I was at a meeting this evening where an issue was raised about how all of the people at the meeting (elders and ministers, for the most part) treated each other. We were reminded that we are not always very “Christian” to each other.
It was a good reminder. The reality is that those of us in full-time ministry and those of us who have served the church in a long-time capacity (like that of being an elder), sometimes forget that we are called to be Jesus to each other. That we are called to embody the very spirit and manner of the One who gave his life for our salvation. We are called to treat each other with love and and kindness and gentleness. Peace and hope and faithfulness are meant to be at the center of our comments and conversations. Joyfulness and patience and goodness and self-control are supposed to ooze out of us. (In case your keeping count, yes, those ARE all the fruits of the Spirit.)
And yet, all too often, I have been in church meetings where this was not the case. People spoke harshly, shaming and blaming others. Someone got their back up and someone else responded with sarcasm or derision. Hurts were dealt out in equal measure by people on both sides of the issue.
And I think I heard Jesus weeping.
The fact is it is not always easy to keep our tempers in check. When you gather together a group of ministers and elders, you have a bunch of people who care passionately about the church. And sometimes our passions get the better of us.
But we need to remember (and I say this for myself as much as anyone else) our calling. We are called to be Christ. We are called to embody the fruit of the Spirit. We are called to lead by example. We are called to act in ways that honor the teachings of Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV
In the community of faith, where I serve as Associate Minister, we have suffered a number of losses in the past 9 months or so. Many of these have been sudden and unexpected. Death comes to us all, and the Bible tells us that our days are numbered. No one knows when or how their life will end.
Most of us live as though we have an endless supply of time. But we don’t. And I’ve been thinking about what it means to leave a legacy once you are gone. When I think of the church members we have lost, I am touched to be able to say that each one made an impact on me. If asked, I could speak about the legacy these followers of Jesus built up over their lifetime…even though I only knew them for a couple of years.
I am not saying they were perfect people – none of us are – but they lived and loved in ways that would cause God to say “Well done!” when their lives were over.
Though I often get a lot of good-natured teasing in the church about my age (people always think I’m younger than I am, but at 37 years old, I am still on the very young end of the scale in church world), I feel like I am more aware than I have ever been about the passing of time and how very short life can be.
Each kindness we do to another, each time we give a little hope to someone in despair, each time we great another with a smile or a hug – we are building up a legacy. When we do these things we are being Christ to others. And that is the best legacy of all. As we do these things, we are ‘storing up treasures in Heaven’ and putting our hearts in exactly the right place.
So if there is someone in your life who could use a kindness or a word of hope, or a hug or a smile, do not hesitate to be generous with these things. Time may be short, but we all can choose to live in a way that brings Heaven to Earth and gives glory to God.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:20-21 NLT
My folks have been in town for the last two days. They came to attend the stage production of War Horse last night (the tickets were a birthday gift from my brother and I) and then celebrate Mom’s birthday with a family dinner this evening.
I’ve said this before, but I am incredibly thankful for my parents. Even when they arrive at my house with other things on their agenda, they still find ways to do things that help me out. Yesterday, they arrived around noon and I came home and visited with them for a few minutes. Then I headed back to the church for a number of meetings throughout the afternoon. Mom texted just before she and Dad were going to head to Toronto for the show, and I made it home before they left (I love living next door to the church).
I walked in the house to find that they had vacuumed, tidied up, and mopped the floor for me. To me this is one of the greatest kindnesses in the world. Especially on a week when I am feeling ill and don’t have a lot of energy for doing that stuff myself.
My Mom is awesome. She is my confidante, my cheerleader, my person to bounce ideas off of…if you’ve heard a sermon of mine that you liked, chances are that my Mom helped me focus and form my ideas during one of our nightly phone calls. She is the person I call when things are falling apart and the person I call when things are falling together.
I know I am extremely blessed to have the kind of relationship I have with both my folks. But since Mom’s birthday is coming up in just a few days (Dec 1st…we never celebrate any birthday on its actual DAY in our family!), I thought it would be good to take a few minutes to honor my Mom today.
Mom, you rule, even when you drive me crazy, and I am blessed to be your daughter.
Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 5:16 NLT
Tonite at our Wednesday night group, we discussed what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. For someone like me who has always been in church, it’s sometimes hard to define that word. A disciples is a disciple….?
So it was good that we were supposed to come up with a list finishing this sentence:
A disciple of Jesus…
We came up with:
A disciple of Jesus…
-displays the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, goodness)
-is in communication with Jesus (ie, prays!)
-reads AND APPLIES the Bible
-keeps the two great commandments: love God and love others
All of which are great things for a disciple to do. But then we talked about the fact that a disciple is also more than these things. Because a disciple is in relationship with Jesus. And the relationship thing is kind of ethereal. I can tell you about the things I do with my friend, for example, but our friendship is more than the things we do together. It’s the same with Jesus. It is about believing and doing, but it’s also about more than that.
Maybe the ‘more than that’ is what we mean when we talk about faith.
There is a pin I have seen on pinterest that says “be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Today it struck me how true that is.
I had the opportunity to go out with one of my elders and visit with a few people this week. As I listened to one lady’s story I thought of how much weight she had to carry. Her son has been through a difficult health issue, she has a parent in the throws of Alzheimer’s and a parent-in-law also showing signs of dementia.
If you were to bump into this lady in the local grocery store, you wouldn’t have any idea that all of this is going on. She is positive and upbeat. She enjoys life and is active and healthy herself. And yet, she carries this heavy burden.
We don’t know the burdens that others carry or the struggles they face. We don’t know the difference that our kindness might make to another who is weary with the stress of life.
That is why Jesus calls us to always show kindness and love to everyone we come into contact with. I think Jesus knew what it was to face struggle, uncertainty and a future that meant pain and rejection. I think he knew what it was to bear a heavy burden. I hope he knew what it was to be touched by the kindness of others.
The call to kindness isn’t just so we be or seem ‘nice.’ It is actually a sacred call to the healing of this world. In kindness shared, the burdens of others are lifted and the world is changed for the better.
Life is busy and sometimes it is easy to be caught up in our own stuff and miss the need that is before us. My prayer is that Jesus would change my heart so that I don’t need any more reason to be kind than the fact that everyone I meet is facing a hard battle.