When I was a little kid, getting ready for an overnight visit with my grandfather involved a great deal of packing all kinds of games, pens and pencils and paper, as much as could fit in my half of the back seat of the family station wagon. A change of clothes was probably mandatory, but definitely a secondary priority in my book, especially considering how painfully boring riding in a car through central Illinois was to an elementary school age boy in an age before Angry Birds. Looking back, I should have just been grateful that we were on the Western side of the state, but I digress…
What we bring along on a journey depends on lots of factors: how long we’ll be gone, what we think we’ll be doing, our perception of what we need, and so forth. The more we travel, the better we get at realizing what things are essential, and what just takes up space and becomes a bother to lug around.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Matthew 21:28-31a)
The end of the year is almost upon us. When I was at home, it meant that the time for Dave Barry’s year in review was almost at hand. Often irreverent, sometimes poignant, almost always funny, it was a great way to recall the large and small events which were a part of our cultural experience. I’m about to start writing my annual report, in an attempt to take stock of our journey together in life and ministry.
Of course, with the coming of the end of the year, we also start to anticipate the beginning of the new. Traditionally, it’s been a time where we act on some of those things we took stock of in the looking back. New diets, more exercise are popular resolutions (somehow not coincidental to all of those occasions for holiday feasting, I suspect). For others, it might be quitting smoking or reading more. For some, it’s a resolve in some more serious matter. Continue reading “From the Pastor: Thoughts Along the Way”
There is no denying that receiving gifts is fun. Sugar plums and candy canes aren’t my thing, but visions of gadgets and games are pretty enticing. Your mileage may vary. I remember as a child being hardly able to fall asleep on the night before Christmas, wondering what gifts were waiting under the tree to be opened in a frenzy with the dawn’s early light. As an adult, I admit I still try to leverage Gabrielle’s family tradition of opening a gift on Christmas Eve. Waiting is difficult business; that is, after all, the whole reason we celebrate the season of Advent leading up to Christmas.
And yet, most of us have also come to learn that the old cliché is in fact true: it is more fun to give than receive. We could at this point talk about all of the ways we can get derailed in our giving: spending what we don’t have on temporary things, giving creatively, etc…. but all of that being true, I’d like to challenge us in a different direction this year.
This is a time of year when we often give generously to different causes, and there is a place for that because the needs are real. Yet I would like us to think about what happens when our giving is one-directional, when we give without placing ourselves in a position to receive gifts as well. I have a friend who recently spoke about the difference between pity and compassion. Pity gives at a distance; it gives from “on high”, looks down on the recipient of the gift (even if given with good intentions). Compassion takes the time to be with the other, it gives and receives, it looks across to another human being made in the image of God.
Is this not what we find in the incarnation? God in Jesus meeting us where we are, and inviting us to share in what God is doing. What would happen if instead of just putting money in the kettle, we stopped by the warming shelter to sit and listen to the people who come in from the cold. What if, instead of just giving money to a food pantry, we shared a meal together? It isn’t always about poverty; it’s about creating community.
Just some thoughts as we enter a season of waiting.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to dig deeply into the letters of Paul and John and Peter for what they had to say about the things that build up Christian community as well as what they had to say about what tore down and ate away at it.
Probably none of us should be surprised that they all had quite a bit to say about how we should live, but what made a great impression on me was what was at stake for them. They didn’t set out to make a list of hoops for Christians to jump through. What was at stake for them was the very integrity of the message of the church about Jesus. They saw that this message was supported or undermined by how Christians treated one another and how they related to their neighbors. Actions speak louder than words, and the church community is the place the world got to see if this was for real or not.
Love is the summary of all that the apostles had to say about how we were to treat and view one another. Love not as an emotion but love in action – love that seeks the very best for the other person, whether or not that person is a friend or an enemy, or someone easy to love. It was not intended as an unreachable standard, but a guiding and driving force behind all that we do, that in the midst of our messy lives, people watch God’s love changing us, and see us strive for demonstrating love, and mercy, and grace and truth in our interactions with one another. Continue reading “From the Pastor: Love and Contempt”
It’s been a good year for peppers and tomatoes at our house. That’s especially good news for Gabrielle and I, since we both love fresh salsa with a kick. Unfortunately, it looks like some of the other veggies we’d planted didn’t have such a banner season. The cabbage and califlower looked pretty in our garden, but didn’t produce a thing.
Harvest time is a season of revealing: will there be fruit to show for months of watering and weeding, or will the plant just have been taking up space?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a man who owned a fig tree, which in three years never bore any fruit. The man tells his gardener to cut the unproductive tree down. The gardener asks for one more year, during which he will tend its soil. If by the next year it begins to produce fruit, there will be cause to celebrate. If not, then it will be cut down. Continue reading “From the Pastor: Harvest”