I confess to being both addicted and often overwhelmed by daily news headlines. I am an information junkie and have my daily routine of reading different sites and news aggregators that (I hope) keep me informed about my world.
From politics to disasters, to cultural and social trends, to even local news events, I find it both informative and instructive to learn about my world. After all, I am called to be a shepherd of people in a local congregation, so how am I suppose to understand the pressures and influences that press on their lives if I am uninformed about the events of the day. After all, our Lord commanded us to be cognizant of the “seasons” around us and to be wise and serpents and harmless as doves.” (see Matthew 10:16)
But there is the danger and temptation to being swallowed by the “sea” of information that vexes the soul. I read an article today that talked about the unintended consequences arising from affluent societies putting off having children to later in life. While this trend shows that these children will be raised in wealthier homes, the biological and sociological consequences arising from these cultural choices are just now being seen!
It is easy to be overwhelmed by life, by the pace of life, by the rapid (and I would question “the reckless”) societal shifts of modern life. So, how can we be “in” the world, but not “of” the world? (see John 17:14-15) How can we avoid the dual traps of reducing ourselves to a walled off ghetto community merely “observing” the rest of humanity or being so caught up in the struggles of everyone we lose ourselves to despondency or becoming numb. Isn’t it interesting that both traps lead to inaction to serve others and to be the hands and feet and mouth of Christ to our generation?
I believe the answer lies in our Gospel Lesson today. Jesus teaches us in today’s Lesson found in Matthew 18:18-22;19:1-2; 13-15, that the path to being a person who can both be present in your world AND healed of the brokenness of your world requires three powerful connections.
The first connection we must have is Authentic Community. It is little wonder that the central act of worship performed in every age by Christians is the Eucharist. It is because the Eucharist is meant to foster the communion between God and us and among ourselves us as well. “…where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is this constant maintenance of connectedness with Christ and ALL who are connected with Christ through the centuries that feeds my ability to stand in the midst of today’s storms of life with the collected strength of the entire Body of Christ. The prayers of the saints, both here and that company of believers already with the Lord in heaven, feed my life the peace and faithfulness necessary to be both helpful to my world and protected from the spiritual poisons so prevalent today.
The second connection we must have is Abundant Mercy. How many times should I forgive someone? As many times as they sin! The ability, impossible without the communion mentioned above, to simply and completely forgive others is absolutely necessary if I am going to stay connected to those around me AND not be swallowed up by grief, disappointment, and bitterness. All of those feelings drive me to isolation and self-protective actions that will always make me ineffective to help others. If I can forgive, and live a lifestyle of forgiveness, I will find myself always free to be engaged in helping AND protected against the poisons of a world lost to self centered motivations.
Finally, we must have Actual Humility. But not just any kind of humility, we must have the humility of children. Let’s face it, false humility is simply too easy. It so quickly degenerates into an actual pride that attempts to shame others for mistreating me. But childlike humility is genuinely forgetful of wrongs done and many times simply refuses to notice insults and sins altogether. This humility is able to be fully present in the moment and sees the wonder and joy of the immediate place it is in. Practicing and maturing in this kind of humility frees me to notice the person in front of me and reach out to that person all the while remaining truly myself!
Today, you will be tempted to either run away from your world or be swallowed by it. With the trinitarian strengths of Community, Mercy, and Humility, you will have all the tools you need to both be a source of salvation to all around you and stand while the storms of modernity blow against you. Refuse, dear ones, to be either ghettoized by fear or overwhelmed by sorrow. Live out your faith purposefully and refuse to be separated from the Community of Faith which is the home for your soul and the source of your strength. Little children, love one another.