Ep.086: Free Lunch.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

In John chapter 6, a large crowd followed Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus said to Philip, “Where will we buy bread for these people?”–clearly a trick question, because Jesus wasn’t planning to buy bread at all. Philip said, “That’s expensive. We don’t have enough money.” On hearing this, Andrew said,  “There’s a boy with here five buns and two small fish.” So Jesus multiplied the fish and buns to feed the crowd. There were baskets of leftovers and the people said, “Wow. Free lunch. We like this prophet.” 

They liked him so much that they followed him the next day. Jesus said, “All you want is another free lunch! But what you really need is the bread of God that comes from heaven and gives life to the world.” The crowd  replied, “Is that like free lunch every day? We’re in!”

Then Jesus dropped a bombshell. He said, “I am the bread of life that came from heaven. Anyone who comes to me will never go hungry. Anyone who believes in me will never be thirsty. The bread you need is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  

The people said, “That’s crazy talk. What kind of bread are you? You’re not from heaven. We know your father and mother and your home in Nazareth. You are just a peasant like us. We’re not cannibals; we can’t eat your flesh.”

Once again Jesus’ teaching led the people into mystery and confusion. Some of the things Jesus did were really attractive– making wine, providing free lunch, healing the paralyzed. But some of his sayings are just crazy: be born again, eat my flesh, drink my blood, take up your cross and follow me.  

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, we’re never sure how you move from literal meanings to metaphors. We understand  free lunch. But when we come back the next day, you stop the food truck and suggest we eat your flesh. If you were a salesman, we’d press charges of false advertising or bait-and-switch. 

Jesus, so much of our life is physical. We eat and shave and sleep and shop. But how can we connect with the spiritual world? Will Donald Trump teach us how to cut a deal with you? Will Justin Trudeau coach our smile and and furnish our wardrobe? We need your metaphors, Jesus, to guide us into a spiritual life, to give us a vision of the kingdom of heaven. In our darkness, shine your light. In the silence of the universe, speak your word. When we are hungry, feed us with your body. When we are thirsty, help us drink your water.

Help us to see through your impossible metaphors to the new experience you offer us, to the new relationship you invite us into. Jesus, we receive your  words as gifts. Help us to be born again, to eat your flesh and drink your blood. In our daily routines of eating and sleeping and working and playing,  help us live a new life in the spirit. 

Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Ep.085: Psalm 34: No Broken Bones.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 34 paints a bright picture of hope against a bleak background of suffering and terrors that break the heart and crush the spirit. Poet Luci Shaw wrote, 
    A piece of hope spins out
    bright, along the dark, and is not
    lost in space. . . 
    (Luci Shaw, “But Not Forgotten” in Listen to the Green (Colorado Springs: Harold Shaw Pub, 1973) 

Yes, that summarizes Psalm 34.

The first part of the psalm is a hymn of praise as the poet tells how the Lord delivered him. The second part encourages us to seek God because he rewards those who seek him. The last part is another section of praise for God’s deliverance. 

When my brother was in his early twenties, he suffered a broken hip on a mission trip to Sudan. He declined their medical treatment when they produced a used needle to inject painkillers. Back in Canada, he spent a year in and out of hospitals trying to save the hip. It never recovered, so the doctors finally fused it with a metal rod. My brother said that verses 19-20 of Psalm 34 tormented him all year. They read,
      The righteous person may have many troubles,
        but the Lord delivers him from them all;
      he protects all his bones,
        not one of them will be broken.
In the hospital, as my brother lay awake long nights in pain, he did a lot of thinking and feeling about that verse, “God protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

Perhaps our spiritual lives are more complex than naming and claiming the simple, straightforward promises. My brother’s experience connects with my prayer life. Jesus’ promise:  “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:13) does not work for me every time. In Psalm 34, the bright promises are painted against a backdrop where the poet describes the experience of the righteous as afflicted, troubled, fearful, crying, broken-hearted, and crushed in spirit. God is always present to us, sometimes protecting our bones or healing them, sometimes strengthening us to endure seemingly endless troubles.

Let’s pray. 

     I sought the Lord and he answered me,
        he delivered me from all my fears (v. 4).
Yes, God, you are the one who can drain the swamp of our fears.

      Those who look to you are radiant;
        Their faces will never be ashamed (v. 5).
May it be you, God, and not the cosmetics industry, who brings light to our eyes and joy to our faces. 

       This poor man called, and the Lord heard him,
          And saved him out of all his troubles. 
Yes, Lord, you hear, and you deliver us from our troubles (v. 6). 

        Taste and see that the Lord is good,
            Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him (v. 8).
Lord, we have tasted that you are good. We feel it when your face shines on us, we feel it when you give us peace in our confusion and light in our darkness. Turn our tasting into feasting, until we experience with all our heart that you are good.  

          Whoever loves life
             and desires to see many good days,
          Turn from evil and do good;
            Seek peace and pursue it (vv. 12, 14).
Yes, Lord, we love the life you offer — not a life of wealth and safety and escape from troubles, but a life of turning from evil to do good, a life of pursuing peace.

       The Lord is close to the broken-hearted,
            and saves those who are crushed in spirit (v. 13). 
Lord, we feel the brokenness of our spirit, our life, our world. Thank you for drawing near to broken hearts and crushed spirits.

        The Lord will rescue his servants;
            No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned (v. 22).
Thank you for looking out for us. Thank you for freeing us from all condemnation. Thank you for being our refuge in life and our hope in death. We wait quietly in your presence.

Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.        

Ep.084: The Healing Pool.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”. 

In John chapter 4, Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well. In John chapter 5, we have another story about water. Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem and he met a man who had been sitting by the water for 38 years, waiting to be healed. The man’s story was that when the water moved, perhaps stirred by an angel, it healed people. Sadly, the man had no one to help him get into the pool when the water moved. Someone always got in ahead of him. 

Jesus didn’t talk with the man about water. Instead, he asked, “Do you want to get well?” The man replied that someone always beat him into the water.

Jesus said, “Pick up your mat and walk.” And for the first time in 38 years, the man picked up his mat and walked. The command of Jesus became this man’s healing pool. Jesus’ word baptized him in life-giving water. 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, we are the paralyzed man. For too many years, we have been stuck in a routine of family and work and church and busyness, but inside we ache with emptiness and loneliness. We long to be immersed in water that will heal the pain and ease the memories and silence the dark voices within. But all the sermons and Bible studies, all the scoldings and seeking haven’t healed us. Our angst continues, self-doubt grows. Depression hovers in the background, darkness threatens our souls. We set out to be saints, but we remain champion sinners. 

Jesus, we hear you ask us the question you asked the paralyzed man, “Do you want to be healed?” Shockingly, your words expose our willingness to be content with half-hearted religion in unhealed hearts. We try to bathe in your healing waters, but we remain sick. Who will help us into the water? What can bring us healing? And when we give up, we hear you say again, “Do you want to be healed?”  

Yes, Jesus, we do. But our chains are too strong, our paralysis is unyielding, our corrupting thoughts too deeply embedded. O Jesus, we need living water. Free us from our pool of paralysis, stir the water of our lives, speak your life-giving word, immerse us in your healing fountain. Teach us to pick up our mat and walk.

Amen.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.