Transformed Relationships: Part II

Romans 12:9-17

Introduction

“Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect and to be kind to one another that we may grow with peace in mind.” This wisdom comes to us from a traditional Native American prayer. As we gather today, and once again consider Paul’s ideas concerning transforming our relationships with each other and with God, I think this prayer speaks volumes.  It challenges us to look inward and consider how we interact with others.  But it also calls us to look outward and apply this “self-reflection” to our everyday actions. “Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect and to be kind to one another that we may grow with peace in mind.”[I]

This prayer is not unlike Romans 12.  As I said last week, Paul was writing to a church in Rome that was struggling with its purpose for being and its practice of faith. And in the epistle, we have before us today, Paul offers three “points of light” as it were; three points of light that offer direction not only to the Romans, but to us as well.  Remember Jesus told us not to hide our light under a bushel basket, but rather to display it on a lampstand for all to see.  And with this understanding in mind, let’s consider Paul’s three points of light: Identity, Attitude, and Inclusion.

Identity

First identity. Paul writes, “Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.” And he goes on to add 5 imperatives; 5 important ways to show our love without pretending, “Be happy in your hope,” the apostle says, “stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.”

Now, showing love without pretending, hating evil, and living out these 5 imperatives constitute the framework of social justice.  These are foundational, Biblical principles, that sparked the social justice in the 1920’s and continues to drive it still today.  And these 5 imperatives contribute to our self-identity as a faith community and as a part of the United Church of Christ.

But, even as I say these words, I would like to temper them with a note of caution. I sometimes worry that we put the cart before the horse when it comes to social justice. It’s not that I believe we’re advocating for the wrong things or that our hearts are not in the right place; rather, it’s that we sometimes forget why we do and say what we do.

I mean, I’m glad that more and more churches are becoming inclusive of Lesbian, Gay, and Transgendered people and inviting them, as we have, into full participation and leadership within the congregation.  But I want us to talk about why our Christian convictions are compelling us to do so.

I give thanks for Christians who stand up for refugees and the rights of immigrants. But it’s important for us to be able to articulate why these are Christ-centered positions.  I would like us to remember that Jesus, as a young child, was a refugee in Egypt and how that story still speaks to us today.  I want us to be able to talk about what the crucified Christ taught us about the value of human life.

I respect every Christian who stands out in the rain holding a sign to raise awareness about the devastating effects of climate change.  But I wish I would hear more about how God created the world, called it good, and then assigned humanity the responsibility to care for the earth. And that’s why we can’t be silent on this issue.[ii]

Do you see what I’m driving at here?  Our social justice stances arise from Scripture and are nurtured by a strong, well-thought-out theology.  Are there different ways of viewing these issues that are equally based in Scripture? Of course. Christianity is a diverse and wonderful patchwork of thoughts and ideas, and yes, a variety of identities. Our challenges, I think, currently, is to realize this diversity and allow it to strengthen the faithful rather than pull us apart.

Attitude

Which brings us to Paul’s second point: attitude.  “Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic,” he says, “be on fire in the Spirit as you serve.” Or to put it into our context, “Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic about your faith and this faith community.  Be on fire in the Spirit as you demonstrate the love of God through your service to others.” In our congregation, we are blessed with a strong sense of identity.  We are a church attempting to live-into the ways of Christ by reaching out to others; the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed. And if we own this attitude, if we project who we are by serving all of God’s people with humility and compassion, if we practice social justice and offer kinder words, even in difficult situations, then, others will see and want to join us on this journey we call faith. You see, the greatest evangelistic tool we possess is our attitude about our faith community.

Now, I know, I know, I said the dreaded e-word. Evangelism.  But I use it here not in the sense of beating people over the head with the bible or propagating shame or playing upon people’s fear, as unfortunately, we see and hear far too often. Instead, it’s like my grandma always used to say, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” And that’s what I’m advocating for; a kind of evangelism that invites individuals to become a part of something that is so compelling, so joyous, so fulfilling, that they want to come and check us out.

