Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

J.S.S.

Read Matthew 11:25-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.“ (John 10:10 CEB)

the-walking-dead-episode-602-enid-nacon-breckinridge-935As I have stated on multiple occasions, one of my all-time favorite shows is “The Walking Dead” on AMC. I was just watching the most recent episode entitled, “J.S.S..” I run a pretty tight ship in the “no spoiler zone”, so I will not be making any major spoils to the episode; however, I will be letting you know what the initials “J.S.S.” stand for. So if you are a fan of the show, haven’t seen this episode and don’t want to know what they mean, let this be your warning. Just put this devotion aside and read it after you watch the episode.

In the latest episode, a girl is seen wandering the empty streets. She is the last in her family to survive and she is wandering by day and hiding in empty cars by night. She eats whatever she can get her hands on to survive and looks like a bloody mess from all of the animals, and zombies, she’s had to kill. There doesn’t seem to be much left of her. She looks exhausted, confused, lost, empty, and hollowed out like an embalmed cranium. She is a shadow of her former self and she is just barely surviving. Everywhere she goes, she writes the initials, “J.S.S.”.

Without giving anymore of the storyline away, we finally find out what “J.S.S.” stands for: “Just Survive Somehow.” Indeed, that is what she had been doing, wandering from place to place, eating whatever disgusting and unpalatable animal that came her way. That is what she had been doing night after night, clearing the rotting dead from the cars parked on the road so that she could have a “safe” shelter to sleep in. That is what she had been doing…just surviving somehow.

As I see it, that is what a lot of us do. We just survive somehow. Day after day, night after night, week after week, and year after year. We just survive somehow. We wander through our lives like the aforementioned girl wandering the zombie infested streets. Every day we wake up, get out of bed, put on our shallow, fake smiles and our “happy face” masks and set out to just survive another long and painful day. In fact, we’ve gotten so accustomed to surviving that it has really, for all intents and purposes, become our sole purpose in life: just survive somehow.

We think to ourselves, “maybe tomorrow will be better,” and when tomorrow comes and goes we think, “Maybe next week will be better.” Of course, next week, next year, next decade, things don’t seem to ever get better and we feel trapped in perpetual survival mode. So we tell ourselves again to “just survive somehow.” Surviving becomes such a terrible and lonely fight and some of us, too many of us, simply don’t win out in the end. Surviving becomes too much for us and we find that it’s better to succumb.

How sad it is that so many people have spent their lives “surviving.” Sadder still is the truth that many people don’t survive at all, but rather become victims of their loneliness and hopelessness. These unfortunate ones never got to see their true worth, they never had a chance to see that there is beauty in this life, and they never had the chance to see that God wants them to thrive, not just survive.

If this is you, if you are just surviving somehow, if you are merely hanging on in your life, then I bring you good news. You are not alone in your struggles. God created you, you are a daughter or a son of God, and God wants you to move beyond surviving to thriving in life. This doesn’t mean that you’ll become rich and permanently happy; rather, this means that you will rise up out of the ashes of survival and into the hope that comes through the sacred community of the Triune God. You will be surrounded by a community of thriving survivors who have experienced God’s hope, healing and wholeness and want to freely share that with you. If this is you, I pray that you enter God’s community and experience love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle

PRAYER
Lord, I’ve been in survival mode for far too long. Awake in me the desire to thrive in my faith and in my life. Amen.

Crooked Paths

Read Isaiah 42:12-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Seek [God’s] will in all you do, and [God] will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:6, NLT)

crooked-pathA couple of months back I was watching a televangelist who just happened to be on at the time I turned the TV. I cannot remember which televangelist it was; however, I distinctly remember his message. He was utilizing Proverbs 3:6 and proclaiming that those who submit to God, those who know God and have a relationship with God, those who faithfully acknowledge God will find that God makes their paths straight (NRSV) for them. In other words, bumpy, crooked, twisted, and labyrinth-like roads are OUR doing. The implication is, of course, that if life is hard, if things aren’t going smoothly, if we feel that our path is an obstacle course, then that means we are NOT submitting to, knowing, or faithfully acknowledging God and God’s direction for our lives.

I vehemently reject that notion! Too often I hear people questioning their faith, as well as God’s love for them, because their road is hard and things aren’t going well. Too often the sick are guilted to think they didn’t faith enough or they didn’t pray hard enough when they aren’t healed. Too often the abused think that God is punishing them, or allowing the abuse to happen, because they haven’t been acknowledging God enough in their lives. Too often the oppressed stay in oppressive situations because they feel that God has placed that on them as “their cross”, only to find out that the cross is never, ever removed.

