Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Smell A Rat

Last Month (December 2014) there were several news reports of a woman in Florida whose house had been invaded by 300 rats (see here, for example). It all started in 2012, when her three pet rats escaped and began following the Old Testament command to “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Now, several years later, these faithful little creatures had obediently multiplied into an estimated 300, all living under her roof.  They were in every room of the house, in the cabinets, in every nook and cranny, and along with the rats came their smell, their droppings, and their damage.  The woman said:  "I didn't think of it as a big deal or a problem. I still don't, but it really got out of hand." Rescue workers were busy trying to trap all the rats (alive) so they could be placed in a good home.  

Now I’m not against pet rats.  They’re great company for people who want and love them. But like any pet, they need to be cared for properly.  They need to have clear boundaries and appropriate limits.  Let them run free and unchecked, and they will soon take over your home in very unhealthy ways.

And it seems to me that this is the case with many things in life.  A lot of things are fine in controlled moderation, but let them run wild, and you’ve got a problem.  There’s nothing wrong with eating, for example, but if you stop eating to live and start living to eat, you end up with some weighty problems.  Any addiction can ruin your life.  Candy is perfectly legal and cocaine very illegal, but both can kill you if you’re hooked on them. 

Unchecked emotional and spiritual issues are frequently sources of danger.  Infestations of anger, bitterness, envy, and a whole slew of inner pests have brought down many a strong person.  Even human beings (including family and friends) may become so inappropriately demanding that they literally take over your life and drain you of your time and energy, eventually killing you with stress. 

This is why I think it’s good to spend some time every year engaging in spiritual pest control.  It’s good to look at the “rats” in our lives, identify the things that may be growing out of hand, and then act to bring those creatures back in check.  Some need to be exterminated; some need to be controlled, and some just need to be placed within proper boundaries. 

Frequently people do this at the beginning of every year with New Year’s Resolutions, and the entire season of Lent (this year starting on February 18th and leading to Easter) is traditionally a time for Christians to practiced inner spiritual fumigation. But whatever your excuse, I invite you to do a self-pest-control inspection. 

Jesus told a parable about a foolish person who built a house on the sand.  “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!" (Matthew 7:27 NRSV).  The same thing happens in the end to the foolish person who doesn’t deal with termites, mold…and rats.

Yours in Christ;

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Most Important Person in the Bible

OK, so I'm getting this up a bit late!  Here it is anyhow.  
            A Sunday School teacher shared with her class the story of the Birth of Jesus, how Gabriel had appeared to Mary, how Mary had faithfully agreed to have the baby Jesus, how she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, how Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn.    After telling the story, the teacher asked, “Who do you think the most important woman in the Bible is?”  Of course she was expecting the kids to say “Mary,” and was therefore surprised when one of the students answered “Eve”.
            “Why do you think Eve is the most important woman?” asked the teacher.
            “Because,” said the student,  “Eve has two holidays named after her:  Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.”
            While we may not all agree on who the most important woman in the Bible is, most of us would agree that Jesus in the most important person.  The Christmas season is a time to celebrate his birth, and remember his importance.  He is the Messiah, to which the Scriptures point and the King of Kings who stands above all earthly kingdoms.  But Christmas also reminds us that Jesus didn’t come for his own sake.  He came for the sake of others.  He was born for you and me, he lived for you and me, and he died for you and me.
            As significant as the well being of Jesus was, he considered our well being to be of greater significance.  As precious as the life of Jesus was, he considered our lives to be more precious.  Jesus was truly important, but it’s ironic that he was important because he considered others to be more important.  He told his disciples:  “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NRSV) 
            During the Christmas Season, it’s easy to become so focused on the person of Jesus that we forget about the generous and loving Spirit of Jesus.   We admire him, but not his teachings.   His figurine sits at the center of our nativity set, but not at the center of our life.  We put him on a pedestal, without bothering to put him in our heart.  And in spite of all our words about “putting Christ back into Xmas” and how “Jesus is the reason for the season”, we forget that – in a real sense - we bumbling human beings stand at the heart of Christmas, and we bumbling human beings are the reason for the season.  If we didn’t need a light in our darkness, the Light of Christ would have never been given.            
            Who is the most important person in the Bible?  In a sense, you are.  And I am.  And our neighbor is.  It’s for our sake that God gave the marvelous gift of Jesus Christ.
            This Christmas may we do more than remember Christ.  We have an important part to play in the holiday as well.  May we gratefully embrace his love, and share it with others. 

Merry Christmas