8-11-13 Prepared for the Unexpected
Proverbs 31: 10-31
Here's a question for the womens. Do you ever feel like other people expect you to be "that woman?" Have you ever found yourself wanting to be like "that woman." Think for a minute about a role model you’ve found truly worthy of imitation. What are some of the qualities of that role model?
When I was in my early twenties, I learned to spin (wool, silk, flax). I wasn't consciously trying to imitate the proverbial worthy woman, but who knows what my subconscious was up to?
Last week in worship Rosemary Word (a role model for many United Methodist Women) shared some of the things Sarai Rice spoke about at the first Mid Maine Resource Day last spring. One of the things that has stuck with me is Sarai's emphasis on the difference between technical and adaptive approaches to problem solving.
Proverbial living can be imitating techinical skills (like learning to spin). But frankly, as much as I enjoyed spinning then, its not the most useful skill in my toolbox these days. Instead, learning to focus on an unfolding process has become a resource in adaptive challenges. A technical challenge is one we can solve with available knowledge and skills. An adaptive challenge requires us to step away from our expertise and recreate.
How is God calling me to live faithfully and fruitfully as this woman did then? Do I want to be remembered for having learned how to spin or for learning how to balance generously taking care of my own family and sisters and brothers in Christ as well as those in need in my community?
We have plenty of problems to solve. Cna you thik of a few:
In our world?
In our church?
In our own lives?
We live in an environment that encourages us to prepare for the worst.
But we read scripture and believe a God who leads us to prepare for the best.
What do we really, in our hearts, expect?
Because that is what we are prepared for.
Sarah Rice: Every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets. You only need to change if you want other results.
The clamor for change Is exhausting, we hear it everywhere. IN fact, I'm thinking of striking the word "change" from my vocabulary as a spritual discipline for the next year.
What and where are some of the chnages you notice most?
If only someone would come and fix it! We need heoric rescue!
We see this in political struggles,
We see it in the religious trap of charismatic leaders who fall under the weigh of expectations they themselves build up and cannot sustain.
How did Jesus, the most charismatic human being who ever lived, spirit filled, avoid this trap? The Apostle Paul wrote to early Christians struggling with issues incredibly similar to ours,
"The church is Christ's body in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” -Ephesians 1:23 (The Message)
The wise woman of Proverb 31 is an image of God; hers is a life of creativity, resourcefulness, compassion, strength.
Raymond van Leeuwen describes her work, “to transform a Judean highland plot (as large as 10 acres) into a vineyard is a difficult, massive undertaking. It is done on rocky, hilly ground, not good for much else.” (p. 261 NIB vol. )
Reminds me of Elijah’s “dry bones” vision. Can these bones live? Can they dance?
Her capacity and her will are formed in the image of the God to whom she is oriented. To meet her is to encounter a centered person. She is prepared for whatever comes, expected, or more importantly, unexpected as God does a new thing.
To be honest, most of us want the change that we can expect and control.
Nothing is more frightening than being out of control. This week Jeff and I tried out some of the rides at the Topsham fair. (Not the ones that you go upsaide down on). I like my thrill rides at the Topsham fair, but only with strict safety features in place.
I was thinking about this morning when I received a message from Kayla McClurg about what Jesus tells us in this mornings’ gospel lesson.
“Do not be afraid, little flock….” Simply sell all that you own. Relinquish everything, and give. Fear attaches to things we cannot release, a ruinous mold spreading in the dark isolation of our grasping and clutching. Fear infiltrates all the systems of our life, alters our breathing and shows up masked as various anxieties and dis-eases. Fear erodes the realm God wants to give us. In his teachings, Jesus shines a healing light upon our minds and hearts to clear the mold of fear away.
Now, fear is a great motivator. There’s nothing like a good panic to get the energy flowing. But after a while it’s exhausting. Remember that old proverb about the carrot or the stick? Both are external motivators. God wants to get IN us. To create and sustain great Christians
Sarai Rice reminded us in May that the purpose of the congregation is
To create and sustain great Christians
How do we do that here and now. How do we BECOME that great church?
Part of what's disorienting about the change all Western culture churches are experiencing is that:
•Things we know how to do don’t seem as important anymore and
•We don’t know how to do the things that do seem to be important
So we seek techinical fixes that we can handle:
•Problems for which people have the know-how and procedures to solve them
•Where the solution involves applying current knowledge
•and the problem-solvers are the “authorities”
We resist Adaptive Change:
•Problems that can’t be solved with authoritative expertise and SOP
•that require experimenting, new discoveries, adjustments, changed attitudes, values, and behavior
•and where we cannot see at the beginning that the new situation will be better,
only that there is a potential for loss
•Every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets. You only need to change if you want other results
Sarai Rice continues:
•Adaptation occurs through experimentation and relies on the presence of diversity
•The most common cause of failure is when we treat adaptive challenges as if they need technical fixes
•Adaptive change is not primarily about managing change; it is about managing loss
In the Body of Christ, we are meant to support each other as we cultivate Christlike qualities. This is our purpose. Great churches create great Christians.
We are not called to sit and wait for rescue. That's just spinning our wheels. It is not a matter of figuring out who will do for us but how will be this healthy Body together, with God’s help.
