Monday, August 30, 2010

Parenting and Luke 14:1, 7-14

Musing on Parenting and Luke 14:1, 7-14

I hope that you will take the opportunity to read Luke 14:1, 7-14. Jesus is teaching at a meal where he is guest. He tells the other guests to stop chasing the best seat. If you sit in the best seat, you run the risk of being demoted by the host to a lesser seat. How embarrassing. If you sit in the lowest seat, the odds are that your host will promote you to a better seat. How awesome you will look to the others as the host leads you to a better place. Jesus then summarizes that the exalted will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. I’ve heard this teaching before, and so may you. This teaching also resonates well with my experience of the world.

Then Jesus turns to the host. Jesus says that the host should invite people who cannot repay. The host should invite the marginalized, oppressed, avoided, disgarded because they are unable to return the favor of the invitation. In this way, the host will be repaid in Heaven for what he / she was not repaid on earth.

I love the distinction between the things of earth and the things of heaven. Remember the teaching about storing up treasure that will not rust? This teaching may not appear in many self-help books about climbing the ladder of corporate success. However, it is a lesson that the faithful and the curious have heard before.

Parenting - this teaching of Jesus gets very rewarding when I apply it to parenting.

If you are, have been, or look forward to being a parent, you may share this motivation with me. We want the best for our children. We want the best school, church, community, friends, etc. This motivation may even lead us to building lists. The list of friends we want our child to play. The list of friends we hope they never meet.

Jesus says we should invite the marginalized, oppressed, avoided, disgarded because they are unable to return the favor of the invitation. If we value Jesus’ teaching about storing up treasure that will not rust, do we dare teach it to our children? More than storing up treasure that does not rust, what of our base responsibility to our neighbor? Do we dare teach that responsibility to our children?

Of course we do. Each time we give our children the opportunity to serve at a soup kitchen, deliver meals on wheels, sow a blanket for Project Night Night, bring school donations for the local pantry - we help them build a relationship with those who cannot repay.

There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for our children. It is good parenting to want more for our children than we have ourselves. The most faithful parents understand that serving those who cannot repay is critical for giving our children more than we can given them on our own. These relationships transformation our children. It is a powerful way of passing on the faith.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Musing on a Query


Sometimes, as I am preaching, in the back of my brain a question or query arises. Most recently this occurred while I was preaching from the book of Jeremiah. I was making a point that the people of God incorrectly assumed they were safe because the lived in Jerusalem with the temple of God. I attempted to articulate the foolishness of assuming that because of our being “children of God” or our saying the right prayer at the right time, or our having the right prayer button to push we could make God protect us. God is out of our control. Our prayer beads, preferred biblical translations, politically correct (or incorrect) sayings, even our right thinking, right behaving ways are helpless to control God in any fashion. How often did the disciples and others attempt to advise Jesus only to watch Jesus do what Jesus chose to do?

Before I share the query of the back of my brain, I want to raise an advantage of accepting that God is out of our control. When our prayers go seemingly unanswered, we are not disappointed. When God shows up unexpectedly, even unwanted, we are less frustrated. When God remains silent, we are tempted to speak less and listen more. And ultimately and possibly, we might allow ourselves the humility more befitting of our created status.

The query that rose in the back of my brain was the power of the right prayer button, preferred biblical translation, correct spiritual practice? If not to control God, what value is there to these practices passed down over the ages? In truth, the query rose with the words, why am I preaching so negatively when so much possibility and hope exists?

If God is out of our control and so much of creation is out of our control, what is in our control? Before you suggest the possible use of prophetic judgement to control the other people in your pew, let us jump to the obvious. We have more control over ourselves than anyone or anything else. Honestly, we are not in control of ourselves as much as we think. However, we can be more positively in control. Even more, I suggest that we can be even more free and powerful.

Spiritual practices prepare us to relate to that which we do not control. Spiritual disciplines help us to face the seeming chaos about us. Saying the right prayer at the right time does not control God but it does focus our soul upon the One we seek. There is so much freedom and power to such living. A simple example is the practice of bowing our heads and folding our hands in prayer. This simple practice avoids distraction, positions us for humility, and focuses our thoughts. Imagine the joy as you engage more complex and rich spiritual disciplines.

So many children love ketchup and mac-n-cheese. I’ve seen them mixed to the delight of the youthful grazer. We raise our children to enjoy a balanced diet, a more complex and rich diet. So should we grow to enjoy and to embrace a more complex and rich spiritual practice. How happy a life that tastes the full menu of spiritual experience!