Severance Package (Mispocha part 3)

“I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.” (Psalm 81:6)

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)

Even as I sit here and write this, a friend with whom I shared a brief but deep and–to my mind–important relationship has just walked into the coffeeshop. At present, we have both seen one another though he doesn’t know I’ve seen him. We met two years ago through a mutual friend that has since moved away. I don’t know the state of his heart and he hasn’t moved to interact with me since he walked in. Three months ago, he sent me a long and pointed instant message full of all the things he’d observed about me during our time hanging together that he didn’t have the forthrightness to tell me point in time. I look over and see him sitting at his laptop and briefly bury my head in my hands. Our brotherhood in Christ remains but anything above that level was severed.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Reason I quote the top two verses, especially the one from Galatians, is because God will only have you love someone in close proximity for so long. As Jesus does indeed show up by His Spirit whenever you fellowship in His name, issues and longstanding wounds will surface. They’ll come to light because God wants to deal with them. I admit that I did make mistakes in our friendship. But my friend was not forthright in love in calling me out. And honestly, the phrase “calling me out” regarding the things I did that he didn’t like is even too harsh a tone for what he noticed. Nobody’s perfect. The things that unite the Body of Christ (can I call it the Mispocha of Christ?), really the one thing that makes us one is love. His love. In a word, Him. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11)

When you think about the varied character types that made up the fledgling church, it’s a miracle anything was able to happen at all. Jesus had to instruct them to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) From where I sit, I cannot see how anything can happen in the way of reconciliation between my friend and I. I could go to him, ask him how he is. The tone of the message he sent, however, was shot through with disrespect and cutting misconstruances. I have since forgiven and continue to should the pain enervate. It’s one thing to run afoul with those who don’t share the same spiritual parentage as you, but disagreements within the Body tend to have an uglier patina and a harder unraveling.

“But with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26a)

I understand that God is all about reconciliation and love among the Family. But look at what Paul went through with Barnabas. It says “And the contention was so sharp between them that they departed asunder one from the other.” (Acts 15:39a) Both of them wanted to serve the Lord but neither could reconcile whatever caused them to separate. They had run together into the crowd at Athens after having been mistaken for gods (see Acts 14), and now this. I respect my friend and still have love for him and I’m confident things will come around in the future. But with respect to now, only the Holy Spirit has access to those things that would keep us from fellowshipping in Him. Come to think of it, that’s why Jesus had the disciples “tarry in Jerusalem”. For the intangible glue of the Holy Spirit to be delivered. Maybe that’s what is needed in this case.

“O Lord, Thou knowest.” (Psalm 40:9b)

A Direct Line (Mispocha part 2)

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?” (Job 38:4-5)

“Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.” (Psalm 104:5)

Lines in the sand

Mispocha is a Yiddish word referring to a large and inclusive family made up of those both related by blood and otherwise. It’s so easy to adopt those outside your blood relations. You just do it. I have at least two other mothers. Three uncles I identify as such. Scores (a “score” is twenty) of grandparents and innumerable brothers and sisters. They’ve all come in time–ironically, after the dissolution of my original family by divorce–and when we interact through a local real-time network (as opposed to virtual), it’s always encouraging and uplifting. You should try it sometime.

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

It’s almost as if Jesus is saying the coveted and exclusive position of “disciple” is worth more than all that. Worth more than the familial bonds we all take for granted. Closer even than our own life to ourselves. Jesus should come first. Were we to then take this out of its context though and use it as an excuse to hate those we love, we are misunderstanding what He’s saying.

In the same vein

“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.” (Matthew 23:8)

If we continue on in life and define it from our own experience up, we will miss what God wants to do, i.e. miss what He’s looking to start and establish for this earth. The main point of God’s story is He wants a family. He put us here and he used our parents to do so. Moving forward though, as we all have gray areas and voids within, it falls to our brothers and sisters (and mothers and fathers and uncles et. al.) to complement one another. I’ve had to work through legitimate (but not acceptable, if that makes sense) hatred for both parents as the fruit of the divorce grew and rotted on the vine threatening to sprout and grow in my life the same.

