St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I Samuel 16:1-13 The Anointing of David story
Acts 10:1-16 Cornelius calling on Peter, and receiving the Holy Spirit story
Luke 24:13-35 The Road to Emmaus story
I remember when I was working on a big project down in Richmond in my Baptist days. We were in the bar and restaurant district of downtown, Shockoe Bottom. One of the ministers I was working with was doing a presentation on the very same project and he described the area as “vile.” And as “the butthole of Richmond.” I was aghast. He was coming into a situation, so biased and against the area and the people. He saw himself as a savior or at the right hand of the savior. Later I learned he was so shocked that people “rejected” his ministry.
When we deal with people in whatever ministry we have, we need to look with the eyes of Grace. Think of the interactions Jesus had. Very rarely does Jesus get judgy, and never with those we might label as the “Sinners.” Who does Jesus get judgy with? The Churchy People. The Pharisees. The Money Changers. The Ones who have already decided they are righteous and know “the way things are.”
I love today’s readings taken together. They all tell the story of religious types, coming in with their preconceived notions and dictums. They come in naming what is to be done, instead of asking “Where is God at work, and how can I join in?”
When Samuel comes to anoint the successor to Saul, he goes through all the sons of Jesse. Never hearing from God that any of them were “the One,” Samuel asked, “Got anymore sons?” Jesse, “Yeah, but it is only the runt, David.” His own family could not see that the Chosen One was amongst them, a boy who would be described as a Man after God’s Own Heart. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”
Cornelius, a Roman, hears the word of God to go and send for Peter who was down in Joppa. And God is speaking the word to Peter that what he considered unclean, God did not care. “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Once again, the religious had set notions of propriety, what was right and good, and then God showed up in unexpected places and ways.
Lastly, those disciples on the road to Emmaus on that Easter Sunday did the exact same thing. Dead was dead, and Jesus was gone. They had heard the crazy rumors, and were talking loudly and excitedly. So much so, Jesus was in their midst and they could only see a stranger.
How often do we do that? I probably do it all the time unaware. Oblivious to the hand of God at work. God forgive me.
In our ministries, in the living out our faith, Jesus gave us some ways to approach it, so that we are more like him than Samuel, or Peter, or the Emmaus disciples.
- “Come unto Jesus like a child.” Do not have set expectations or demands, like a kid. Be open to what is or what may be.
- “When you have done it for the Least of These, you have done it to or for me.” Think of those we interact with as Jesus. Not like Jesus, or for Jesus. If we treat them as Jesus think of how special they would feel. And if they feel that loved, think of how they would respond.
My friend was not effective in Shockoe Bottom as he had his agenda and judgment, and looked with condemning eyes instead of compassionate eyes. God help us all when we do it that way. Jesus way is better. Amen