Jan. 16, 2020
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)
The meek do not take themselves too seriously, because they recognize they have no power. They are aware they do not pull the strings to make things happen. This insight from the commentaries has me reflecting on an incident just before Christmas.
Since we have recently moved, we do not have a family doctor and I needed some prescriptions renewed. That required going to the walk-in clinic here in Fergus. So, I waited in the line outside the door of the clinic, and when the doors to the clinic opened at 5 pm everyone in line was registered in the order that they had arrived. And that was the order in which the doctor saw the patients.
No opportunity to say, “It is Advent, I have had a busy day I could not get here until 4:45 and so I am 10th in line. These people ahead of me obviously have not been working today, not doing the important things I have been doing. And they get to go first. That is not fair.”
I had a choice. I could boil inside, fretting about the time I was wasting in the middle of Advent. Or I could accept that I was powerless to do anything about the situation.
How easily we think that our time is the most important time. Until there is a coughing child lying limply in a mother’s arms. How easily we think, “I should push my way to the front.” Until we see the elderly man with the worried look on his face standing beside his wife’s wheelchair. How easily our anger rises when we feel we have been disrespected. Until we remember that Jesus said, “if someone slaps you on the cheek (an insult), let them hit you on the other cheek as well.”
Paul writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12) The instruction is to “clothe” ourselves the implication being that we have the ability to make these characteristics part of our lives – to put them on, building them into our lives.
As we put on meekness, we recognize that it is not about us. In that place there is a freedom and a grace. The unexpected inheritance received by the meek.
Jan. 2, 2020
With this new venture, a blog on St. Andrew’s Church website, I hope to connect with people in an additional way beyond Sunday morning and face-to-face discussion groups.
Over time the blog will, most likely, evolve into a distinctive pattern and style – but at the moment the idea is to have two kinds of material.
First, on Thursday or Friday of each week there will be a post related to the upcoming worship gatherings taking place on the following Sunday. The posts may be early comments on the sermon, thoughts on my reading in preparation for the sermon, a reflection on an aspect or aspects of the worship. In other words, material to help prepare for Sunday.
Second, there will be posts at other times in the week related to things that catch my attention and I sense a call to respond to. These will range from prayers (similar to what has often appeared on my facebook page), reflection on the events of the day, cultural commentary, book reviews, etc.
People are free to re-post material I have written; I simply ask that they cite the source.
Thank you for looking in on this blog.
Jan. 14, 2020
This past Sunday part of the Prayer of Confession used at St. Andrew’s read, “we have insulated ourselves from those around us, from their pain, needs, loneliness, and suffering.” (from The Worship Sourcebook, (Faith Alive), 2.2.68)
As I was typing the prayer into the order of worship, I noticed how close in spelling “insulated” is to “insulted”. The thought ran through my head: when we insulate ourselves from other people, we insult them. Insulation helps keep heat inside a house, preserving energy so it is not wasted. In choosing to not become involved with others, by choosing to live in splendid isolation, we tell other people that getting involved with them would be a waste of our energy. In seeking to protect ourselves from hearing other people’s burdens, we tell them that their burdens are not important enough for us to care about.
I overheard a conversation between a child and a parent, I could not see what was happening. The child was obviously doing something they thought was interesting, but the parent was busy and was not watching. Suddenly the child said, “You are not watching.” That is, you are not paying attention to me. One of the greatest gifts we can offer someone is to give them our attention. In a world of constant distractions – we have the opportunity to turn off the technology and say to someone “I am paying attention to you.” We are invited to spend our energy giving our attention to others.
We are able to do that because the God of the universe says to us, “I have time to pay attention to you.” The writers of the psalms proclaim this truth again and again.
“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God.” (Psalm 17:6)
“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice.” (Psalm 18:6)
“Truly God has listened.” (Psalm 66:19)
God hears. God pays attention. God does not insulate Himself from us.
We can follow the example set for us, living as God’s children choosing to not insulate ourselves from others.
Jan. 10, 2020
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4)
Grief has swept across Canada this week as people mourn the deaths of the passengers on Flight 752. In the face of that grief, this Beatitude sounds strange. As Nicholas Wolterstroff wrote in his book reflecting on the death of his 25-year-old son, “Blessings to those who mourn, cheers to those who weep, hail to those whose eyes are filled with tears, hats off to those who suffer, bottoms up to the grieving. How strange, how incredible strange.”
Grief is part of the human experience. Jesus experienced grief. When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Jesus knows what it is to grieve over the loss of loved one. He knows what it is to feel the pain of death separating us from friends, from family.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem, “If only you had known the way of peace.” (Luke 19:41) Jesus knows what it is to grieve over the condition of the world. To mourn the ways human beings treat each other, treat the creation, ignore the ways that lead to peace.
To mourn is to come close to the heart of Jesus. For Jesus weeps with those who weep.
In older cemeteries some gravestones bear the words “Safe in the arms of Jesus”, indicating that the deceased is in heaven with Jesus. Those same words apply to those who grieve, Jesus carries them in his arms. Carries them when the pain of loss is too much to bear, carries them when tears are close to the surface.
To be that close to the heart of Jesus is to know the comfort of his love and compassion, a love and compassion that only those who grieve and mourn can know.
Until we have mourned, we can never know the sweet healing and restoration of the comfort Jesus has for those who grieve. As The Message translation reads, “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
Jan. 3, 2020
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3
It happened when I was in grade 7 or 8. We were living in Shiraz, Iran. In the middle of the week we were going to the Christian hospital in town to have a potluck supper with other people from the church we attended – the church was in the same compound as the hospital. My parents were quite excited about this potluck – and as a 12 or 13-year-old the thought of all that food was incentive enough to be excited as well.
At the potluck was a man I had never seen before. As we were eating he chose to sit not with the other adults, but instead came over to sit with a group of young people ages 10 to 14. He sat and talked with us through the main course, asking us about our school and the community, and what it was like to be the children of missionary parents. I admit I was surprised that he sat with us, but having the undivided attention of an adult was great.
As we headed home, my parents wanted to know what the man had talked to us about. I said, “He just asked a lot of questions.” And added, “Who is he?”
Dad answered, “That is George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization”.
Operation Mobilization, starting in the 1970’s, took the mission proclamation of the good news of Jesus in new directions – the short-term mission endeavour has been one of OM’s gifts to the church as were the two ships – Logos and Doulos – that took the good news into some of the busiest sea ports in the world. By any measure, George Verwer is a mission giant. Therefore, it was not surprising that my parents were excited to have a meal with Verwer when he came to visit the small group of Christians who lived and worked in Shiraz.
At that meal, Verwer could have so easily enjoyed the plaudits of the adults who were impressed by his credentials. Instead he came and sat with a group of kids who had no idea who he was and he listened as we answered his questions.
This humility, this setting aside of one’s status, suggests to me part of what being “poor in spirit” looks like in the ebb and flow of daily life.
Am I willing to set aside my status, my reputation, my position – to have the humility to become nothing? John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Phone: 519-843-3565
325 St. George St. W. Fax 519-843-6631
Fergus, On. N1M 1J4 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org