Wise Man

 
 

 Wise Man
 Do you want to be a wise-man
 behold the light
 that marks Christ's coming?
 Dare to migrate...
  
 Do you want be a wise-man
 pursue the One
 who brings the light
 first spoke it into being?

 So you want to be a wise man???
  
 Summoned before the face of oppressive power
 and reckoning
 choose to depart by a different way
 choose to be governed by justice and righteousness?
  
 Might I be a wise-man
 Believe you are who the prophets foretold.
 Oh, Holy Prince
 your peace transcends temporal security.
  
 Mighty Counselor
 we kneel at your cradle of wisdom.
 May we be wise—and willing
 journey far to rejoice in the light of your presence.
  
 "Opening their treasures they offered Him gifts..."
 Wise men.
 Grant that I might unwrap such gold, this frankincense and myrrh
 'Knowing You to be immeasurably who You say You are.'
  
 Might I, newly wise
 fall
 knees to earthen floor
 and worship the newborn King.
 
 jfig     12/2020 

Dear Reader,

Last week, the song ” Do you Want to Build a Snowman,”  from the movie “Frozen” kept popping into my head. Followed by  the wise men. Surely one could find more fitting comparative verse for the Prince of Peace! But the real question of this poem points toward a place of child-like longing that lingers forcefully in many of us, What part do you want to play in the story of Jesus? And the morechallenging grown-up question, What relationship with him, do you wish to have?

The content of this poem is carefully gleaned from Isaiah9:1-7 and Matthew 2:1-12. It stops me in my tracks to read the prophecy of Isaiah 9 moving toward conclusion with, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” ( emphasis mine) To not only end there, but to start there; to uphold there.  What do you think establishes peace and why?

“Isaiah 9 (ESV) – Of the increase of his.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 14 Dec, 2020. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/isa/9/7/s_688007&gt;.

With

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him… John 1:1-3a

With

In the beginning...
our begging souls long with time-distilled
thirst
for what, we toil to know.

In the beginning...
before light and darkness shaded the landscape
with ~ rooted essence
of God's first transcendent Word.

In the beginning...
the deep land of mankind
sprawls parched
looking over her shoulder; remembering.

Living water
some spring trickles deep in my soul.
Craving more
With

One's thirst awakens
in search of seed of all creation
Longing for company ~ the Divine spring
With a germ that nurtures life.

jfig     12/2020

Dear Reader,

In the darkening winter days leading into Advent, an astonishing amount of light has shone. Beautiful days of sunshine and frost’s sparkle. Small gifts of kindness that burst onto 2020’s scene of blatant uncertainty. Scripture passages that speak of thirst have stood out to me with references to mankind’s misguided attempts to fill life’s deep needs with distractions that do not sustain. Still, they are part of the journey; but what part? Our longings, reconfigured in pandemic, point to deep thirsts within. Thirst, and the scriptures that evoke it thematically, seem ponder worthy for a season. I’m trying to learn to ask the questions and let them echo a bit, rather than offer pre-packaged answers that do not resonate with where you might be in your story. Thanks for showing up here, I’m delighted to have your company. jfig

“John 1 (ESV) – In the beginning was the.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 5 Dec, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/jhn/1/1/s_998001.

If you liked this reflection, you might also appreciate Christian Lindbeck’s sermon on John 1:1-18; accessible here: Light in the Darkness | Week 1 – Hillcrest Church (hcbellingham.com)

levelling: a winter ponder

We have been studying Isaiah. Talk about scanning the height and breadth of the heavens. Into that expanse creeps an Advent message:

A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God.

every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (1)

There is some aspect of levelling that occurs in getting ready for Jesus. In Luke 3, as John the Baptist goes about preaching a baptism of repentance and forgiveness, this prophecy is quoted as ‘and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’

Last time I checked, I was still part of ‘all flesh;’ woefully, the part that is STILL in need of repentance and forgiveness and salvation. Levelled. Having been a Christian for over three quarters of my life, I feel like I should have it figured out by now: plumb, level, straight. Some piece of my soul plummets when I trip over the uneven, gnarly roots of sin STILL in my life. It is winter: cold, dark, and lonely. No party here.

RW pic level

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Into this melancholic place, though, shines a light. One of the recurrent themes of Isaiah has been God’s undeterred mission for justice and righteousness; the lifting of oppressions. We see Jesus answering the religious establishment, when he is asked why he hangs out with sinners:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (2)

Jesus seems to draw a line between sickness and sin, suggesting that all that which oppresses is not external. (Please do no hear me say that sickness is always indicative of sin. John Cpt 9 clearly indicates otherwise.) Oppression is a deep word – one that most of us can sit with for a moment. It presupposes injustice, but does not rush to sling blame so much as sees the one oppressed. It is at risk of becoming commonplace, however, and I think we sometimes miss that oppression can come in a vast number of forms. Anything that sits on our chests so that we cannot freely breathe. No wonder we can relate. A light dawns, that perhaps this message of a savior of the sick, is for me. Perhaps Jesus would rather meet with the sinner in me, than the sanctimonious. He’d rather dine with my brokenness than any saintliness: that which oppresses, in me, or through me. Maybe he endures my hustling to clean myself up before I’ll approach him; flattering myself to somehow earn his favor or expecting others to do the same; but would much prefer the raw and broken Jenny, instead of so many layers of stiff white, but no less dirty, bandages. Perhaps he’s not all that squeamish about my wounds; whether self-inflicted or otherwise. Perhaps he’d like to bring a little mercy…HERE.

Various translations of this God statement read differently. In Hosea, God speaks judgement on the unrepentant, concluding: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (3)  Is it possible, that God does not want me to keep throwing away pieces of myself, untended by him,  because I cannot scrub them clean enough; but rather asks me to enter into his way of steadfast love. Steadfast love… HERE? You mean…you and me…the sinner in me? Is that even possible? And is that way level? Enough so that I might stop throwing away pieces of others as well?

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (4) This is my winter ponder. Who is the object of this mercy? Could Jesus be talking about a multi-dimensional culture of mercy, rather than one direction? Could we abide in that kind of space, fill it out and breathe there?

The winter night sky of Isaiah makes it clear that, mercy-allowed, God still does not dispense with righteousness; but it is a righteousness of his making, not our own. He is hungry for righteousness to be fleshed-out in us. This Advent season, perhaps God would like to dine with the sinner in each of us;  our offering the unworked, rough places to his levelling, that we might remember from what place salvation comes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. This is me, God, perpetually unable to make myself right or plumb, or gracious. Unable to level my heart to kindness, or remove the roots of anxiety and selfishness. Yet you came, undaunted by our culture of woe, bringing the kingdom of heaven with you. Come again, Lord Jesus, into these rough places in my soul, into the poorness of my spirit. Lift, miraculously, the power of sin’s oppression, and establish your culture of mercy, in me and through me. Amen

Scripture references are typically sourced from Blue Letter Bible, for ease of reader access. (1)

  1. “Isaiah 40:1 (NIV) – Comfort comfort my people says.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 18 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/isa/40/1/p1/s_719001&gt;.
  2. “Matthew 9:13 (NIV) – But go and learn what.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 18 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/mat/9/13/s_938013&gt;.
  3. “Hosea 6:6 (ESV) – For I desire steadfast love.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 18 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/hos/6/6/s_868006&gt;.
  4. “Matthew 9:13 (NLT) – Then he added Now go.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 18 Dec, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/mat/9/13/s_938013&gt;.