Now, that’s not to say that the goal of evangelism is to fill the church, but rather, the end goal of evangelism is to share the love of God with as many people as possible. But, if we’re consistent in that sharing, then something that’s unusual these days begins to happen; the church grows in both Spirit and numbers. “It’s the organic byproduct of rooting ourselves in what Paul Tillich call the ‘ground of our being.’ Which is God and God’s love[iii] for all humanity and all creation

Inclusion

The best example I can think of to demonstrate this “inclusive” understanding of evangelism is Rotary International.  Which, by the way, speaks directly Paul’s third and final point of light. Now, Rotary, as far as I’m aware, never advertises for new members. And yet, there are 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide. How can this be? Well, a Chicago attorney named Paul Harris started Rotary as a service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders to provide global humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.[iv] And Rotary’s success in recruiting new members comes from its identity, attitude, and because it’s very inclusive. Rotary welcomes people of all races, national origins, genders, orientations, political ideologies, and walks of life.

Now, this wasn’t always the case.  A one point in time Rotary had an identity problem.  They were very exclusive.  Basically, only rich white men were welcome into the club.  Over the course of time, however, Rotary changed its perspective.  And because of this change, they discovered that a diversity of thought and people lead them to not only to achieve a greater number of members, but that the quality of the membership and the new-found variety of perspectives made them a much stronger organization.

The point here is that when Rotary became more inclusive, they were in a much better position to continue and greatly expand their work of reaching out across the world with humanitarian aid and the promotion of peace.

And again, this inclusive point of view is reflected in Paul’s writings.  He said, “Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. And don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.”

Conclusion

One final thought this morning. Eugene Peterson has a wonderful interpretation of this passage. But two the phrases he chose stand out to me as being the core of this passage and perhaps, his entire letter to the Romans.

Peterson writes, “Love from the center of who you are [and] discover beauty in everyone.”[v]  These words really get to the heart and soul of social justice; they get to the heart and soul of our faith.  My prayer for all of us, as we go forth today and go about the week ahead, is that we might internalize these words and put them into action in both our words and our deeds. May we indeed, find the wisdom to teach our children, in fact, all people: to love, to respect, and to be kind to one another so that we all may grow in peace.

May it be so.  Amen.

——————————————————————————————–

[i] From a traditional Native American prayer (worldhealingprayers.com) 2017

[ii] Rev. Emily C. Heath. Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity. (Pilgrim Press) 2016

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] http://www.rotary.org

[v] Eugene Peterson.  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. (NavPress Publishing) 2002

Transformed Relationships Part I

Romans 12:3-8

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing?” In other words, there’s a lack of communication within a group or organization. Here’s an example of what I mean.  When I was in seminary we did a personality profiling assessment called DISC.  If you’re not familiar with DISC it identifies four personality traits and then utilizes them to categorize and predict behavior. The four traits are Dominant (D), Influencing (I), Steady (S), Compliant (C) DISC.

Now, at the time, I thought this was just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. But here’s the thing.  It really works. After completing the assessment process, we were divided into groups according to our personality types. I, as you might imagine, fell into the “I” category.  I’s are described as “friendly, outgoing, talkative, optimistic, the life of the party, and people-oriented.”[ii] Talkative kind of stands out there doesn’t it. Anyway, we were grouped according to our personality types and challenged to make a poster promoting an upcoming event at our church.  We were given the name of the event, a set of markers, one piece of poster board, and ten minutes to create the sign.  And this is where it gets interesting. By the time our ten minutes was up, our “I” group had each grabbed a marker, proceeded to scribble all over the poster board, change our minds, turn it over, change our minds again, scribble out some things and draw an arrow pointing to something else…  In short, it was as mess. But this wasn’t the case for the C’s. C’s are described as “Logical, organized, data-driven, perfectionist, and detail-oriented.”[iii]  In the allotted time, the C’s hadn’t written anything or even opened their markers.  Instead, they had taken out a pen and paper and were still in the process of making a list of what might be on their poster. The point of this exercise, of course, was to show that we can do our best work when a variety of personality types participate.

