Saturday, May 07, 2016

An Ascension Day meditation

Delivered from the muckrake

Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God… not on earthly things (Col 3:1,2).

Oh! deliver me from this muckrake!” So cried Christiana in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
Part two of the book describes the pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiania, their four sons, and the maiden neighbour Mercy. After her conversion, Christiania comes across a man with a muckrake who could only look down at the ground. Someone was holding a cælestial crown above his head, offering to give him the crown in exchange for the muckrake. But the man did not look up or notice the crown; instead, he moved around the muck at his feet being careful to rake out the bits of straw and small sticks. 
Christiana tells Interpreter she thinks she knows who the man is, “a man of this World.”
Interpreter confirms what Christiana says and explains the vision. The muckrake of worldly man shows his carnal mind. The worldly man would rather pay attention to the straws, sticks and dust at his feet than to the cælestial crown held out to him by Christ. This, continues Interpreter, shows that to some people heaven is but as a fable and that the things they see around them in the world are the only things substantial. Muckraker could only look downwards, for when earthly things begin to exercise power upon men’s minds, hearts are carried away from God. It is at this point that Christiana cries out, “Oh! deliver me from this muckrake.”

In Colossians 3 the Apostle Paul tells us to throw away the muckrake. We are to set our hearts above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God and not on the earthly things.
The church commemorates the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ on the 40th day after Easter (this year, May 5th). Because Christ, with whom we, by faith, have been raised, is in heaven, we need to look away from the earthly things and seek the heavenly things.

One of the earthly things Paul mentions from which we are to look away is greed which he calls idolatry. Greed is lust for more things. We all need things, but we are quick to make the stuff of this life a god. We do well to pray the prayer of Proverbs 30:8, which Christiana added to her plea for deliverance from the muckrake, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

Recently we received a thank-you note from a young couple for the wedding gift we gave them. At the end of the note they wrote, “We know it’s only ‘stuff.’” Yes, only stuff, stuff that will not last forever and so not worth holding on to too tightly.

 In 1 John 2:16,17, John said:

For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Do not forget the lesson of the Parable of the Sower. The deceitfulness of wealth can choke the good seed of the Word of God and make it unfruitful. 
Keep a very loose hold on the things of this world. Throw away the muckrake and receive, from Christ, the cælestial crown. Keep singing and praying to Christ above:

We revere you, Lord and Saviour;
We implore your grace and love.
Hear our prayers and help us ever
Seek the things that are above (Book of Praise, Hymn 41:2).