Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Centurion's Wife

With the beginning of a new year, I made a new commitment to attend church more regularly. Jesse and I kind of fell out of the habit in the last couple of months of 2008. I was overworking my body on during the week and spent the weekends recovering, and Jesse doesn't like going without me. But I missed corporate worship very much. I do read my Bible and some devotional books every night, but my time with the Lord was becoming dry and I missed that spark that comes from singing and praying with fellow believers. This last Sunday was a terrific reminder of how important going to church for me really is. The morning's Sunday school lesson was about resting in the Lord and how sometimes He makes us wait for His own purposes. It was a revelation for me to know that this waiting that has been forced by my RA is part of God's purpose for me. The teacher asked us where we go when we need a place to rest or seek sanctuary away from the world. Everyone who answered gave a different response, but when I thought about them later, I realized that every answer had something in common: we all seek peace through nature. Whether it was walking through a snowfall at night, sitting on a front porch listening to the birds, or resting in a hammock enjoying the feel of the sun, we all found peace in creation.

Then in the pastor's sermon, we were discussing the second chapter in Acts about the Holy Spirit's coming on Pentecost, and Pastor described the three different acts of the Spirit. When we come to Jesus, we are baptized by the Spirit, and then believers are indwelt by the Spirit. The third state is being filled with the Spirit. It's different from the indwelling in that it's when we allow the Spirit to guide us and do God's work through us. I recognized that my prayer with Howard and my family last Wednesday was my allowing the Spirit to fill me, and in my prayer journal that night, I prayed to be filled regularly. I want to be drunk with the Spirit and feel that incredible peace and faith that comes with it.

One of the things that I both struggle with and love about my new church is the hymns. So many of the songs they sing are different than those I grew up hearing and became familiar with in the Methodist church. When we do sing one from my childhood, I sing out strong and love the comfort of knowing every note. But the blessing of the new songs are that sometimes I am surprised out of my complacency by reading lyrics that touch my heart in a completely new way. We sang Heaven Came Down by John W. Peterson, and I couldn't help but tear up as I thought about praying the Sinner's Prayer with Howard. I can't wait for him to wake up enough to share this song with him. Its lyrics are a beautiful testimony about our salvation, that baptism of the Spirit. I've kept that song close to my heart this week, and I'm anticipating more comfort and joy in church on Sunday. That is an amazing blessing.

The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke is an interesting look at Jerusalem and the Roman Empire in the days immediately after Jesus' death and resurrection. Alban, a Roman centurion, has been summoned by Pontius Pilate and directed to investigate the claims that the body of Jesus has been stolen from the tomb by his disciples. Alban has been working to elevate his career in the empire by asking for the hand of Pilate's niece Leah in marriage. Leah has been working as a servant for Pilate's wife, Procura, since the dissolution of her family after her father's bankruptcy. She wants nothing more than to serve for the rest of her life to avoid a loveless and painful marriage like her sisters have suffered. But the whims of a servant mean nothing to Procura who sends Leah on her own mission to discover what happened to the mysterious Nazarene. The days immediately after the resurrection are briefly discussed in the Gospels and the book of Acts, but Davis and Oke bring to life the fear and hope surrounding the Jewish community. Alban and Leah each follow their own path to faith by questioning those who met Jesus and witnessed the events of the crucifixion, bringing it to life for readers. The question about whether Jesus swooned on the cross or the disciples stole the body from the tomb are still bandied about today, and the authors treat them seriously and answer them well. I loved their portrayal of the sisters Mary and Martha, and the deep faith that embodied all of Christ's followers. It's not just a fictional novel about the Bible, it also answers the doubts that have surrounded the resurrection for over 2000 years. The ending speaks to the uncertainty of the future, but the faith we have to place in the Lord about it.

The Green Bay Packers are up against the Buffalo Bills in the annual Click for Cans challenge from Chunky Soup. The Packers have won for the last six years. Chunky Soup will donate 18,000 cans to the Packers if they win to be distributed to local food pantries. The contest ends tomorrow, so go here and vote for the Pack today!