On this revived place, I'll be putting stuff that didn't make it into the sermon, random thoughts, and observations on, as Credenda Agenda used to say, the "regnant follies." I'll begin with the latter. I was at the Willow Bookstore in Acton, vaguely looking for a book when I found yet another proof of Ecclesiastes 12:12: Of making many books there is no end. What publisher thought this was a good idea? Clearly the work of someone with too much time on her hands. Or, perhaps too much cat fur on her hands. But then again, maybe this is simply making the best use of the materials you have at hand.
A better Ecclesiastes quote is 4:9-12, a cord of three strands, the verse engraved on the inside of our wedding rings. This was our 30th anniversary and, in a deepening way we could have never imagined that Thanksgiving Eve in 1983, we have known its reality: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. . . . And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Sometimes I feel that never has a man been so well blessed by God as I have in my beloved. I deserve to have been divorced years ago, if it were up to my excellence as a husband. But it hasn’t been just Deb and me; the Lord has been in it through every frail and strong moment with us two. I do not in any way merit a woman like the one God has given me. Nor do I deserve God’s working in Deb's patience and forbearance with me. Even my own growing incrementally to look the tiniest bit more like Jesus seems pale as I live “at this poor dying rate.” That Husband turned Himself inside out for the good of us, His beloved.
But, I was reminded anew this season of something else. Many find Christmas the hardest of all because they, unlike me, are alone. They've lost a spouse to death or divorce. Or they've never experienced what they had always dreamed they'd find in a mate. Some think this loneliness is the hardest burden a person can bear. It is painful, but it is not the hardest. We are not to measure the crosses the Lord in his kindness lays on each of us. My own battle with sin is harder and longer than you know, and I am some days deeply discouraged at my own lack of growth, maybe especially at my lack of love and gratitude for all that I have in Christ. These crosses He lays on us, I read somewhere, He also carries with us.
And then I hear reports of other crosses, Iraqi believers shot at Christmas simply because they went to church. The words David sings in the midnight weariness of Psalm 88. Those murders and those words cut through my weariness and complaint and I am reminded to and called to turn outward and remember not only the delights we share in His Body but also the pain we share, as Hebrews 12:3 says: Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. As though in prison with them. The New Testament writers found something to be true that American culture does its best to beat out of our heads. We are part of a body, not migrating body parts that move from one body to another seeking a place where that next serial body can make us happier. My .recent fall and daily (if slight) pain doesn't mean that the rest of my body isolates my poor left elbow. If even books on crafts from cat fur get published, how more significant that we seek out the “less honorable” parts, understanding what loneliness feels like. Then we, the un-lonely, though self-absorbed as all other Americans in our own little comfy and stuffy families, instead turn ourselves inside out for them. And they for us. As though in prison with them . . . since you also are in the body. Because cat fur craft books will burn with everything else. But that sister or brother in Christ is part of The Building, living and growing, that is at the same time the Body of Jesus. Each individual local Body is His delight, His love, His own Body.