying tongue,

       hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,

       feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies

       and a person who stirs up conflict in the community

Of all the evils on earth, this verse says that there are 6-7 that God HATES and they are all related to division, conflict, snobbishness…things that destroy community.

As we take communion, I want to challenge you to think of this not just as communion with God, but communion with one another. The first communion was Jesus eating a meal together with his disciples. In the early church, the Bible says “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2: 42, 44) Four things: teaching, hanging out together, prayer, and what we’re about to do: breaking bread together. And they had incredible unity, to the point that they shared all of each other’s stuff.

God created us to be with him TOGETHER. In communion, the bread represents the body of Christ. But remember that we the church are also the body of Christ. One head, many members, one body.

It is my prayer that as we take communion, we do it in a spirit of unity that will continue through the week. Commune with Christ and with each other. Fight like the Holy Spirit against the things that destroy our unity. Don’t fight with your spouse over the things that divide you. Fight alongside your spouse against the things that divide you. Don’t be afraid of getting someone else’s mess all over you. Be more afraid of letting their mess put a wall between you. If you see someone in isolation (are they sitting alone? Is it someone who has trouble making eye contact?) don’t shrug your shoulders and think that there’s nothing you can do. FIGHT FOR THEM. Don’t make them come to you with their problems, lovingly pursue people you see hiding behind a wall of isolation.

Friends, we are fighters for unity alongside the Holy Spirit of GOD! Fight. Every. Day. against what God hates–things that destroy loving community.

This is what Jesus said at the first communion:

“He took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the covenant in my blood.’”

God, thank you for your Holy self that you gave us with your presence on earth, your death on the cross, and your resurrection. Thank you for the relationship we can have with you and with each other as a result. No more hiding. No more shame. No more isolation. Amen.