While I do not deny that there is truth to the Proverb, I think that it has been hijacked by those who want to say what it doesn’t. When we look at the Bible, we do simply DO NOT see a God who ALWAYS gives the faithful a straight path. Let’s look at the Exodus. They submitted to God, went out on a limb and followed the seemingly nutty prophet Moses straight out of Egypt with the hopes they would arrive safely, and relatively quickly, to the land of promise. Instead of God taking them the direct route (approx. 372 miles or about a week’s journey, give or take), God led them on a 40 year journey zig-zagging, backtracking, and back again through the wilderness. Yes, the people fell in and out of faith during that journey, but it started off crazy. They cross the depths of a sea instead of going a few miles North to go through shallow water. They go South, through mountainous terrain instead of North, which was the direction of the Promised Land. So, yeah, they were a little frustrated when an entire generation of people died off before they reached what should have been only a week away.

Beyond the Exodus, let’s look at Esther. Was her path straight? How about Jeremiah? How about Daniel? How about Job? Was Job’s path straight? How about Jesus? Look at his life. He invested himself in God and in the people he came to serve. Did that lead to a coronation, to adoration and a straight path to being revered? Nope. His path was anything but straight. It led to being second guessed by his family, misunderstood by his disciples, betrayed by one of his own, rejected by the people he had invested in, arrested by his enemies, and beaten, tortured, and killed by the world he came to save. That doesn’t sound like a straight, “easy peasy lemon squeezy” path to me. Should our theology imply that Moses, Esther, Jeremiah, Daniel, Job, John the Baptist, and Jesus didn’t submit, faithfully acknowledge or follow God well enough? Should we imply that they failed in their faith? Of course not!

Do not be seduced by such conveniently simple, and extremely dangerous, theologies. God never promised us easy, straight paths. What God did promise is that God would never abandon or forsake us on this bumpy journey. God would never forget us or leave us alone. Even if we aren’t always faithful, God always is!!! If we are faithful, then our faith will make us aware of God’s presence. The aforementioned proverb is pointing to that. If we acknowledge God, then our faith in God will show us the way God is leading us. It will make God’s way clear to us. Let us not be seduced by shortcutting around hard-earned understanding with bad theology, let us rather wrestle with God and grow in our faith. Then the path will be made known to us, whether it is easy or not.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

PRAYER

Lord, I have faith that you are with me and I trust that you are guiding me. Make your way clear to me and I will follow. Amen.

Cubic Zirconia

Read Matthew 15:44

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.” (Matthew 13:45, NLT)

cz2webWhat do you value? What is it that you place all of your stock in? What is it that you would spare no expense for? What is your gleaming treasure? In today’s suggested reading, Jesus tells of a man who stumbles upon treasure hidden in a field that is so precious to him that he then sells everything he has in order to purchase that field and, by extension, purchase that treasure.

Now for those of us who really hear that parable and really give it some thought, we are left there stunned. I mean, why would someone stumble upon treasure hidden in a field and sell everything they own just to purchase the field with the treasure they stumbled on and could have had for nothing. That just doesn’t make any sense, does it? That seems like the most ridiculous and unlikely scenario ever told, does it not? Come on Jesus, surely you can do better than that?

Yet, the power in the parable is not in its plausibility but in its implausibility, for it is in the extreme and implausible actions of this seemingly lunatic man that we find the truthful point that Jesus is making. Sure, the man could have just taken the treasure and kept it for himself; however, that action would have been cheap and worthless and it would have rendered the treasure as such; rather, by selling everything and purchasing the land, and the treasure by necessity, makes that treasure the most valuable thing the man possesses, for he now owns nothing but the small plot of land and that treasure. The things we value the most will consume our very lives, and our actions will follow suit. Nothing else will stand a chance in competing for our devotion.

So, let me ask the question again. What do you value? The treasure above represents the Kingdom of God. Do you value the Kingdom of God…do you really, really value it? Do you value what God values? Do you value love, compassion, presence, respect, hospitality, service, sacrifice, grace, faith, faithfulness, justice, mercy, and social/economic/ecological/spiritual responsibility? Do you value the dignity and the divine spark within the all people you know and deal with. Do you treat everyone with equal respect and honor? Are you real in your values? Are your values real in you?

