A Day at the Beach!

Let’s hear it for Ocean City, Maryland! They’ve finally come to a most important understanding. There’s something lasting, lingering, paramount, permanent about a day at the beach! Somehow, the salt air and the sea breeze are connected to things eternal, part and parcel of the grand scheme of things. It’s so much more, it seems, than Thrashers’ Fries forever! How do I know they know all this? Because of their recent radio ad campaign. It tells you, “Book now for a day at the beach.” Why so urgent? Because, their ad reminds, scientists say we’ve only got a million years before the oceans boil off and the shoreline goes away. What good’s a boardwalk without an ocean? Fishing boats but no fish? Come early. Time’s runnin’ out!

Sea and sand, sun and salt, time out and eternity all run together.

So far as we know, Jesus never visited OC Ocean on the web. He never sat under an umbrella, greased up to tan or sat down to sunscreen. But he certainly knew the shoreline of the Galilee. He left his footprints in the sand and his imprint on the souls of women and children and men. Along the lakeside, as well as far from it, he told stories, taught in parables, repeated and retold the tales of the eternal ‘til people came to know them by heart. Especially the twelve and those who often trailed along. And he watched how his lessons were learned. He watched how they were lived. So one day, he was teaching the crowds from boatside. He watched them come, padding the pathways down to the beach. Jesus had a Word for them. The gist of his message came to this. Hear…the Word of God. Understand…the Way of God. Do… the Love of God. Be like good seed on the best of soil, not like the stuff you stepped across to come to me.

Hear the Word. Really hear it. This is what Jesus urges when we spend a day at the beach with him. Hear it, receive it until it roots deeply in your soul. Otherwise, your everyday days will just pick at it and pluck it up like a bird takes seed off the ground. OK. So what promotes this kind of deep-rooted hearing? How do I go about doing this? To begin, use your every sense to take in what God has to say, especially in Jesus Christ. Once in a while, I comment on how we intake the Word here. Usually, we read, you listen. And some of us are very good listeners. Scripture stays with us best… through our ears. But most of us hear better and deeper when our eyes help our ears. Despite Bibles in every pew they are rarely opened. Maybe we oughta work on that. Something happens when we touch the Word, hold it in our hands. It touches us. (I love my computer-launched Maxima Bible. But when I show the disk to confirmands, nothing happens. Then, I give them a 150 year old, musty, tattered-leather copy of the Hebrew Bible… in Greek… they see the squiggly writing and their eyes light up. Lesson: it’s easier to hold in your heart what you’ve held n your hand, smelled with your nose, seen and heard. Of course, there’s also another way. Meet and walk with someone who embodies the Word. Start with Jesus. Word become flesh. Get to know him any way, the best way you can. Stay near to him. I hate to say the obvious. Yet sometimes, it’s what you and I both need to hear. So here we go. Make it your project this week, every week, to find and fellowship with someone who embodies the Word. Mama used to tell her hard-case kid (me), “You’re known by the company you keep.” I hated that. Cool kids always seemed more interesting than good ones. At 30, looking at the frieze of the Cathedral-at-Borges, the sculpted bad guys goin’ south still looked more intriguing company than the saints being saved. But ally with them in real life and the Word-in-you is easy pickin’ for the birds to snatch. Get to goin’ with those who walk with God in Jesus Christ. Make a mentor out of one soul you know belongs to Christ. Then find four more who are workin’ on it and walk with them. Strive for five. It’ll light up your life. And the Word will ring in your ears and shine in your face. You’ll not just hear the Word. You’ll hear in a way that keeps you rooted and grounded in it!

Understand…the Way of God. That’s what Jesus has to say on our day at the beach with him. He knows we require a kind of two-direction discipline of mind and heart to walk with him. I’m no great gardener. Jesus either, so far as we know. But our moms and pops likely got us both to plant enough stuff and pull enough weeds to know. Roots that tap…headed straight for the deepest source of water… drink the best. Roots that spread, while surface and sipping, can gather-in the last drop of water heaven lets fall around us. Spread out; go deep. It’s the best protection for life. And for faith, too. Our Lord wants us to get the Word. Even more, to get the Way. He desires us to walk in faith. The hope is we’ll travel through our days in touch with God. ‘Reaching for and leaning on Heaven… at the same time. Jesus knows how hard this is. He says some of us “get happy” for him right off the bat. But let things get hot and we wither and fall away. Life gets thorny with cares and problems. Or maybe worse, as we grow rich-in-things. We believe we’ve earned or deserve them. (Yea us, we’re doin’ fine on our own, Lord). Either way, we peter out. We give up when we don’t look up. We dry up. We fade away, body and soul. You and I both know folks who cling to the cross. Thank God. I invite you, I implore you, hold onto it, like nothing else. No other thing I know has in it or on it the power to save. The cross. Always the cross. Never walk away from it. But don’t leave it where you found it, either! Pick it up and take it with you! Remember every day, every hour, you are not your own savior. And neither is anything you own. No problem or dilemma is your master. You have only one, and He is the Master of all of our thorniest thickets. You are not free to live as you wish or love as you feel like it. As you reach out, you (and I) need to touch every surface and sinew with the same forgiveness as Christ on the cross. With the same, “You before me.” The same, “It is accomplished. The battle with the Evil One ends with the victory of the Holy One.” The same, “Into your hands, and yours alone, Father, I commend my spirit.” Do that and no drop of Heaven’s water-of-life will be lost to you. And you will be the water of life to others yourself!

Hear…the Word of God. Understand…the Way of God. Then do… the Love of God. That’s what Jesus says to us still, every time we spend a day at the beach with him. “As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Mtt. 13: 23 Jesus insists. When God’s Word takes root in the well-tended, well-turned (exercised) soil of our souls, bearing fruit will be the blessed result! It’s the dictate, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Jms.1: 22 And again, “Faith without works is dead.” Jms.2: 17 It is not to contradict Paul’s teaching, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2: 8-9 The point is not that what we do saves us. God in Christ has already done that. No, the truth lies in doing God’s love in visible acts of kindness, justice and mercy precisely because we have so deeply, everlastingly received God’s love in Jesus Christ. It literally becomes the air we breathe in and the breath we breathe out. (Unless you shouldn’t for health’s sake)… Take a deep breath and hold it as long as you can… and watch what happens. (In/OUT.) See! We just can’t help it. What we truly take in… we can’t hold. It just has to come out. The miracle of faith is this. Once inhaled, it will expand on being expressed to be even greater than what we received. Pretty cool! I told a story Thursday night (Grill and Chill). A grandmom lost on the way to her granddaughter’s wedding. An urgent call for directions. She was overheard. Someone offered, without hesitation, to lead her to the service. A 30+ minute drive… out of the way… at +$4 a gallon! And then… these dear helpers did not even stop to give anyone their name. Doers of the Word. Imagine, if we made a similar effort to get someone to Jesus. Doers of the Word. Imagine, if we made a similar effort to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bind up the wounded, visit the lonely and the prisoners (even of depression and distress). How about a world where grandmoms get to weddings and every soul gets to Jesus… right on time. And no one’s too late for clothes on their back, food on their table, peace in their land and peace in their soul. Now that would be fruitful 30, 60, 100 times over. Impossible? NOT.

It all begins with a day at the beach.

Hearing the Word.

Understanding the Way.

Doing the Love.

It all begins with us!

O, what a party this can be!

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