Rise and Shine!

Talitha cum – Jesus

Jesus clearly worked from a different clock than everyone else. Instead of Eastern Standard Time, Jesus seemed to be on Eternal Standard Time. Yet, He never arrived late, and he never arrived early, he simply arrived according to his purpose.

Jesus will not be hurried.

There are a couple of stories in the Gospel of Mark that tell of a time when a prominent Jewish man came to Jesus to ask him to come heal his little girl of a dangerous fever. Jesus agreed and while on the way to the father’s  house, a woman who was afflicted with a debilitating blood flow came up behind him and secretly touched the hem of his garment. She was healed and while Jesus was talking to her, word came to the father that his little girl had died. (Of course, later Jesus went to see the little girl and brought her back to life.)

Jesus allowed a woman with a chronic illness interrupt him while on his way to deal with a little girl with an acute illness. Perhaps triage is not Jesus’ strength.

God’s sense of timing will always confound ours.

You will always give and get from Jesus more than you request.

The father came to Jesus for a cure for a fever, but he got a resurrection. He went to Jesus with enough faith to ask for a minor miracle of a healing, but Jesus looked at him after his daughter died and said, “Trust me with your little girl even now that she is dead.”

The woman with the blood flow came to Jesus for a “hit-and-run healing” but received eternal life. And part of what she had to give Jesus was a public pledge of truth and faith. That’s far more than she expected to get, and it’s also far more than she expected to give.

If you go to Jesus for anything (and I hope you do), I can guarantee he will get from you far more than you originally planned to give him, but he will give to you infinitely more than you dare ask or think, and infinitely more than you give.

Jesus reverses the values of the world

Jesus makes the prominent man with the urgent need wait while he takes his time with a social outcast of a woman. He dignifies her with an honest conversation and makes the man wait. No toxic masculinity from Jesus—just grace!

That is why pimps and prostitutes flocked to Jesus; because they understood that their past didn’t keep them from life with God.  But this is also why many of the preachers and the pious had a hard time with Jesus; because their past didn’t get them any special favors with God. Nobody is disqualified, and nobody is good enough for life with God. God’s grace can only be given to you

In fact, this woman’s faith is quasi-superstitious (she just wanted to touch his clothes). It’s of a lower quality than the father’s faith (He looked Jesus in the eye with desperate confidence when he made his request).

Yet if seems as if Jesus is drawn to people who are the most messed up and who have messed up the most.

Jesus lived the great reversal all the way to the cross

When Jesus got to the house where the little girl was dead, he cleared the house of the professional mourners and went into to see the little girl with the mom and dad. He took the cold hand and in a tender voice said, “Talitha cum.”

Talitha  literally means, “Little girl.” But that does not get across the sense of what he is saying to her. This is a pet name. Probably the best translation I’ve run across is, “Honey.” This is Jesus taking her by the hand and saying, “Honey.”

The second word he uses is cum, which means, “Wake up.” This is the word of a parent who loves the child and who comes in on a sunny morning, sits down, and takes her hand and says. “Honey, it’s time to get up.”

She does!

Look at his power! He is facing death, the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race … death. Such is his power that if he holds her by the hand, he just gently lifts her up right through it.

“Honey, get up.”

What love! This is the ultimate parent—for the woman and the little girl.

When you can see the Lord of the universe, the one whose hands scattered the stars like so many seeds, taking you by the hand and saying, “Honey, it’s time to get up”—Why would you want to hurry somebody this powerful and this loving?

There’s nothing more frightening for a little child than to lose the hand of the parent in a crowd or in the dark. But that is exactly what happened to Jesus. The Bible says the sky went dark and He lost his Father’s hand on the cross. When Jesus touched us, He lost touch with His Father. Jesus became unclean so our uncleanness could be dealt with and we could be clean and whole.

He lost the Father’s hand so we could know, if he has us by the hand, he will never forsake us.

Are you trying to hurry Jesus? Take him by the hand and let him do what he wants to do. He loves you completely. He knows what he is doing.

It’s time to wake up.

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My Beautiful Mess

The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14

In 1999, I had made such a mess of my marriage I had to resign the church I had led for thirteen years and dedicate my days to reconciling with my wife. I packed up my young family, moved to the Pacific Northwest where a little church provided us a place to live and me a job. That job was tearing down a condemned house for $10 per hour. An old lady had lived in the house for decades with about eighteen cats.