Paul understood this.  Paul knew that the Church would be stronger if she recognized the diversity of gifts and talents within her ranks.  And I think he choose the perfect metaphor to illustrate his point. The human body. The imagery here is more concrete and seems to work better than family or team. I mean, you can take a break from being a member of a team. You can go on vacation without your family. But you can’t take a break from the parts of your body.[iv]

Paul says, “…though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.” Now, historically, the Roman Church, to whom he was writing, apparently needed a lesson in finding “unity within the diversity” of their community. The larger context of this passage finds Paul attempting to convey the idea that Jews as well as Gentiles are forgiven and accepted by God. Paul chose this illustration of the human body because he needed a positive metaphor to express the indivisible, intimate kind of unity that is Christ’s hope for the Church.[v]

Now, just in case we, his readers, are unable to connect the dots, Paul gives us four examples; four distinct spiritual gifts that exemplify diversity within the church. These gifts are prophecy, service, teaching, and encouragement.  And as we attempt to apply these four ancient gifts to our faith community and to intergrade them into our lives, I think a contemporary translation of their intended meaning is vital. In other words, how might these four gifts find there way into the conversation and take root in the 21st century church?

First prophecy. Prophecy is about justice. The prophets found in the Hebrew Scriptures, like Jeremiah or Isaiah, were not fortunetellers, but rather they were God’s voice of justice in their time and context. They challenged the status quo, pointed out the need to care for the widows and orphans, they called the people and the nation to repent and return to following God’s ways of justice.  And if the nation refused, the prophet would point out what might happen as a result.

Now, let’s apply this to our congregation.  Do you have the gift of challenging those around you to remember God’s ways and to be a people of justice? If so, you have the gift of prophecy.

How about service? The gift of service is simply reaching out to those in need. We often call this our mission. Is working in the food pantry or serving [tacos] meals your thing?  How about reading to children at the school? Does going to a remote location to build or repair a house, while sharing in a different culture, speak to your sense of what it means to BE the church. If so, you have the gift of service.

How about the gift of teaching? In our nation and in our faith community, education is vital.  In the same way, we need a strong public education system, the church needs faithful, educated teachers.  But teaching in the church is often misunderstood. First, the pastor isn’t the only teacher and Sunday school isn’t the only place that education takes place. Here’s an example of what I mean. When we have our Bible study, I learn as much from all of you as you do from me. I am enriched by your understanding of scripture and application of theology. And even in more informal conversations, time and again, I’m impressed by the depth of knowledge and insight you all possess. Far too often I’ve heard members of the church say, “I don’t know enough about the Bible to teach.”  And that’s a shame because it doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to share the wisdom of God.  Do you have stories from your life experience or tales about faithful people you’ve encountered in your life? Stories you might share with the next generation? If so, you have the gift of teaching.

Finally, encouragement.  This is an important one.  The gift of encouragement asks the question, “How might we better honor each person’s gifts and seek to expand and refine our own talents for the betterment of humanity? The gift of encouragement brings us all the way back around to Paul’s idea of “unity within diversity.” Those who have the gift of encouragement understand that we all bring something to the table. Each person here today is an important part of this the Body of Christ.  Paul says, “…individually we belong to each other.” So, whether our spiritual gifts are conveying justice or serving humanity; whether our gifts are sharing wisdom or encouraging unity within the community; or something completely different or a combination of gifts; no matter where we fall on the DISC assessment, we are all members of one unified, interconnected body: the Body of Christ. “…individually we belong to each other.”

The final thought this morning. I read this prayer this week, written by a Catholic order known as the Sisters of the Earth.  And as read it, I was reminded that God’s desire for the church, indeed for all humanity, is unity.  Why unity? Because unity gives birth to justice, it propagates hope, and unity clears the way for peace.  When we come to realize that it’s not “their” god or “our” god, but one God; that all humanity and all of the natural world were created to coexist on this planet, it’s then that we begin to recognize the presence of God.

Let me conclude with these sacred words prayer:

There is one breath.

There is one life.

There is one earth.

All is holy.

All is sacred.

All is one.[vi]

May it be so.