Jesus never separates hearing from doing. You don't feed a family by reading cook books. You actually have to enter a kitchen, pick up some utensils, and start cooking. A disciple puts into daily practice what is heard and read. - Leonard Sweet
July 8, 2001 Wisdom: Companion Guide
Children’s message: “What’s a Proverb?”
Shared Joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half sorrow. Swedish Proverb:
Proverbs 8: 1-11, 22-31
The Gospel According to Luke 10: 1-11
Long ago and far away, when most of the Hebrew bible was first being written down, the people of Israel were slave labor in Babylon, desperately trying to hold onto the story of being God’s chosen people.
The captors who “required of them songs and mirth,” told their own creation story in war sagas, with gods mercilessly subduing and slaying their own fathers and mothers, who represented various aspects of the world’s creation.
Biblical scholar Raymond Van Leeuwen, calls Proverbs
“narratives in a nutshell.” I think of them as snapshots in a family album that carry our faith family’s values.
The Proverbs that Jesus’ faith-family collected carry remnants of a creation story in which God first created a companion called, “wisdom.These proverbs remind us that we are not in this thing we call life alone.
We have each other,
We also have God’s first companion, Wisdom.
Proverbs 8:22-31 is a remnant of a very different creation story, one that values wisdom and companionship, not violence and competition.
Now, even though our creation stories don’t begin with the bloody conflicts of the Babylonions, we know that it doesn’t take too long before conflict creeps in. (read Proverbs 9:7-9)
In our Gospel reading we just heard Jesus teach the 70 being sent out before him what to do with inhospitable folks. It went something like this.
Peace to your House!”
slam! Goes the door.
(Wipe dust from feet)
What happens to the peace that was offered?
“If anyone who is there shares in that peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not it will return to you.”
Having Christ’s peace thrown back in our face is not what we’re looking for when we go enthusiastically out to share God’s good news.
Could the modern proverb be true?
“A friend is one who dislikes the same people you dislike.”
Is that why Jesus sent them out in pairs?
Or is it that,
“Friendship, like phosphorus, shines brightest when all around is dark.”
Which proverb carries our “narrative in a nutshell?
Jesus knows that rejection is part of the way life is, but its not the main point of the story, and so he coaches his followers on how to move on.
Here are three other things to notice about this story;
1. Jesus sends his seventy out in pairs.
He implicitly values companionship. From the beginning (Adam and Eve) human beings need company.
2. Jesus tells each traveling pair to enter the first house where they are welcomed and stay there. Why not “share the wealth” by staying at as many houses as you can and influencing as many as you can?
Maybe it has something to do with knowing that relationships take time to take root and grow. Germans sometimes say, Friendship is a plant we must often water.
By staying with someone, the disciples nurtured deeply rooted wisdom that their hosts could then plant as Kingdom seeds in their own community. God’s peace is to be cultivated over time and through deep relationship. .
3. Finally, notice how Jesus tells his followers to be open to what God will provide, instead of searching out what they think they ought to find.
Jesus tells them:
to receive what is given to them (eat),
to give what is given them to share (healing)
and to name what is happening and who is doing it (proclaim the reign of God is at hand)
In these friendships, God is building something,
the Kingdom is near.
Perhaps Aristotle was onto something when he wrote:
Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
The friendships God gives, true friendships, move us toward that Kingdom experience of sharing the one Soul of creation, which is God. In Syria it’s sometimes said that if you will tell me your friends, I’ll tell you who you are.
Biblical Proverbs describe a God who offers friendship in the form of wisdom, Wisdom created as God’s first work of long ago, Wisdom present as God’s delight seeing the heavens, waters, foundations of the earth, and finally, humanity come into being.
Wisdom embodied in God’s saving grace, Jesus Christ,
Wisdom that invites us to become part of God’s redemption of creation.
Go often to the house of they friend, for weeds choke the unused path. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Loving God, we pray for the hot spots in your world this week, especially we wrap our loving thoughts around Egypt, and Syria, and The Nigerian community of Yobe as it mourns for its slain children. We thank you for compassionate hands and wise voices in these places, who remind us of your healing power and will.
We pray for strange and terrible events on our own continent
San Francisco, (plane crash)
Quebec Province (train fire)
Bangor (parade accident)
Arizona (19 lost)
Give rest and renewal to first responders.
Grant comfort to those who mourn and hope to those who will rebuild lives.
We pray for all who feel the impact of sequestration and for local communities seeking common ground and budgeting solutions.
To those who fears are ignited, bring peace.
To those with resources, give wisdom.
To all of us bring awareness of our role in your greater story. Hold us to account for what we do and don’t do. Form us in the image of your son and self, Jesus Christ, as we share the prayer he taught us.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others
and sent them two by two ahead of him
to every town and place where he was about to go.
-- Luke 10.1
You do not just happen to be here,
you have been sent.
You are intended to be here,
to convey a presence.
The land of uncertainty and the unknown,
these are your territory.
You are sent not away
You are accompanied,
paired with one who goes with you.
It is not your success, but your love and courage
that fulfill your purpose.
The path will need you;
the journey will create you.
What we receive compels us,
and, not alone, we go.
-Steve Garnaas Holmes, 7-5-13
Karen L Munson
United Methodist Pastor & Liturgical Artist