Tearing down the condemned house was a metaphor of my life. I had spent years building a resume, reputation and career as a trust worthy man.  But because of my arrogance, neglect and selfishness, I had seen my life abandoned and condemned.

Back to the cat lady’s little yellow house—I had already dismantled and hauled off all of the outlying buildings, porch and knocked down many of the non-load bearing walls—it was time to go after the bathroom. The vanity came out without much resistance, the sink as well. The only thing left was the tub and the toilet.  I decided to deal with the toilet first.

I removed the upper tank and carried it out and threw it into my truck to take to the dump. I unbolted the bowl from the floor, but it wouldn’t release. I pushed and pulled all to no avail. Finally, I wrapped my arms around the cold, slick and disgusting bowl and heaved with all my strength. It wouldn’t budge. I was frustrated, sad and ashamed of myself.

I remembered that only two months before I was on the board of trustees of a major Christian organization. I was a former president of my denomination in the state of Colorado. I was well-respected and admired and successful in almost every way.

But on this cold, gray, November day in the Northwest, I was trying to tear a toilet out of an old cat-lady’s house.  I remember wondering, “How many times had the cat lady sat on this seat I was hugging?” I fell back against the bathtub with the sharp smell of that bathroom piercing my nostrils and began to weep, “Oh, God how did I get here?”

And louder than an audible voice I heard the Father say, “You are with Me and WE are going to be just fine.”

My chest heaved with sobs of pain and unmitigated joy.  God was with me on the floor of the cat lady’s bathroom.  I mattered to him.

“Okay,” I said.

I got off that bathroom floor, cleaned myself up, went over to the house where my wife was preparing lunch, gave her a kiss and went back and took a sledgehammer to that toilet. That began a sacred journey to discover the Kingdom of God within me.

Along this journey I discovered that if I don’t pay attention to my interior life and build a strong soul-infrastructure, my life will never be able to sustain the weight of my exterior life and I will either implode again or I will lead a life of quiet desperation.

I certainly won’t live a life of abundance that Jesus talked about. Last month my wife and I celebrated 37 years of marriage and I am living the life I could never imagine twenty years ago.

Thanks be to God he didn’t abandon me, but rather led me to the place where I could find him, my wife, and my true self in the mess of my life.

Here is a verse that has encouraged me and perhaps it will you.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
    and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

No mess is too messy for God.

Not mine. Not even yours.

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Heaven’s Gentle Rain

You don’t have because you don’t ask God. James 4:2

All you need to do in order to start God speaking is fix your attention on Him first thing in the morning. Look up at the ceiling and say: Lord, speak. I’m listening. If your own noisy, feverish ideas have subsided enough, there often begins to flow a gentle rain of ideas fresh with the clean flavor of heaven. – Frank Laubach

When I read the above quote by Mr. Laubach, I decided to ask God to do that for me. I wanted to join God in what he was doing in the world.  I’ll have you know that is a dangerous prayer. Don’t pray that prayer unless you are willing to do it.

When I got up in the morning, I said, “God, help me. Help me be present to what you are doing today.”

The very day I started praying that prayer, God might has well have put a pulsing neon sign over a guy saying, “Here you go, big fella.”

It happened as I was in the Oakland airport flying home to Seattle. As I was getting ready to board a Southwest Airline flight, I noticed a young man with white bell bottom pants and a dark blue wool Pea Coat on. He obviously was in the Navy. He had a cell phone to his ear and had his head pulled down into his coat like a turtle trying to pull its head into its shell. His face was contorted, his knuckles were white as he gripped the phone. He was crying; in fact, sobbing into the phone.

I normally try to send out signals to everyone on a plane that I do NOT want to be approached on a flight. I put my headphones on and shoot the stink eye at everyone. Sometimes I get a Bible out and set on the seat beside me. Leave me alone! I had full intentions of doing that on this flight as well, but God said do different. God said, “Joe, be present for this guy.”

As I boarded the plane I said to Lord, “Jesus, I am tired and more grumpy than usual. I am not a good candidate to help this guy, but if you want me to do something, then when I get on board let there be an open seat next to him. I felt comfortable with this plea. The sailor was in group A and I was in group Z. Southwest does open seating, so chances are the seat next to him would be taken.

