Reflections on Faith
In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.
Andrew S. Odom
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19:41)
These words follow the famous Palm Sunday passage when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. He sent two of his disciples ahead to fetch a colt for him, the palms waved, and then he wept over the city. A church now stands in the place where it is believed Jesus wept, crying out to a God who had long been burdened by a people at odds with one another. While sitting in that church on my recent trip, I sensed a heaviness that still hangs in the air, almost as if Jesus still weeps there today and will continue to weep until we stop killing one another. It reminded me of what author Danielle Shroyer wrote when she visited the same spot, “In the same way that Moses could not experience the fullness of God’s glory, here we are reminded that we cannot experience the fullness of God’s pain.”
It was rainy and cold on the day our group visited. My fingers went numb for about an hour. There I was, standing in the place where Jesus stood, and all I was thinking about was when will it stop raining? When will we be done and be able to get warm? When will I feel my hands again? I lasted 5 min in the rain. Jesus endured suffering beyond compare. He chose to do it, weeping and suffering for a world that was as equally divided and violent then as it is now. He did not turn aside or complain. He did not shy away from it. He experienced the fullness of God’s pain for us, and in those moments, revealed the fullness of God’s glory.
Published on 03/24/2017 @ 10:53 AM CDT
When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. (Matthew 8:14-15)
On the second day of Canyon Creek’s recent trip to Israel and Jordan, we found ourselves in Capernaum. This is the place where Jesus basically made his base of operations and stayed when he was not travelling. He would usually bunk in Peter’s house. Today all that is left of Capernaum are the vestiges of the former city. They have excavated a number of walls and remains of homes, which helps give tourists an understanding of how things were laid out. They have located where the synagogue was and rebuilt it some. They have also located what is believed to be Peter’s house. No one can be sure, of course, but the chances are good.
Standing there in the midst of the ruins, one can’t help but visualize the activity that once occupied this space. There is a spiritual feel that hangs in the air, giving you the surreal sense that it was only yesterday when Jesus walked the same ground you are standing on right now. Looking at Peter’s house, I could see Jesus coming and going. I could see Peter’s mother-in-law serving him after he touched her hand. I could see the disciples bringing others in off the street to be healed by him. For a few fleeting moments that came in spurts, I could see it.
We often use the phrase "seeing is believing". In this case, I would say that seeing is experiencing. To visualize Christ in your midst is to experience the presence of God, and you don’t have to go all the way to Capernaum for that to happen.
Published on 03/20/2017 @ 7:18 PM CDT
Published on 03/13/2017 @ 6:30 PM CDT
(This is a reflection I wrote during my recent visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the place, as tradition has it, where Christ was born. In the spirit of beginnings, I share it with you as we begin the season of Lent together.)
While visiting the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem, I was caught off guard in a way I did not expect. I was expecting to see the spot where Jesus was first laid and took his first breath, but I was not expecting this. Right next to the manger itself, separated only by a wall built much later, sits the tomb of the innocents, a memorial to the firstborns killed in Herod’s attempt to end Jesus's life before it ever got started. Standing in the breach of their deaths and our Savior’s birth is a stark reminder of our horrific capacity to want to snuff out something new and beautiful from God in order to try and keep things the way they are.
When reflecting on her own visit to the manger, author and pastor Danielle Shroyer writes, "You can imagine Jesus sleeping there, with Mary and Joseph nearby, all of them unaware that soon enough the kingdoms of this world will start coming for him, starting first with Herod and ending with the full power of the Roman Empire itself. In between he will bring discomfort to every kind of power this world has to offer: political and economic power, religious power, powers of class and gender and ethnicity, powers of nation and state. He will even disrupt natural powers: disease, storms, a simple loaf of bread. This child is King, and there is no place on which his authority does not rest. He will replace all those misplaced attempts at power with the only force that can undo them: the unconditional, unwavering, unfaltering love of God."
While inside this holy place, we spontaneously began singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." As we entered the cave of the birth of our Lord and touched the spot where so many have come, we sang words that so many have sung. "The hopes and fears of all the years" we sang as the air became ripe with the same unconditional, unwavering, unfaltering love of God that overshadows all the powers that too easily monopolize our lives and the world we live in. And in a glimpse, in a fleeting moment, a group of Presbyterian pilgrims could feel the heart of our faith beating.
Published on 03/06/2017 @ 8:17 PM CDT
And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb. (Genesis 12:9)
By the time you read this, a group of 40 plus members and friends of Canyon Creek will be on a plane high over the Atlantic Ocean on our way to the Holy Land, myself included. The group has been meeting for lunch every month or so for a while now, getting to know one another better and learning about all that we will be doing. A good part of our preparation has been to think of the journey as one unlike any other. We are not tourists expecting to be entertained at every stop, though we will certainly look and act like tourists at times. We are not just observers of things completely foreign to us, though we will look and act like observers on occasion. We are pilgrims, seekers on a spiritual journey to the place where our Lord walked the earth many years ago.
A simple definition of a pilgrimage is, “a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance, typically to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith” (Wikipedia). The difference between a tourist and pilgrim is that when a tourist comes back from a trip, not much is different. When a pilgrim returns from a spiritual journey, however, there is a noted change in them. Often a transformation has occurred when one has been on a pilgrimage.
We will try our best to keep from thinking of ourselves as tourists. We will try, instead, to journey on by stages. “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land” so the hymn goes. As our group rockets through the sky on our way to the places where Jesus walked and prayed and spoke and healed and lived and died and was resurrected, my prayer is that we return transformed by the experience. We welcome your prayers.
Published on 02/06/2017 @ 6:08 PM CDT