Plenty of people list their values and claim to live by them; however, values are not cheap like talk can be. The very word value denotes something of worth or cost, something to be treasured and sought after. When we claim to hold values that we don’t follow we show that those values are not real to us, we show that we are really seeking after Cubic Zirconia as opposed to the diamond in the rough. When we use values as a mask to hide the truth of who we are and/or the things we do, we are showing ourselves to be disingenuous and fake. We may fool some with that kind of an act, we may even fool ourselves, but we will never, ever fool God. God knows our hearts.

The Kingdom of Heaven is something of profound worth, something worth selling our very selves to purchase and to possess. The truth is that we can never, ever possess it; rather, it possesses us. Though we seek the Kingdom of Heaven, we discover that it searches us out. Though we may be Cubic Zirconia on the outside, God sees in us the diamond in the rough and chisels away the shells that surround us to reveal the inner gem. And once God does that we are transformed into a people who live by the very values that have claimed and shaped us. We become transformed to the point that the very values of the Kingdom of God become our own identity. We not only believe in them, we live by them. Not because we feel obligated, or because we’re putting up some sort of manufactured front, but because it’s who we are.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” – Socrates

PRAYER
Lord, help me to not only proclaim my values, but to actually live into the values I proclaim. Amen.

The Prophet’s Call

Read Amos 5:11-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Those who exploit the powerless anger their maker, while those who are kind to the poor honor God.” (Proverbs 14:31 CEB)

US-Pope-Francis-Congress.JPTwo weeks ago, America was tuned into the 24 hour news cycle. It wasn’t because of some nefarious criminal, or some horrendous crime. It wasn’t because some celebrity was getting married or that some other celebrity was getting divorced. There were no major scandals, and for the first time in I am not sure how long, the news wasn’t very negative at all. Why was this? Because Pope Francis I was visiting the United States of America for the very first time. He started off in Washington D.C., headed from there to New York City, and finally ended up in Philadelphia. The news, and the country, could not get enough of it!

With that said, not ALL of the news was positive. All of the commentators seemed happy that the Pope was here and they were praising him and his papacy; however, with that said, some commentators objected to some of Pope Francis’s stances. Some disagreed with his stance on climate change, while others disagreed with his stance on capital punishment. Some were astounded that the Pope would come to the U.S.A and talk about the injustice found within the golden calf we call capitalism. Some were upset he interjected in our ongoing immigration debate.

“With all due respect to the Holy Father,” I heard one commentator state, “he really should stick with things of a religious nature and leave the politics to the politicians. He’s the head of the church, and while at the Vatican he is also the head of state, America is not a theocracy and he is out of his league speaking in politics here.” Some commentators opined that the Pope didn’t understand capitalism in American and that he only knew capitalism to be as it was in his country of Argentina: crony capitalism (as if that doesn’t exist here too).

Hearing all of the debates going back and forth made me question, was the Pope out of line for speaking out politically against things he felt were wrong, unjust and in need of change? Should a religious and/or spiritual leader simply keep to “religious” things and leave politics to the politicians? Of course the answer is both yes…and NO! Let me address “yes” first. If a religious leader is putting themselves out into the political sphere to garner political points or to receive political gain, then obviously that religious leader is acting inappropriately. If the religious leader is pushing an inherently political agenda for the purpose of getting a specific person elected, or to push his/her congregation to endorse a specific candidate, I will concede that the religious leader is in the wrong.

Yet, I object the claim that religious leaders should stick to religion and leave the politics to the politicians, because that inherently disregards what religion is and it denies the very station that religious leaders and prophets (Jesus included) have taken in society. You cannot divorce religion from politics, just because a religious leader’s message is inconvenient to one’s agenda. The fact is, if a society is acting unjustly, then it is the religious leaders duty to speak out against that injustice. That isn’t political…IT’S RELIGIOUS.

Religion literally means to reconnect or rejoin together. It is the reconnecting of our relationship with God and with our neighbors. It’s all about relationships. Therefore, if a society is in moral decline and/or if there is injustice and oppression within it, then it is counteracting the call of the Spirit to be in right relationship with God and neighbor. It is also hindering others from doing the same. It is a religious person’s duty, it is their obligation to speak out on those subjects no matter how inconvenient those truths might be. That can be done without naming people, without any hidden agenda and certainly without bashing or endorsing candidates; however, the faithful are called to stand up against oppression and injustice. As I see it, Pope Francis is leading the way. Don’t scoff, but join him in ending injustice.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos, Jewish prophet (circa 750’s BC)

PRAYER
Lord, let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Strengthen me to speak your words of truth to the power. Amen.