DISC is often described as a “Personality Test“. However, DISC is really a “personality profiling system” DISC Profile utilizes a method for understanding behavior, temperament, and personality. A DISC Profile provides a comprehensive overview of the way that people think, act, and interact. It is the most widely used profiling tool of its kind, and is supported by decades of validation and reliability studies. (www.discinsights.com)

[ii] http://www.discinsights.com

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Alyce McKenzie.  Many Members, One Body: A Reflection on Romans 12:1-8 (www.patheos.com) 2014

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Sisters of the Earth.  There is One Breath.  (www.worldhealingprayers.com)

Rest In God

Matthew 11:28-30

I was listening to the radio this week to, you know, one of those “new age” very relaxing kind of stations. Spa I think it was called. Anyway, in between all the beautiful, calming music came the soothing voice of a woman, who said, “find your inner stillness.” Well, I thought about that for a while and decided it was a good idea. So, when I found myself with an extra hour one afternoon, I gave it a shot. I took my shoes off, climbed into my hammock, and began looking for my inner stillness. And it was a perfect setting. I was in the shade with a cool breeze blowing, the flies and mosquitos must have taken the afternoon off to search for their inner stillness too, because I didn’t get bit once. It was perfect. It turns out, however, that one’s inner stillness is more evasive than one might imagine. Maybe I didn’t give it long enough, but I found it hard to turn the world off. You know what I mean. I closed my eyes and attempted to clear my mind but all I could think about was the next appointment, the next sermon to write, what was troubling my kids, which animal needed attention, what task could I be doing instead of laying here in a hammock? Searching for one’s inner stillness isn’t as easy as it sounds. I think it’s far more complicated than simply relaxing.

And this is where we meet Jesus today. In Matthew’s account, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” I want to suggest today, that there are at least four gifts wrapped in Jesus’ invitation and promise. Gifts that find their way into our being in those moments of stillness.1

The first gift
The first gift is that of Sabbath time. This is a great place to start because Sabbath provides the room, the space, the context for Jesus’ invitation. Sabbath begins with climbing into the hammock, but it’s more than just a time of rest; it’s rejuvenation, restoration, re-connection to the Divine. And, biblically speaking, we initially encounter the concept of Sabbath in the first creation story of Genesis. God worked six days, and then rested on the seventh day, right? The author of this narrative is seeking to give us an example; a pattern after which we can order our lives. Rest, reflection, and reconnection are the hallmarks of Sabbath.

Now, in Judaism there’s an understanding of Sabbath as “sanctuary in time,” a term coined by Rabbi Abraham Herschel. It’s a day of delight, a day to savor the world. It’s Being rather than doing. Sabbath rest, if we practice it, infuses us with attention to the present moment. Sabbath challenges us to attend to; to the present in moment because so often that’s where God shows up. So, in his invitation, the Rabbi Jesus is first offering us Sabbath rest.

The second gift
Which leads us to the second gift: The second gift Jesus offers is release.
Release is the opportunity to let go of stress and the pressure of everyday life; to release the inner obstacles that block us.

Recently I was in a meeting, it was a time of silent prayer, so it was very quiet in the room. Now it happened that the windows were open and children were playing outside. And I could hear a child in the distance, chanting, over and over, “Let it go, let it go.” I wondered if the children were tugging on a rope or fighting over a ball or a toy “Let it go, let it go!” But then it dawned on me that the child was singing the chorus from the Disney movie “Frozen.” “Let it go, let it go.”

And this incident got me to thinking, whatever dilemma, whatever problem or anxiety is clogging our insides, maybe we should consider the words of this song: “let it go.” Maybe this way of thinking, this second gift, would have been helpful out in my hammock. When I was attempting to be in a Sabbath mode, maybe letting some of my ‘stuff’ go would have lead me to the third gift.

The third gift
The third gift in Jesus’ invitation is the gift of Living Water. And this is a more theological concept than the others. When we move into that Sabbath mode, and find the space and context to let go of some of the things that worry us, what we’re doing is removing the debris from our wellspring of Living Water. God desires for each of us to be immersed in these Living Waters so that we may have life and have it abundantly.

However, we sometimes shy away from this concept. You know, here’s an old fable about some folks who long ago discovered a well that they felt healed them of their aliments; they believed they were made whole by the water. So, year after year, they came to the well to drink this restorative water. But then someone said, “Let’s build a building over the well.” So, they built a building. Years passed, and others said, “Let’s build a cathedral here.” So, they built it. But as the years passed, the cathedral became the most important thing, and the people forgot about the healing and restorative waters underneath. 2

I wonder if the business of life, the drive to get and consume more and more stuff, the busyness of trying to keep up with the rat race, can become like that cathedral; a huge stone structure that obscures the wellspring of Living Waters leading to our inability to find our inner stillness? I wonder?

