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Read Acts 1:1-11
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
My family and I just took a trip to see the Broadway play, “Wicked”, which is a musical about the Wicked Witch of the West (of Wizard of Oz fame). But this play, which is based off of the parallel novel by Gregory Maguire, takes a significant twist from L. Frank Baum’s novel. In this version, the Wicked Witch is not wicked at all, in fact, she is a well-intentioned animal-activist who becomes labeled “Wicked” because, in part, her appearance and because she refused to play by the rules. Well, there is a lot more to it than that, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for those who have yet to see and/or read it.
Before the first act closes, Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch) is preparing to stand up against what she believes is injustice. Glinda, who is her friend, tries to talk her out of it; however, Elphaba will not be dissuaded; rather, she casts a spell on a common broom, and with it, begins to levitate up into the air. As she does her cape expands (or the lighting makes it seem that way) and is flapping through the air. During this whole scene she is singing the song, “Defying Gravity.” It is quite the spectacle.
I was moved, a lot, by the lyrics of the song: “Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap! It’s time to try defying gravity! I think I’ll try defying gravity, and you can’t pull me down!
The words caused me to pause and reflect on the life of Jesus. He too lived a life in defiance of the status quo. He refused to follow the rules just for the sake of following them. He took the risk to defy the forces that be in order to bring hope, healing and wholeness into a very broken world. As a result, he was labeled “wicked” by those who opposed him. He was betrayed by those closest to him and executed for crimes he never committed; however, he dared to defy gravity and truly no one could pull him down.
In the first chapter in Acts, we see Jesus literally defying gravity as he ascends to heaven after having been resurrected from the dead only forty-days earlier. In another ten days, the holy spirit would come and fill his disciples and they, too, would begin to defy gravity in order to continue the work of the Christ, which is to bear hope, healing and wholeness to broken people in a broken, dark, downtrodden world.
Rather than letting gravity pull you down, rather than let the weight of the world crush you, perhaps its time to place your faith in God and watch how you levitate to heights you never dreamed possible. Perhaps it is time for you to start defying gravity, perhaps it is time for you to rise up out of the rules you find yourself bound to. Perhaps it is time for you to clothe yourself with the cloak of God’s presence so that you, like the apostles and the saints before you, can bear hope, healing, and wholeness to a world that desperately needs it. If that makes you a little “wicked” in the world’s eyes…so be it! Be all that God is calling you to be!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller
Lord, lift me up so that I may rise above what the world says I am and be transformed into all that you want me to be. Amen.
Read 1 John 4
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (Psalm 71:3, 6).
This past weekend, my family and I went to see a high school production of Walt Disney’s Broadway play, Beauty and the Beast. We had been to see the production on Broadway and, to be honest, this high school production was just as good! They were all very professional on stage and we watched with delight as the story came to life before our very eyes.
Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairy tales, and it is one of my favorite Disney movies. One of the reasons I love the film so much, is because I can totally relate with the Beast. And my guess is, so can many of us veterans of this comedy we call life.
When we were children, the world seemed big and bold and beautiful. Everything was colored by the lens of innocence and to us, as children, everything was perfect. But then, as we grew older we began to be tainted by the world. We became more knowledgeable about how harsh the world could be. Ever so slowly, we began to be changed by the surrounding world.
For those of us who were picked on, for those of us who never quite fit in, we began to grow bitter. We learned that we could not trust anyone and, in the process, we lost faith in ourselves. For those of us who have been cheated or abused, perhaps we began to mask ourselves with cold indifference, a defense-mechanism to shield us from being hurt anymore. For those of us who were popular, we began to realize the price of that popularity and felt as if we were imprisoned by it.
Regardless of what category we found ourselves in, we began to believe the images that other defined us as. We began to lose who we were created to be. We began to see something other than ourselves staring back at us in the mirror, and we despised what we saw. All we could see in the mirror was a beast glaring into our eyes.
