December 20, 2009

The Receiver

The weekend after Thanksgiving we took a little holiday trip to southern California to visit relatives. We stayed at the house of Sue's Aunt Audrie in Hermosa Beach. Audrie was at a conference of Episcopalians held in the Los Angeles area. Wanting to play some of Uncle Russell's Christmas C.D.'s, I was left to puzzle out Russell's complicated stereo system. It was one of those systems where there are separate pieces of equipment for the amplifier, receiver, compact disc player and tape decks etc. Russell had multiple tape decks with which he made sound tracks for the many multi-media music, art, travel shows he created and presented. All of these were cabled through junction boxes with switches.

I spent about an hour trying in vain to get music from the system. The tape deck and receiver appeared to be working fine, but the amplifier was not working right. The sound was coming out muffled. I gave up and took a walk.

This broken stereo image came back to me this morning in church when our pastor, James Bergen, was finishing his four-part advent sermon series. This morning he was saying that, at Christmastime we are called upon not only to give gifts, but also to receive. Citing the authority of the Christmas carol, Joy To The World, James urged the importance of us receiving the gift of grace God sent us, and offers us still. James put the word "RECEIVE" in caps in his powerpoint slide, and immediately my mind thought "receptacle," "reception," "receptors" and "receiver."

I thought, in mechanical worlds, a "receiver" is usually something made in a sort of reverse image of the thing to be received. Like the socket on the back of your truck that you plug your trailer lights into. If the socket on your truck isn't a match to the plug on the trailer, there isn't any "reception." That is, there is no connection. Jesus talked about this idea that some people simply don't have the right connection to "receive" what he came to offer: "I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." John 9:39

I thought, a receptacle is a socket in a wall that, if you have the right kind of thing to plug into it, and if you do plug into it, it can give you power. Sort of like in Matthew 9:2, where a group of men took their paralytic friend, lying on a mat, to Jesus in the belief that Jesus could heal him. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

I thought, sometimes you are in a place where your radio or your phone is not getting good reception, and then you have to work a little bit, move around, climb a hill, to get to where the reception is better. And sometimes our reception of God's signals is weak like that too -- or maybe Satan is just doing a good job of blocking the reception. But God promises that "you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13 So I guess your heart and your attitude have something to do with having the right shaped "receiver" and/or with getting a good, clear signal.

I thought, receptors are those things on your body that, if you don't have them your life would be a boring gray existence; no smell, no sight, no sense of feel. And in regard to receiving what God has to offer, ironically, sometimes we go through life like that, with our God receptors turned off.

But there are times in life, like the times we have gone through this year, where the God receptors are on in full force. Times like when you find out you have cancer. Times when someone close to you is sick, or dies. Times when you witness miracles, like birth, or healing. And it is those people who are at the center of these times who are most receptive to God. Those are the ones whose attention is brought back sharply and acutely to what God values, to what God wants for us, to what God wants for them, and to what God is saying. It is often those people in crisis who will be able to plug into God, to become a receptacle of Godly wisdom, to be able to receive the good news and the power and the grace of God.

And at any given time there are people who are in or who have just emerged from crises, so there are always some people walking around who have just had a very good connection and a very good reception from God. But where does that leave the rest of the world? What good is a great receiver without an amplifier and speakers? There is no sound for those of us anxious to hear the music. And so those who have had the privilege of being a "receiver" are also charged with the responsibility to share the reception in some meaningful way. Then the weary world can also receive and share in the rejoicing.

So if you've been lucky enough to have a clear reception from God this year, be sure to share the music.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. After the walk did you get any of the music playing? What if its not the signal thats messed up...what if its not tuned in? Is that the same as recieving?