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Archive for August, 2013

Being Put in Our Place

“When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them . . . when you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.  For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 14:7-11 (NRSV)

I’m sure we all know people who have a very high opinion of themselves – their own importance or status in life.  It can be annoying to have to deal with such egos.  Yet, I wonder if sometimes those people actually lack self-esteem.

Doesn’t it take a lot of self-esteem to be able to serve others and not worry about our own status in society?  When we look at the example of Jesus, we see someone who knew himself, was sure of himself, didn’t let himself be pushed around by others in authority, showed compassion for the down-trodden, and served without even really wanting the notoriety. 

Jesus was confident in his mission.  His status didn’t matter to him.  As his followers, maybe that’s one thing this parable does to remind us – we are followers who take to heart his guidance and teachings about putting others before ourselves.  We do this, not because we become door mats for others to use for wiping their feet, but because we want to share the love of Christ in the world, and we are confident in our mission as Christians.

I was reminded recently about visitors who had gone to some church somewhere and sat down toward the back of the church.  A woman who had attended the church for many years came to the pew and told them they would have to move because that was “her” pew.  If I had been those parishioners, I would have moved, all right – right out the door!

None of us is better than another person, rather, Jesus “puts us in our place” by telling us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought and to find places where we can serve God in the name of Jesus Christ.  We can have the confidence of knowing that our mission and purpose in life is being fulfilled.  May it be so!

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Getting Ready for Vacation

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Colossians 3:1-3 (NRSV)

As I prepare to take a two week vacation, I found this passage from this week’s lectionary readings interesting.  There are times when I feel as if I concentrate so much on my work as a pastor that I miss things going on around me.  People are careful not to use foul language when they speak with me, at least in anything church related, so when I go to the grocery store or other stores, I regularly hear the name of Jesus Christ used, but certainly not in prayer.  (An even more repulsive and useless word is the “F” bomb, but that’s another whole story.)

So, maybe I set my mind on things that are above a lot – I mean 24/7 most of the time.  Yet, I see the world’s hurt and pain so clearly in my life and the lives of my parishioners, and regardless of preaching regularly on living counter-culturally, the world’s expectations and socially accepted patterns become the dominant force in the church.  I returned home from a meeting last night that held so much pain about something that had happened in the church – misconduct by parishioner on parishioner – that I’m afraid it will take months – maybe years – to recover. 

I’m not feeling adequate for the task.  We need someone savvy in counseling capabilities or a recovery expert – actually, we have one – Jesus, the Christ.  Scripture once again leads me to Jesus, to the greatest healer of all, and in conversations with several people, we were able to come up with ideas that might help start the healing process and bring the folks back together again.

I also have to remember that things like this take time, and some people will never recover from it in that church context, so they will go somewhere else, or, unfortunately, give up on church all together.  I’m not sure I understand why we can’t get the message to live in the world but not of it, but it’s also clear to me in reading all of Colossians 3:1-11 that these issues aren’t new – they have been around for thousands of years because humanity is often broken and hurting.

Jesus knows about being broken and hurting.  The Good News for us is that he overcame “the world” and can bring healing and wholeness to us, to our churches, to the world through us.  We set our minds on things above in order to understand the power of that kind of love and how it can change the circumstances around us. 

So, I’m ready for vacation in spite of all the work I need to do to get ready (it’s a month’s worth of work to go away for two weeks!).  But there are times when we all need a break from the usual routine in order to refresh and renew, to do something different, so we can keep on keeping on in the ways we live and love in the world.

Jesus took the time to be away, to refresh and renew – we have no greater example than that.  I will not write for two weeks, but I will be busy seeing my family and enjoying God’s beautiful creation.  Thanks be to God.

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