Death on the Arkansas River

Nov. 20th Sunday Readings

fc-white-water-raftingIn high school I went on a high adventure trip to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We rode horses at 10,000 feet. We visited the Air Force Academy. It was an amazing trip. The highlight was when we went on a 2 day whitewater rafting down the Arkansas river.

Whitewater rafting on a seriously dangerous river like the Arkansas isn’t something one does on their own. We hired a outfitting company to rent us the rafts, supplies, and to provide guides for the river. We were assigned three expert guides all who knew the river well and seemed to know what they were doing at all times.

Before we left on our trip, we went over the rapids we would be rafting through; I literally thought I was going to die. Each rapid was rated based on the likelihood that you will survive if you were to fall overboard. A level 1 rapid is a timid little flutter of water that will barely soak your suit if you fall into it. A level 6 is almost certain death if you were to fall out of the boat. We had 2 level 5s and handful of 4s and 3s. The one that scared me the most was called “The Widow Maker.” So scared.

Yet, I was confident that we would all be okay. Why? I trusted my guide. When he yelled “Left side!!” The left side of the boat would paddle like crazy. When he told the right side to reverse, they would paddle backwards. When we were on the water, our guide was 100% in charge.

Have you ever had a time when someone was 100% in charge of your actions and decisions? Have you ever given someone else that kind of power?

Everyday we make hundreds of decisions. When I was in the raft on the Arkansas river, I gave up my own opinion of what to do in each situation to someone else who knew better what was best for me. In our lives, we have the opportunity to give power to Jesus, to make him king of our lives, because he knows what is best for us. If we really believe that God loves and wants what is best for us in every situation, why wouldn’t we let him rule our hearts?

This Sunday we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We recognize and celebrate Jesus as king. And we do that with a gospel about his crucifixion. Why? First, Jesus is labeled king by the very men who killed him. Secondly, the very means of his death is the way that he conquered death. Jesus’ demise is his triumph. What looks like failure is in truth, victory – the victory of a conquering king.

Jesus desires the best for us more than even we do. He loves us more than we love ourselves. Jesus is the kind who conquered death and wants to give us life and live in abundance. Will we let him be our king?

One of my favorite songs is “King of My Heart” by Sara MacMillian. You can listen to it here.

The Good Word for Dec 7th – The Second week of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Pretty River Pic This past summer my family went camping in southern Minnesota at beautiful Frontenac State Park. The park is situated on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River where the river widens into Lake Pepin. Saturday morning we decided to go on a hike down to the river. The trail was one of those switchback trails that ultimately went down the side of a very steep bluff. After some time playing by the river, we started back up the trail to the top of the bluff. After about the second switch back my five year-old daughter suddenly blurted out, “Wait! We have to walk all the way back up?!”

Up and down into a deep river valley is tough hiking and our kids were troopers, but tired troopers. They probably would have voted for an easier path if they had the chance. Both our first reading and our gospel talk about making the trail easier to travel. The reading from Isaiah talks about filling in valleys and making mountains and hills low. In the gospel from Mark, John the Baptist is identified as the messenger preparing a way and making straight the paths for the Lord.

John doesn’t regrade roads or level hilly interstate for Jesus’ physical travel, but instead straightens and prepares the pathways into people’s heart. That way when Jesus arrives, his way into people’s hearts and lives is straight and easy.

If you’ve had an encounter with Jesus Christ, I bet there is someone who straightened the path to your heart. Who helped to prepare you to know Jesus Christ? Who has helped you to meet and fall in love with God? Who has removed the obstacles to a deep faith that were in your life?

This year it would be easy celebrate a beautiful but private Advent and Christmas. But Continue reading