This week I am talking about radical kindness, the kind of kindness that doesn’t count the cost. Kindness that’s bred in the bone as a follower of Christ. Kindness that you don’t have to think about, you just do.
When I think about kindness, a beautiful song comes to mind, by Steve Bell, whose uses lyrics by Brian McLaren:
Christ has no body here but ours
No hands no feet here on earth but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which he looks
On this world with kindness
Ours are the hands through which he works
Ours are the feet on which he moves
Ours are the voices through which he speaks
To this world with kindness
Through our touch, our smile, our listening ear
Embodied in us, Jesus is living here
Let us go now, inspirited
Into this world with kindness
p.s. Don’t forget that this week you can show kindness by bringing non-perishable food items for community care to church.
This week we are going to continue on thinking about what it means to witness to Christ under pressure. More specifically, we want to talk about what it means when people in our congregation take faithful stands on different things.
Are we fine with everyone taking their own path? You think the environment is so important, so you are very careful about your fossil fuel footprint. Another person doesn’t bother with that, but they think that supporting the education of orphans is good, so they focus on MCC. Yet another person is very consumed with supporting the spreading of the gospel to people who have never heard it before. They support the Bible Society and Gideons. Each of these people lives out their faithfulness in their own way; it’s likely that we can all do this cordially in the same congregation.
But what about places where our witness is more controversial. You won’t pay your war taxes, and you want other people in the church to sign on to do this too. Or another person feels called by God to save the unborn babies killed every year through abortion, and they would like our church to have a service devoted to this.
We walk carefully in the community of faith, understanding that God lays different things on our hearts. At times the community joins together in solidarity. We put certain things in our budget, for example, or we work together to sponsor a refugee family. Other faithful endeavors are undertaken in a more private way.
These sorts of issues have led to deep divisions and anger in the history of the church. Hopefully today, our guiding rule is the love of Jesus. We want our community to be made up of love. Love before us, love behind us, love beneath us, love above us, love within us. Love will find a way, even through disagreement.
This weeks’ prayer: God grant me the serenity to be faithful in the things you call me to do, the peace to believe that other people have different callings, and the wisdom to know how to negotiate our differences.
Becky was a girl the same age as me, we grew up in the same church. I never got to know her. Becky was different. She didn’t go to school with the rest of us, and she never attended Sunday school or girls’ club or youth group. I saw her in church sometimes, and I knew her name, but I never got to know her.
A girl like Becky was called mentally retarded when I was growing up. She went to a special school for mentally retarded people. “Normal” kids never met “mentally retarded kids”, even in church, because they weren’t expected to be part of our world. They had their own world, that included their family and their special institutions. How did Becky feel about it? How did their family feel about it?
The label “mentally retarded” is now seen as a negative term; even though it was created in the early 20th century as a positive term to replace negative labels such as “idiot” or “moron”. But now we hear people say “That’s retarded” as a put-down; new terms were needed. People with special needs, people with intellectual disabilities, people who are developmentally delayed. There are all sorts of terms.
Terms are important, but more important are actions. How do we include all kinds of people in our church community? How loving can we be?
Bethesda is a local organization run by the Mennonite Brethren Church that specializes in supporting families that face challenges, whether because they have a member with autism or developmental disabilities. Our service this Sunday will be about hope, and our speaker is Mike Gilmore, the chaplain at Bethesda; he will be bringing a number of guests to our church.
I wonder how my life might have been different if Becky was born into my family, or if I was Becky? God’s love would be the same for me, would the community’s love be the same?
Open conflict in the church is a very ugly thing. No one wants to see followers of the Prince of Peace going at it tooth and nail. It really leaves a negative taste in people’s mouths.
So does that mean we try to get along in God’s house? Well, hopefully! But it also means that sometimes we just hide or submerge our conflicts, we veil our hostility. And that isn’t healthy either.
We have to face it, no group of people is going to be without conflict. That’s a fact of life. The issue we have as the church is whether we can agree and disagree in love.
