Recently, I was going through one of those experiments where the end result is to be a teaching moment. For me…the moment came when I thought about a lasting legacy-and what that means for me. For some, memorials, shrines or heirlooms are important. Some want their life’s work and accomplishments to be what they’re remembered by. Some want to be remembered by the special moments in life that they shared with the ones they love the most. I guess that last one fits me the closest. In the core of me, I want to live a life that reflects the beatitudes. I want to live a life that shows God’s love in anything I do - be it teaching, preaching, walking down the street or having a heated discussion about Carolina Hurricanes Hockey - (thought I’d stay away from my beloved college basketball team).
I used to be consumed with building up a customer base (once upon a time I had a career in sales and marketing), growing a sizable savings and retirement account, having toys that helped fill my down time, having something flashy, but modest in my driveway and of course the impeccable lawn, well maintained home and dressing in clothes that were bought from nicer stores in larger cities. These were things that were not necessarily bad, in and of themselves. They just never left me feeling fulfilled. In truth, I often felt a bit empty and craving something more…I just didn’t know what that more was.
I came across these words this week in Ministry Matters, an online publication. This sort of helped me think through some of my journey. May it provide manna for your soul today:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Alongside the many sound interpretations of what Jesus meant by “poor in spirit” All of us need a “why” to exist. We can endure and even overcome just about anything if we know who we are and what we’re doing here. In his life, death and resurrection Jesus teaches that giving away the love that we receive freely from God is our why.
For whatever reason, we’ve gotten things turned upside down. We’ve fallen for the idea that life is about earning love. And plenty of us at one point or another assumed that we would get that love by achieving and accomplishing and accumulating.
Some of us spend our lives pursuing possessions or power or status figuring these things would make us lovable. The problem is that we can become so obsessed with ourselves that we actually build walls between ourselves and other people.
And this same, love-pursuing dynamic can take place in our spiritual lives. Plenty of us act as if the depth of our piety, the rigor of our moral conduct, or the orthodoxy of our theology will convince God to reward us.
Paradoxically, this kind of religiosity can be a form of self-absorption that isolates us from God and others. Spiritual poverty starts with giving up the self-defeating idea that any of us can get God to owe us one. That’s just not how God operates. God gives gifts.
May we use the gifts we’ve been given to live lives of service, never holding back our best fruits for ourselves, but always offering God the best we have to offer first and with joy. May it be so.
Pastor Michael Williams