Tag Archives: Lectionary

On Not Being a Burden

‘Being a burden’ has to be one of the biggest fears in our society.  We don’t want to reach the place where we can no longer control our own lives.  We don’t want to have to rely on anyone else.  We desperately don’t want to put anyone else out.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (CEV)

My dear friends, you surely haven’t forgotten our hard work and hardships. You remember how night and day we struggled to make a living, so that we could tell you God’s message without being a burden to anyone. 10 Both you and God are witnesses that we were pure and honest and innocent in our dealings with you followers of the Lord.11 You also know we did everything for you that parents would do for their own children. 12 We begged, encouraged, and urged each of you to live in a way that would honor God. He is the one who chose you to share in his own kingdom and glory.

13 We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn’t something made up by humans. You accepted it as God’s message, and now he is working in you.

Paul seems to make a big thing here about not having been a burden to the Thessalonians.  He is keen that they know that he was making his own living, not relying on them for income.

This is interesting.  Historically and generally the Methodist Church pays its ministers a stipend.  This is not a wage, but money paid to you so that you can meet living expenses without having to do other work, in essence so that you are free to fulfil your calling – a calling that the church has set you apart for.  So as someone who has lived off a stipend in the past, I have a bit of an uncomfortable wriggle in my seat at this point.  Though I hope I was no burden and fulfilled my calling!  I was also very grateful that was the case and realise how fortunate I was to be freed in such a way.

Anyway, I digress from the point.  This passage made me think about being a burden.  Specifically, are there times in which I am a burden to my community?  As someone with chronic illness, I can easily perceive myself as a burden.  I need help and lots of it, I rely on other people to do things that I would much rather prefer to be able to do for myself, I can’t offer all I long to. But I hope that is not truly being a burden and is incorporated as being part of a healthy community.

But are there other ways I can be a burden?  Being unhelpful?  Dragging others down by my attitude?  Being bolshy (a particular specialism of mine!)?   Not doing what I could?  Not sharing what I have?  Not letting others help me, when it would help them to do so?  Being protective of my gifts?  Letting others get on with things without helping?  Thinking I’m a special case?  I’m sure the list could go on.  These are ways of being a burden that are choices.  Decisions that make anyone a weight or a carrier of weight.

Am I a burden on my community?  On my church fellowship?  On the world?  Am I weighing down when I should be lifting up?  Expecting others to carry me, when I should be doing the carrying?  Or can I stand before God and his people in the knowledge that I do all I can in the best way I can for the service of him and the world?

We are called to be burden bearers, not burden makers.

Forgive me Lord,
the times I have got in the way,
held things back,
dragged things down
and not pulled my weight.

Forgive me when I have been a burden
to you,
your work,
my community
and ultimately myself.

Lord,
I want to be a burden bearer.
Show me how I can carry the weights of others,
the needs of my community,
the burdens of your world.

You are the great burden-bearer
who carries all our weights,
may I find my strength in you

Knowing the Truth

Is how we think we are living and acting always the reality?

Are we kidding ourselves, or trying to convince others?  Or just telling people what they want to hear rather than how it really is?  Who are we fooling?  Who are we letting down?

Micah brings harsh words:

Micah 3:5-12 (CEV)

You lying prophets promise
security for anyone
    who gives you food,
but disaster for anyone
    who refuses to feed you.
Here is what the Lord says
    to you prophets:
“You will live in the dark,
far from the sight of the sun,
    with no message from me.
You prophets and fortunetellers
will all be disgraced,
    with no message from me.”

But the Lord has filled me
    with power and his Spirit.
I have been given the courage
    to speak about justice
and to tell you people of Israel
    that you have sinned.
So listen to my message,
    you rulers of Israel!
You hate justice
    and twist the truth.
10 You make cruelty and murder
    a way of life in Jerusalem.
11 You leaders accept bribes
    for dishonest decisions.
You priests and prophets
teach and preach,
    but only for money.

Then you say,
“The Lord is on our side.
    No harm will come to us.”
12 And so, because of you,
Jerusalem will be plowed under
    and left in ruins.
Thorns will cover the mountain
    where the temple now stands.

