Tag Archives: share

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.

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

You can’t do it by yourself

When we moved into our house, we inherited a rose bush.  The rose bush was threaded through a trellis.  When I pruned it in the autumn, I couldn’t get all the bits out.  They looked alright for a short while, but now are dried up and withered.  They are no longer part of the bush.  Roses only bloom if they are part of the bush, remaining connected to the nutrients coming up through the bush from the soil.

Jesus reminds us that a branch can’t bear fruit by itself.  It needs help, support and nutrition.  The Ethiopian Official discovered the same in his life.  “How can I understand unless someone explains?”  He needed help and support if he was going to clearly understand God’s word to him and for him.  He couldn’t grasp it by himself.  Fortunately for him, Philip was passing by.  Even more fortunately, Philip was willing to stop what he was doing and where he was going to help him.  He allowed himself to be led by the Spirit, and followed his leading.  In reaching out to the Ethiopian, Philip was over coming all kinds of taboos – the man was a foreigner, a convert, and a eunuch – and therefore suspect. But Philip stepped outside his comfort zone, and reached out to him in his need.

The man had questions, and Philip helped him explore them.  He took time from what he was doing, and sat with him, talked with him, shared the good news.  Because of this the Ethiopian asked to be baptized.  Through Philip’s time, care and witness he came to a point of decision and commitment.  He couldn’t get there on his own, he needed someone to step out and walk with him.  He needed the help, support and nutrition that another could offer.  He needed to be, not excluded, but joined to the vine of the fellowship of God’s people.  Sharing together what they know of God, walking together in encouragement.  Rooted in God, fed by him, but sharing together.

God may ask us to step out of our comfort zone.  He may ask us to share with people we’re not sure about.  He may have an amazing experience he needs us to share in.  We are all joined together in God.  We can’t do it by ourselves, we need God – and we need each other.

I do not believe it!

Thomas wasn’t around when Jesus appeared to the other disciples.  Because of this he found it impossible to believe what they said.  He needed concrete evidence.  He needed to touch and feel and experience it for himself.  Jesus did that for him.  He came right to him, and gave him what he needed.  It was still in post-resurrection, pre-ascension “in-between” days.

It can be hard to feel that we need to see and touch Jesus to be able to believe in him.  But he is there.  We can know his presence, maybe not in the same physical way, but real all the same.

This is also where one of the other readings for Sunday comes in:  how the disciples lived.  They shared everything they had – and that was a witness.  If people can’t always sees Jesus, they can see his effect.  One of the analogies for the Holy Spirit is wind – you can’t see wind, but you can see and feel what it does and therefore know it is there.

The way christians live lets others see and feel Jesus’ presence in the world.

We (well I anyway) have traditionally thought of this sharing of the first christians as being of possessions and money.  But sharing is about so much more than that.  Sharing our time, our thoughts, our gifts with the community – that they may see and feel Jesus is alive.

You have something very prescious!  You are very prescious!  Will you share that, that the world might see – and believe?