Monday, October 12, 2015

Transformation Takes Time

            We live in an instant society.  It seems like an already fast-paced world is getting faster and faster by the day.  Boredom with just about everything is on the rise.  If we have to wait for anything, it’s just not worth it.  In such a world, patience is a much needed virtue.    

            In our spiritual lives, patience is even more important.  The reality for all of us is that spiritual maturity and transformation takes time.  It’s a process.  By just adding (boiling) water you can make instant oatmeal, but in the life of the Christian it isn’t so simple.  Some have mistakenly assumed that after rising from the waters of baptism and beginning their new life in Christ everything will be perfect and there won’t be any hiccups along the way.  Eventually reality comes along and blows this misunderstanding to shreds.  It becomes easy to lose patience with others, and especially ourselves.  Becoming conformed to the image of Christ is a long and slow process for the most diligent follower of Jesus.  For a slow learner like me, it has at times proven to be especially frustrating.

            But thankfully Jesus is especially patient.  He spent three years with 12 knucklehead disciples and not once did he give up on them.  Sure, he occasionally let them know that he was frustrated with their lack of understanding, but he continued to touch their lives until his teaching sunk in.  We can be sure that though we so often get it wrong, as long as we continue to stumble and crawl behind our master we will eventually begin to resemble the one we follow.  Patience is a virtue and thankfully Jesus has plenty of it!  - Shay

Unclean Dogs

               We see them every day.  We pass them on the street, in the grocery store aisle, in the halls at school and at work.  We don’t refer to them as dogs, but sometimes we might treat them as such.  We may not call them unclean, but sometimes we’re unwilling to touch them.  They’re the marginalized, the ostracized, the outcasts, the leftovers, and the left-outs.  They’re the worldly, immoral, irresponsible, and irredeemable.  Or are they?

               When we pass by a mirror from time to time, we’re reminded that we not only used to live like them, we were them.  Sometimes we still are them.  But sometimes we forget.  We forget that though they may seem like unclean dogs, like us, they’re people made in God’s image and in need of the forgiveness and healing that only Jesus can bring.  

               The good news for them and for us is that Jesus doesn’t merely heal us, he transforms us as we move through death into new life.  In Mark chapter 5 Jesus essentially resurrects a man who had been enduring nothing short of a living death.  Later in that chapter he heals a woman who had lived in an unclean state for 12 years.  At the end of Mark 5, Jesus speaks words of life to a little girl who had tragically died at the age of 12.  She’s resurrected and the unclean stain of death is removed.  When one reads ahead to Mark chapter 7, the theme of uncleanness is again brought to the fore.  As the Pharisees and scribes argue with Jesus about ritual purity and uncleanness, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter and reminds us that our inward lives have far more to do with our unclean states than our physical hygiene.  Then he speaks words of grace to an unclean Gentile woman.  Through these stories we’re reminded that though we all were once unclean, we can be made clean through God’s power initiated through the gospel of Jesus Christ! - Shay