Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Bearing Burdens

I got to spend last Friday and Friday night at the Teen Retreat. Dana divided the group into smaller groups of three, gave each group a burlap sack and told them to go find something heavy and put it in the sack. When they returned, they learned that someone in the group had to bear the burden (at meals, sleeping, bathing, playing, etc.). The groups figured out that they could share the burden among themselves, and most made a plan for who would bear the burden at a particular time.
Saturday morning, I was walking toward our van to put my stuff in it, when I saw one of the young ladies in our group bearing her burden. Her group had picked out what was at least the most awkward to carry burden if not the heaviest. This young lady was carrying a burlap sack weighted with a stump and a six-foot wooden fence post. Dana was walking by her the moment I spotted her, and he said, “Want some help?”
“Nope!” she quickly responded.
Dana’s lesson plan hit me instantly. I don’t know whether the young lady was embarrassed to allow someone to help her, or if she was determined to “do her duty” by carrying her burden, or if she thought at the moment that it wouldn’t be fair if someone else had to carry her burden. She declined the help that was genuinely offered.
After I loaded my stuff, I turned toward the kitchen for the great breakfast to come. The young lady was struggling more by now. She had reached the edge of the wooden swing bridge that is the hallmark of Lariat Creek. She looked pretty worried – and pretty tired.
I asked the same question Dana asked, “Want some help?”
Now her embarrassment was smaller than her burden. Now her sense of duty was outweighed by the burden in her bag. Now she wondered whether fairness was really all that urgent of an issue.
“Yeah,” she said.
She handed me her burden that I had the energy to carry. We walked across the bridge together, talking. When we got across the bridge, she said, “I can carry it now. I just needed some help getting across the bridge.”
I said, “OK. Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she responded. As I walked on ahead to the kitchen, she said, “Thanks.”


1. Some things are loads, others are burdens – you tell the difference by the weight of them on your heart.
2. Burdens are meant to be shared in the Christian Community. When someone is willing (and someone always is) share yours.
3. When you carry someone’s burden, usually you’ll carry it just long enough to get them over a hard spot. Don’t be afraid to offer help.
4. Jesus bore the heaviest of all burdens for us. Don’t turn down his offer to take your sins away.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Disarmed By Jesus

On Monday, August 9, 1993, a 31-year-old woman, Sopehia Mardress White, burst into the hospital nursery at USA Medical Center in Los Angeles, wielding a .38-caliber handgun. She had come gunning for Elizabeth Staten, a nurse whom she accused of stealing her husband. White fired six shots, hitting Staten in the wrist and stomach.
Staten fled, and White chased her into the emergency room, firing once more. There, with blood on her clothes and a hot pistol in her hand, the attacker was met by another nurse, Joan Black, who did the unthinkable. Black walked calmly to the gun-toting woman-and hugged her – and spoke comforting words to her.
The assailant said she didn't have anything to live for, that Staten had stolen her family.
"You're in pain," Black said. "I'm sorry, but everybody has pain in their life.... I understand, and we can work it out."
As they talked, the hospital invader kept her finger on the trigger. Once she began to lift the gun as though she would shoot herself. Nurse Black just pushed her arm down and continued to hold her. At last Sopehia White gave the gun to the nurse. She was disarmed by a hug, by understanding, by compassion.
Black later told an AP reporter, "I saw a sick person and had to take care of her."
Jesus stood outside the city of Jerusalem and sighing, said, “"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” He has urged us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus sees in us what Nurse Black saw in Mrs. White. We are individuals who need help, wise yet comforting words, and a warm embrace. Paul wrote that the love of Christ compelled him. The embrace of the love of Christ compels us, too. It squeezes the pride out of our hearts, it makes us aware of our need for salvation, it prompts us to die to ourselves in humility, it urges us to follow him. . . it disarms us!
Jesus is calling to you through his word, the New Testament. He knows your heart, even better than you. He knows of your life lived in vain, even if you don’t. He knows of your potential for life abundant and life eternal. He knows and he cares. He cares so much, that he died so that it would be available to you. He cares so much that he died so that you be shocked into caring, too.
The sad truth is that Nurse Black could have been wrong in her assessment of what to do about Sopehia White. White could have seen her coming, heard her words, felt her warmth, and then blown her away. It would have been something like yelling, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” But that kind of reaction to that kind of compassion is not unheard of, is it?
How have you respond to the loving call of Christ? Bring your burdens, beginning with your burden of sin, to him. He can handle it. He has asked for it. He wants you know accept his help, heed his wise yet comforting words, and feel his warm embrace.
What Shall I Do With Jesus?

What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” That is the question of Pilate recorded in Matthew 27:22. It is a question for all of us to answer today.
What will you do with Jesus who is called the Christ? Some of you will ignore him. You’ve no doubt heard of Jesus. You probably know some things about him. Because of your busy life, however, you’ve never taken the time to know him.
Some of you think he’s a pretty interesting historical character like George Washington or Napoleon, but that’s about it. You like what he says about judging others but you wouldn’t turn the other cheek for him.
Some of you reject him. You’ve read the evidence, maybe had it preached at you, but you don’t believe it; or you’ve responded to it like you don’t believe it. You don’t see anything in him to cause you to change your life or respond in faithful obedience. He is not the Christ for you.
Others of you have convinced yourselves and others that you are his disciple, his follower, but you know your secrets and your heart. If it really came down to him or you, you would yell “Crucify him.”
There is a right answer. That answer is complete submission to Jesus of Nazareth, as both Lord and Christ. What will you do with Jesus?
“What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”