pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Recognition

Reading: Luke 14: 1 and 7-14

Verse 11: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

As Jesus arrives at a Pharisees’ house, he notices how the guests pick their seats. The order at the table was very important in Jesus’ day. The honored guest would sit at the center seat of the head table. The next most important persons would sit on the right and left of center and so on down the line. The furthest seat away from the honored guest would be the one with the least honor. Just like in the culture of our day, most folks want to be closest to the honored guest. Jesus observes people trying to ascertain where they rank amongst the other guests. Some people, of course, are filling in the important seats near the prime seat.

In the parable, Jesus warns against taking too “high” a seat, lest more important people arrive, forcing the host to move you to a lower seat. That would be humiliating and shameful. Jesus is speaking against arrogance and against judging. He is reminding his audience and his readers today that being humble is the correct course. If one is humble, choosing a lower seat, then the host might move you up some seats, exalting you in the process. We may not pick seats at tables anymore, but there is no shortage of ways that we can try to toot our own horn. Sometimes the ways are public, using different means to draw attention to ourselves and our accomplishments. For some of us, like me, it is usually a more private thing. I wonder why others don’t notice this or that and wish they did. Jesus would probably condemn this fake humility much more than he does the jostling over seats.

However and whenever we allow pride, arrogance, judging, and ego to control our lives and our thoughts, then we are not walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Each time we seek to bring honor for ourselves are instances when we do not bring honor to Jesus. In a similar way, when we seek to draw recognition ourselves, there is a piece of us that does not fully trust God. Humility links us to the belief that God is enough. Recognition does not need to come here and now. Simply living a life that is pleasing and honoring to God is more than enough. May we rest in that today.

Prayer: Lord, it can be tempting to want to be seen and known for doing great things. Yet serving you is all that matters. Remind me of this over and over again. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Enough?

Reading: Luke 10: 25-28

In our culture there is a large emphasis placed upon ‘success’.  This emphasis leads us to judge others and to compare ourselves and our status or position to others.  We begin doing this the first time someone compares us to someone else.  It may be a bike race, the height chart on the wall, or any other form of evaluation.  Not to say competition or success are bad things, but early on we are taught to compare ourselves to others.  And naturally, we want to be the best.

Of course there can only be a small handful of ‘best’ people.  There is only one at the top of each list.  And for almost all of us, none are at the top of any of these lists.  In turn our success becomes relative.  We work hard for the next promotion, the bigger house, the nicest yard, the next gadget.  Life too easily can become all about our stuff and how it compares to those in our little worlds.  But all of this is temporary and in the end bring no satisfaction because there is always a ‘next’ thing to buy or to accomplish to keep ahead.

By contrast our faith leads us to consider other before self and to find our contentment in our relationship with our Creator.  Once we understand and know God’s great love for us, we are led to share this love with others.  It is a great gift that compels us to share it with all we meet.  We treasure this gift of live above all else and we want others to experience it as well 

But sometimes the drive for success and the call to love God and neighbor collide.  We ask the question the lawyer asked: am I doing enough?  The harsh reality is that when we ask that question, the answer is almost always ‘no’.  When loving God and neighbor permeate our life, we seldom look within to find ‘success’.  We are simply led to offer all we can to all we can whenever we can.  When we miss an opportunity to do so, we note it and commit to not missing the opportunity the next time.  It is not a competition but a life of service to God and neighbor.  May we live our faith in such a way that we never have to ask that question.  May love always be our guide.


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Moments and Encounters

Anthony came to church yesterday.  He arrived almost at the end of the 9:30 service. I recognized his face but couldn’t remember his name.  I confessed that to him as I greeted him at the back of the sanctuary.  He kindly reminded me and he apologized for being so late.  I assured him that is was OK and shared that I was glad to see him in church again.  Anthony asked for a Coke and I went downstairs and bought him one.  He did not follow me downstairs but he did wait for my return at the top of the stairs.  After a couple cookies and some conversation with others in the Parlor, Anthony headed off for the next part of his day.  Our paths will cross again.

In encounters such as these, I often wonder if I did enough.  It was a good chat and I was able to meet his request for a pop, but should have I done more?  In the time and space between services on a busy Sunday morning, it was probably what I could offer.  And maybe Anthony sensed that and kept his request simple as well.  And now I will remember his name next time so I can start our conversation by greeting him by name when our paths cross again.  In asking the question about doing enough, we prepare ourselves to do a little more the next time.

Our God has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy, for the widow and the orphan, for the  destitute and powerless.  In many places in the Bible we read about this love and our charge to care for those in need.  In those moments and encounters today and in the week ahead, may we offer all we can, seeking to be His hands and feet.

Scripture reference: Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, and 22-23