I started down the aisle and there he was and guess what…there was not one, but two open seats next to the sailorman.

Dang it!

I sat down beside him. When we got air born, I started a conversation with him. Said he was about to be deployed on the USS Abraham Lincoln for 3-4 months and he was leaving his new bride. As he told me this his eyes began to brim with tears. We talked some more about his home town, his hobbies, his favorite football team—and the entire time I was whispering to the Holy Spirit how I was supposed to spiritually help this guy.

As we approached our descent into SeaTac airport, he seemed to be getting more apprehensive and told him he was going to be okay. Then we landed and deplaned and I walked with him down the concourse with his duffle bag over his shoulder. Just at the escalators to go down to baggage, I stopped him and said, “Nick, would you mind if I prayed for you?”

He allowed that it was Okay. I said, “How about right here and now.” He sheepishly nodded. I laid my hand on his shoulder and prayed a prayer that only he and Jesus could hear as people walked by us like water flowing around a boulder in a river.
When he looked up, he had tears running down his face and said, “Thank you, Joe. God must have put you on that plane just for me. I will never forget this.”

I lived in Seattle at that time where it rains as a matter of course, but that night as I crawled in bed, I knew something of a different king of rain; a gentle rain of ideas fresh with the clean flavor of heaven.

And I prayed, “God, I did what you asked. I joined you in the work you were doing today.”

Then I spoke Nick’s name one more time to the Father and fell asleep.

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Surprising Prayer

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. Acts 12:5

I wonder if you really believe that you have the ear of the God of the universe when you talk to him. Does God listen to you?

There is a crazy story about the apostle Peter in Acts 12 where Peter is in prison and the fledgling church is praying for his release. God sends an angel to facilitate the prison break and Peter is set free, avoiding almost certain execution.

After leaving the prison, Peter looks this way and that way and then runs to the house of Mary where he knows the Christian community has gathered and are praying for his miraculous release. When he gets to Mary’s house, he bangs for dear life on the door. A maid named Rhoda answers the door and when she figures out that it is Peter, she’s so overjoyed that she leaves him outside in the cold and runs to tell the people in the prayer meeting that Peter is outside.

After hearing her breathless announcement about Peter, what do they do? They shshsh her and say, “You are crazy!”

The knocking is persistent and getting louder from the big fishermen, and they say out loud, “It must be Peter’s angel.” In other words, they thought he had already been executed and this was his ghost coming to pay them a visit.

The pounding on the door makes them think that the ghost is having trouble with the latch, so they come to the door and find Peter standing there in the flesh. He comes in, quiets everyone down, tells his story, and then he makes himself scarce before the sun comes up.

Think about the absurdity of this scene. Peter doesn’t believe what God is doing until he finds himself standing on a strange road. He shows up at the house where people have been praying for him and they think at best it is Peter’s ghost and are shocked to see that is really Peter himself.

Not a lot of high-caliber faith going on here, is there?

But this story vividly shows us God responds to fervent prayer, even if that fervent prayer is only half-hearted…because they are all shocked when the prayer is dramatically answered.

Half-hearted fervent prayer will move the hand of God. Why? Because most of the time that is all He has to work with.

The story begs the question of whether or not we really believe we have the ear of the God who rules everything. The Peter story dares us to believe that there is nothing that almighty God cannot do. And that he listens to people who pray to him in Jesus name and for Jesus sake about things that he cares about.

This doesn’t mean that God is a cosmic genie in a bottle. This doesn’t mean that God exists to simply give you all of the things that you would like to have. God shows us here that when we pray to him, in Jesus name and for Jesus sake, God hears, God answers, God acts.

So, I want to invite you to take the temperature of your own life. Do you pray as if God could or would actually do anything?

Four years ago, I learned that a little church in the mountains of Colorado was looking for a pastor. I looked into it and learned all I could about that little church. I flew out here and took a tour of the facility. After that tour and meeting with the Search Committee, Lynette and I were driving down to Poncha Springs where we were staying with my Dad and I remember praying, “I sure would love to pastor that Church, God.”

The next day they unanimously voted to have me be their pastor. And I couldn’t believe it!  I was shocked. I prayed a fervent half-hearted prayer—and God said, “Yes”!