It’s easy to say the thing that makes you popular, the pronouncements that apparently bring reward and win friends.  But that is not what God is asking.

He asks his people to stand for truth and justice, to stop those causing misery, to not just tell people what they want to hear, but challenge what needs challenging in our communities – as we say in Yorkshire, to call a spade a spade, and not pussyfoot around issues.

It is not fair to let people carry on without challenging them and pointing out the better way.  It is not right to allow suffering without challenging it. To not challenge wrong is to collude.

This is not an excuse to go around proffering our opinion, sitting in judgement on people’s personal lives without looking at our own; it is a call to challenge institutional injustice.  This passage is particularly a call to the leaders to live and act in the right way, for  the prophets to say what God says, not what they think or are comfortable with.  If we don’t challenge, there is no opportunity for things to change.

What challenge should I be making about injustice, cruelty and living God’s ways?  And what about my life?  Am I doing and saying what God asks me, or busy sharing my opinions?

Lord,
you call me
to live your ways,
not be taken in
by what is popular
or profitable.

Lord,
you call me
to challenge injustice,
cruelty,
to stand by the truth.

I ask for your wisdom
to know which is which,
what to do,
how to act
and your strength
to do it.

The Most Important Thing

Priorities.  We all have them.  What matters most?  In a whole list of things, what is the absolute crux of the matter?  Where should our focus be?

Matthew 22:34-46 (CEV)

The Most Important Commandment

34 After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. 35 One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, 36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.

About David’s Son

41 While the Pharisees were still there, Jesus asked them,42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose family will he come from?”

They answered, “He will be a son of King David.”

43 Jesus replied, “How then could the Spirit lead David to call the Messiah his Lord? David said,

44 ’The Lord said to my Lord:
    Sit at my right side
until I make your enemies
    into a footstool for you.’

45 If David called the Messiah his Lord, how can the Messiah be a son of King David?” 46 No one was able to give Jesus an answer, and from that day on, no one dared ask him any more questions.

The man who asks this question, is only trying to trip Jesus up; trying to get him to say something that will incriminate him and give them a chance to get rid of him.  He is not seeking to know where his priority is, but in his question, we find out where Jesus’ priority is – the basis for his life, work and what he is trying to teach.

As Jesus answers he underlines the priorities and basis for ‘getting it right‘, living God’s way.  He gives not one, but two intertwined rules:

“Love God” without that as our basis, we will get nowhere.  Whatever we try to do to live his ways will fail and be meaningless.  We can only do anything effectively if it stems from our love for God.  But this isn’t the wishy-washy might change our mind tomorrow love of ‘I love chocolate’, or ‘I love this jumper’.  This is the love and commitment of everything we have – “love God with all your heart, soul and mind” – everything, our emotions, our will, every part of our being, the very depths and essence of who I am.

That is the basis for our love.  But it is not an abstract love.  We don’t just go around with a warm fuzzy feeling about God – we have to act on it, it has to inform how we respond in all situations.  And so the second part comes,

“Love others as much as you love yourself” – loving God must lead to a response.  True love of him will involve love of everyone else, treating them and acting towards them as if they are the God we love.  That is measured against how much we love ourselves.

There are two main problems that can get in the way of that: either we love ourselves too much, or we don’t love ourselves enough.

If we love ourselves too much, we can’t see the other person and their need.  It becomes all about me, making sure I have what I need, that things work for me and my ways.  I am all-consuming and others are missed.

If we don’t love ourselves enough, the problem can go one of two ways.  Either I am so insignificant, that I can’t see how you can be of any worth either; or I feel so badly about myself, I have to spend my time making sure people see me and love me (which probably comes across as loving myself too much), and I have little energy left for anyone else.

This is why these three things go together.

In our love of God, can we find a proper love of ourselves?  A perspective of ourselves that recognises our worth and loveliness, but also our place in God’s love.  From that we have time and energy to see others for who and where they are – and love them with the same love God empowers us with.

So love, intertwined between ourselves, God and all those others.  Love as the priority, the foundation, the most important thing.  All flowing from the love God has for us.

Help me Lord
to live in your love,
the knowledge of the depth
of your love for me.

In and through that,
May I love you,
learn a proper love for myself
and live in true love of others.

Here is Love