the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

My Photo
Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sunday 10/9/05 Year A - Proper 23

Isaiah 25:1-9
Philippians 4:12-20
Matthew 22:1-14

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Do you have an inner strength?
Philippians 4:12-20

vs. 12
I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.

I think that many of us can empathize with Paul on this point. I know in my life I have had times of relative prosperity, times where the cost of living exceeded my means, and times when there was no means at all except by the generous gifts of others. And I suspect that you have those same experiences in your life.

vs. 13
In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.

In those times, how did you live? Not how did you get by, but how did you conduct your life? Can you look back on times of prosperity and say that you gave all the credit to God? Or that you even thought about God and his graciousness to allow you the time of prosperity?

In times when your pay check didn't quite go far enough to meet all your expenses, who did you trust for strength and relief from anxiety?

And in times when you got by only because of the generous gifts of others, were you appreciative of the grace that your friends showed toward you? Or did you believe you were entitled to that help and assistance?

What was Paul's secret? He found the secret of life that got him through both the good times and the bad.

Thomas Merton said,* "In our age everything has to be a 'problem.' Ours is a time of anxiety because we willed it to be so. Our anxiety is not imposed on us by force from outside. We impose it on our world and upon one another from within ourselves."

Can that be possible? Is it possible that anxiety is a choice? Paul's answer, Thomas Merton's Answer and David's answer in Psalms 23 that we read a moment ago, is an emphatic YES! ANXIETY IS A CHOICE!

Thomas Merton was a Monk who lived most of his life in a world of silence and solitude. He has written about problems and anxiety, "[they] have always existed in the soul of man. But it is only when we prefer analysis to silence that they become a constant and insoluble problem. We are not meant to resolve all [problems] but to live with them and rise above them and see them in the light of exterior and objective values which make them trivial by comparison."

David said, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...[but] I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever."

Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

But we must ask the never ending question: How? How can we find peace in a world of problems? How can we find the strength to endure the pain of daily living? What does it mean that Paul could do all things through Christ? Where is this strength in Christ that he speaks of?

I would offer three points in search of an answer:

First, remember that anxiety is a choice. We can choose to worry, or to let it go and trust in God to take care of us. Now, you can't let the problem itself go, because it still requires a responsible solution. But you can let go of the ultimacy, the urgency, the angst of the situation. That is where your choice comes in.

Unfortunately, the ability to do this comes with much experience. We build up a memory of countless times we have experienced crises in our lives and, looking back, we realize that we did survive them.

The second and the third points come from one verse Luke 17:21.

Let's read the pertinent passage, verses 20 & 21, in the New Revised Standard version:

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."
In fact what makes this two points instead of one is the little greek word (en) and how it is translated by the various biblical scholars who gave us our more popular translations.

In the New Revised Standard version we read "the kingdom of God [or God's rule over your life] is among you."

For something to be among us, it implies a group or communal relationship. If God's rule is among us it comes from the relationship we have with each other. In times of trial we have to depend on each other to stay the course. We depend on the encouragement and the love of each other for comfort and assistance.

What is the condition of our communal relationship? The bonds that we share with each other as Christian members of this church? When you are in a time of need do you share that need with your brother or sister in Christ? Or does pride get in the way?

Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes the value of having another whose strength one can rely on in times of weakness and distress.

Jesus tells us that it is among us where we will find the rule of God for our lives.

Now let's look at the King James translation. "the kingdom of God [or God's rule over your life] is within you.

Where is the Peace that passes all understanding? It is within you. It is in you that you need to seek the strength that Christ gives us.

But that seems hardest of all to believe. So, let me give you some suggestions for practice in finding the inner strength Christ gives us.

1. Reading the scriptures. Especially the Psalms and the Proverbs. But also in the New Testament, the words of Jesus, and the letters of Paul. Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians are especially helpful. The First letter of John to the churches of Asia Minor is another source of strength.

2. Pray. Pray often. Pray with all of your soul. Talk to God. Tell him what you are facing in your life. He knows it already, but it does us good to hear ourselves say it to Him. And don't forget to pray for others. Sometimes taking our focus off of our own issues, thinking about others and their issues, is the very thing that brings us to see our own issues in the context of reality.

3. Sit in Silence. Following a time prayer sit in silence and listen for the word of God to come to you. Thomas Merton writes, "In silence...God rises up out of the sea like a treasure in the waves, and...His brightness remains on the shores of our own being.

Our prayer is the 139th Psalm:
1O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
5You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast...
23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

* All of the quotes attributed to Thomas Merton are taken from his Thoughts in Solitude, 1956.


Post a Comment

<< Home