I had the great joy the other day of witnessing a good thing happening: a child gave his mother a dandelion.
Then, this even better thing happened. He realized what a good idea it was, and picked a second flower to give her.
Then, the best thing happened: the mother received the flowers exactly the way they were offered – as a gift of love from her son. She could, I suppose, have received them as a couple of weeds he had picked up. But she didn’t.
How much of the value of a gift comes in the spirit in which it is given? How much in the spirit in which it is received?
One year, even after at least half a dozen people had checked it, we published and mailed out a flyer with the schedule of our Holy Week events.
It included, and I wish I was making this up, a line that said our Maundy Thursday service was on “Wednesday, March….”
How could so many people all miss something like that? I don’t know how it happened, but I can assure you this: it happens. To the best of us.
Can I admit here that I enjoy, just a little, finding a typo or other issue in a publication – especially if the book came from Oxford or Harvard or some other incredibly respected institution.
Reminders that everyone makes mistakes help me stop beating myself up over my mistakes.
Call this burying the lead, but this post is, if you haven’t already caught on, inspired by the reports that the tickets for tonight’s State of the Union included a misspelling. “Union” was spelled “Uniom.”
And, of course, this mistake exploded around social media and late night comedy.
Which, likely, has some people feeling defensive for the President.
I feel for everyone here; I enjoy getting laughs at things I post, and sometimes those laughs are at someone else’s expense.
But here’s the deal: the real problem, as I see it, is neither the type nor the jabs for laughter’s sake. No, the real problem is that many of us are more than willing to laugh – we share, forward, retweet, when “the other side” slips up, but we get all bent out of shape when someone we support is the object of any ridicule or humor.
Maybe it is ok to enjoy a laugh about a mistake made by someone you don’t like or respect. But if it’s ok for you, try not to get bent out of shape when someone else is laughing at someone you like and respect.
In the face of all the many disagreements, and further, in the face of what seems to be a lack of ability to communicate in civil and well-intentioned ways, I thought this morning of these words from Isaiah 55:8-9
My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. (CEB)
Do you suppose that when God says, in Isaiah 55, that God’s thoughts and ways are not ours, God is referring to everyone? I have to admit that my usual first read of that passage is that God is referring to my enemy/opponent/anyone who disagrees with me.
To be fair, though, I have to admit, though it sometimes takes me a while, that God is, in fact, saying this to ALL of us.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not have a second thought on my agenda for which this is the setup. Not that I never operate that way, but I am not this time)
“Put Jesus first.” I feel like I hear this a lot. The scripture that has informed our current sermon series, Colossians 1:15-20, supports this directive. It says, after all, in verse 18
He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
But what does “putting Jesus first” look like?
In our society, people who “get to go first” don’t have to stand in line like everyone else. They receive protection from all the normal people; they can have guards and gates and get ushered to the front row or the luxury boxes.
Not only was Jesus NOT treated this way; there is no indication that Jesus ever sought to be treated this way. In fact, I’m reminded that he said that “Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— just as the Son of Man didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.” (Matthew 20:27-28)
Jesus WAS the head, the firstborn from among the dead. He DOES and WILL occupy the first place among everything. He was also so secure in his relationship with God that he felt no need to act like it, or to show it off. In fact, he emptied himself, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)
May you and I, and all who are trying to follow Jesus, be secure enough in our relationship with God that we, too, might not seek to be recognized as first, or as more important than others. May we follow the way of Jesus – and, in doing so, we’ll find we are putting Jesus first.
I’m a terrible person. Or so I am tempted to believe as a result of a phone conversation that ended a few minutes ago.
Of course, I can think of all kinds of reasons he was wrong, but all of these reasons are playing less loudly right now than the reminder of his voice.
“So, you hate veterans?” He hung up before I could answer.
Of course I don’t hate veterans! But, while I could have shot this simple statement out before he disconnected, I didn’t even mutter these words because that wasn’t an answer to what was actually happening.
He didn’t really care if I cared about veterans. He cared if I cared about him. Making things even more difficult than that, the only way I could prove to him that I cared about him was if I gave him exactly what he was asking for.
He did what he was supposed to do, right? His best play was the card he had that could most likely win; his best card was the “veteran” card. He had already played the “my grandfather was a pastor” card, and that hadn’t worked.
In that moment, he wanted me to play favorites. More accurately, he was hoping I would both play favorites and that he, in one category or another he had presented to me, was in my list of favorites.
At this point it would be easiest for me to call up the “God is no respecter of persons,” which is how the King James version translated it. The Common English Bible renders it “God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.” (Acts 10:34)
That’s where most of us go to fight playing favorites. There are plenty of other places in the scripture we could go, if we wanted to. Matthew 19:24 and Matthew 25:31-46 come to mind quickly.
So was I playing favorites by choosing that verse?
Are we are always choosing to play favorites, one way or another? Is it really a matter of being honest with ourselves and with others about how we choose favorites?
However it is that we play favorites, may we realize that in helping one, any one, we at least offer help to that one. Whether or not we change the world in doing so, we might hope to be part of the change in that one’s world.