Reflections to start the week
Monday, February 17, 2014
The storm that swept through North Carolina last week on its way up I-95 left way too many people without electricity. That experience of powerlessness was not only inconvenient, but caused hardship for many. But I’m going to go out on a limb here (if there’s one left) and say that events like this can be growth opportunities, chances to learn as we consider that which we take for granted, moments to focus on gratitude for the people (and their inventions) that make life easier on a daily basis. Such events can be reminders of the fragility, the changes and chances of life, and of our dependence on powers greater than our own.
Around our house, we had a relatively few hours without electricity. It meant dinner by candlelight, kind of romantic. It meant no evening news, which some might count a blessing. It meant regret that I hadn’t charged my iPad. Even small shifts in routine make us appreciate the power that makes our lives simpler and more comfortable.
Perhaps it’s a preacher’s prerogative (or occupational hazard), but I’m pondering the spiritual application, potential parables for our lives which are often marked by fragility, uncertainty, contingency, change beyond our control. We easily forget that those spiritual lives unfold in absolute dependence (Paul Tillich’s phrase, not mine) on a power greater than ourselves. Our spiritual lives function best when we plug into that power. Like my uncharged Ipad, there’s only so long we can function on our own reserves.
Which brings me to the Sermon on the Mount. On Sundays, we are reading through the teaching found in Matthew 5-7. Jesus gathers his disciples to tell them how to live as his followers in the world. The sermon begins with the beatitudes, the first of which is most commonly translated: Blessed are the poor in spirit. I’m not entirely certain what it means to be poor in spirit. I’m not even sure it’s a good thing. Which is why I’ve grown fond of one translation which phrases the opening beatitude this way: Blessed are those who know their need of God. That I get.
After the opening beatitudes, Jesus speaks to his disciples and gives a couple images to help them think about ways to be of service in the world. Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be salt and they are to be light. If they are to be light of the world, where do they find that power? We begin to discover an answer when we recognize our own powerlessness, our own limitations, our own shortcomings. Left to our own resources, the light won’t shine that brightly. It won’t shine for very long. One way or another, we are called to move toward spiritual resources of power, energy, dynamism that will sustain, resources beyond ourselves. What might those resources be in your life? Worship? Service? Prayer? Reflection on scripture? Silence? Gratitude? Generosity? Something else? How can you plug into those resources today? Where will you find your power?
– Jay Sidebotham
| I pray that according to the riches of God’s glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Let your let so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.