Do you approach God as if you have the ear of the God of the universe? That’s the question this story of this divine escape asks us.

The psalmist reminds us, The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. (Psalm 34:15)

God is listening to you. Never forget that.

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The Divine Echo

“You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” – Dallas Willard

In the summer of 2013 I hiked the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail. It was 440 miles through the Cascade Mountains of central Oregon. I met a lot of very interesting people. People from many foreign countries like Switzerland, Finland, Australia, Ireland, and Texas.

One young lady named Megan was hiking with her dog, Zoe. She had long brown hair with strands of gray streaking through her braids. I came upon her sitting in the shade one afternoon trying to cool down in 93-degree heat reading a Steinbeck novel. We chatted about Mr. Steinbeck for a while and then I moved on.

Two hours later I was taking a break in the shade of a tree and I heard singing from up the trail. Not particularly good singing but singing—the kind of singing you do when you have ear buds in and don’t think anyone is within earshot. Not something you hear very often in the wilderness. It was Megan and Zoe hiking at a good clip down the trail towards me singing along with Alanis Morsette. She blushed, waved, and kept walking.

We kept meeting on the trail and having clips of conversations about life on the trail for about 60 miles. One time a few of us were stopped at stream and she mentioned that her father had dropped her off at the trailhead in northern California. I asked her a typical patriarchal question, “What does your father think of you hiking the trail all by yourself?” She shot me a defiant look and asked, “What does your father think of you hiking the trail all by yourself?” I felt I might have offended her, so I said, “He’d be jealous.”

She said, “Yeah, my dad is jealous too.”

Another time I asked this hippy, bohemian, Californian girl what she did away from the trail. She said she was a “Sustainable Transportation Planner and Program Developer for a small college in Monterrey, California.”

I asked her to repeat what she just said.

“I’m a Sustainable Transportation Planner and Program Developer for a small college” —spoken a little slower as if I couldn’t keep up.

I smiled and said that is so cool. I asked her to tell me about her work.

She said, “I advocate a vision of a transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, moves the most people in the least space with the least energy, and promotes public health through exercise. I promote strategies for transit service, transit capital improvements, transportation demand management, automobile parking, pedestrian connectivity and safety, bicycle connectivity and safety, and wayfinding.”

“Oh,” I said.

I learned more about the environment than Al Gore sitting on that log beside that stream. I kept affirming her work of stewarding the environment, and the more I affirmed her the more she talked.

Finally, she sighed and said, “I want this earth to be alive and well long after I’m gone and I’ve dedicated my life to make that happen.”

“How long do you think that this earth is going to last?” I asked.

“Not very long if we don’t do our part,” she said.

“I couldn’t agree with you more, Megan. I think the law of entropy is clearly at work. As you know it states that anything left to itself will become more disorganized and more random. Like my garage. If I don’t clean it out and put everything away, after a while it becomes cluttered and disorganized. The universe acts in the same way.

The earth is not sustainable because the Universe is not sustainable. But we want it to be. I certainly want to be. But the best minds this world has ever produced have said it will one day end. Our sun will one day go super nova and burn out. It will all one day end. I believe in doing everything we can to care for it, but ultimately it is fading away. There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “The grass withers, the flower fades and surely the people are grass.”

She stared at me and then said, “So, are you saying that I should not be trying to save the planet?”

“No! Keep doing it! We need you to do your best to sustain this good earth. I’m just saying that ultimately it is winding down. But you aren’t. You will live forever.”

“What do you mean?” she asked

Mount Jefferson

“Just as thirst proves that there is water and hunger proves that there is food, your passion for a sustainable earth proves that you have eternity in your heart. You long for significance, you long for sustainability. It is in your DNA, in fact it is deeper than that, Megan. You have sustainability in your soul. Taste the huckleberries at your feet, look at Mount Jefferson, and listen to that woodpecker rapping away on that tree…you are similar and yet you are very different. Another old proverb says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts.”

She blinked and asked, “Who are you, really?”

I smiled and said, “I’m a Soul Sustainability Transportation Consultant and Program Developer for a small group of Christ-followers in Seattle, Washington.”

She blinked at me.

