go-for-broke rescue mission

Connie looked at me across the conveyor belt in her checkout line at the Mart.

Find everything you needed?

Staring at the ombre plastic eggs, nerf gun, and gummy bunnies, I thought there is no way.

I smiled and told her I think something’s gotten lost, something’s missing.

When she realizes I mean more than an item missing from my cart, she eyes the Easter cards with scripture on the front and says they are great. 

She tells me she believes.

I tell her I think I want to find a new way to really celebrate what’s going on and she heartily agrees. She continues:

It’s great that He was born and all, but what He did at Easter? Without that…

She trails off.

There’d be nothing, I reply.

Again she agrees eagerly and we both begin to tear up. 

She grabs my hand and grins and tells me it’s a blessing. 

Nodding and sniffling myself together, I leave and turn over in my mind how we are so easily distracted, so easily moved. How we miss it.

We miss Him.Seder 2

The Tuesday morning Bible study I am in has been covering the book of Matthew. I had marveled as Jesus spelled out for his disciples, repeatedly, that he would be killed. They barely respond, if at all.

He told them in chapter 16 he would suffer at the hands of elders and chief priests and teachers. He said he would be killed and then raised again.

In chapter 17 He told them again he will be killed and will be raised again. 

Heading to Jerusalem in chapter 20 He told all 12, He will be condemned and mocked and flogged and crucified and then raised again!

Immediately a mom asked if her sons can rule with him in his kingdom.

What is going on?

I feel like she’s asking what aisle the plastic eggs are on.

They, like us, were missing something.

The day before I stood in the aisle at Walmart trying to figure out how to convey the glory, the weight of this season to my children without candy and eggs, that same Bible study group celebrated our weekly gathering with a traditional Passover Seder demonstration.

For the first time in my life, I saw the intricate details of the meal celebrated by Jews for centuries. It was a specific, beautiful ritual that recalled the Israelites flight from Egypt. The festive occasion marks the beginning of Passover.

It marks our rescue.

In Exodus 13, God commanded the Jews to retell the story to their children. It is the story of rescue and so clearly points to the coming Messiah despite the many Jews who do not see it that way. 

Somehow in the tradition, He is missed.

In chapter 26 of Matthew when the disciples and Jesus move to what is now called Maundy Thursday, the Last Supper, I suspect maybe they are beginning to find what they need. 

Throughout the ritual details of the meal, glasses of wine are consumed—four to be exact. 

On the night of the Last Supper, as Jesus was celebrating that same Passover meal with his disciples, He once again told them.

Matthew 26 opens with Jesus telling them “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew doesn’t even record a response from the disciples.)

The chapter ends with Peter denying Jesus as he faces his accusers.

But it is the time in between that He uncovers what is missing.

The sacrificial lamb has come. 

The bread is his body.

The wine is his blood.

Seder 1He shows them, tells them—He is the sacrifice. 

He is what is missing.

This is the rescue even greater than that flight from Egypt.

It is that rescue we are all longing for.

It is what is missing when we are combing the aisles.

It is what Connie tries to put into words.

In our own demonstration, I recognized one of many things I have missed. Jesus did not drink that fourth cup of wine. 

Verse 29 tells us “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

As I gulped down my last goblet of red grape juice at the fancy table in our church sanctuary, I could hardly handle the image of Jesus at that table with those men. I can hardly handle the thought that one day we will drink at His table with Him there—because He became the sacrifice. Because He missed so much for us. 

He watched them drink, fully aware of everything about to happen. He was looking ahead to completing his go-for-broke rescue mission and also thinking of the day when we would celebrate together at His table.

His mission would require everything. It would require His life. 

While the disciples, while we, are easily entertained, enticed and engaged elsewhere, He had set his face towards His purpose.

Thankfully, His purpose was the cross.

His purpose was us.

There is now nothing missing and He is all we need.

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i am in the way

“I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”
~Flannery O’Connor

This is the ‘i’ society.

iPhone.
iHome.
iCar.
iFood.

While Apple may take credit for the little ‘i’ naming phenomenon, it has more than caught on. Most likely this is because the ultimate little ‘i’ is well, me.

