Being a blessing is just right...

At the close of this morning's message/conversation, after I had shared the 4 disciplines that church asks us to embrace to grow up and mature in faith (gather, engage, reflect and bless) - one of our summer friends said:  That's not enough... you have to ACT!  Well, I said, yes but that is what being a blessing is all about, don't you think? But he wasn't buying it.  My hunch is that he has a very clear idea about what action means... so we'll talk about it at lunch on Wednesday.

But I've been thinking about this as the day has ripened:  yes, we are called in incarnate our faith - to make it real in our ordinary existence - but all too often social activists  seem to believe that there is only ONE way to act - their way - and I don't believe that is true. It doesn't strike me as faithful to Christ or even the testimony of Scripture.  Some are called to act as helpers, not activists.  Some are called to be prayer partners, not warriors.  Some are called to listen rather than speak.  And Lord knows some have been called to be artists rather than agitators. 

So, how come this continues to be such a mystery?  Why does living as Christ's blessing to the world seem somehow inferior to social action? 

Romans 12 offers one insight:
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't. If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

I Corinthians 12 adds these thoughts, too:
What I want to talk about now is the various ways God's Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often mis-understood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn't know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It's different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can... God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful...

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

We're talking variety, not uniformity - creativity not sameness - blessings rather than mere activity.  Sometimes Jesus called people to follow him, other times he told them to go home; to the rich young ruler he asked him to sell everything but Zaccheaus only needed to make a generous gift of repentance.  In his posse were Jewish zealots but he healed the family of a Roman centurion.  There were street walkers, the walking wounded, people of great means, women and men as well as those who helped out but kept their own homes.  Seems as if I have been teaching about this - learning about it, too - and talking, listening, reading, waiting, hoping and pissing off people about it all for most of my adult life.  This quote from the late Henri Nouwen speaks to me deeply and gets it just about right:

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares... As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their "right" place.

So I sense that we are all called to act or incarnate our deepest joy within the world's deepest hurt - and calling this a blessing is just right. What do you think?

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