The Substance of Hope

You won’t find it in the flying creatures or the scrolls or candlesticks, though that’s the stuff that sells books.  The hope and hunger are rooted in something deeper.

John’s Revelation is written to stir up hunger, as it builds from chapter to chapter, scene by scene, to that full-to-overflowing vision of a realized Kingdom.  In chapter 21, he paints a sweet perfection beyond imagination.  The real end of the story (which isn’t Revelation 22, but something still future-tense) leaves us longing, hopeful, hungry.

There will be a tree, John tells us as if peering behind a curtain, with leaves that heal whole nations.

And there is the face of God … exposed!  And there is the Lamb, and we will see him.  We will see the Lamb.

It will be so rich that we’ll find ourselves falling down in front of angels only to be told they aren’t the half of it.

We will see the Beginning and the End, the whole story laid out, all our questions laid to rest.

And we’ll hear the only invitation we ever wanted to hear.  The Living Word will invite us in with a syllable. “Come.”

Inside that room, John says, there will be no more pain, no more waiting, no more death or things that disappoint.  Every thirst quenched.  Every hunger filled.  We’ve arrived.

This is the substance of our hope.  It isn’t wishful thinking or some kind of escapism that strains us.  This is meat.  Gold.  Real.

Indeed, it is the one and only thing that makes your next step worth taking.

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The Tyranny of Tweaking

Funny, the things we can learn from our friends who do drugs.

In the world of meth users, tweaking is a thing.  That’s the term users use for the frantic and compulsive behaviors that tend to surface when you’re strung out on meth.  Tweaking is obsession with an activity — any activity — like cleaning or searching through drawers or picking the skin off your face or cleaning tools in a toolbox.  A user will become obsessed with making some thing perfect, which is kind of crazy, since even if he gets it perfect he is still a meth addict.

I want to throw stones at addicts who do pointless things like this, until I’m forced to admit I do it, too.  I can spend a whole afternoon making the chairs into perfect rows at church, while I ignore the message I am called to preach to the people who will sit in those chairs.  Or I’ll spend hours working on a graphic or an agenda for a meeting (or writing a blog …), while things like hospital visits or time with a teen get set aside.  Whatever it is that really needs to be done is often ignored in favor of whatever it is I’m obsessed about.

It makes me think of the Samaritan woman who tried to press Jesus into a discussion about where real worship happens.  On this mountain or that one?  Which is it, Jesus?  And he replied, “I’m not sure it matters for you.  Until you deal with the fact that you’ve been married five times and are living with a guy now, what’s it matter where worship happens?”

Or what about those religious leaders who came to Jesus, upset because his friends didn’t properly wash their hands according to custom before eating?  To them, Jesus responded, “Good point, actually.  And here’s an even better one:  why don’t you take care of your own parents, rather than obsessively letting the rules steal all your compassion and sense of responsibility?”

I can hear Jesus asking me that question when I get all tangled up in some detail or another, in some rule or another, in some judgment or another.  “Until you deal with the fact that you use details to avoid the big dreams being dreamed over your life, what’s the rest of it matter?”

Much to my discomfort, my recovering meth addict friends are teaching me that small mindedness can have big consequences.  I may not be addicted to a substance; to the contrary, I may very well be addicted to the absence of it.

What if God has a big honkin’ plan for your life?  Something much bigger than you’re thinking, and something you won’t discover as long as you’re tweaking?

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