The fourth gift
But when we do go there. When we intentionally take the time to practice Sabbath rest, release all of the worries and stuff, and find our way to that inner wellspring of Living Water, and take it in, we will receive a fourth gift — the gift of energy for our work in the world. The final aspect is to be reenergized for the mission and ministry of the church. We are charged to rest, reflect, and reconnect with God so we can have the energy to continue to serve God out in the world.

And Jesus is the perfect role model here. He was both a mystic and a social reformer; he was a contemplative and an activist. He was often going off by himself to pray, to re-connect with God. Then he would head back to his ministry of compassion and justice, of equality and nonviolence.

So, when I finished writing this message, I decided to try again. I decided to practice what I preach as it were. And I’m happy to report that it did go a little better this time. Using the four gifts as kind of a mental guide, I was able to reenergize myself to a degree. It’s something I need to continue to practice because, as with all spiritual disciplines, the more and more we practice them the easier and more ingrained they become. Whether it’s prayer, or journaling, or devotional reading, or fasting, or walking a labyrinth, or whatever… spiritual practices become a part of us, a part of our very being, our soul, if we are consistent and make them a part of our everyday routine.

And that’s my charge to each of you as you leave this service today. Find a quiet hammock, or chair, and accept Christ’s invitation to indwell these four gifts. Allow Sabbath to provide the space for release, release to lead you to clear away that which keeps you from splashing around in the Living Waters. And finally, as the Spirit washes over you, may you be reenergized for the compassionate, ministry of loving God and neighbor that lies ahead of you.

May it be so for you and for me.

Amen.

[1] Rev. Mel Williams.  Let It Go and Rest.  (www.faithandleadership.com) 2014.    Mel Williams provided the framework and the concept of the ‘four gifts’ that I used in this sermon.  Williams says, “Jesus gives a clear invitation and a promise: “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is still teaching us this wisdom, handing us four gifts — Sabbath, release, wellspring and energy for mission.”

[2] Ira Progoff. The Well and the Cathedral: An Entrance Meditation (Dialogue House Library) 1983

 

 

The Works of Wisdom

Matthew 11:16-19                                          

Show of hands: who here has ever been in a canoe?  Okay.  Keep um up.  Who has ever fallen out of a canoe?  I see most of your hands are still up.  Well, after your cool plunge into the lake or river, what was your take-away.  In other words, what did you learn from the experience of tipping over?  Balance …right?  You quickly discovered that the key to staying dry is balance.

Well, balance is also key as we begin our discussion on Wisdom today. But first, a little background. Last week, Jesus closed his instructions to his disciples, before sending them out on mission, with words of blessing for anyone who welcomed them with even that simplest of gestures, a cold cup of water. As we move into Chapter 11, we come to realize that Jesus has tasted the bitter cup of rejection rather than welcome. After sending out his disciples, he himself went out on a mission to “their cities,” teaching and proclaiming his message by healing the sick, restoring the outcast, and bringing good news to the poor. But those cities, at least the establishment within those cities, closed their hearts and minds to him.[I]

And I’m sure we’ve all experienced this kind of rejection at one time in our life or another.  Well, so did Jimmy.  Jimmy had a tough beginning to life. Born to addicted parents, he spent the first six years of his life traveling between foster homes. Now, for the most part, the foster parents were good to him and he gained a certain degree of self-worth.  But he still felt like something was missing. And that “something” was found the day this final foster parents became his forever parents.

Now, it’s with this background in mind that we come to the Christmas play at church.  Young Jimmy landed the part of the innkeeper.  And as the innkeeper he had only one line.  “there’s no room in the inn.” And because this was such an important part, Jimmy practiced his line over and over again; there’s no room in the inn.”  Well, the night of the play came and in front of a packed house, the young innkeeper Jimmy made his appearance as Joseph knocked at his door.  But instead of saying his line, Jimmy just stood there for a long moment, silent.  You could even hear a Sunday School teacher feeding him the line from behind the cardboard inn.  But all the sudden, Jimmy spoke up. “Come on in!” he said, “we have plenty of room.” Which, as you might imagine, threw the play into chaos.  But, order was soon restored and the baby Jesus was once again born in the stable. After the performance, however, Jimmy’s parents asked him why he said what he said. “I don’t know,” he said, “I guess I remembered what it was like to feel left out; to not have a place to call home.  And I didn’t want them to feel that way.”

