The idea of this blog is that it is my attempt to admit openly when I find a good thing, a marvel. Usually that’s an unexpected good thing, just something I notice on the way. It’s like when I was walking through downtown Lancaster and passed a public phone.
The phone itself could be a marvel, couldn’t it? How many phones do you see now? But stop and think of who would need a public phone today? With the kingdom of cell phones that has come upon us, who still needs a public phone? Someone who’s phone fell through a grate into the sewer system? Someone who is in between phone plans? Someone who can’t afford a cell phone? Someone who forgot their phone at home or in the car? There are a lot of reasons, but most of them speak to how someone might be stuck in a bind for whatever reason and needs an accessible phone. So the public phone on Chestnut might be a marvel itself.
But, as I passed this phone I noticed someone stuck a post-it to it. The note read something like “Your entire being is wondrous.” And that’s the marvel I saw that day. Someone out in the greater world is spreading celebration to those who might truly need the inner change that comes from smiling. Smiling changes our inner core sense of the world. It makes us feel better. Robert Zajonc, a leading psychologist, did rigorous studies that demonstrated this (and “rigorous studies” always makes it more real, doesn’t it?) What happens when we smile is our blood cools. All that flaming heat within our faces, when we’re anxious or overwhelmed or exhausted to the point of despair, dissipates. The temperature of our blood actually goes down.
Just an aside, it’s always good to remember that when scientists of any sort “prove” something by rigorous tests they haven’t created it… they’ve just discovered it. Like Columbus discovering the new world, it was always there. They just found it and are now able to show it to others. Sometimes we forget that the grieving process – the process we go through that moves us from places of despair and loss to a place of acceptance and living again – was something Dr. Kubler-Ross described, not something she created. The process of coming back to life whether from grief or from simply having a bad day is built into us. It is created by God within us.
We are created to regain life and the ability to live. And that might make us smile. God loves us. Good news to pass on to someone else whose entire being is wondrous.
How do we understand Jesus’ sacrifice?
Over the next few weeks, Christians around the world will focus on the sacrifice of Jesus and the glorious impossible answer God gave to the world’s dilemma. But, what is the world’s dilemma?
The first thing I learned in this was that Jesus had to die because I was bad. God was so strict, so demanding of perfection that he could not receive even the most miniscule aspect of sin within himself. We were utterly rejected because of our failure.
I’ve thought about that for a long time. The concept of Jesus’ perfection appeasing God rumbled through me and tore up the turf. It dug in and kicked up the lawn of my soul. It just didn’t seem to make sense. Why would this rule loving God find any worth in me except for mere whim?
So, I discussed this with God and studied and discussed and studied. And then I heard it. God doesn’t love rules. God loves us. God is in love with life and what God hates is death, death in all its forms. It is the final enemy.
I’ve asked a simple question of other human beings, regardless of their religious or non-religious persuasion and received the same answer from every one. If you cheated on the one who loves you best, and no one ever knew but you, would something inside you, some little piece of yourself die? Everyone I’ve asked that of has said, “Yes.” I think that’s true as well. And that little death is sin. That’s what separates us from God.
That sin is death. It is the death that was promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis. It is the culmination of the growth of sin in our lives and in our world that James describes in his letter. It is the thing God defeats through the work of Jesus at the end of the book in Revelation. It is the reason keeping the rules doesn’t work.
It is the reason the rich young ruler had such a tough time getting into the kingdom of God. He was consumed by the rules of the world for being good and out of touch with the life-giving love that created existence. All the answers this world offers to hold death away and to numb human beings to the sting of reality were his daily routine. So, he couldn’t accept a way that would make him deal with reality that wouldn’t include his comfort or control or power as answers.
The sacrifice of Jesus was the receiving of all the death the world has created with all its choices. The death of Christ was so that I would not face the consequences that God doesn’t want me to face. The sacrifice didn’t appease an angry God. It cleared away the death that kept God’s life and love from coming through.
As you move through your day do you regularly recognize remarkable things… things that should be remarked about… and do you remark?
I’ve started remarking about what I see and giving credit for marvels. Some wise person once said that if everything is a miracle then nothing is a miracle, but I’ve learned that many, many things can be recognized as marvelous. And, if we are able to recognize the marvelous, doesn’t that open us to realize what is truly the moment of miracle? We learn easily that there are those who cannot recognize a miracle or can refuse to admit it, so I think we need to be attentive to marvels. Just like doubt is a cousin to wonder and shouldn’t be dismissed as never being a feeling of the faithful (consider John the Baptist in prison), being able to credit the marvelous as that strengthens our souls to approach the miraculous with honesty.
Crediting marvels then is saying to God or to those around us that something has caught our attention and touched or even filled any sensitivity in us with appreciation or even inspiration. It is being complimentary to strangers regarding something delightful about them. It is admiring some aspect of character in a friend. It is stopping to consider the sunrise and the gradually assured power of light and then admitting it to our own souls, and the one who listens to our souls.
The most complimentary man I’ve ever met was named John. And when I first experienced the wide-ranging consistency of his compliments I thought it was silly. It was simple, even embarrassing and I couldn’t imagine why he did it, other than to make people bend to his will. Then, after I was around him for a bit I realized it was honest. When I saw where the energy of his life was applied I realized that it was more than a tool to get people to respond pleasantly but insight into truth that brought freedom to others. And, as I experienced the joyful, relaxed community that developed around him in life, I fell into wonder and a desire to imitate him.
So, I keep my eyes and my soul open and attentive.
First Presbyterian, Lancaster