Rohr, Richard. Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount, p. 41
“There are always two worlds. The world as it operates is largely about power; the world as it should be, or the reign of God, which is always about love...Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion... I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be "cunning as serpents but gentle as doves" (Matthew 10:16)...It is a beautiful combination of both authority and vulnerability... The reign of God includes both love and power in a lovely dance.”
Rohr, Richard. Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount, p. 41
For example, a few minutes after the phone call ended, my daily bible reading spoke to what Tiffany and I had just shared. In the devotional was a story that reminded me I didn’t have to be so hard on myself. God’s got this.
The story was about a cracked pot. And it goes like this.
A water-bearer in India had two large pots, both hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot always arrived half full.
The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream:
‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes the water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.’
The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them.
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
The author of the devotional concluded the story with this affirmation, “Thankfully, God uses cracked pots! You do not need to be perfect for God to use you.”
Think about that statement. You don’t need to be perfect for God to use you. Whether you are chipped, cracked, or shattered into tiny pieces, God finds a way to use us for restorative purposes.
Both my conversation with Tiffany, and this story, helped me to remember my purpose – to proclaim God’s love and grace through my words and deeds. Am I perfect at it? Not at all. Do I fail often? More than I’d like. Does it stop me from trying? No.
I don’t need to be perfect for God to use me. And neither do you. Your story, your scars, and all your imperfections and misdeeds, are all the ways God uses us to tell Jesus’ story of overwhelming love and saving grace. This is why it’s called the good news. And why we were called to proclaim it to every corner of the world.
Easier said than done when you have a seminary degree.
Consider the man who was born blind in John’s gospel. The disciples asked Jesus, 'Was this man born blind because of his own sins or his parents' sins?' Jesus answered, “Neither. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him."
When the Pharisees asked the man about who healed him, the man said this about Jesus, "He is a prophet! If this man were not from God, he couldn't have done it."
Before Jesus came into his life, the blind man had his story that came with all the usual stigma’s attached to being born that way. After Jesus did what he did, the man’s story becomes God’s testimony.
His eyes are open to the truth and he becomes a living witness to God’s power in the world. Because of Jesus, this man was able to see God do some truly amazing things. He didn’t understand how it happened but was happily surprised that it did happen. And he shared that joy with everyone.
I am constantly surprised by the way God loves me. And in spite of my brokenness, God still finds a way to make me a part of his service and plan. From Moses, to David, to Mary, and Peter, to you and me, God takes our weaknesses and makes them our strengths.
In his second letter to the Churches in Corinth, Paul writes,
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take this [thorn in my flesh] away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
The Apostle takes pleasure in his weakness and brokenness because he knows this is where God is most active in his life. And wherever God is active in your life, you too can rest assured that you can do anything God has called you to do. You don’t need to be perfect. Just faithful.
Like the water-bearer, God is planting seeds along the paths we walk, and God is enjoying the beauty that our flaws help to create. Yet we have to walk the walk, do what we are called to do!
Through Jesus Christ we receive all the grace we need to make us strong enough to overcome insults and hardships and the personal attacks on our faith that chip away at our core and cause us to crack in the first place.
In following Christ we not only find our strength, but learn also how to use it for the good of God’s kingdom and our communities. By our words and deeds we proclaim the good news that heals and restores.
So don’t worry if your faith is all dinged up or you have a low Bible IQ, God can and will use you in the most amazing and creative ways. The bible is filled with examples of ordinary people like us, who did some extraordinary things that led people back to God’s welcoming heart – the very heart of everlasting love where your story began.
Perhaps your purpose isn’t to be a preacher or a pastor. Maybe it’s just being a good friend, a faithful spouse, or a compassionate human who seeks to do some good in the world. God will use you.
Maybe you’re being called to get involved in local issues; making sure there’s justice and fairness imbedded in your community. Look around your neighborhood and ask God where you can be of service. Then step out in faith, knowing God is your strength.
Maybe your call is to support a particular mission, like this one, which reaches people who’d never step foot in a church. With so much hurt in the world, there is still more work to be done. And the people who have been called to do that work need more than just your thoughts and prayers.
We’ve been given the story of Jesus, the healing balm that brings relief to those who are suffering. And we are called to share it so eyes can be open and hearts can be healed.
There are many ways God uses us to proclaim gospel of Jesus Christ. And as St. Francis of Assisi taught, if you have to use words to do so, well then, the more the better.
“One of the greatest acts of faith Is to believe that the few years we live on this earth or like a little seed planted in a very rich soil. For the seed to bear fruit, it must die.”
Jesus uses the example of a mustard seed. But I like to think of the sunflower seed. For the sunflower lives and blooms for just a short time. Yet it produces hundreds of seeds to drop when it dies. Those seeds are born again in a new form. Resurrection is built into nature!
We are part of nature, made in the creative and glorious imagination of God. We must not fear dying, but hold fast to the faith in the One who overcame death and resurects us to keep this cycle going until heaven and earth become one.
