Out Of The Shadows

These things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves
John 17:11-19


Someone has compiled a telling list of “famous fibs.” Here are a few:

The check is in the mail.
We service what we sell.
Money is cheerfully refunded.
This offer is limited to the first one hundred people.
You’ve already won a valuable prize.
One size fits all.
Your table will be ready in a minute.
This won’t hurt a bit.
This hurts me more than it hurts you.
I’ll start my diet tomorrow.

And when it comes down to the real nitty-gritty of our lives — who we really are and what we really ought to be doing — too often this is the biggest whopper of them all:

Thy Will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth,” Jesus prays to the Father in today’s Gospel Lesson (Jn. 17:17). “As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself that they also may be consecrated in truth,” He continues (Jn. 17:18-19).

Jesus is praying to the Father for us here. Jesus is talking about us who pray “Thy Will be done on earth” with our fingers crossed, so to speak. “How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?” the Psalmist asked (Ps. 4:2).

We do have good intentions. We intend to reexamine our values and our priorities, and our whole way of life. But the vain words creep in: “I’m awfully busy right now…I have so many things on my mind I just haven’t time to follow through on my good intentions.”

But Jesus knows what we’re up to. And so, again and again, He makes the point that receiving His teachings is not enough; we’ve got to apply them; act on them; translate them into real, live action.

Jesus prays that we may be consecrated in truth. And the Gospel Truth is that we are loved by a Gracious God who wants to give us life. But He has given us freedom to choose. We can choose to allow the joy of Christ to light up our lives, or we can choose otherwise. We can follow Jesus, or we can go our own way. He or she who “obeys Me” is the one who loves Me, Jesus said. The consequence of the obedience, the joy of freely choosing to say “Yes!” to Christ is Love. In our obedience to Christ, in doing God’s Will, we are learning how to love.

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light,” wrote the Apostle Paul (Eph. 5:14). “Look carefully then how you walk,” he continued, “not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time” (Eph. 5:15-16).

“Lord, I intend to awaken” (true or false?). “Lord I intend to arise from my dreary existence and rejoice in Your gift of New Life (true or false?). “Lord, I really want it to happen!” (True or false?).

If your family life needs mending, you won’t find any healing for whatever is tearing it apart — UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT IT TO HAPPEN.

If a broken marriage (or other relationship) needs mending, you won’t find healing for whatever is causing the estrangement — UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT IT TO HAPPEN.

If your spirit is filled with resentment and bitterness and unforgiveness, you won’t find healing for whatever is dragging you down in this way — UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT IT TO HAPPEN.

There won’t be any lifting up of your spirit, any liberation of mind and heart and soul, any authentic joy in your life — UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT IT TO HAPPEN.

“I don’t feel energized anymore…I’m beginning to feel lifeless,” a man told himself. And so he arranged for a complete physical examination. “I may have something that needs fixing,” he told himself. When the examination was over, the doctor said, “My friend, things are fairly good. Nothing life-threatening at the moment, but your blood pressure is higher than it should be, and your cholesterol is above the normal range, and the blood circulation in your arms and legs is mediocre for a man your age. You’re a heavy smoker, and that is bad. Moreover, you are carrying at least thirty extra pounds.” After summing it all up, the doctor asked, “Now do you know what you have to do?” To which the man replied, “I certainly do! I need to find another doctor: a fat doctor who smokes.”

Jesus prayed to the Father that we be consecrated in His Truth, dedicated to His Will, open to His New Life of love. Do we know what we have to do in response? Do we really want to live in the Spirit of God’s Truth? Do we really want it to happen? Or do we feel the need to find another god who will tell us fibs?

There is a beautiful little parable in which a high-flying sparrow looks down at her shadow skimming along a parched, withering landscape. This saddens the little bird. “If it were not for the constant sun,” she thought…

The air would cool.
Plants could grow again.
Animals could thrive.
Children could play in the rain.

But the sparrow was so small, she was helpless against the unrelenting sun.
Or was she?
Suddenly she had a thought.
She flew off and excitedly chirped her idea to a wise old woodpecker who nodded in approval. The woodpecker informed a flock of pigeons who scattered to tell others.

Soon the skies were abuzz with the sparrow’s idea.

At the appointed hour, when the sun was at its height, the birds came. From east and west, from north and south. Plants and animals looked up in disbelief. The earth had suddenly cooled; the searing sun was blocked by the great cloud of birds soaring overhead.

Each day the birds returned. Day after day, protected from the scorching sun, the earth soon sprouted. Animals frolicked and people found new hope.

Then, for reasons that the birds did not understand, the sky began producing its own clouds. Soon, the rains came. The sparrow looked down and smiled. Her shadow was nowhere to be found.

We are like the sparrow: tiny specks on the parched landscape of God’s needy world. Yet, when we work together, in harmony and with like good intention, God’s Grace is amazingly revealed.

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead. Awake, O sleeper, and arise out of your shadowy existence and rejoice in Christ’s gift of New Life. Awake, O sleeper, and rejoice in your learning how to love!

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