When we talk about “sharing the good news” I think Jimmy had it right.  Sharing the gospel, according to Jesus, has to do with healing and restoration; it has to do with innkeepers who offer an extravagant welcome; it has to do with compassion; it has to do with giving a cool drink of water to someone who’s thirsty; it has to do with advocating for justice out in the world and practicing peace within our own lives.

So, the question I think we need to ask ourselves today is this: “Do we share our faith through the way we live as much as through the identity we claim as a people of faith?”[ii] Do you see what I’m getting at here? We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus without backing up that claim with acts of kindness, welcome, and compassion. We cannot be a church without BEING the church.

And when the disciples of John the Baptist, earlier in this chapter, came asking Jesus about his identity, he told them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: ‘the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”.[iii] When asked “who are you” Jesus answers with a list of actions. So, who he was, who we are, our identity, is defined by our acts of lovingkindness.

Now, James, in his epistle, had something to say about this subject as well.  “What good is it,” he said, “if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat.  What if one of you said, ‘Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!’? What good is it if you don’t give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”[iv]

“But wait a minute now,” you might say, “Didn’t Martin Luther, among others, say that we cannot earn our salvation through good works?” And you’re right.  It’s very important that we understand that God’s grace comes without a price.  Grace is available to every person who desires it, no strings attached. But that fact doesn’t allow Christians to claim salvation and call it a day. That’s what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”  And even Luther agreed with this. “Where there are no good works,” he said, “there is no faith. If works and love do not blossom forth, it is not genuine faith, the gospel has not gained a foothold, and Christ is not yet rightly known.”[v]

So, what do we do with all this? Well, this is where the whole balance thing comes into play.  As people of faith we must find balance.  We must find a balance between the faith we claim and living that faith out in our lives.  We must find a balance between emotional expressions of our faith and rational thought.  We must find a balance between speaking out and knowing when to be silence; when to carry the banner and when to sit on the sidelines; when to give a hand out and when to give a hand up. All these things are important and all of them, at different times and in different situations, are appropriate.

Knowing when to choose one of these things over the other, however, can be difficult sometimes.  But this is where Wisdom enters the picture.  In our passage for today, Matthew says, “wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”

And this is really an important concept in Matthew.  You see, for Matthew Jesus was more than just a great teacher, he was the Wisdom of God enfleshed in a human person.  And repeatedly in this gospel we see him “proved right” as he attempted to bring things into balance.  Jesus took those who were downtrodden and lifted them up; to those on the outside looking in, he opened the door; to those who were oppressed, he brought justice.  He touched and he healed and he loved. But he also challenged, corrected, and called out those in power. It was a balancing act.

One final thought on Wisdom.  The Author of Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time and a purpose for every matter under heaven. And he goes on to offer us a whole list of “complementary opposites.”

a time for giving birth and a time for dying,  a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,  a time for killing and a time for healing,  a time for tearing down and a time for building up,  a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing,  a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,  a time for searching and a time for losing,  a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,  a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,  a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace.[vi]

It seems to me that this is a kind of balancing act as well.  In his Wisdom, the Philosopher of Ecclesiastes, in these few short verses, offers us a formula for living a balanced life and a wise faith. But with the coming of Christ into the world I think we can add one more to the list:  “a time for identifying our faith and a time for living that faith out”

My friends, “Wisdom IS proved right by her works.” As we continue to seek balance in our life and faith, as we continue to be a reflection of Christ’s wisdom through our acts of welcome, kindness and compassion, and as we attempt to keep our canoes upright and our inns full; may we do so under the watchful eye of the One who was, is, and shall always be the Wisdom of God.

Amen.

[i] Kathryn Mathews. Even a Cold Cup of Water. (www.ucc.org/samuel) 2017

[ii] David Hill, New Century Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 1981

[iii] Alyce M. McKenzie, Preaching Biblical Wisdom in a Self- Help Society (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2002

[iv] James 2:14b-17 Common English Bible (CEB)

[v] Martin Luther. Quoted in Even a Cold Cup of Water. Kathryn Mathews(www.ucc.org/samuel) 2017

 

[vi] Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Common English Bible (CEB)