In the last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to a lot of worship music, discovering some new stuff and re-discovering some favorites. One of my favorite worship leader “bands” is Shane & Shane. I got into them during seminary and their stuff holds up. Psalms is still my favorite album but they have some great songs on everything they’ve released. One of the songs I love is called Beauty for Ashes and it’s a partial setting of Isaiah 61. Their lyrics are:
I delight myself in the richest of fare
Trading all that I have for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste, you’re the richest of fare
The phrase that always gets me is “trading all that I have for all that is better.” But what I have is pretty damned good. Or at least I think it is. And are you saying you have better food than me? Please. I am a foodie. I refuse to eat at chain restaurants. I do painfully thorough research when searching for restaurants to make sure the place is local, has gotten great reviews, and the ingredients are all seasonal and fresh. I had a plate of pretty amazing fried chicken for dinner tonight. Sure, I feel totally disgusting right now, but that was some good chicken.
The world has some pretty beautiful things, things that are a gift from God. My fried chicken was DEFINITELY a gift from God. But compared to what God has and wants to give us they’re ashes. I know this runs counter to what I wrote about yesterday but that’s kind of God. God doesn’t make sense. If we could figure out God, then God wouldn’t be God. The crazy thing is that God asks us to give up the things we think are beautiful, which we can see, for things that make our stuff look like ashes WITHOUT SEEING IT FIRST. Who does that?
My mom, who is very wise (and who reads this) :-), always refers to a sermon illustration that stuck with her. It was about a little girl who was trying to save up some money for something she wanted to buy. She asked her mom for extra chores, did stuff for neighbors, whatever she could do to earn some money. After a couple of weeks, she’d managed to earn thirteen cents. (my mom is pretty old ) 🙂 Her father saw how hard she was working and decided to reward her efforts by giving her $1.00 toward her purchase. He told the little girl that he had a special surprise for her and that if she would open her hand and give him the money she’d earned, he would give her the surprise. The little girl thought about how hard she’d worked to earn that money and thought about the risk that was in giving it all up for something unknown and she closed her fist around her thirteen cents and walked away. She didn’t know that her father was going to give her a whole dollar and since she couldn’t see it and had no guarantee that she would get something of equal or better value, she hang on to what she knew.
I’ve got stuff I hang on to that isn’t even worth thirteen cents but man do I have a tight grip on that shit. My thirteen cents is safe, and sure and MINE because I EARNED it. To hand that over without an absolute guarantee is counter to everything in us.
Take up your cross daily and follow Me.
Sell all you have and give it to the poor.
Give up all you have for all that is better.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.