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Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Way of Celebrating and Testifying; Noticing and Not Keeping Silent.

Most every imagine/Northampton worship gathering we use the fat cylinder of marbles you see above. Yeah, I know we're weird. Been there; am there; will be there, most likely. Actually, one person's weirdness might just be another person's insight. The reality is our weirdness has meaning: we think Christians should be celebrators and testifiers to the core. We think each through his or her own personality, temperament, and sensibility should develop an attitude of celebration given the enormity of the unmerited grace each one has been given because of Jesus.

On Sunday, we generally begin our worship by giving folks a chance to celebrate the goodness or greatness of Christ by how he's revealed his love for them. From experience, I realize most people think it best to testify to their remarkable encounters with grace, God's provision of healing, kindness or abounding blessing experienced during the week. But to testify to something mundane, seems well, mundane, not particularly worthy of note. In my view, all the ways we are made alive by grace are far beyond counting, from the tiniest to the most monumental. We'll be astonished when he shows them to us.

I remind people that when we hear the word celebrate we need to think of everything from: how our past week was not upended by unrelenting chaos, or fear or danger or loss, illness, cruelty, frustration, stupidity (ours and theirs) etc., to we were able to get out of bed to work another day, or have a roof over our heads. From one day to the next, if we choose to, we'll have bellies full of food we prefer to eat. Yes, we may have had the unthinkable happen this week - because it does for most of us at some point in life - but unless we live in an area of the world overtaken by chaos, it's not the norm. Therefore, celebrating the commonplace or routine is wise. Testifying often and with gratitude to an "uneventful" week is fitting. Pouring out thanks that none of us or those we hold dear went hungry this week is right to do given the One we know behind all our blessings.

I think a hallmark of our being related to the Most High must be our desire to tell of his simple and wondrous works. We are wise to learn the frequent proclaiming of  his greatness, and reminding each other of his goodness. We'd center in REALITY each day by often looking for the evidence of his care and sustaining hand. In other words, a day should never go by without deliberately pausing for a moment to inventory, then acknowledge God's Presence and unmerited favor toward us through the ordinary. Such humility and gratitude soften our hearts to the spiritual discipline of noticing. Taking a moment to perceive God locates us in the REAL behind all that is. The heavens declare the glorious handiwork of God, but so does being able to have a hot cup of coffee in the morning, or being able to wear clean clothes if we want.

And as we make it a spiritual discipline to testify to one another of the Holy Spirit's apprehendable Presence with us each day, we gently entice others to do the same. We point the way. Our noticing and reporting amazing grace unlocks wary lips. Speaking as "normal", Jesus's subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) interaction with his people gives spiritual sight to the hesitant and distracted. When we talk of something regularly over time it becomes to be part of our culture together. Celebrating the Lord's presence in our community helps people begin to look for and share evidence of his life intertwined subtly with ours. God with us becomes God with us because he did this and does that, and "showed up" in this situation, so it goes.

For us the marbles give a light-hearted forum for telling each other how God answered prayer, opened the way for something, healed one of us or someone else, provided just what was needed, is teaching us this or that in real-time situations. Our relating the stories confirms The Story we hold fast to because the God in those stories is the active God of our stories. He's in our midst, and though not physically present in a way we can see him with our eyes, he is spiritually present by how he influences our daily living, whispers in our thoughts, opens our eyes to his Word, answers prayer, uses problems and persisting difficulties to mature us, and sometimes intervenes miraculously such that there is no other reliable way to explain it. Those who seek to know his ways learn to recognize his "hand marks."

The way of celebrating and testifying, noticing and not keeping silent is the way of the Patriarchs, the Kings, the Prophets, Jesus, the disciples, and all who couldn't or wouldn't keep silent throughout the generations since. If God is, then he is to be noticed, celebrated and testified about. It really makes no sense to not tell one another of his faithfulness and beneficent sanctifying in our lives. We are to live/ALIVE as if God is really God so our lives can reflect him. A powerful way we do that is to talk to one another about what our God is doing in and through our days. He's doing what only he can do to make us ready for the weight of glory. So learn to notice his ways in your life. Ask him to teach you of this. Then celebrate what he creates in you, especially freedom and getting to walk with the Teacher of all teachers who will finish what he started in and through you.

Look at the prayer of David below . Notice what he implores his people to do based who he knows God to be and how he has revealed himself in his life:

A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)

PRAYER:

Open my eyes, gracious Father, to see who you are and what you're doing in my life.

           Heal my blindness.

Give me discernment to notice keenly much the Holy Spirit is active and near me all the time.

          Heal my ignorance.

Teach me the way of celebrating who you are and how you're making my life matter.

          Heal my hesitation.

Unlock my tongue and open my mouth to testify often to your beauty, greatness, and goodness.

           Heal my silence and fear.

Let me be one who helps others see you and come close because of how I talk of your liberating love and ways.

In your name, the ONE who is worthy to be honored and celebrated.

Amen.




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