Closet Cleaning

Read Daniel 2:20-23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 CEB)

191-skeleton-in-the-closetThis past August, I went to the theater to see the film entitled, “The Gift.” It was a psychological thriller written and directed by Joel Edgerton who had played Rameses, the Pharaoh who opposed Moses in last year’s Biblical Epic, “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” The film is centered on a young married couple who recently moved from Chicago to California while recovering from a recent miscarriage. The husband had grown up there and the couple decided to move back there after losing the baby. While shopping for furniture for their new house, the husband (played by Jason Bateman) bumps into someone he knew back in high school named Gordon Mosely, who went by the nickname Gordo. The meeting was, of course, awkward to say the least and when it was time for the young couple to leave, you could see the relief on the husband’s face.

The story doesn’t end there. Gordo is a pretty resourceful guy and ends up showing up on their door step with a house-warming gift. They eat dinner with him and when he leaves the husband starts questioning his wife about the oddness of Gordo’s sudden appearance in their lives. Gordo continues to have interactions with the husband, and the wife, and starts to weird the couple out. It is at this point the husband starts to feel threatened by Gordo, and confronts him directly in order to send a clear message that he wants him out of their lives. Without giving anything else away, it is obvious the story doesn’t end there and that Gordo isn’t done harassing this young couple. But what becomes clear, is that as weird and offsetting as Gordo is, we begin to see that the husband has a good many skeletons in his closet and, should they be revealed, they could not only threaten him personally, but also the very fabric of his marital relationship.

If that teaser doesn’t get you to want to see the film, nothing will. As I was watching it I found myself being judgmental of the characters. Each of them had skeletons in their closet, things that they had hidden and buried for years. How could they do that? How could they possibly think that they would get away with trying to hide those things? It was in the moment of such judgment passing that I realized the hypocrisy in my own line of questioning. After all, which one of us doesn’t have skeletons in our closet? Which one of us doesn’t have dark aspects to our thoughts, our personalities and even, sometimes, our deeds? Each of us have thought or done something we are not proud of and each of us have buried those things and tried to move on from them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to move on from previous sins; however, when we do it in a way that is dishonest, when we do it in away that allows us to not come to terms with and repent for what we’ve done, then those sins become skeletons. While the closet door is closed, those skeletons hang silently on their noose-like hangers and we forget they’re there. We may even deceive ourselves into thinking they were never there to begin with, that we hadn’t sinned at all; however, when someone or something opens those doors, those skeletons bare themselves and clink together like wooden reeds in the wind.

Today’s challenge is two-fold. First, don’t judge others for the skeletons that are in their closets. For you know it is true that you have skeletons of your own that could just as easily be exposed and judged. Second, deal with your own skeletons. Acknowledge the sins and/or mistakes of your past and be repentant of them. I don’t mean that you have to shout them out to the world but, where reconciliation with others is needed, work hard to reconcile with them. If you work hard to clear out the skeletons in your own closet, and we all know there is a lifetime full, then you won’t have time to notice the skeletons in another’s closet. Even if you do, you won’t judge because you know you’ve been there; rather, you will reach out in love and offer them a helping hand in their closet cleaning.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.” – St. Jerome
PRAYER
Lord, help to acknowledge the skeletons in my closet so that I may truly move forward from them in grace. Amen.

Daniel’s Apocalypse

Read Daniel 7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.” (Matthew 13:37, NRSV)

daniel-10-vision-son-of-manThroughout the nearly twenty centuries in which Christianity has existed, many Christians have been raptured by the notion that the End Times are approaching, looking to the apocalyptic texts in the Bible to interpret the events happening in their world. Since the nineteenth century, there has been a renewed and somewhat reimagined End Times narrative that has since become the dominant perception in popular culture of what the Bible is saying in books such as Daniel, Ezekiel, 1 Thessalonians, and Revelation. This popular understanding has been propagated in Christian literature such as “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey and the Left Behind series. It has been found in the secular world as well in films such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and other such horror films.