When anyone at any time could “go viral” in a virtual world, it is no surprise that much of life begins with ‘i.’ It’s all about self, making things available for me, to me, about me. Communication via the latest tech has made it the ‘i’ in isolation. It is a selfie nation run wild wielding selfie sticks threatening to pound one another into internet oblivion.

The ‘i’ we project is usually filtered, flattered, and false. When we are actually—not virtually— faced with who we are in real community, how and what do we do with our “me”-ness? Our little ‘i’ issue?

Unfiltered us is often ugly. When we can’t cover, we want to fix.

A friend and I recently lamented our personal struggles, the real, the daily, the disappointing behaviors we admit and long to have repaired. We ache to be made new. We rejoice in redemption received and wrestle with sanctification. We want to be fixed.

The desire to fix, however, often fixates us on us. This is where the problem lies. What’s wrong with me? Someone help me. How do ‘i’ fix me? It is the unpleasant cycle that returns us to the ‘i’ issue. Recognizing the need is essential. We usually stop there though and focus on the need while problems only loom larger.

We can trace this family problem to garden lies that were all about this small ‘i.’ There is something little ‘i’ am missing, a knowledge ‘i’ need. This is the small ‘i’ lie: it’s all about me.

It’s why Flannery O’Connor’s pleas in her prayer journal resonate to my depths, “I do not know You God because I am in the way.”

Little ‘i’ am in the way! Help me push myself aside.

I find my struggle reminds me of the upside down economy of God’s kingdom. There was a man with a bit of an identity issue, who in a moment of frustration—perhaps righteous rage even—took the life of another. He covered it up. When the deed was uncovered (and his little ‘i’ confronted) he ran. He ran to hide his ugly little ‘i’ problem. He could not, however, outrun the solution. In Exodus 3, as he lays low shepherding a flock, content with the quiet he meets the Word we all need.

“And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’  When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’  Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey… And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’
Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’
Moses is given his calling in the midst of hiding and readily admits his own insignificance, his own lack of authority. Moses is more than acquainted with his own short comings, his little ‘i’ problems. (Return where I am wanted for murder?) I have issues that need addressing. If you are sending me, what can little ‘i’ say that will possibly make a difference? Then comes the answer that we all desperately need.

I AM WHO I AM.

Relief.

Rescue.

Can you feel the exhale?

Little ‘i’ is no longer an issue.

This is insignificant ‘i’ before the face of I AM. There’s no need to tack on some meaningless object to that name, no iPhone, no ithis, ithat. I AM is the Word alive, the Creator and Sustainer of any and all. There is no hiding in obscure, filter-filled, avatar-laden, alter-ego worlds. This is where we build the altar and lay that little ‘i’ on it. This is where we bow low. This is where the focus shifts and the little ‘i’ that leaves us ultimately alone and isolated is replaced.

Discernment is possible because we have shifted, held down the shift on that small ‘i’ and find capital I AM is all there is to need. Faced with Author, Finisher, Healer, Redeemer, rest is readily available. Fretting forgotten.

It is not a superficial shift. It is the sanctifying variety. It is facing I AM who created, who knows. He knows about the buried bodies. He knows about the running and hiding. He knows about the little ‘i,’ the insignificance, the ugly. He burns it away and we are left with focus restored. I AM knows what needs repair.

He knows because He was there. He answered the call when they sought Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. We exerted our little ‘i’ in a garden, creating the problem. Big ‘I’ in the garden solves our problem. In John 18: “So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’”

This I AM, the living Word of God, spoke the truth about his all caps existence. The power of those words overpowered those armed and ready to arrest. Verse 6 tells us that “when Jesus said to them ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” The big I in the garden always trumps the little ‘i’ there.

And perspective is regained here.

Though the power of His Word spoken was enough to defeat his captors and flee, instead I AM submitted fully. He submitted to death on a cross. He let go of self.

Let us follow this lead.

Let us let go.

Eyes off ‘i’ and on to I AM.

We have the opportunity, the ability to cast the care there. To cast it where it is redeemed, restored, swallowed up. We can acknowledge the need and rest in the rescue. The problem is solved and now we initiate a new identity. We are made for bigger things, bigger than us.

Our small and fragile finite fixing is overshadowed:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

We plead, “push me out of the way.” We fix our eyes on I AM and find the only way to know the One who fixes us.