But like the Beast, we are not meant to be prisoners. Like the Beast, we are not meant to be locked away in darkness, watching the pedals fall from what’s left of our lives. God did not create us to be depressed, cynical, angry, and stressed out. God did not create us to be successful, popular, clickish, aggressive, overly competitive or power-hungry. We let the world define who we are rather than listening to the One who truly knows us, who knew us before we were even formed in our mother’s womb.
God did not create a beast when God created you; rather, God created a beauty. Each one of us is unique, each one of us has something special to offer, and each one of us is beautiful. Look deep inside yourself, look for the beauty that is within you. Stop look at yourself through the lenses the world taught you to wear. Stop seeing yourself as worthless and recognize that God doesn’t create worthlessness. You are a child of God, made in the very image of God, and you are unconditionally…and I stress the word “unconditionally”…loved by God. Accept that love and be recreated in that love! Learn to love yourself, and learn to love others just as God loves you!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We are made in the image of an imageless God” – Dr. Michael Kogan
Lord, strip me of all of the images the world has come to define me with. Show me who I truly am. Amen.
Read 1 Corinthians 13
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The chamber is dark, hollow, desolate. All that can be heard are the echoes ringing through the darkened chasm and corridors like sounds of moaning bellowing through an old, dank mausoleum. The song of two lovebirds pierce the ears of the silhouette of the man left behind in the chamber; their words of loving devotion will haunt him for the rest of his days. Yet, he knows that what he did was right. He knows that he could not hold on to her any longer. He knows that he shouldn’t have held on to her at all. After all he loves her, and it was his love for her, for his precious angel of music, that brought him to the realization that she was never his to begin with.
This is how Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera ends. It is my favorite Broadway musical and it tells the tale of a deformed man who masks his deformity and masquerades around the Paris Opera House, extorting money from the Opera House owners. He also is teaching a young woman, by the name of Christine Daae, whom he loves. He pretends to be her father’s ghost or, rather, her father’s angel of music. You see, Christine’s father died while she was a child and, before he died, he promised to send his angel to her. It was kind of her father’s way of assuring his child that he’d always be with her.
But the Phantom took the words of her father and used them in a way that manipulated Christine. He desired her and wanted her to not only be the most renowned and beloved Soprano in all of France, but he also wanted her to be his bride. Needless to say, that plan fell through and the Phantom ends up kidnapping her after he realizes that she’s fallen in love with another man. That man pursues them in order to save Christine, but he get caught by the Phantom and Christine is given the ultimate choice: either she marries the Phantom or her lover dies.
What kind of love does that? Where does love go so wrong that someone would force you into making such a choice? How can the Phantom claim to love Christine and put her into such a horrifying situation? Somewhere in the midst of rage, those questions must have penetrated the Phantom’s heart. Christine chooses to marry the Phantom in order to save her lover and the Phantom realizes that, even if she does marry him, she will never love him. So, he lets both her and her lover go. He does not harm either of them; rather, he lets them go and sinks back into the shadows of his lair…never to be heard of again.
Why did the Phantom not carry on with his vengeful plot? Why didn’t he kill Christine’s lover and force her to marry him? Why did he let them go? Because he loved her and true love does not force its way. Paul describes true love in 1 Corinthians 13, except that this love goes beyond eros (the kind of love that the Phantom, Christine and her lover were all feeling). The love that Paul writes of is perfect love…the love of God.
The key to this kind of love is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it lets go. I have often heard people say that you have to hold on to what you love; however, true love lets go. God would love for us to send the love back; however, God lets us go so that we may be free to love whoever and whatever we want. If we were forced to love God, it would not be love. This Lent, take a page from God and learn to let go in the areas you find yourself struggling to hold on. In doing so, you will find that LOVE is truly guiding you!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Letting go does not mean giving up; rather, it is giving in to the understanding that LOVE will find its way.
Lord, guide me to surrender all of the things I hold on to. Teach me to let them go. Amen.