These are my thoughts for the Sunday Evening “Vespers in the Garden” worship on 7 July 2013 at Grace UMC (Newburgh, NY).
Vespers in the Garden start at 7 on Fridays and Sundays and will run through Labor Day. Come on over if you get the chance and let me know if you might be interested in presenting the message one time or providing the music.
I am using the Scripture readings for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (C), 7 July 2013 – 2 Kings 5 – 14; Galatians 6: (1 – 6) 7 – 16; Luke 10: 1 – 11, 16 – 20.
I will be at the combined services of the Cold Spring UMC/South Highlands UMC next Sunday (“Who Will Be The One?”) and at Modena Memorial UMC on July 21st(“I Am Not A Practicing Christian!”). I will have links to the messages and church information later in the week.
When I first read the Scriptures for this weekend, my first thoughts were on verse 1 of the New Testament reading from Galatians as it was translated in The Message, “Live creatively, friends.” Paul would later write, in verses 4 and 5, “ Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Doing the creative best that you can is one of the most challenging things we have facing us today. First, because we are not wiling to be creative; perhaps because we are somewhat afraid to venture into new areas of thought and activity.
But being creative does not necessarily mean that one has to be on the level of, say, an Albert Einstein or a Johann Sebastian Bach. It will require that you think about things in a different way.
This day, July 7th, has a special meaning for me in that it is the birth date of my oldest daughter Melanie. I am, of course, naturally proud of all that she has done but that was because I could see, even many years ago, how she would be successful in the endeavors she choose to undertake. When she was perhaps ten years old, we had a small father/daughter discussion that based on the fact that I was her father and she was my daughter and my decision perhaps carried more weight that her thoughts on the matter. At the end of the discussion, I said to her that she, who at the age was very tall, could tell me “no” when she could look me directly in the eye.
So, after perhaps a brief pause, she jumped on the bed so that she was now at more of an eye level and told me “no”. What could I do but acknowledge her refusal. (I do not know what her mother thought of this.)
To be creative is more of seeing beyond the moment; sometimes it can mean taking an ordinary task and doing it in a slightly different manner. Holding a worship service on a Friday or Sunday evening in the gardens of Grace Church would, I hope, be one such creative thought. Having a breakfast on Saturday mornings and serving the people with silverware and plates rather than plastic and paper would be perhaps another.
Yes, being creative can be a challenge! It means that you cannot accept the traditional path but sometimes follow a different idea. As Pastor Christy Thomas pointed out in a recent post, “Further Thoughts on the Texas Abortion Decision: Reframing the Question”, you can spend all of your time looking at a problem in traditional ways, i.e., “the bottom line”; or you can reframe the question in terms of what you are really trying to accomplish. I also saw two other posts on the Methoblog that speak to thinking in different terms that speak to creative solutions. Unfortunately, I forgot to write them down so I could put in the links.
Naaman, an important general in what we would called the Syrian army today, contracted leprosy. Of all the diseases, illnesses, and maladies that befell the people of the Bible, leprosy was perhaps the most feared because of the way it disfigured the body. Its victims were forced into exile, driven apart from contact with society. Its toil was more than just the physical aspects; in exile, one lost everything, power, prestige, position. So we can have some idea of what is going through Naaman’s mind when he knows what he has contracted. But what is his response?
His response is one of position, power, and prestige as if those items can somehow provide the cure. And response given by the king of Israel is also stated in terms of power, prestige, and position. He says that he doesn’t have the capability of providing what Naaman wants because he doesn’t have that same power, prestige, and position.
But Elisha suggests an alternative, one of course that Naaman doesn’t immediately accept for he, Naaman, still thinks in the traditional way that my power, prestige, and position will provide the cure.
Elisha offered a creative solution that required Naaman to see things differently. As one of Naaman’s servants pointed out, said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”
I have always gotten a sense of rejoicing when I read about the return of the seventy from that very first mission trip that was the Gospel reading for today. It was not written but you have to get the sense that when they left they didn’t think that they could take on the task that Jesus was giving them.
But as Jesus pointed out, it really wasn’t the seventy who had achieved the great things that happened but rather God working through them. That they opened their hearts and minds to the power of the Holy Spirit enabled the work to be accomplished.
This is what Paul speaks of when he, I believe, speaks of the creative power of the Holy Spirit. If you are doing it for yourself or in the same old way, then failure is the only option. If you are doing it for others, then success will come.
Whether we are speaking of what we must do individually or collectively, we have to see that the same old ways, tried and true though they may be, no longer work. We see people looking for something, something more than can be found in the old pathways. We see people whose only thought is for themselves as if that will provide the answers.
And we hear others who say that Jesus is the answer, provided of course, that you do it their way. But when you do it their way, you are walking with them and not God. And it was only by walking with God that the seventy were able to be successful.
The creative thing only happens when you share what you have found with others and it starts with Christ. So we invite you all today to open your hearts and your minds to Christ, to let Him in so that the direction of your life, your walk changes. And in letting Christ into your life, you allow the Holy Spirit to empower you and embrace you and give you the ability to be creative.