The prodigal manager

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property….” Jesus tells this story (Luke 16.1-13) in which the manager, about to be fired, continues to squander his master’s property, reducing all the man’s accounts receivable. But the master ends up praising the dishonest manager! Weird, huh?

People have have a hard time making sense of what lesson we are to take from this tale. But what if it’s not a lesson, but a snapshot? I imagine that God is the one who is “rich” in love, and Christ is the ridiculously generous manager, and he is indeed squandering God’s love, forgiving God’s debtors, and losing capital for the sake of relationships. Jesus says you can’t serve two masters, and he himself chooses love over profit.

What if God is perfectly happy to be ripped off, and praises those who squander divine love? What if being unable to serve two masters (or purposes) applies to God, too—and God chooses forgiveness over getting what is “owed” to God? What if God prefers relationships over profit, and love over deserving? What if God finds it satisfying when we forgive debts, even—especially— debts that (we suppose) are owed to God? What if we were to emulate Jesus and convince people that they are not so ding dang indebted to God, but really just beloved? What if in fact God does not want people’s business, but their friendship?

It could get confusing. Like Jesus’ parable. We could find ourselves so tangled up trying to understand it all that our only hope is for the manager to come along and excuse us from having to get it. “Forget all that righteousness stuff,” he says, “or having to ‘get’ the parables or understand or even believe in God. Write it off. Just be sure and say ‘Thanks’ next time you see God.”

        
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Thou art the one

                  
Whatever hand or stream that bears this world,
whoever wove the nebulae of stars
and lungs and dreams, who gives such wonder flesh,

whoever draws the holy geese to flight,
whatever makes the trees to reach for light
and roots for hidden springs, and me for you,

whatever presence makes and breathes within
the weeping child, the child who looks and clings,
whatever makes her dance, or sing, or try,

whoever drums the silent march of hope
in those who persevere to overcome,
or give their tender hearts away in love,

who made this flesh to throb with life and light,
the fallen tree insistently to sprout,
the pond to reek and swell and chirp and thrive,

whatever wonder sparks this fire in us,
whatever grace conspires to set things free,
and grows our branching lives from common shoots,

who made the human heart—this heart—to throw
its rising, falling waves against the shore
of this slow-yielding, rough, but wondrous life,

whoever gave to me these tears and doubts
like gravity that pull me down toward
your unseen bosom, waiting, unfelt arms,

whoever is the mystery beyond
all things, within me, in whose beating heart
and breath in me I am within all things,

whoever made this soul to ache for you,
this burning soul that is not sure of you,
that, whelmed, devout, unknowing, dies for you,

Thou, whose only absence, out of all
imagined things, alone can break my heart:
Thou art the one, the one, I long to love—

yet do not find, or hold, or know, or sense.
Your voice and mine a perfect silence make.
What is this rising, then, in me toward you?

It is the only name I have for thee,
this cry, this open-handed leap of doubt,
thou mystery, whoever you may be.

So I will let my longing be your praise.
And I will let my yearning be your voice.
And I will let my wonder be your will.

And I will let your calling be my call,
the love that I did not conceive, yet bear,
your arms around me: love for you, for all.

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net
      
         

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Bad guys

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         

I read headlines about cruelty,
about mean-spirited people
         … and I want to be mean to them…
                  and I know I’ve lost.

         
I hear about bigots
who want to spread fear
         … and fear rises in me…
                  and I plead for mercy.

         

The world is full of bad guys
and I am one of them.
         What matters is
                  the direction my heart is facing.

         

We will not be saved
by extraordinary people
         but by regular bad guys
                  receiving and giving mercy.

         
         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Simple mind

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
 
 

God, keep my mind simple today:
free of fears and calculations,
mindful of your presence,
generously attentive to the present moment,
desiring only to love,
accepting of what is beyond my control,
willing to be used for your mercy.

Keep my eyes open to beauty and grace,
my heart grateful and ready to forgive,
my hands open to receive and ready to serve.

May my soul be a singing bird
on the branch of this day.

 
 
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Categorized as Reflections

Search me

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
 
 
What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
          — Luke 15.8

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
Where can I go from your presence?
It was you who formed my inward parts

          — Psalm 139

I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence…. But I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost of sinners, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience.
          — 1Timothy 1.13, 16

 

God, search me.
Find the lost parts,
the secret sins, the hidden treasures,
the forgotten strength, the silenced hopes.
Beneath the obscuring ways of this world,
the fear and self-serving,
find the saint lost in my abandoned places.
Find all of me that I have let wander
alone in valleys of darkness
and bring them back to me.

I know you take your time.
Give me patience to match yours.

Search for my soul, my heavenly being,
already full and glorious within me,
your silver coin beyond all value
gleaming with your image
even in my darkness.

Let your sight be my light.
Reveal my true self to me.
May your knowledge bring me to life,
your seeing re-create me.
Behold me into myself.

Search me, God,
and find me,
and bring me to you.

Amen.

