I trust my weekly reflections has lifted and challenged your spirit.
For several months I have related these reflections to my sermon for the coming Sunday. More recently, including most of July and August, I have posted my weekly reflections both here and at the website for the congregation I now serve, Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church. You can also access audio of the related sermons in those posts.
Beginning this week those reflections will only be posted on the church website. If you would like to in continuing to receive my weekly reflections you may also subscribe to that website.
I anticipate using this space for occasional reflections and book reviews. I hope that you will continue to visit me here as well.
If temptation were like a lion roaring in the jungle, one might turn and run the other way. But temptation is more like a tiny snake, hiding among the path were one might walk, able to slip through the narrowest crack, then inject its poison before one might react.
A thousand years or more ago a well-disciplined armed unit could readily withstand arrows by marching tightly together, with soldiers on the outside holding their shields side-by-side forming walls around the group while soldiers in the middle holding their shields over everyone’s head providing a protective roof. But flaming arrows were more dangerous because they could provoke panic. If only one soldier broke ranks, gaping holes occur in the unit’s armor.
Even today panic can disrupt armor one might neatly arrange against temptations and evil. I have known managers who snap at candidates for a job to see if they will panic under stress.
In our culture of rugged individualism panic can cause one to perceive, if only for a moment, weaknesses that another person might exploit. And in that moment of panic, other weakness appear.
Faith in God, trusting that we are not alone but aligned with Christ guards us from panic. If in a moment when all seems lost, when all of one’s friends have departed, we can remember that the Holy Spirit is as close as our next breath, and avert panic averted and we might face a critical moment as a thinking rational human being instead of a reactive animal.
With all of these, take the shield of faith,
with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
— Ephesians 6:16 (NRSV)
How has practicing your faith helped you prepare to quench panic?
In the early 1980’s Chrysler Corporation nearly went bankrupt their stock price had dropped from about $8 per share to under $2. Lee Iacocca, became their CEO and personally appeared in advertisements promising to rebuild Chrysler. I had considered buying a few hundred shares during those dark weeks for Chrysler, when bankruptcy seemed more certain than growth. The upside appeared nearly unlimited. But risking nearly a month’s pay seemed quite foolish. From this side of history, betting on Chrysler would have been a superb investment for in the next two years the stock price soared to over $15 per share. A year after that it was still growing, soaring past $26 per share. And by 1987, it had split and those $2 shares would have been worth over $52 each. My investment of a month’s pay might have blossomed into over two years of salary.
Alas, Chrysler was a missed opportunity for me.
The letter to the Ephesians has similar warning:
Walk carefully, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the opportunity, because the days are evil.
— Ephesians 5:15-16 (author’s translation).
Many translations interpret verse 16 as “make the most of the time,” but I wonder if the author had intended a play on words, urging followers to redeem each opportunity as God has also redeemed us, as the original Greek words have meanings of ‘redeem’ as well as ‘make the most’ and ‘opportunity’ as well as ‘time’. But the author did not write about our financial opportunities, but about our spiritual opportunities to praise God. Waste none, but redeem each moment for singing praises.
What opportunities have you redeemed? When have you redeemed a problematic situation to make a spiritual connection with God?
Preparing for this Sunday’s sermon I have seen pictures of angry people, angry dogs, angry cats, even angry birds. I suppose every animal with a spine can express anger. Anger makes us seem bigger and more powerful, ready to take on whoever or whatever has invaded our space. Anger helps us assert authority when we need defend ourselves, our home, or our loved ones, and for humans, our ideals.
But if used too freely anger can deter collaborating resulting in statements like: “I tried to tell you but …”
And once anger has inflamed our passion it distorts our memories of events and closes our ears and our eyes to our opponent’s virtues.
On the other hand, overly suppressing anger, acting nice in the face of rudeness, interference, or aggression helps no one. The person acting nice gets abused and disrespected and the one who violates cultural norms does not learn about boundaries our community respects.
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.
— Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
But how are we to find a balance?
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath
and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
— Ephesians 4:31-32 (NRSV)
One gift we have is to listen deeply and carefully when anger stirs our gut: To listen to ourselves discerning why our anger has arisen. And to listen to our opponents and discern what good and valuable and useful contribution might they be trying to offer or how might we have over stepped their boundaries.