given on Sunday, April 15, 2012
The Promise Box: Received as a Gift
Years separated us. Occasionally we ran into each other, but usually there was not enough time to say more than hi, exchange a pleasantry, and then good-bye.
Strange considering we had spent hours each school day together. We experienced so many things in common during the years we worked together. But then circumstances forced our work to go in different directions.
Then, with little warning, work threw us back together again. Reconnecting was easy; we knew each other well. In no time the old daily rhythms returned; and it was easy to find little ways to say thank you.
At Christmas, gift exchanges in this setting are discreet. No big to do about it, yet the gifts are simple and perfectly suited. Mine was an antique, a small, worn, faded, well-used little box—the Promise Box. A gift filled with uplifting words. The gift was “daily manna,” as the box said.
The Promise Box: Opened, Yet Unopened
When I received the gift, I recognized it immediately. I had seen them in catalogs and in stores, and it always caught my attention. Yet I had never picked one up. Why?
In my head I told myself that I did not need another little gizmo sitting around the house. I did not need the additional spiritual boost since I worked with the Bible every day in one manner or another.
In my shopping alter ego, this was a clever item that would certainly be a tiny addition to my devotional life. And if nothing else, this little “daily bread” item can certainly make a nice little gift.
So why had I not ever bought the daily bread gift box?
I opened the Christmas gift; there was the box! What a surprise, and this was an antique version. My friend, even after all these years apart, knew the perfect gift. A gift fit for a worn out, brain-dead soul who needed some renewal.
But, I did not open and use the daily manna—I was too busy, too stuck in a rut, too set in my ways. I even shared with her how this could be used. I opened the gift; I just did not open the Promise Box.
The Promise Box: Indeed Manna from God
I did not open the Promise Box until this week. This week, after Lent and Easter, I wondered what I should do for the services the next few weeks. I was dried up.
How should I tackle the problem? I had no time to take off for a planning retreat, and my small retreat three weeks ago went to other timely priorities. What now?
To begin, I opened up my drawer and my files. I found my dump file, other articles I had clipped and put away. A little brainstorming started creating a list of ideas. Then my eyes caught site of the Promise Box. I literally grabbed it, opened it up and pulled the first card out:
2 Peter 3:14 King James Version (KJV)
14Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Just a few little words, written in an archaic manner, what value could they possibly have for me at this time, at this juncture, for this Sunday.
I read on:
“The dearest idol I have known,
What’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only Thee.”
The language is still uncomfortable. But the message, I hear it. I am still a bit uncomfortable because I needed to hear it.
The Promise Box: Words from a Friend, Words from God
The Promise Box sat waiting for me. The words recorded from the King James Version of the Bible are not easy to read with understanding, but pulled out of context, I could get the basic idea from them. Yet the use of the phrase ‘without spot’ was not clear.
The small prayer that followed helped put the verse into perspective. In all the rushing around of Lent and Easter, I had placed a part of my faith in suspension. I was not using the Lectio Divina style of study to keep my life on a faithful track with God. Even though I was not idle, the calendar had become an idol that was locking up my thinking.
The small, unassuming, antique gift from a friend needed opening. The words she provided me in that Promise Box were words from God for a very frustrated soul. Words given by a friend were indeed God’s words to me.
The work began. First one should turn to the Bible and look up the context of the verse. Reading it in context shifted the emphasis for a little while, but I read and reread the one verse in four different translations: the King James, the Message, the New International, and the Common English Bible. The context is one of those passages that can leave one uncomfortable because it is now over 2,000 years since Jesus’ earthly work ended.
Reading through the entire chapter of 2 Peter 3, the concern of a second coming of Christ is the issue. Consider that this was written fairly close to Jesus’ crucifixion, the second coming was expected to be a very literal appearance of Jesus. Many anticipated a second coming as a gigantic destruction of the world. The event was anticipated at any moment. Today, there is still not a physical second coming.
How did the timeliness of that thinking effect the early Christians’ daily lives? Did they follow a strict religious lifestyle or did they get distracted and revert to an unfaithful lifestyle? Why was it necessary for Peter to remind them that they were to be ready at any moment for the second coming?
These questions, Peter’s warning, and his summary statement found in verse 14: So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (NIV). Or maybe you hear it better in these words: Therefore, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless. (CEB)
The Promise Box is simply the bits and pieces of the Bible written on small little slips clarified by a short prayer. These words from a friend are one small addition of God’s word to help us in our devotions. These words are like friends. They are there to pick us up, to guide us, to encourage us, and to assure us of God’s constant presence whether it is in the Bible itself or on a tiny little card or from the words of a friend.
When life seems overwhelming and exhausting, we all rely on friends. Why, then, do we fail to remember to rely on the words of God? The Promise Box has been opened. God’s words have made a difference to me in just this one week alone. Why did I wander away from my own lifestyle that has worked? Why do we all wander away and let this earthly life beat us down? If the words from friends help, why don’t we rely on God’s words, too?
This week evaluate your own state. Remember to use the Bible. Sometimes it is difficult to understand, but do not give up. Read it again, look at study notes and different translations. God’s words are there and they will provide you the help you need at just the right moment:
So my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our Master’s patient restraint for what it is: salvation. Our good brother Paul, who was given much wisdom in these matters, refers to this in all his letters, and has written you essentially the same thing. Some things Paul writes are difficult to understand. Irresponsible people who don’t know what they are talking about twist them every which way. They do it to the rest of the Scriptures, too, destroying themselves as they do it. (the MSG)
The words may change, but the message remains the same: make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless. (CEB)
The demands of daily life wear us down,
We waiver, we break, and we cry out for help.
Thank you for the promises in your words,
thank you for the guidance of your words,
thank you for the teachers’ words of explanation.
Thank you, too, for friends who give of their hearts.
Help us to take the words and understand them.
Help us to share the words, too, so others may know
of the promises in your words. –Amen