The word “apocalypse” means “unveiling” and in apocalyptic writings, the authors have been given a “revelation” or an “unveiling” of the things that are currently happen and/or are soon to pass in the future. Daniel 7 is such an apocalyptic text, and in modern popular culture, it has been interpreted in light of other apocalyptic texts such as Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4, and Revelation. The problem with this is that these interpretations often do not take the apocalyptic author’s own historical and religious context into account, which leaves us with a heavily skewed understanding of what those texts are stating.

Daniel 7 talks about the winds stirring the sea, four beasts rising up, and ten horns found on the fourth beast (three of which are removed and replaced by another smaller horn covered with eyes and a boasting mouth. The sea is always symbolizes the primordial chaos that surrounds God’s ordered and good creation. Water is both life and death, and the chaotic seas in the ancient world (as well as in ours) are always threatening to destroy us. The winds that are stirring them are the “angels” of heaven, implying that there is a spiritual warfare going on in the cosmos, mirroring the ancient Semitic myth of the storm god (Baal in Canaanite mythology and Marduk in the Babylonian mythology). In the ancient world, beasts always represented Empires and/or Kingdoms. Thus, in Daniel’s apocalyptic dream, the first beast represented Babylon, the second represented the Medes, the third the Persians, and the fourth represented the Greek/Seleucid Empire.

It was under these Empires, one after the next, that the Hebrew people suffered great oppression under. But, in Daniel’s vision, these Empires wouldn’t have the final say. God was doing something significant, something that would overthrow the forces of evil in the world and would begin the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth. He sees someone like the “Son of Man” coming on the clouds and ushering in that Kingdom. The apocalyptic author of Daniel was providing hope for people caught in what seemed like a hopeless situation. God would take authority away from the beast-like Kingdoms and return it to human-like Israel

It was this hope that, 160 years after the writing of this text, a Jewish prophet and teacher would proclaim he was the fulfillment of. That man, of course, was Jesus of Nazareth and he was claiming that he was that “Son of Man” and he proclaimed the arrival of God’s Kingdom on Earth. It was this “Son of Man” that was proclaiming a message that was counter to the powers of the world, one that preached of strength through humility, through meekness, through peace, through compassion, through self-sacrifice and through unconditional love. While Jesus does proclaim a post-ascension time when he would return, Daniel, according to Jesus, was not pointing to an event following the Christ; rather, Daniel was pointing to the Christ event itself. Let us who believe in Jesus as the Christ rejoice, for we have been chosen by him to continue the unveiling of the enduring Kingdom he ushered in! Our call is not to predict the future, but to serve God’s Kingdom today.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” – Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Matthew 19:21)

PRAYER Lord, thank you for revealing to me the Son of Man. Help me to do my part in serving your Kingdom on Earth. Amen.

Be Still, My Soul

Read Mark 5:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10)

The-Wolf-Man“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the Wolf’s Bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” At first when Larry Talbot hears those words recited to him by the engaged woman he is attempting to seduce, he laughs it off as superstitious hogwash. One thing that could certainly be said is that Larry was certainly not pure in heart but, then again, who is? Regardless, Larry was a modern, civilized man, and there was no way that he was going to buy into werewolves and in any mythical monster.

Yet, as it turns out, later that night following those words being recited to him, Larry is bitten by what looks like a large wolf and his life becomes a living nightmare. As the full moon draws closer, Larry became more and more convinced that he was, in fact, bitten by a werewolf. He was so paranoid that he tried to convince his father who refused to believe him. Instead, his father put him in the care of a psychiatrist. On the morning following the full moon, Larry found himself lying in bed with tattered and dirty clothes on. His window was open wide and dirty footprints could be seen. At first they were wolf-like, but each footprint became more and more human. Once he saw this Larry knew his worst nightmare had come true: he was the wolf man.

As you have probably figured out, I have just summed up the first half of the movie, “The Wolf Man”, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. It is one of my favorite films because I find that I truly relate with the character. I think many, if they are honest, can relate with him. We are all flawed people. Even when we have the best of intentions, we are not pure in heart. We often try to hide the impurity and the ugliness; however, at some point, that ugliness always shows. No matter how hard we try to suppress the beast within us, whatever that beast is, the full moon eventually rises upon it and the beast is unleashed. This, of course, is a metaphor and our inner “beasts” take the form of anger, depression, hatred, bitterness, addiction, gossip, divisiveness, cynicism, and many other things.