What color should the coat of arms be? I find it amazing how black and white lines are used in Heraldry to signify color. Black is “sable” and it’s represented by a cross-hatching of lines. Blue (called azure) is horizontal black lines on white and red (“gules”) is made of vertical. Green (vert) and purple (purpure) are alternately left and right diagonally with orange (called tenne) a left-to-right diagonal hashed with vertical. Pretty cool. By this same logic, it would follow that every single pair of corduroys I’ve ever owned, regardless of color, has been red.

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:5)

“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)

“Who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters…” (Psalm 104:3)

Will the line be unbroken?

Here’s the thing. God is not called “Father” for nothing. Out of all the name’s with which He’s revealed Himself to us (His children), He ever stands under the banner of “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Jesus came to both rebirth our spirit that was dead and also reunite us by an unbreakable line, into His lineage. Our families, however comprised can and often tend to be murky and confusing and frustrating–at least beyond a certain point. I know I’ve felt my share of the depth of oppressive familial baggage. When you encounter the inward parts touched by whatever our families couldn’t provide, God makes up the balance. He alone can clear up the murkiness and then build, line upon line that which we need to become whatever it is we are meant to represent in His family. All it takes is one straight line from which to, in simplicity, follow back to wholeness and healing.

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10)

Bimetallism (Mispocha part 1)

“Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.” (Psalm 68:13)

Interesting verse from the King James. While it says pots, it’s actually the “sheep pens” or “stalls”. The Hebrew word is shaphath. It refers to being shut in and corralled by God in order to learn something. What He’d have you know. A very special place to be. You can look out the bars at those who come and go as they please. Know, though, that “he (she) that is called in the Lord, being a servant (essentially a slave, point in time), is the Lord’s freeman” (1 Corinthians 7:22a). Hence the allusion to the dove from the psalm. You are free within to move around. Within your body, I should say. While a sense of personal freedom to travel the world under natural auspices is a heady thing, to compare it to the freedom in Christ offered and delivered by the Holy Spirit is folly. And no sense in comparing oneself to anyone else for that matter. Paul continues in Corinthians: “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (verse 23) In other words, serve others as unto Christ. Because people, in and of themselves–God bless their darling hearts–don’t sometimes have what it takes to fill you up. Whether they’re a brother or sister in Christ, or not.

Either Or

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

As an aside, were you to design your own coat of arms, one of the many rules you’d be expected to abide by is that of tincture. Namely the placement of gold–called Or–and silver–Argent. There is an order to all things and something important as the crest representing your family must follow a pattern. Heraldry is a complex and awesome art and science.

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.” (2 Timothy 2:20)

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:20-21)

Paul talks a lot around and about distinctions in class and race and how the blood of Christ unites even as it separates along those lines. Nothing is sacred, in a sense, except the holiness of God. Read all the latitude you want into that statement. Everything must be alloyed with love and an individual’s conscience attuned to the same Holy Spirit as was (and is) Jesus’. The point here is, yes, Paul says that God has indeed made some vessels for “honour” and some for “dishonour”. But if we neglect the simple fact that the thousands of choices we’re free to make make us into who we are and are becoming, we will indeed end in being a vessel of “dishonour”.

What does it take to be “in a great house”, a “vessel of gold” or “silver”? Y’know, there’s an alloy called electrum of gold and silver? Or that. More heat, more hammering. You can hammer out gold and silver and metal and form it into something at once more durable and also more beautiful. Because metal is malleable (malletable?). You cannot, however, hammer a vessel of earth or wood. These things come about in altogether different ways. I have read that anything under gold and silver in Paul’s list is a vessel of “dishonour” but practically, I don’t think so. I could be wrong. Some of the most beautiful containers are polished wood and some vases (pronounced “vahz”) of pottery fetch more than their weight in gold. It’s a spectrum, a family. And spiritually, it’s more about what we’re carrying that what we look like on the outside.

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-35)

Uhh… A hard word to be sure. If Jesus actually said that, evidently it needed to be said.