In This Thing Together

As I read the parable of the talents yet again, a different question came to mind. Why didn’t the two servants with 5 and 2 talents help the servant with one talent? Why didn’t those servants with the gift of investing have a conversation with the servant with one talent and say “Hey – if you put your money in this commodity you may make a little something, turn a profit.” Or, why didn’t the servant with one talent go to one of the other two servants and ask for some advise on what they planned to do with the talents the landowner gave to them? After all communication is a two way street. Many have preached that the servant with one talent acted out of fear and that’s true. However, why didn’t the other two servants work to encourage him out of that fear? The point I’m trying to make is that all three servants were in the same situation, in the same field, working for the same master. Are we or are we not in this thing together?

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other… 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Take Heart

Take heart…  Matthew 9:1-8  What Jesus said next could have been anything. Yet, something like, “It’s not as bad as it seems” somehow doesn’t feel as effective. Besides that, what if in fact it really is as bad as it seems? What Jesus does say is “son, your sins are forgiven.” In this Jewish Palestinian culture to have ones sins forgiven is major. It meant that you were approved by God. So it stands to reason that the Jewish authorities believed only God could give such an approval. Jesus however makes a point. It really is easier to say to someone that “God has forgiven” them because that elicits hope. Hope encourages that God, who makes all things possible, is near. To say “Stand up and walk” gives them a challenge. It’s like challenging someone to “just do it.” Yet, who takes on a challenge without first having some hope of achieving a goal? Today, we tend to encourage one another by saying “just do it.” However, sometimes we need to be reminded that we are already approved by God. What we really need to hear proclaimed from one another is “Take heart, child; God is near, all things are possible.

Who Am I?

Judge not, lest you be judged.  Matthew 7:1-12  We often see judgment as negative thing, when in reality it is simply an opinion or conclusion about something or someone. We make judgments all the time. Unfortunately, we sometimes make judgments without full consideration and knowledge of a situation. I was recently asked to participate in a group that is charged with assisting the discernment of individuals who believe they are called to ordained ministry. My initial response to the invitation was “Who am I?” I was concerned that I might play some part in “weeding out.” I began to think about my own process and experiences that lead to my own ordination and subsequently to where I am today. What initially was a scary thought I now see as a gift. Every day we sit at a table of discernment or judgment, primarily for our selves. God has given us a brain, a heart and some “art” (preaching, teaching, mending, etc.) to use for the encouragement of every good work of the Gospel. In our own discernment and judgment, our practice should be to listen to the voice of God, the Spirit of Christ. On the occasion that we are called to overtly discern or judge someone or something other than our selves our first response will be to remember that “God has so graciously heard my voice. Who am I not to listen?”

Struggling Well

It was fitting that God…through whom all things exist,… should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  Hebrews 2:1-10  I hadn’t had a week like this since the first week I spent as a chaplain resident; five deaths and what seemed like only two hours of sleep. Of course that was slightly different. They were people I didn’t know and yet knowing certainly doesn’t make the emotions of losing someone in this life any easier. However, as those who believe by knowing those whose physical life is no longer, we are blessed with the remembrance of their “struggling well” according to the faith. Struggling well is a phrase I heard coined by Cornel West who also wrote we forget “that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” 

Those who leave this life before us should encourage us not to forget.

Bare Seed

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. … 1 Corinthians 15:30-41  Paul is in a community of believers who are questioning that there is a resurrection and living without regard to their baptism. He warns them that “bad company ruins good morals.” Even at this age, I don’t have to go that far back to be reminded of the times I have fallen into company with thoughts and or actions that were just wrong. When I surrounded myself with “bad company” it was very easy to forget the bare seed planted within me, the one in which I, with God’s help, must take responsibility for its care, nurture and maturation. It is the seed purposely exposed in the world, in order that God may give an imperfect body a more perfect purpose. This happens when I surround myself with good company that encourages and shares in the work of Christ for building up the one body. For it is in hope of the resurrection, that I choose to sow this seed of life in Christ, because in due season, while I believe my body will return to the earth, I am confident that my spirit belongs to God and surely will be lifted up.

Sticks And Stones

If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!  Matthew 10:24-33  We used to teach our children that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt. From a physical point of view it was only partially true. Further, unless the child has had a broken bone this philosophy can be confusing because broken bones heal, and soon regain full function of the body. Yet to be called out of someone’s name has the potential to break the spirit. Healing of the spirit can take much longer than any broken bone and full function of the spiritual gift within can take even longer. As believers, Paul encourages us to be adult in our thinking (1 Corinthians 14:12-25); to be aware of the spirit and the mind in what we say and what we do, in order that we may build up the church. In this way, those who come to us broken in spirit shall find healing in the functioning fullness of the Body of Christ.