This week we’re going to try to address what to do about dividing walls of hostility. But before we do that we have to really take a deep look and ask ourselves, what are these dividing walls?
This week’s prayer: Dear Lord, give us eyes to see the walls we make, so we may work these walls to break!
Last night I watched on TV as Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. It was a crazy stunt, I couldn’t believe it as he put one foot over the other, with the gorge roaring just below him. So scary!
The television coverage was very annoying, for the most part, detracting rather than adding to the intensity of the moment. What I did find striking was the fact that Nik had an earpiece and could talk to the control room. And in the control room was his father Terry, who was in constant contact with Nik as his coach. Terry was a tightrope walker himself for over 30 years. He watched Nik on the cameras, and gave him advice about his rhythm and kept checking in on him and telling him that he was doing great.
As Nik edged out on the wire, balancing high above the lip of the falls below him, it seemed impossibly scary. Such a lonely walk. But Nik believed he could do it, and he had his dad’s voice in his ear the whole way.
What surprised me too, was that Nik was praying almost the whole way across. Why that surprised me, I’m not sure, because if there is any dangerous place in the world where you would feel the need to pray, surely it would be balancing over the falls on a wire! But faith was certainly a part of Nik and his family’s life. His earthly father and his heavenly father, with him every lonely step of the way.
It’s a powerful image for us to take into worship tomorrow. We will be concentrating on being thankful for parents and those who have raised us. I hope you can join us!
This week’s prayer: Loving God; you love us more deeply and completely than any earthly parent; help us to become aware of your tender care for us, your voice of love with us every step of the way. Amen.
This Sunday I am going to be preaching on one of the most surprising passages from the Bible…the story of Balaam and his talking donkey, from Numbers 22. I’ve never heard anyone preach about this story. There are a number of themes in it, including obedience to God, and the choice to bless or curse. But the presence of the animal who talks is what intrigues me, because it’s so different than most other stories in the Bible.
In Jewish tradition, in a book that was written around the time of Jesus, it suggests that the souls of animals will be kept alive until the last judgement. The purpose of this is so that they may bring charges, at the judgement, against human beings who have treated them badly! (II Enoch 58:4-6)
What if animals could talk? Would we treat them better? Unfortunately, I am not sure that would make much difference. Human beings can talk, and yet we do all sorts of cruel things to each other. But what if we believed that animals had the ear of God, and could tell their story to their creator? We can be cruel to animals, because they are “just” an animal.
This Sunday we’ll be talking about what it means to be Christian–what it means to have compassion in your heart. Does compassion end at the species boundary, or does it extend to all the world?
This week’s prayer: Lord, thank you for the diversity of life on the planet; teach us how to be reverent and compassionate for your whole creation.
When I was six or seven I used to cry all the time. I cried numerous times a day. I remember my sister promising to give me a dime each day (a lot of money at that time)–but the hitch was that one penny would be deducted from that dime for each time I cried that day. I almost never made any money because I cried so much. My dad was a widower, and he started dating someone. When this woman came over my father and my sisters warned me that I was supposed to try and control myself and not cry. It was clear we were all trying to make a Good Impression.
How comfortable are you with tears? Your own? Others? Some people never or hardly ever cry. Other people cry very easily. This week we are talking about our community’s calling to “weep with those who weep”. Sometimes that will literally mean sitting there sharing a box of Kleenexes with people as they cry. But in other instances it will just mean sitting with someone who is in agony, someone whose face is a stone, who is frozen with grief. Sometimes it will mean sitting with someone who is angry, they are directing their agony outwards.
At a number of places in scripture, the text says that Jesus has compassion. The Greek word for compassion “splagchnizomia” literally means to be moved in your bowels, or your guts. Before people understood the role of the brain, emotions were believed to be located in your gut. Being compassionate involves feeling something viscerally, feeling it in your core. Are we willing to weep with those who weep? What’s stopping us? Come and think more about this with me on Sunday.
This week’s prayer: God, help me to have a gut feeling about someone today.