We rotate responsibility for the weekly devotional time at work. Every Tuesday, without fail, we gather as a staff and pray together. We celebrate together. Sometimes we cry together.
When it’s my turn, I take advantage of the fact that my coworkers are a captive audience. It is with no small measure of delight that I plan a time together that will tickle the fancy of those who lean into the creative side of their brains, and cause discomfort to those who do not.
Sometimes, we draw. Or paint. Sometimes, we sing.
Not everybody loves it.
I had a thing in mind as I prepared last night, but my soul meandered a different direction, and I ended up with a completely different exercise in togetherness than anticipated. We did, indeed, end with singing; gathered around the baby grand piano, I closed my eyes and played my heart out. Nothing blessed me more today than hearing my friends and coworkers sing, loudly, as we started the day together.
Here’s what I shared; this is the transcript of my notes, which probably is less effective than my hand-waving, emphatic “sharing”. The bottom line is this: I truly was feeling like a grumpy old woman, and I suppose not much has changed in that regard.
But I’m not alone, and I’ve got a firm place to stand.
Here are my notes:
I am becoming a grumpy old woman. But I’m not sure I’m alone in that.
I look around at the world we live in today, where evil men broadcast the torture and murder of captives to make a political statement; where a 57-year old woman mixes satanic imagery with overt sexual pantomime, throws in a cross and a gospel choir and sings about “love lifting her” – and calls it entertainment; where the anonymity of technology allows bullying and shaming and name calling in ways that literally cause people to kill themselves; where people walk into public schools and open fire on children; where policemen are murdered in broad daylight; where black Americans have no confidence that they will be treated fairly by the men and women whose duty it is to serve and protect them; where the big excitement for Valentine’s Day is a movie that exalts the sexual degradation of women and calls it a story of “true love and redemption”…
I could go on and on. Sometimes I feel like the end of the world is right around the corner. I wonder what kind of life my children will have in 40 years. I worry about my grandkids. We believe in being authentic around here, so it feels very INAUTHENTIC to stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is okay. Because it’s not. Not at all.
But there’s this dude…named Jude. He was the half-brother of Jesus, and about 75 years after Jesus died, he wrote these words to those who were followers of The Way:
Jude, a slave of Jesus the Anointed and a brother of James, to you, the ones whom God our Father loves and has called and whom Jesus, the Anointed One, has kept. Kindness, peace, love—may they never stop blooming in you and from you.
Friends, I have been trying to write you about our common salvation. But these days my heart is troubled, and I am compelled to write to you and encourage you to continue struggling for the faith that was entrusted to the saints once and for all.
His heart was troubled. Sounds familiar. He goes on.
Vile men have slithered in among us. Depraved souls who stand condemned have made a mockery of the grace given to us, using it as a pretext for a life of excess, lived without any thought of God. These poor fools have denied Jesus the Anointed, our one Lord and Master.
Hmmmm…..sounds a little like what’s troubling my soul. He goes on…
You have heard the stories many times, and the Spirit has enlightened you about their meaning, but you still need to be reminded. Remember when the Lord saved our ancestors from the land in Egypt? He breathed life into their earthen lungs and took back the life from those who did not believe….. Sodom and Gomorrah and all their neighbors were defeated by their own sexual perversions as they pursued the strange and unnatural impulses of the flesh. The deceivers among you despise what they do not understand; they live without reason like animals, reacting only with primal instincts; and their ways are corrupting them.
Woe to these deceivers! They are doomed!
Intense, isn’t he? Jude continues with some harsh and dramatic words:
These men are cold stones on the warm hearth of your love feasts as they glut themselves without fear, thinking only of their own benefit. They are waterless clouds, carried away by the wind; autumn’s lonely and barren trees, twice dead, uprooted; violent waves of the sea breaking over the bow, foaming with shame; lost and wandering stars destined to live forever in gloomy darkness…..These men are complainers who look long and hard to find the faults of other men. They are led by their own lustful desires like fools down the path of destruction. They are arrogant liars who want only to get ahead of others.
And so, I think that there is nothing new under the sun. And I think that I am, indeed, becoming a grumpy old woman, living in difficult times – but no more difficult than other times or other cultures. Humans have been thinking “it can’t get any worse – this must be the end!” for, literally, thousands of years. Even in 75 AD, they thought the end was near!
But you, friends, remember the words of the emissaries of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King: “At the end of time, some will ridicule the faithful and follow their lusts to the grave.” These are the men among you—those who divide friends, those concerned ultimately with this world, those without the Spirit. – Jude 1.1-24
So what do we do?
In his commentary on Jude, Matthew Henry says, “Christians are called out of the world, from the evil spirit and temper of it; called above the world, to higher and better things, to heaven, things unseen and eternal; called from sin to Christ…from uncleanness to holiness; and this according to the Divine purpose and grace…”
So how to we get there – to better things, to holiness that honors Divine purpose?
As much of a Debbie Downer we see in Jude, he ends his missive with encouraging words; words that we can take to heart.
You, however, should stand firm in the love of God, constructing a life within the holy faith, praying the Spirit’s prayer, as you wait eagerly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, which leads to eternal life. Keep being kind to those who waver in this faith. Pursue those who are singed by the flames of God’s wrath, and bring them safely to Him. Show mercy to others with fear, despising every garment soiled by the weakness of human flesh.
Now to the One who can keep you upright and plant you firmly in His presence—clean, unmarked, and joyful in the light of His glory— to the one and only God, our Savior, through Jesus the Anointed our Lord, be glory and greatness and might and authority; just as it has been since before He created time, may it continue now and into eternity. Amen.
And we remember these things – (and if you, the reader, could stand opposite me in this moment, we would alternate reading these next few lines back and forth to one another, declaring the truth that sometimes evades our grasp but never lets us go):
No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. (Jeremiah 10.6)
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. (Psalm 86.8)
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalm 86.9) For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (Psalm 86.10)
How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you! (2 Samuel 7.22)
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise. (Psalm 48.1)
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86.12)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4.6)
And then, we sing….
You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore every heart that is broken
And great are You Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
And all the earth will shout Your praise Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You Lord