Monday, August 9, 2010

Pentecost 11 - C

The Assurance of Things Hoped For

I have a three year old and a five year old.

I have been on vacation with them for exactly four weeks.

I have learned a lot about the Bible.

PART ONE – Isaiah

“Enough of your burnt offerings – enough of your blood sacrifices!”

Rachael, in that entirely new to the world way, has learned the application of the word “Sorry.” What she lacks is a sense of remorse.

Over the last few weeks I have witnessed her say sorry for hitting her sister, and then continue to hit her. I have seen her say sorry for getting angry and then yell for the same thing. In fact, it appears sometimes that she says sorry first as a way of doing what she wants. This is especially true of shoes. She often says sorry to her older sister for borrowing her shoes right before she goes to the closet and gets them.

Let me make it clear that there is no way she is at fault – she just has not developed a sense of morality or guilt to the point where she could connect actions and reactions. Nor should she have – in her it is cute.

In you and me... not so cute.

This is exactly God’s point, says the prophet Isaiah – Stop with the offerings and incense, stop with the sacrifice and festivals... “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow...”

In other word’s = grow up; it is not about saying you are sorry, it is about not hitting your sister in the first place. It is not about praying that someone do something about world hunger, it is about growing a garden and giving the food to the foodbank...

The point is not what we say we are going to do – the point is doping what we ought.

PART TWO – Hebrews

My daughters love Marshmallows. Last summer their grandparents introduced them to the idea of campfires “needing” to have marshmallows (thank you very much for that)... and ever since one of their favourite treats is in fact the gooey sponge of sugar we call the marshmallow.

Now – there are often long stretches of time when the marshmallow tree in our house is barren. But this does not deter them from believing they can get one when they ask.

It is actually incredible and goes something like this.

“Can I have a marshmallow?”

“We don’t have any.”

“I need a marshmallow.”

“I can’t give you one, there are none.”

“I need a marshmallow.”

After which you try reasoning, you open the cupboard to show it bare, and FINALLY convince her there are no marshmallows.

“So, later then,” she says and nods her head.

Later could be five minutes to five hours... but the thought that I can provide marshmallows on demand never leaves her head. She hopes for marshmallows, and she trusts that they will be provided.

The unfortunate thing is that I know somewhere in the life of my children they will lose this sense of the goodness of the universe. They will be disappointed, their hearts will be broken, something will become “unfixable” and in that moment – they, and I, will experience a little death.

Why can’t we live in hope? Why do we have to start seeing the dark side of life rear its ugly head so early; and allow it to take away the joy we find? I don’t know the answer... and it is in fact one of those things I fight against in myself every single day...

It is also exactly what the author of Hebrews is talking about:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Then he talks about all the faithful characters in the Bible like Abraham and concludes:

“All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them... they were not thinking of the land they left behind, they were seeking something better...”

So to be faithful is not so very different than working continuously to bring marshmallows into the house while fully believing they will come one day.

The lesson from my kids, and from Hebrews, is to keep believing the promises are true – even when the evidence makes it hard... believe the world could and will be better... and live faithfully towards that goal...

It might take generations. But we will get there.


My oldest daughter Emily has been known to get up after we put her to bed and secretly get dressed.

Sometimes in the morning she is wearing a part dress. Sometimes it is play clothes. A few times it turns out to be a swim suit.

She is ready.

It makes it a whole lot easier; let me tell you, then trying to pry out of them what they would like to do today... “A party dress, I see we are celebrating...” and then we can work out what exactly we are celebrating!

Like it or not, the world brings things into your life. It could be a sunny day, a rainstorm, a friend popping by, a sudden death, sickness, or unexpected wealth.

The question Jesus asks of his followers is simple, “Are you ready!”

My daughter has convinced me that it is as simple as having the right thing to wear. We try to make it more difficult – we try to ask all sorts of questions, and prepare, and plan and... Well – the unexpected happens anyway.

A lot of what Jesus was trying to say was that life is as simple as “It is sunny, here is a river, we have a swimsuit, let’s enjoy it!”

I don’t mean to minimize pain and hardship in any way – a lot of things in life hurt us... and there are holes there that can never be filled. But the truth is, those things are going to happen to us all – some tragically, some unexpectedly, some sooner, and some later... Be prepared and live your life anyway.

In the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” there is some advice I will never forget. The author rather bluntly says that we should speak to everyone as if they will unexpectedly die before we get the chance to talk to them again.

Imagine that – imagine how you would change your tone, your parting words, if they were to be your last...

Being faithful is about living life as if anything could happen – and diving right in – and enjoying what God has put before you as best you can – and knowing that the hard times are there anyway...


SO there you have it – religious lessons from Toddlers:

  • · Saying you are sorry only counts if you try to change.

  • · Someday there will be Marshmallows.

  • · Wearing a party dress to bed pretty much assures a party the next day.

OR, if you really need it in religious terms:

  • · It is by our actions that we show our faithfulness.

  • · Hope is the assurance of things we might never see, but believe in nonetheless.

  • · Live your life prepared for whatever God brings your way next.

It was not for nothing that Jesus said unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom.

The fact of the matter is that little children are the only ones who LIVE in the kingdom. They see the wonder of the world. They can watch a spider spin a web and be amazed, they believe that promises will be fulfilled, they trust in the world’s goodness, they would help a stranger if they were crying, they laugh more than they cry.

Time to start living like them again – then we will be helping Jesus out.

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