“I’m just messing with you, Megan, I’m a pastor. I hope you will continue to do your good work and listen to what your soul is trying to tell your head.”

“Okay,” she said. “Do you have any extra coffee?”

That was her signal that she was ready to change the topic. We said our goodbyes and I never saw her again.

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 

So, I listen to that divine echo of eternity in my soul, believe, and rest.

And pray for Megan.

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Waiting for Christmas

From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

I hate waiting.

I am the sort of person that when I stand in a grocery store, I mark my place of where I am visually so that I can time whether I picked the fastest cashier to check out with or not. I suspect you probably don’t enjoy waiting either. We live in a cultural moment that is allergic to waiting.

However, one of the most deepening soul-exercises I’ve learned over the years is the discipline of waiting. And the season of Advent is about waiting. Waiting for the transcendent God of the universe to enter time and space and put things to rights. As Tolkien has said, “To make everything sad come untrue.”

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you are someone who lives as an advent person in an instant-everything-world. And waiting teaches us to hope in God even in the moments when the world seems uncertain and we don’t have a whole lot of confidence in ourselves.

Almost twenty years ago my wife and I were rebuilding our marriage. It was summertime and I had sent her and our three young boys to spend four weeks here in Colorado with her parents and family. I stayed in the Seattle area to work.

We made plans to meet in Idaho, just outside of Yellowstone, and I would take them back to the Northwest. We had turned the corner in our relationship towards healing and the anticipation of seeing each other was beyond words.

As I drove through the winding roads of the mountains of Idaho towards the campground, my heart began to beat faster, and my foot got heavier on the gas pedal. A song came on the radio that reminded me of my love for her and I had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see through the tears in my eyes.

Eventually, I saw the motorhome that held my family and I pulled into their rented space in the KOA campground. I got out of the car and knocked on the door. Someone looked out the window and yelled, “It’s dad!” I opened the outside door and could hear my young boys squealing with excitement.

Then Lynette appeared in the door opening. The only thing separating me from the bride of my youth was a screen door, but it was locked. Lynette struggled to unlock it…her passion to get to me was so intense I thought one of two things were about to happen:

One, she was going to start cussing.

Second, she was going to rip that screen door off its hinges.

Finally, the screen door released and out she came, threw her arms around my neck, kissed my face, bawled so much that she smeared snot all over my shirt.

What does waiting do to you? It increases the intensity of desire for the one you are waiting for. It enlarges our hearts. It deepens our capacity to love. It widens our souls and what our souls were designed for: Love for God and love for one another. Waiting on Jesus to come close does the same to our souls. It opens up caverns of space in our soul for the good Lord to come and abide inside us.

Perhaps it would be good during this season of Christmas music, tinsel, and peanut brittle for you to do business with the reality that perhaps the deep longings of your life that you are waiting for might ultimately be met in Jesus of Nazareth.

My grandfather used to say to me when I would work with him, “Boy, don’t just sit there, do something.” But I’ve learned over the years that more often than not I need to slow down and attend to God. I need to examine my motives and my heart. I need to sit with my deep longings and laments.

There is a stanza in Mary Oliver’s poem Such Silence that says,

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel, perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.
No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.

This Christmas don’t be content to race from event to event. Don’t be content to live with all the distraction and the noise and the glitter. Slow down, quiet down and expand your capacity to experience Jesus in the deep places in your soul. Don’t just do something, sit there.

If you sit long enough, you might be surprised at who shows up.

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Homeless Jesus

Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. – Jesus

A new religious statue in the town of Davidson, N.C., is unlike anything you might see in church.

The statue depicts Jesus as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church installed the homeless Jesus statue on its property in the middle of an upscale neighborhood filled with well-kept townhomes.

Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.

The reaction was immediate. Some loved it; some didn’t.

“One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by,” says David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net. “She thought it was an actual homeless person.”

That’s right. Somebody called the cops on Jesus.

“Another neighbor, who lives a couple of doors down from the church, wrote us a letter to the editor saying it creeps him out,” Boraks added.

Some neighbors feel that it’s an insulting depiction of the son of God, and that what appears to be a hobo curled up on a bench demeans the neighborhood.

It’s hard for us to recognize Jesus when Jesus shows up dressed as the poor or migrant workers from Honduras trying to seek asylum in this country.