  
 
 
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
unfoldinglight.net

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Categorized as Reflections

Lost souls

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
 

What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
                — Luke 15.8-10
 

Tattered man, as tattered as his clothes, and as many layers of him. Probably not as old as he looks. A little dazed, maybe from booze, maybe meds, maybe lack of meds. His speech is hard to track. He might be making sense, or maybe reciting poetry, or maybe just nuts. He could be a noble fellow fallen on hard times, or maybe a lazy, bitter drunk. It would certainly take a long time to get his whole story, but you’re not likely to get that close and listen that long. Nobody ever will. He smells too bad.

Noxious kid. Tattoos, cartoon hair, offensive clothes. Some kind of knife. Smokes like a 50’s movie. Dull eyes. Not going to make much of an effort, but ready with a deep, rumpled anger like a bad cough if you’re ever interested. Which you’re not likely to be. He’s too scary. What are you missing?

Invisible woman. Cleans the outhouses at the campground. Probably doesn’t speak English. Probably is an illegal alien. Probably doesn’t have any kids, or hopes, or feelings. But you’ll never know. You never saw her. Ever wonder what her prayer life is like?

It’s easy to see them as roles, as traits and behaviors, as occasions, symbols, ciphers. A collection of adjectives. But not as full human beings, as divine creations living in minds and bodies that sometimes fail them. Not as souls, as God’s Beloved. No, their souls are lost to us amidst our own judgments and reactions.

How might Christ rejoice if we whose souls are so lost were to repent of our fear and seek those who have been dropped into society’s dusty corners and treat them so that they might believe that they are worth seeking, that Someone values them and rejoices over them, that even in their loneliest muck they are beautiful and Beloved, that they are God’s precious silver coin? How might we ourselves rejoice in the presence of the angels of God if we were to go among the last and the lost and the least and discover there the only Gospel there is?

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Still lost

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
 
 
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
           — Luke 15.4

Well, none of us, actually. Who would leave 99, guaranteed, to find just one maybe? A lover of long odds, champion of the impossible.

That would be God, Seeker of the Hopeless, Companion of the Lost, Paramour of the Wretched. Oh, we think we’re so realistic. We suppose such a God would have to be a ridiculous optimist. But God just knows more than we do. So off goes the shepherd, over our tiny horizon.

We are enamored of the “after” picture. We all want to be “after.” After you’ve done whatever we suppose makes God happy, you get to go to heaven. But have you noticed it’s always the “before” picture that God heads for? God loves the rough cuts, the unfinished ones—you know, those pesky wretched sinners that we want so much not to be. The lost sheep. Loves ’em. Delights in them. Gladly leaves 99 righteous sheep (who are sure they are God’s favorites) and heads off into the brambles for the one wayward fleabag. Which is a good thing, because we’re not actually as found and finished as we think. If someone asks, ”Are you saved?” and you’re afraid the answer is no, you’re in luck. You’re the type God really loves.

So maybe we can relax. Stop trying to be the “after” picture, the perfect sheep, and just trust that God really loves us as we are. Sure, we want to repent, grow, all that stuff. But repentance is mostly learning to trust that God loves us before we get there. And practicing that on everybody around us. Learning to love people while they’re still lost—since that’s pretty much the only way God has to love us.

 
 
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
unfoldinglight.net

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Categorized as Reflections

Lost Coin

Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.

What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. — Luke 15.8-10  

         I

Each moment of your life is an instance of the Beloved calling, seeking you, reaching, reaching. This world is her lamp. This moment is her house. She wants you more than you think. Lift up your head, and let yourself be found.

         II

You may think of yourself as a pebble among billions on a beach. But Love knows which one you are. Exactly where you are. The contours of your surface, the feel and heft of your life, the secrets of your inner silence. Along this infinite seashore, she can find you in the dark.

         III

Don’t worry that you need something, that you have to seek something you lack. It is you yourself who are the treasure. It is God, not you, who is seeking. No matter how far off you are God will never leave you there. God holds you with delight, and will never throw you away. Ever. You are the completion of her dowry, the silver coin she strings around her neck. You are her beloved. Her joy in finding you is as immense as the seashore. She throws a party. All of Creation is God’s celebration that she has you. Everyone is invited—especially the lost, the hopeless, the ones not worth looking for. She spends everything for each one.

         IV

God is not oblivious. You are not under the cushions of her sofa. You are in her hand. Be at peace.

Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

_______________________________ Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

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Lost Sheep

Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you.

Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.               — Luke 15.4-7

       I

You are not bad, or even entirely at fault. You are just lost. There is nothing you can do. God is neither scolding nor demanding anything of you. Only coming toward you, seeking, finding, reaching, cradling.

       II

Do you think you are hidden from the Loving One? That you blend into the drab, unsavory corners in this world so that God doesn’t see? What do you do, not even meaning to, to wander away, to cover yourself with the camouflage of this world? What is it in your life that you think hides you from God? What if you came to see that all along, even in your fleeing, you were seeking?

       III

Your shepherd knows where to look, and probes the distant places, the rough and desolate and hurtful places, the hidden canyons and unexplored wastelands, the thickest brambles and murkiest swamps. He will plunge through the darkness and come straight to you as if on a path. For this wilderness where he seeks you is not a foreign place, but your own heart. Stay still, and he will come.

       IV

Every word we speak is the bleat of a lamb in the wilderness.

Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

_______________________________ Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net

Published
Categorized as Reflections