To the Church in Exile,
Please note: Pastor Doug has also included a video version of today’s devotional. For some of you, that version may be more accessible – you can find it by clicking here at this link.
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to talk today about being enough. We’re led right into this theme by our scripture reading, which is not from today’s lectionary passage, but from Monday’s passage, the beatitudes of Jesus from the sermon on the mount. On Monday we heard the first beatitude, yesterday the second, and today the third. So, hear the third blessing Jesus uttered after he sat down to teach the disciples as recorded in Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will be comforted.
I love that scene in the Monty Python film “Life of Brian,” where the crowds mishear Jesus say, “Blessed are the cheesemakers” rather than “peacemakers” and “Blessed are the Greeks” instead of “meek.” But I must tell you, I have always been confused by what Jesus means by meek here. I think a lot of us have misheard Jesus as advocating for a kind of doormat Christian theology.
The word “meek” in this verse can be translated “mild” or “gentle.” Jesus uses this same word when he invites disciples to take “my yoke upon you….and learn from me for I am gentle/meek at heart.” It has a connotation of friendliness and pleasantness and is the opposite of roughness and bad temper. The meek person is someone who’s comfortable in their skin. The Common English Bible translates it this way, “Blessed are the humble.” I really like the MESSAGE translation:
You’re really blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you realize you’re the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
In other words: “You’re blessed when you know that you are enough.”
I heard a powerful word from God eight years ago in my daily spiritual practice of lectio Divina. In lectio Divina, you read a short passage of scripture four times, paying attention to what shimmers from the passage and how God might be speaking to you in that moment. I was parked on a cliff above the ocean in Southern California where I served a church as pastor. I had just received and accepted the call from Bethany to be its pastor and would be moving in two months. I was nervous. Bethany had a rich tradition. It was quite healthy. It was a larger church with a larger staff than I was used to and I just, frankly, didn’t want to mess it up. I questioned myself: “Do I have what it takes? Will I cut it?”
So here I am continuing my reading through Mark’s gospel in the MESSAGE version and the text is the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus instructs the disciples to feed the crowds, but they protest. He asks them what food they have, and they respond, “All we have are these two fish and five loaves of bread.” The phrase “All we have” stood out for me in my first reading. Reading the passage a second and third time I savored and chewed on that phrase. After the fourth reading I sensed that God was speaking right into my quandary, “Doug, all you have, when placed in the hands of the master, is enough.” Just as the disciples’ two fish and five loaves placed in the hands of the master was enough, so what I had was enough for Bethany and God.
The fact is, folks, that none of us feel like enough in this Covid-19 pandemic. We’re not patient enough, resilient enough, kind enough, communicative enough, wise enough, accomplished enough, on top of it enough. None of us are. BUT! Believe me, when placed in the hands of the master, all that you have is enough.
You are really blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will; all that I have and call my own.
You have given all to me; to you Lord I return it.
Everything is yours, do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me. Amen.
Prayer of Ignatius, “Suscipe”
Peace in Christ,
Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11