Scripture insists that experiencing God’s transforming grace in your life will lead to expressing God’s compassion in radical ways with everything that you have and everything that you are.

Why is that so?

Because of the essence of the Christian story. You see the very center of the Christian story, is the story of God becoming poor for us. Jesus himself would become hungry, thirsty, naked, and poor on a Roman cross for you, me, and the whole world.

The gospel tells us that you and I, in all the ways that matter— spiritually and morally—are desperately impoverished and yet at infinite cost to himself, God gives us grace. God extends us compassion when we could not hope to deserve it.

When that good news gets into the depth of who you are; when you are appropriately scandalized by the gospel of God’s grace, you will become the kind of person that naturally lives to extend compassion to everyone that you are around.

Jesus says do you want to grow as my follower? Here is how you do it: get close to someone in need. When you are around the least of these, whenever you get near somebody who needs friendship, welcome, compassion, and help— whenever you make the choice to be generous—Jesus says you are on Holy Ground.

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy tells a fascinating story called Where Love, God Is. It is the story of a cobbler named Martin. Martin is someone who experienced deep tragedy. That tragedy grows him hard and cynical. He begins to be quite depressed. He drinks vodka like its water. But one day he happens upon a Bible and begins to read the Gospels. His life is turned upside down. Peace and joy flood his life.

One evening after Martin had finished his days’ work, he sits by the fire in the living room with his glasses drooping on his nose reading a place in the gospels when he falls asleep. And he has a vision in which Jesus comes to him in a dream and he says, “Martin, tomorrow look for me in the street for I will come and visit you there.”

The next morning Martin wakes up excited that today he is going to meet Jesus Christ himself. He stationed himself by the window in his house early in the morning. Down the street comes an old man from his town named Stepanich who has shoes that are worn full of holes. He can’t pay to have his shoes repaired. And so, Martin simply invites him in from the cold. He repairs his shoes for him. He spends some time with an old man who’s who lives much of his life quite lonely. Then he sends him on his way.

Later in the morning, he spots a woman who has a baby and she’s poorly dressed for the winter wind. So he invites her into his home. He gives her some of the cabbage soup that he had been making for his lunch. He gives her his cloak to wrap the baby in and then eventually he sends her on her way on her way.

And then in the afternoon as he is again sitting by his window, he spots an old woman who’s selling apple’s out of a cart when a teenager sneaks up on her and steals an apple and tries to run off. But the old woman being spry, grabs a tuft of the boy’s hair and she’s screaming at him and threatening to call the police. So, Martin runs out of his home. He separates the woman from the boy. He calms the woman down. He pays her for her apple. He gives that apple to the boy. He makes the boy apologize to the old woman and he gets them to befriend one another.

He goes back into his home and makes himself dinner. Then as he’s sitting by the fire, he remembers his dream and wonders where Jesus was and why Jesus did not come to visit him as he promised.

After supper he decides to read the Bible again. Here is how Tolstoy tells the story:

He intended to open the book at the very place where he had yesterday put a piece of leather as a mark, but it happened to open at another place; and the moment Martin opened the Testament, he recollected his last night’s dream. And as soon as he remembered it, it seemed as though he heard someone stepping about behind him. Martin looked around, and saw—there, in the dark corner, it seemed as though people were standing: he was at a loss to know who they were. And a voice whispered in his ear, “Martin—ah, Martin! Did you not recognize me?”

“Who?” uttered Martin.

“Me,” replied the voice. “It is I,” and Stepanich stepped forth from the dark corner; he smiled, and like a little cloud faded away, and soon vanished.

“And this is I,” said the voice. From the dark corner stepped forth the woman with her child: the woman smiled, the child laughed, and they also vanished.

“And this is I,” continued the voice; both the old woman and the boy with the apple stepped forward; both smiled and vanished.

Martin’s soul rejoiced: he crossed himself, put on his eyeglasses, and began to read the Gospel where it happened to open. On the upper part of the page he read:

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”

And on the lower part of the page he read this:

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25).

And Martin understood that his dream did not deceive him; that the Savior really called upon him that day, and that he really received Him.

Friends, this is the good news. Jesus has become the least of these for us. May we welcome him deeply into our lives. You will meet him in your life this week dressed as the least of these.

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