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Pastor's Notes from The Scribe (July 2013)

posted Jul 11, 2013, 3:38 PM by Pastor Russ Crouthamel

Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”… “You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. ~ Mark 10:17, 21-22

Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” ~ Luke 9:59-62

There are two questions with which I struggle and ponder on many occasions: One, do I, in my personal ministry, accomplish enough for the work of the kingdom of God?  Maybe I could not purchase another thing I don’t need and give a little bit more to disaster relief or world hunger.  Maybe I could spend less time do things I like and give an extra hour to a social service organization in town.  Maybe I could just give 15 more minutes a day to pray with God.

Two, are my expectations too high for those whom I have been called to shepherd in the work for the kingdom of God?  I might keep asking and encouraging all of you to prayerfully consider giving beyond what you give to the church and extend your generosity to other organizations: Bethesda, World Hunger, Heifer, Women’s Shelter, Salvation Army, Disaster Relief, JALSM, etc.  I may challenge you to continue to serve in specific capacities within this congregation and even think about serving beyond our four walls.  I might request that you think a little harder about your faith journeys and take some more time to have a conversation with God.    

Then I find that the expectations I place on myself or others are nowhere near the expectations Jesus places on all of us.  Re-read the first passage listed above.  He commanded the rich man to sell whatever he had (I interpret it to mean everything) and give the money to the poor.  Then Jesus invites him to “come and follow.”  Not only did Jesus expect the rich man to give up his possessions, he expected him to give up his way of life to follow him.  Now, re-read the second passage cited from Luke’s gospel.  Jesus expected those whom he called to immediately drop everything and follow him – they weren’t supposed to even take the time to bury their loved ones or say goodbyes to their families.

The truth of the matter is: We cannot live up to Jesus expectations.  We fall into the clutches of sin, evil and the forces of darkness.  Our own human failings and self-needs get in the way of doing that which we should be doing as followers of Christ.  The apostle Paul states in his letter to the Romans, ”For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want!”  But then I realize (and I hope you all do as well), that Jesus will continue to love us all and work at transforming us into followers worthy of the calling we received.  And when any of us fall back into the pattern of less than stellar discipleship, Jesus will once more forgive us and lift us up to continue to work for the kingdom.

During one week of July, I ask that you take 15-30 minutes each day to have a conversation with God (i.e., pray) concerning your gifts of time, talents and treasures to the work of God’s kingdom.  See where this conversation leads you – if it opens up new possibilities, if it guides you to re-examine your priorities, if it helps you to respond more to the cries of God’s creation, or any question the Spirit moves you to ponder. Write down any new understandings in a journal and reflect on them each day.  If you feel especially bold, I invite you to share them with me so I can pray with you and share my own understandings with you.

In Christ – Pastor Maureen