January 26, 2022
by Chris Mereschuk
Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a high fever, and the family asked Jesus to help her. He bent over her and spoke harshly to the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and served them. – Luke 4:38b-39 (CEB)
If you and your buddies come to my home and I’m lying in bed, so sick that I require divine intervention, don’t expect me to make you some snacks as soon as I feel better. Just let me rest. I need time to recover.
The unnamed mother of Simon’s wife was given no such respect or respite after her healing, but “got up at once and served” Jesus and the crew.
Maybe she did this to show gratitude or to demonstrate full recovery. Or maybe she was obligated, pressed into service by a first-century grind culture that was just as toxic and misogynistic then as it is today.
In a culture that equates one’s productivity with one’s worthiness, rest and recovery are sometimes seen as weakness and laziness, punishable by loss of income or reputation. We are permitted brief rest so we can be useful (or used!) again.
“The Nap Ministry” founder Tricia Hersey teaches that rest for its own sake is an act of resistance. It is also a means of reclaiming yourself and reconnecting with yourself, others, and the Divine. Rest reminds us of our worthiness, unconnected to our usefulness.
So please take a rest.
Not so that you can get back to the grind, not because you’ve “earned” it, but because you are always worthy of it.
Let me let myself rest, Divine Healer. Not so I can be useful again, but because I am worthy of it.
January 27, 2022
Keep the Faith and Struggle On
by Kaji Dousa
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” – Genesis 32:24 & 30 (NRSV)
As a minister, I have the privilege/responsibility of responding to people’s deepest questions (sometimes). The most frequent request has something to do with a version of this question: “How am I supposed to respond to this?”
My ego tells me that I have a fantastic answer. But my faith tells me something different. Because the truth is that there is no one way to listen to God, engage God, ask questions of God.
This doesn’t mean that there won’t be folks who will tell you otherwise. There are some who will tell you that they know exactly how God wants you to respond to a challenging moment. (Heck, if I’m honest, I’ve certainly done the same.)
But here’s the truth: your questions, your struggle, your relationship with God are your own. Being in relationship with God calls you to relationship with others who profess the faith. It’s not a solitary endeavor. But, while you hold God in community, you are given the chance to struggle with God in a place no one else can see.
Jacob, a progenitor of the faith, struggled hard! In the end, he emerged completely changed (bless his heart, his hip was never the same).
Struggle with God and watch yourself be transformed; your questions are valid and blessed. Your challenges are never beyond God’s reach. You are not meant to follow without question. Push back and see what God can do.
God, you meet us in the struggle. Help us to ask the right questions so that we can see you more clearly. Amen.
January 28, 2022
by Mary Luti
Adam said, “It was the woman. She gave it to me…” – Genesis 3:12
Many years ago, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands held an outdoor banquet on a soccer field for the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury. Between courses, they discussed the bloody civil war that had recently ended there.
Suddenly, the Prime Minister turned to the Archbishop and said, “I want you to bless us! I need to say in public that we were responsible too, not just the people on the other islands. So I’ll quiet the crowd. Then I’ll kneel down, and you can ask God to forgive us for what we contributed to the horror.”
There are moments in life, the Archbishop said later, when you hear the gospel for the first time. Like when a politician says, “It wasn’t just them. It was us, too.”
People hardly ever voluntarily accept a share of blame. Our default position is innocence. “Not me,” said Adam, “I didn’t do anything. She did it to me. I’m the victim here.”
You did this. We didn’t. Our intentions are good. Yours are bad. Our suffering’s terrible. Yours can’t compare. Our story’s true. Yours is a lie.
Little will change until we stop telling the story of our total innocence and their total guilt. Things change when we are willing to tell the far more important story—the one shared human narrative of ignorance, myopia, fear, error, violence, trauma, and loss.
It wasn’t just them. It was us, too.
Strip away my sense of aggrieved innocence, O God. Show me what I don’t want to know about myself. It isn’t just them. It is me, too. Then let healing begin.
