Day Ten: No Leftovers

Psalm 27
Isaiah 4:2-6
Acts 11:1-18

One of the constant complaints in a household containing two teenage boys (the very ones who are responsible for the problem, I might add) is that there are no leftovers for their Nana’s magical smoosh-up lunches which generally consist of the remnants of Sunday’s roast with Monday’s mash potato and Tuesday’s green beans etc. fried up with a little extra onion and bacon and served on thick slices of white bread … DELICIOUS!

Today’s readings remind us of the wonderful news that with God there are no leftovers, no after thoughts, no left-outs; nothing gone to waste.

The survivors of the Exile, the small remnant left in Zion – those too old, too young, too small, too weak, too ugly, too poor, too uneducated – would be cleansed, called holy, and branch into something beautiful, something glorious: a living testimony to the power, protection and presence of God come rain or shine (Isaiah 4:2-6).

But the plans of the God who didn’t throw them out, who hadn’t abandoned them, went far beyond the boundaries of their expectations and narrow imaginations.

For God opened wide the door and took others in – into God’s shelter, into God’s love, into God’s family.

The problem with being made holy, however, is that we can often take it to the point of being “holier than thou,” or use it as a measure by which to judge or exclude even as we are celebrating and savouring our inclusion in God’s kingdom.

So Peter, one of the apostles, finds himself under attack by fellow Jewish believers for going into the house of uncircumcised men and eating with them: What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?(Acts 11:2-3, The Message).

It is only after he explains his vision of being commanded to eat unclean things and his personal witness of the Holy Spirit coming upon the “unclean” messengers with whom he ate that his brothers praise God for breaking through to other nations and opening them up to life (Acts 11:18).

The no-leftovers had no right to make others feel left out! And nor do we!!

“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,” Peter’s vision reminds us today (Acts 11:9).

Are there any specific people or groups of people that you think of as impure, or unclean, or excluded from God’s love and grace?

But Peter’s words apply to much more than groups of people that we might dislike or distance ourselves from or secretly hope not to be surprised by in heaven one day ….

If you are anything like me and like much of the modern Western world, you might feel a continual tension between two parts of your life: the part that belongs to God and might be considered “sacred,” and, well, everything else really.

At Christmas time, in particular, we can feel this push and pull between wanting to celebrate in an authentic and meaningful way the coming of the Christ child and the need to feed and please and shop for and entertain friends and family members so that they can fully experience the love and joy and peace that we’re often prattling on about.

Today, divide a page into two columns. Make a list on the one side of everything that draws you nearer to God; on the other, everything else that makes up the routines of your life.

Now draw a large circle that encompasses both lists and write “no leftovers – everything belongs.”

Spend some time wondering about the validity of that statement, the possibilities of a “whole” view of life, items which may not actually belong etc.



Day Nine: Expand Your Borders

Psalm 27
Isaiah 26:7-15
Acts 2:37-42

I love the opening verse to Psalm 27 from The Message:

Light, space, zest—
that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing.

zest …
… that’s what life with God is all about.

Would you use those three words to describe your sense of life as it is at the moment – especially with the holiday season so nearly upon us?

Or can you relate more to the image of vandal hordes riding down upon you; devouring your energy, your time, your money, your peace of mind?

Perhaps you are particularly conscious at the moment of the bullies and toughs putting pressure upon you in subtle and not so subtle ways to conform to their plans or desires or schedules at this busy time of year at the expense of your own heart’s longing.

Maybe the words “enemy” or “wicked” bring to mind a distinct face despite your best attempts to love your neighbour as yourself.

Quite possibly the Psalmist’s reference to parental abandonment might trigger feelings of loneliness or neglect quite contrary to the proclaimed love and peace of the Christmas period.

a level road to walk on,
a smooth path at our feet …

… this may not look at all like the life that you are living but it is the life that God longs for for you:

a peaceful and whole life where we can linger unhurried in God’s presence and find certainty and security far from the noise of the world and the buzz of the traffic and the clamour of our “it’s-never-enough-you’re-never-enough” culture …

… where who God is and what God’s done are all we ever want; and the rest of it – well, the rest of it unfolds and falls into place as we seek to live with a deep and abiding sense of the sufficiency of God’s presence to see us through all things.

As the prophet Isaiah (in chapter 26:15) speaks of God’s glory in enlarging the nation, in expanding the borders of the land, he offers a prophetic vision not only of the love of God breaking through the geographical and cultural boundaries of the nation of Israel but of Christ coming in order that you and I might have life to its fullest ….

Light, space, zest,
a living that is larger than our current experience of life ….

And it all begins by replying to that whisper in our hearts, “seek God!” with the whole-hearted response, “I’m seeking him right now!” (Psalm 27:8).

Those in the early church deliberately allowed God to enlarge their life experience by devoting themselves to times of teaching, fellowship, meal-sharing and prayer (Acts 2:42).

They reveal an intentionality about seeking God from which we can learn if we truly long for a life full of light, of space, of zest.

Begin to think about moments in this season and the year ahead in which you can express your longing for God.

You may want to protect some space by putting into your year plan and diary times that you will intentionally seek God’s presence and linger in God’s light.