“Nails” by Lois A. Cheney

Awhile back I emailed this to a friend, and since I had to type it up, I figured I might as well post it here as well.  I love this short devotion, as well as the book from which it is taken.  Both this devotion and the book (see below) never fail to convict me.

———-

The ancient Hebrews were so tied by tradition they couldn’t recognize the Messiah when he was right there in front of them,
and he was crucified.

The disciples, who walked and worked with the Christ, were very afraid of him; they hoped, but they also doubted, and they ran that night,
and he was crucified.

The common people mobbed him, showed him their sicknesses and sores,and they threw down an aisle of palms for him and sang to him,
and he was crucified.

His family was embarrassed, and stood outside, and wished he’d come home,
and he was crucified.

Would we crucify Jesus today? It’s not a rhetorical question for the mind to play with.
I believe,
We are each born with a body, a mind, a soul, and a handful of nails.

I believe,
When a man dies, no one has ever found any nails left,
clutched in his hands
or stuffed in his pockets.

God is No Fool, Lois A. Cheney, Abingdon Press, 1969

God is No Fool
by Lois A. CheneyRead more about this title…

The Key to Something . . . The Key to Everything

One of the best books I have read on the Christian life is an extremely interesting and easy read by Donald Miller entitled Blue Like Jazz.  In the coming weeks I may use excerpts of this book as the basis for some of my blogs about my own feelings about the faith of which I am an ordained minister, but I want to start with a quote from a chapter near the end of the book named “Jesus”. In it Miller writes,

A guy I know named Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, and why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring, except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was a big as life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions-I don’t know what they were, but as a final question, he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair, behind his big desk, and wept.

When Alan told that story, I wondered what it was like to love Jesus like that. I wondered quite honestly if that Bill Bright guy was just nuts, or if he really knew Jesus in a personal way, so well that he would cry at the very mention of His name. I knew then that I would like to know Jesus like that; with all my heart, not just my head. I really felt like that would be the key to something.”

I am often a whiner and complainer, and when it comes to the failings of the church this is even more true. There is much wrong with “organized religion.” From denominations concerned about their own preservation to local churches filled with people whose primary concern is the church meeting their own needs, Christianity often does not looks like a religion that Jesus would have deigned to found.

Nevertheless, I have found my calling in life as a minister of the gospel. It is not something i would have chosen for myself (that is another story), but here I am, and in spite of all of its flaws, I believe that the church is one of the primary ways that God has chosen to reach our world with his message of love and grace. It is passages and stories like the one above that give me hope that we have not failed entirely in our mission.

This passage reminds me that, more than anything else, my calling has to do with introducing people to Jesus and calling them to love him as he loves them. Nothing else I do is more important than this. This is, in Miller’s words, “the key to something.” In fact, as a follower of Jesus, i would go even further: it is the key to everything.

For a another take on this quote from Blue Like Jazz, visit seretoninrain here.


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A Quote that Is Informing my Sermon Preparation

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, Therefore, we are saved by hope.

Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;Therefore, we are saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite a virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or
foe as from our own; Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love
which is forgiveness.

– Reinhold Neibuhr

I may or may not use this in my sermon for this coming Sunday (at our Welcome Table service), but for me it is certainly a provocative quote. Forgiveness is the way our faith, hope and love are embodied in our lives. This was, at least true for Jesus, and it should be true for his followers as well. Forgiveness is also how mercy and grace are in evidence in and through us.

One possible text for Sunday is John 9:8-10 – verses not used in the Revised Common Lectionary at all (a crying shame if you ask me). Here we find Jesus showing mercy and grace to a woman caught in adultery and facing the “stoning squad.” “Neither do I condemn you,” he tells her, “Go and leave your life of sin behind.”

Leaving behind our own “lives of sin” is possible only if we experience forgiveness of the magnitude that Jesus offered that nameless woman so long ago. It is only possible if we have tasted grace and felt mercy. And once this has happened to us, we have no choice but to offer the same to others.