January 29, 2022
Mistakes, and What to Do About Them
by Quinn Caldwell
Now a certain main named Simon had previously practiced magic. After being baptized, he offered [the disciples] money, saying, “Give me also this power.” But Peter said to him, “Repent therefore of this wickedness!” – Excerpts of Acts 8:9-22 (NRSV)
Poor Simon. Already a spiritual adept before he converts, he longs for the abilities the disciples are showing off (who wouldn’t?), so he does the only thing he can think of to get it: he offers to pay. Which, fair enough, that’s how you get most things in this world. But instead of explaining why that’s not how we do things around here, Peter smacks him with an insult-laden lecture.
The Bible ends its story there, but everybody and their uncle later comes up with a nasty rumor about Simon Magus. He was destroyed by the disciples in a spectacular magic-off. He founded a hundred different heresies. They named a special sin after him.
Who knows what Simon actually did. But if I joined a church and got treated the way Peter treated Simon for making one little mistake, I’d start a heresy or two, too.
Someone’s going to join your church soon, having had a whole life before coming to you. They might notice that you all have benefits the newbie longs for—peace, maybe, or companionship, or leadership, or respect, or faith, or inclusion. They might decide they’d very much like some of that, and the way they go about trying to get it may not be the done thing.
And you, church normie? What are you going to do then?
When I meet the next Simon, God, let it be the story not of how they learned to be a better convert, but of how I learned to be a better welcomer. Amen.
January 30, 2022
by Molly Baskette
Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18 (NRSV)
Spammers infiltrated our YouTube online worship chat one Sunday with a whole bunch of genitalia jokes, using pseudonyms like Dixie Normous and Hugh Jass. Our extremely cheerful and engaging chat ambassador welcomed them fulsomely: “We’re glad you’re here, Dixie!” he wrote in the chat. He figured it out when they started posting their nonsense, and deleted comments furiously–while not deleting them.
Their infiltration was obnoxious, but not ultimately harmful. Still, what possessed them to do such a thing? I’m guessing: cheap laughs and the thrill of putting one over on sincere church people. In other words, an attempt to meet their own needs without much regard for others.
Is there anyone like that sitting in your pews? Not necessarily a prankster, but someone who is at church primarily to get their own needs met? When things don’t go their way, they may say things like “This isn’t working for me,” “I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth,” or the timeless classic, “We’ve never done it that way before” – code for “These changes are making me uncomfortable!”
Or, maybe (wince) you find yourself saying those things? Could it be that you are the Hugh Jass?
Pastor Sharad Yadav says, “Church is a life lesson in how to deal with jerks without retaliating, dehumanizing, or running away (in the desperate hope of not becoming a jerk).”
We are living through very stressful times and have legitimate human needs – which church can’t always meet. Unmet needs can turn any of us into a Hugh. Thank God for when our churches, going through their own changes, still welcome us (while setting limits for us).
God, when I am a Hugh, help me grow past my ego and complaint. When I am talking with a Hugh, give me heart and a sense of humor.
January 31, 2022
Tears in a Bottle
by Vicki Kemper
You yourself have kept track of my misery. Put my tears into your bottle—aren’t they on your scroll already? – Psalm 56:8 (CEB)
I was reminded recently how difficult it is for many of us to deal with someone else’s sadness or emotional distress. I saw how so many of us, when made uncomfortable by another’s discomfort, move quickly into fix-it mode.
“It’s not that bad,” we say. “You’re overreacting,” we add.
“Why don’t you try this?” we suggest, wanting desperately to pass the ball of responsibility, the burden of awareness, the weight of obligation. You deal with it.
If the situation persists, we might offer, “This, too, will pass. Just give it time.”
And if we’re really uncomfortable, just don’t understand, or are at a sincere loss as to what to do or say, we might not say anything at all. We might be unwilling even to listen. We might forget that the most important thing of all is simply to acknowledge the other person’s pain.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but none of this is helpful. It may even compound another’s hurt.
How comforting, then, to know that the Holy One registers our every hurt and collects each tear that falls. How healing it is to be heard without judgment, to be able to share our pain without running up against someone else’s need for resolution. And how encouraging it is to know that we, too, can choose to honor our dear ones’ sufferings and preserve their tears in our own heart-shaped bottles.
God Who Hears: For love that records and honors my feelings, for your sacred bottle of tears, I give you thanks and praise.