This morning I worship with our youth group at Highland Lutheran Church in Denver Colorado. We heard a perfect sermon for the beginning of our mission trip on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Pastor Dena Williams asked us who we are in the story.
Are we the lawyer, the priest, the Levite, the Samaritan or possibly the innkeeper? Many of us like to think that we are a Samaritan willing to help others. She reminded us that Samaritans were marginalized, foreign, mostly hated people. Is that really how we see ourselves?
Yes sometimes we are people who give help but we can just as easily be the broken person, beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road. We can be beaten up in so many ways: job loss, broken relationships, mental illness, chronic pain. We can give aid but we also at times need to receive aid.
As the youth of Resurrection prepare to serve in Denver I pray that we may be as open to receiving aid and love as to giving comfort and care. We seek to trust Jesus, the storyteller, to give us our proper role.
Vocation and God’s calling has always been an interest of mine. I blogged about a few times. How do we discern what God is calling us to do with our lives? How do young adults discern their career path? Too often the church has restricted God’s callings to specific Christian ministries like pastors or missionaries. But God calls us to love our neighbor in such a wide variety of ways. Here is a post from a college student who is beginning to grasp her calling as a teacher: Catapulting Cotton Balls.
When I read this blog, I had a strong sense of pride, hope and humility. I had the strong sense of pride because my daughter is connecting her vocational calling to her Christian faith. I had a sense of hope because she and many, many other young adults see their vocation as a way of serving the world and not simply a way to make money. And humility that she is learned this in spite of my sporadic, often absent, parenting skills. God is truly good.
How have you experienced God’s calling in your life? In your family life?
Lord Jesus, remind me again today that I am called to love my neighbor. Call me once again to be your hands, feet, voice and heart in the world.
Holding on to the love you share
I confess that I am not a great fan of Valentine’s Day. I sense that it is more about momentary commerce (cards, candy, gifts) than lasting love. I do believe in love and romance and want to share a mental/spiritual exercise that might enhance it for yourself. It comes from a small book that continues to shape my spirituality, The Strengths of a Christian, by Robert C. Roberts. It’s an exercise that helps build perseverance and attachment in a marriage. Roberts writes to a wife about her husband named Henry.
Take a memory that endears Henry to you, a memory of happy common life or of some special affection shown you, and use it as the grid through which to contemplate that aging person across the table. See him in the eyes of that pleasant memory. Do not do anything yet, or say anything, but just take some time to look at your partner in this complimentary light. . . . You may have to shed some grudges (as Christians say, “die to yourself”) just to admit to yourself that this is the person of whom those happy memories are memories. But if you succeed in seeing him this way, you will find that some affection will come over you. You will love Henry because he looks more lovable to you. . . I think you will find that when you explicitly share with each other the happy memories of your past love, those memories will have an even stronger tendency to arouse present affection in you both.
This technique for persevering in love is just the reversal of what happens in grudge bearing. The grudge bearer also dwells on memories of a relationship with another person and sees the other person through those memories. But instead of dwelling on happy experiences . . . he or she dwells on offenses (many imaginary, no doubt). Thus the grudge bearer descends into a confirmed disposition of seeing the other in an uncomplimentary light, which we call hostility. When we become aware of the dynamic of grudge bearing, we can turn it to the service of love by practicing the contemplation of happy memories of our relationship and the praiseworthy actions of our partner. When this practice becomes an ingrained habit and skill of self-management, then we have one of the powers of perseverance in marriage. (p. 95-96)
What habits of the heart keeps your love alive?
Life o Pi
Yesterday I wrote about a visit to a church in the novel Still Alice. That scene stands in sharp contrast to the church visit described in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the other novel I am reading. Whereas Alice receives little spiritual comfort from her short visit , Piscine (Pi) takes a much more patient approach to his visit. He is a young teenager, who is on a spiritual quest in his native India. While his family is on vacation, he climbs a hill to a Christian church and walks around it, afraid at first to enter. Behind the church he discovers the rectory and from a hiding place, he secretly observes the parish priest inside. After a period of observation Pi states,
“I was filled with a sense of peace. But more than the setting, what arrested me was my intuitive understanding that he was there -open, patient – in case someone, anyone, should want to talk with him; a problem of the soul, a heaviness of the heart, a darkness of the conscience, he would listen with love. He as a man whose profession it was to love, and he would offer comfort and guidance as best he could.” p. 52
Pi eventually walks into the rectory and has several long conversations with the priest. Those conversation may be worthy of other posts, but the main point today is how does one prepare such an open, receptive setting for those who come on spiritual quests? Would those seeking even come to a church today? How do we practice true hospitality?