Nouwen, Henri. Finding My Way Home. Crossroads Publishing 2004.
I sometimes feel like a thief. As if I’m stealing other people‘s brilliant ideas to make me look smart. In reality I’m just dealing great ideas so you can become spiritually smart. The house of Henri Nouwen should keep their doors locked. For it’s in there resides a treasury worth more than gold. And it is just sitting there hidding in plain sight.
This is what i nabbed today:
Often we are preoccupied with the question "How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus? What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?" These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love. Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses. He was so full of God's love, so connected with God's will, so burning with zeal for God's Kingdom, that he couldn't do other than witness. Wherever he went and whomever he met, a power went out from him that healed everyone who touched him. (See Luke 6:19.)
If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was.
While it might seem like I am inviting you to break a holy Commandment, I’m not inviting you to steal as much as I’m inviting you to take whatever you want. Its God’s love. It’s yours. It’s mine. It’s for us all to share and give away.
Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey, Harper: New York, 1996. August 10, 2018.
If Jesus only knew what we have to go through in order to survive in this world, he’d never suggest this impossible list to attain. Right?
In her book “Accidental Saints,” Nadia Bolz-Webber doesn’t see the beatitudes as some kind of conditions that need to be met in order for us to be blessed, but describes them as the “lavish blessings of the people” who came to see Jesus speak. They are the lucky ones, even if luck has never been on their side.
To summarize Bolz-Webber's point, Jesus’ blessings are gifts, freely given to the ones who “the world didn’t seem to have much time for: People in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance.” The people we don’t always look up to or admire. Jesus just goes around blessing people who, for the most part, society has deemed undeserving or unworthy.
Have you ever felt like that? Like maybe you don’t deserve to be blessed – believing you’re not good enough, or poor enough, or meek enough to receive the love and grace of God? But Jesus says you are good. You are worthy. You are enough.
“You are blessed when you are content with just who you are—no more, no less.”
But how often do we forget that each blessing come from the very heart of God? This means that when we accept such blessings we become a part of God’s heart; the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
My friend is feeling God’s heart beating inside her. It’s awakening in her a new sense of purpose. She has come to realize that God’s blessings didn’t stop with Jesus. They didn’t die on the cross. They were resurrected with him, and now flow through us. When we receive the blessing of God’s love and grace, we become that very blessing. And we, like Jesus, must give them all away “as if blessings grew on trees!”
So when Jesus calls us to love God and to love others, he is essentially saying “You have been given an invaluable gift. The only way you can pay it back is by paying it forward.”
As Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
In her novel "Pay It Forward," Catherine Ryan Hyde takes this ancient wisdom one step further. She believes it’s our obligation to do three good deeds to others in repayment for one good deed we receive. By this measure, one blessing can spread exponentially through society, creating a social movement so powerful that it can redeem and transform the entire world. This seems right up Jesus’ alley, don’t you think?
As we have learned in past weeks, Jesus had a way of multiplying blessings by sharing his life with others. And if we believe Jesus actually meant what he said back in the first century, then it must still apply to us in the 21st century.
Our ministry begins the same way as Jesus’ – with a blessing. By accepting God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ. I invite you to take this amazing gift and let it grow in your heart. Then when it feels right, share it. Pay it forward, and watch love grow. Watch peoples lives transform before your own eyes. Watch hearts beat as one. The One.
Jesus’ words and blessings are purposeful and intentional: to restore human beings to their true self and beauty. From this particular hillside to the one that he will later be crucified on, Jesus never stopped caring for those who the system overlooked, and pushed aside.
You know who they are - the homeless, the poor, the lonely, the angry, the uneducated, the incarcerated, the widows and kids in foster care. But they are also relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and friends who can’t seem to get a break, or fall on hard times, and slowly become invisible. Jesus makes it a point to bless them because we all need to be blessed.
Just as Jesus confronted the injustices of the world, so too must we; using the same love and grace that has been given to us. For the blessings we receive from God are the very blessings we are to be for God.
Through Jesus Christ, God has provided us with everything we need to bless the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the dying. Through Christ Jesus, God has given us a living example of how to honor the poor in a way that empowers them; to show mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt us, even if we get nothing in return; to strive for peace instead of war with people and with nations.
If we want to get things right in the world, especially in our own life, then according to Jesus we must love each other, and lead others to do the same.
For as it is written, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Jesus shows us the way to be in the world without being of it. When we model our lives on his, we will be comforted and we will have our fill; mercy will be shown to us; and our past mistakes erased.
Best of all, the kingdom of heaven will reign, and a new earth will be our inheritance – a blessing that is so abundant we can give away freely without losing a thing.
In fact, the more we give it away, the more we will receive in kind.
Boltz-Webber, Nadia. Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People. Convergent: New York; 2015. p. 184.
“Sometimes we have to stop
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"...how he went about doing good..."
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”