This is a reality. We may not like to admit it, but we all have a beast that lies underneath the surface just waiting to come out of the darkness to take over and destroy our lives and the lives of those around us. The question is, will we like Larry deny that the inner beast exists? Will we deny our impurities? Will we pretend that we are all “good” people who have no weaknesses or hangups? Or will we come to terms with the fact that, while our life can be beautiful at points, it is also true that we find ourselves walking thorny paths? Will we acknowledge the thorny paths we are on. This reminds me of the first verse of a famous hymn, “Be Still, My Soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

While “Be Still, My Soul” is talking about having strength in times of tribulation, there really is no greater tribulation than trying to fight our inner demons alone. The reality is that we were born in a broken world as broken people. The more we deny our weaknesses the more our souls suffer the consequences of that inner struggle. The Good News here is that you need not fight it at all. Christ has power over our demons if we will only allow him into our lives and into our hearts. That takes humility, it takes repentance, and it takes a willingness on our part to be transformed and to change; however, is the alternative a better option? The same Christ who cast Legion out of the possessed man in the reading for today, is the same Christ who can conquer the inner demons, the inner beast, in your life. All you need do is have faith, to be willing to change, and to allow Christ to still the storm in your soul.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.” – Katharina von Schlegel

PRAYER Lord, still the storm within my soul. Should it ever return, remind me that you are Lord in my life and that I need not fight the battle alone. Amen.

The Search for the Holy Grail

Read 1 Corinthian 11:17-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26 CEB)

The HolyGrailI just recently watched the film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” This has always been my favorite of the four films because it deals with Indiana Jones’ quest to find the Holy Grail. While I am sure most of you know what the Holy Grail is, for those of you who don’t the Holy Grail is the cup of which Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles drank from during the Last Supper. Indiana’s father (played by Sean Connery) had been searching for the Grail his whole life, but when he gets close to finding it he disappears. Indiana then picks up where is father left off in order to not only find the Grail but to also find his father.

Before embarking on the quest, Indy turns to his friend, Marcus Brody, and asks him if he thinks there is actually any truth to the legend of the Holy Grail. Marcus responded, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” This statement hit me in a way it never really did before. I think as a younger person, I never fully understood the profound implication of that statement; yet, as a grown adult and a trained theologian, the proclamation is actually a revelation of the nature of who we are in Christ Jesus. This is not just some Hollywood-contrived revelation, but is a revelation we find throughout the Bible.

When we think of the Holy Grail, we think of the Last Supper, we think of the Knights of the Round Table, we think of Indiana Jones, we think of Monty Python, and some may even think of Dan Brown’s controversial work of fiction, “The Da Vinci Code.” Almost always, the Holy Grail is thought of as an object, as the cup that held the wine (aka blood) of Jesus Christ. In the case of the Indiana Jones film, the cup itself was holy and had magical powers of healing and rejuvenation as a result of Christ using it it in such a holy moment in history. In books like the Da Vinci Code, the Holy Grail is a woman (going back to Mary Magdalene) who carried on the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Again, like the cup, the woman is merely important because she’s bearing the bloodline of Jesus.

What I noticed was that, when thinking of the Holy Grail, we tend to lose the bigger picture for the smaller details. We lose the significance of the Holy Grail when we cheapen it to being a “cup” or a “womb” or anything else. Marcus Brody points us to a deep truth when he says, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” Indeed. Jesus didn’t hold The Last Supper in order to turn a cup into an idol. Also, to get caught up in the “married Jesus” debate is to completely miss the entire point of Jesus ministry and the Last Supper.

In the act of “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood”, the disciples are taking Jesus into themselves and making him a part of their own identity. In other words they, in that sacred moment and from that time forward, become the Holy Grail…bearing the grace and the love of Jesus to all the world. Just as Jesus was the Son of God, we who believe in Christ and partake in Holy Communion as a public profession of our faith, take on the identity of sons and daughters of God. I am sure some of my Protestant brothers and sisters might be questioning if I am taking Communion a little too literally. While I am not, I would say that to question that is to miss the truth of the above.

Whether we believe in Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, or we believe that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is a symbol of God’s grace and forgiveness for us, the fact remains that Holy Communion is a reminder that we are called to be the Holy Grails of Christ. We are called to be the vessels that bear Christ’s love in the world. We are called to be Sacramental and to be transformational. We are called to be agents of Christ’s grace and witnesses to the presence of God. Remember this the next time you partake in communion and be transformed.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” – Marcus Brody in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

PRAYER Lord, I am your vessel fill me with your grace so that I may bear witness to your grace in the lives of others. Amen.