June 14, 2017- An Unlikely Teacher- Luke 2:47-52

Jesus at the Temple

And all who heard him (Jesus) were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.  Luke 2:47-52 (NRSV)

Our children are not really our own. In reality, God entrusts us with His children. We have a responsibility to our (God’s…) children to keep them safe, to provide for their bodily health and shelter, to see that they receive a quality education, and to provide a good moral and spiritual example.  Most parents would be terrified beyond belief should their twelve year old be missing for three days, and justifiably so.

Even though our children are not divine, (they might like us to think so at times) they are also not their parents.  Our children will do things that scare us, disappoint us, and even amaze us- but in the end they are the people God created them to be.  We may not understand God’s purpose for our children any better than we understand His purpose for us at times, but God always has a purpose for every one of His children, whether we agree with Him or not.

It is a balancing act for parents, knowing when to assert authority and set strong boundaries, and when to stand back and listen and let our children go. Since we are responsible for keeping our children safe and from harm’s way sometimes we err on the side of being too closed minded and overprotective.  Sometimes we fail to give their thoughts and ambitions the respect they deserve- and in doing so we may hold them back from being the people God created them to be.

Jesus was God when He was on this earth and was only twelve years old, teaching in the temple. Jesus knew His purpose and followed His Father’s desire for Him to be in the temple teaching, which shows remarkable wisdom for a twelve year old boy.   Even though we know Jesus displayed such wisdom even at such a young age, how many of us would be willing to take instructions from a preteen boy?

Do we overlook wisdom because we can’t see past the source?

It’s easy to forget that God doesn’t place the same parameters on wisdom and heroism that our society does. God’s wisdom can come from the very young, the very old, the developmentally disabled, or those who society looks down upon- anyone.  God’s choices aren’t always the obvious ones.

If we were to see with God’s eyes, how would He open our hearts to listen to and follow His wisdom?

If we were to love with God’s heart, how would our view of others and the world around us change?

June 5, 2017 – Everyday Courage- 1 Samuel 25:14-18

abigail-intervenesBut one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he shouted insults at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we never missed anything when we were in the fields, as long as we were with them; they were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do; for evil has been decided against our master and against all his house; he is so ill-natured that no one can speak to him.”

Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. She loaded them on donkeys,  and said to her young men, “Go on ahead of me; I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 1 Samuel 25:14-19 (NRSV)

The name “Nabal” means “fool.” As we all know, sometimes foolish people are put in positions of authority.  Sometimes others (and sometimes we do too) make bad decisions that put many people’s livelihood or safety at risk. Then we can be brought to a decision of our own.  Do we just go along with the fool in charge for the sake of our own stability or to preserve our own skin, or do we do the right thing even though it might put our own livelihood or safety at risk?

nabal the fool

Courage has been defined as, “feeling the fear, but doing the right thing anyway.” Being courageous is not the same thing as being fearless.  Knowing the risk and the possible consequences that can result from taking action requires even more courage.  There can be very real dangers involved in “doing the right thing anyway.”  Radical courage can cost us our possessions, our wealth and even our earthly lives.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany during WWII who opposed Nazi control of the churches, and actively worked to help Jews escape from Germany.  He was imprisoned for his vocal opposition to the Nazi regime, and died in a concentration camp.  Bonhoeffer carried on his message and his work for justice even though his courage in doing so ultimately cost him his life.  God may only call a few of us to the extraordinary courage of a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but He calls all of us to everyday courage.

dietrich bonhoeffer

We may not be put in a place where we have to stand up to Hitler, but there are everyday places where we have to stand and just do what’s right even when we are afraid. We all have to deal with everyday jerks who treat others unfairly.   Sometimes like Abigail we have to just do the right thing and not worry about the jerk who would whine and cry about it, the jerk who would try to forbid it, or the jerk who could possibly cause us harm in retaliation.

While Abigail was ultimately rewarded for her courage, she took a great risk. In her day, her husband could have had her tortured or killed or sold into slavery, had he been sober enough to realize that she had defied him.

Abigail still made the right decision for her family and her household when her husband would or could not do the right thing. That put her in an awkward position, just as sometimes we get put in awkward positions when we try to do the right thing.  Do we look the other way when we know there is domestic violence or drug abuse going on in a friend or family member’s home?  Do we fail to intervene and perhaps avert a tragedy because we are afraid?  Do we look the other way when we know others are lonely or hungry or in need of a friend?

Everyday courage for us may mean a series of little things that add up to big things. Everyday courage may mean taking a moment to compliment someone, or to help out in a little way- holding a door, carrying a package, or maybe writing a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling.

Abigail could have ignored the needs of David and his men. After all, in her day women were supposed to be subservient to their husbands even when their husbands were fools.  But she took the high road of courage and did the right thing.

God created us to be courageous. Our purpose is to bring about His kingdom here on earth.  Even though many times we are afraid, God equips us for the purpose He created us for.