“Z” is for Zeal (March 28, 2012)

…Opening To…

There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall, where our dear Lord was crucified who died to save us all. O dearly, dearly has he loved! And we must love him too, and trust in his redeeming blood, and try his works to do. (Cecil Frances Alexander, from The Hymnal 1982)

…Listening In…

[Jesus] it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:14; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “Z” is for zeal. Last year, I reached to Greek for “Z is for Zoe,” and I thought I was pretty clever until one of my youth pointed out that “zeal” is a perfectly good English word that I could have used instead. There’s always next year, I told her. And here we are.

The word “zeal,” I think, is used most often in our contemporary culture as part of the word “overzealous.” We hear of “overzealous police officers,” which is a euphemistic way of talking about cops that were too violent when they arrested someone. We hear that the estimates about how much money the new film would rake in during its first weekend were “a bit overzealous.” In each of these cases, the word “zeal” gets forced into service as a negative – too much zeal is a bad thing, these situations teach.

In the Christian context, the word is most often used to talk about “convert’s zeal”; that is, the extra exuberance shown for the faith by it’s newest members. Again, convert’s zeal is often seen as a negative – i.e. they’ll calm down when they’ve become a bit more seasoned.

But we can reclaim “zeal” from these negative connotations. At it’s truest and best, “zeal” describes the state when potential energy converts into kinetic energy. Put another way, zeal happens when talking about faith turns into living out faith. Zeal is not just a good feeling, but a state of being, closely related to bliss, but with an active component that I think bliss leaves out.

Zeal is the electricity of faith, the current that pulses through us when we are serving and loving as Jesus did. I’m not sure there’s a way to be “overzealous” if you think of zeal like this.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you plant in my heart the zeal for serving you. Help me to show others the joy I feel when I am serving so that they may know for whom I live my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, continuing my walk with you along this path through Lent and almost come to Jerusalem where I will wait and watch with the Lord.

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