Monday, December 27, 2010

i Was Glad When They Said . . .

Every Lord's Day, i wake up excited about the opportunity of worship.  Yesterday was no different.  Though i longed to stay home with my family who were here for Christmas, i longed to be with my larger family at church.  After all, i only have the chance to worship with them once a week for an hour or so, and i had the remainder of the day to spend with my immediate family.  i wished that all my family had come to worship with me, but they didn't choose to do so, and i accept their choice of doing what they needed to do, just as they accepted my choice of needing to be in worship.

As i sat in church, some insights came to me.  Our minister was preaching on the New Testament reading of the day: the account of the murder of the Holy Innocents at the hands of Herod the Great, as recorded in Matthew's gospel.  As she preached, i was struck by the conflict between Matthew's account of the events following the birth of Jesus and Luke's account. It occurred to me that those who read the Bible, interpreting every word literally miss much of the point.  One doesn't read the fable of the hare and the tortoise to learn factual truths about hares and tortoises, and one shouldn't read the Bible as if it were a history book.  The Bible is about a much larger truth: it is the epic account of the Creator's relationship with the Created.  As we read the stories of the Bible, we should ask God to reveal to us the truth that is intended, not for literal accounts of historical facts.  We must not become worshipers of the Bible, but must instead be worshipers of the God whose story of eternally seeking to restore us to companionship with the One who created us is recorded in the Bible.  We must read the Bible with our hearts open to the truth.

Next, i thought about leaving my family at home and the anxiety i felt in doing that.  i remembered Jesus as he visited with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus.  One sister was busy doing the chores that had to be done for her guests, while another sat with Jesus, rejoicing in his presence.  i had chosen "the better part" by spending time rejoicing with others who were present in worship.  The other members of my family had made a different choice.  Both were the right choices according to our needs. i didn't need to feel guilty about leaving them to be in worship for a brief time, nor did they need to feel guilty about staying home to take care of necessary tasks there and to enjoy their time together.  i offered a prayer of thanks for the removal of any sense of guilt about leaving my family to be a part of worship and for the removal of any sense of moral superiority i had felt for choosing to participate in corporate worship while the rest of my family stayed home.  We had chosen what we needed, and God was blessing both choices.

One more insight was revealed this morning as i prayed.  One member of our family had to arrive later than the rest, and we didn't know when he might arrive.  My wife & i had planned our traditional Christmas meal for everyone to enjoy, and all day i was anxious because i didn't know when we would be able to serve the meal.  i always cook our Christmas dinner, and i wanted it to be perfect.  Yet, i couldn't plan for when to have it ready because i couldn't know when everyone would be present.  As it turned out, i went ahead and completed the meal preparations so that our meal would be ready about 5:00 PM.  At 4:50, our long-awaited guest arrived, just in time for us to sit down together.  The meal was as perfect as a meal can be.  By allowing myself to become anxious, i missed the peace of Christmas that i could have enjoyed all day.  God had given me a long day of quiet before the family festivities, and i had chosen to make it a day filled with frustration and tension.  The lesson for me to learn is that i need to trust God to give me a perfect day every day, to realize that everything is as it should be, and thank God for whatever comes.

May your day be the perfect one that God provides for you.

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