Year C Proper 13 WEDNESDAY, 7 August 2019
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“The Tender Spot”
Collect: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Samuel 9:1-13 David extends grace to the House of Saul
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
What does taking up our cross look like? What does it look like in my life?
The answers to those questions are as personal as our fingerprints.
Where we are most tender is where are pain is. Think about it, I stub my toe, and that is where it hurts. For a while, a few minutes, hours, or days, I hobble along looking for relief, and maybe a little sympathy for my hurting toe. My toe is tender.
The hurt could be physical, but as I got older the pains I felt were far more often mental, emotional, psychological, or spiritual. When I have seen people “lose it” the most is when people stepped on their tender spot unawares. When I taught 6th grade boys, there was always a season of “Yo Mama” jokes. It was all fun and games until somebody told a “Yo Mama” joke on a kid who had just lost his mother. The recipient of the pounding said after I pulled the upset kid off, that he was just joking. And when I told him the reason why the other child reacted so violently, the first kid saw why the recipient was so “tender.”
But I also think, our tender spots are where we are often called to our ministry. You may have heard me quote this before. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ― Frederick Buechner
I have seen it too many times for it not to be true. I lost a lot of my childhood when my dad died, and it is also why so many decades of my ministry has been to, with, and for children. I am ferociously protective of that tender spot in my own life.
Our tender spots often develop blisters which become raw, but through continued working of those spots they become calloused or scarred. Often seen as a bad thing, but think on it, God made our bodies with amazing strengths, to harden our tender spots so that they can work and become even stronger than when we were first wounded. Our hearts and souls are the same. Where are your spiritual callouses? Where are your mental scars? “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
That is taking up our cross, that is repeatedly doing the thing that used to hurt. We feel the pain, and the pain is real. But working that same spot, over and over we are strengthened. We are healed. We grow.
Our reading from Samuel affirms this. David, King David mind you, did not seek revenge. He sought out to honor the memory of King Saul who had tried to have him killed REPEATEDLY! David picked up his cross, and forgave, and honored, and was blessed in the act.
In our weakness, he is strong, (2 Corinthians 12:10) as St. Paul put it. Scorn not the tender spot, for even that, especially that, can be a gift from God.
What is your cross? What is your tender spot? There, especially there, you can hear the still small voice of God calling you. Amen
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