KOH2RVA: Day 118

like-meI spent at least part of the day yesterday feeling guilty because I never did get back to my blog, even though I  promised you I would.

This is something you need to know about ministers: they are inveterate “pleasers.” They want people to like them, and this is at least part of what’s going on in their heads as they prepare their sermons, or visit the sick, or show up at parties, or post on their blogs.

So what did I do yesterday? I posted an end-of-the-year report showing that more people visited my blog in 2012 than came to a Jay-Z concert, and then I promised that I would bring you an update on KOH2RVA, and then I didn’t.

And I spent part of the day feeling guilty about that.

But I also spent a few minutes in prayer as I was driving to a meeting yesterday morning, and this is what I said: “Lord, we ministers are inveterate pleasers. We want to please everybody. But what if I focused most of my time and energy on pleasing you? What would that be like?”

There’s a story in Luke’s Gospel about the time Jesus sent out the Seventy (or seventy-two, depending on which ancient manuscript you follow). He tells them to carry no purse, no bag, no sandals, but when they come into a town to cure the sick who are there and tell them, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you!” (in Matthew’s Gospel he adds, “cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons”).

The Seventy returned with joy saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” (vs. 17). And then Jesus rejoiced and thanked the Father for these who had done what he told them to do.

They pleased him, in other words, and it gave them joy.

Suppose we do, one day, stand before the Lord. What will we say to him? That we did everything we could to please others, or that we did everything we could to please him?

As an inveterate “pleaser” it helps me to think there’s only one person I have to please today.  I’m going to try to do that.  I don’t know how many demons I will cast out or how many sick I will cure.  Probably not many.  But I’m going to try to bring the Kingdom of Heaven an inch closer to Richmond, Virginia today.  In other words, I’m going to try to do the things that will please Jesus.

And not worry so much about everybody else.

Liking—Not Loving—My Neighbor

It was during the Epistle reading on Sunday that I realized: I do not love my neighbor as myself.

Lynn Turner was reading from Galatians 5, where Paul says, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (vs. 14).  Even as she was reading I wondered if I love my neighbor as I love myself, that is, exactly as much as I love myself. 

I thought about something that had happened a few evenings before.

I had gone outside to water the plants that were wilting in the heat, and as I watered I noticed that my neighbor’s plants were also wilting.  I live in a duplex.  My neighbor and I share a common wall.  So, the plants in front of her house are right beside the plants in front of mine.  I knew she had been out of town lately, and in an impulsive gesture of neighborliness I turned the hose on her plants and washed the dust off the leaves.  They looked better immediately, and even seemed to perk up a little bit.  I sprayed until the leaves were dripping and the dry mulch beneath the plants was wet, but then I turned back to my plants, and back to the serious work of soaking the roots so they could make it through the next day.  I sprayed a little more water in her direction before I coiled the hose, but I did not  water the plants that were out of easy reach on the other side of her steps.  I justified it by thinking that anything I had done was better than nothing.

But sitting in church on Sunday I realized that I had not loved my neighbor as much as I love myself.  If I had loved her as much as I love myself her plants would have gotten exactly as much water as mine.  But they didn’t; they got a good bit less. 

The measure of our love is not always so quantifiable, but last week it was.  It forced me to realize that while I like my neighbor I don’t love her, at least not as much as I love myself.  I’m going to think about that the next time I go out to water the plants and, if Jesus has his way, I will probably think about it the next time I see someone standing at the corner, holding a cardboard sign that says, “Hungry.  Please help.”