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Live quietly and persistently good in the face of those who try to change me.

Have you ever felt like God had deserted you in the hardest moments of your life?  Most people have, including the disciples.  So, what does it take to be quietly faithful through all the ups and downs of life in a world that is not particularly caring?

 

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

In this passage Paul is encouraging his readers to ‘practice’ or ‘exercise’ their faith.  He was particularly worried by what he considered behaviour that watered down faith.  This was when people bent to the whims of their culture or community rather than stand out in the crowd with their faithfulness.

 

1Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. 2God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;

The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. 3Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. 4Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly … in hard times, tough times, bad times; 5when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; 6with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; 7when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; 8when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; 9ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; 10immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

11Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. 12We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. 13I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

 

Mark 4:35-41

Here is another story about staying faithful when it seems like the world is falling apart all around you.  Often our faith is severely tested by events in our lives.  We wonder where God could be.  Here Jesus is clear with his disciples that he is present in all the good times but also in those times of stress and confusion that are part of living in the real world.

 

35Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” 36They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. 37A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. 38And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

39Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. 40Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

41They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

 

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

 

 

Sermon – “Live quietly and persistently good in the face of those who try to change me.”

 

I recall sitting with my Dad talking about things that matter most/trouble most in his life.

After some thought he told me: “I’m pretty sure I know how to help my children be successful, but I’m not sure how to help them be good.”

 

That thought might have been going through Jesus’ mind in the boat – the disciples had become successful at least as far as hooking up with Jesus was concerned – basking in the glow of his popularity.

BUT at the first sign of trouble their faith disappears into a vacuum.

 

When I offered these passages at my workshop in Toronto last week people were drawn, with a measure of anger, to Jesus who seems to be oblivious to the chaos all around him.

 

What I read in these passages is something of a call – in Paul’s case a kind of prescription – for a good life.

Patience even when dealing with fools.

Seek “understanding” rather than superior knowledge.

Live with love and honesty.

Seek serenity and integrity.

Focussing on these qualities we will achieve living “openly and expansively.”

 

Ernst Best 2 Corinthians (interp.) Best says it’s like revisiting the meaning of grace in your life again and again.

 

When I was on my last sabbatical one of the sermon topics I was given was: How can I find the courage to be quietly good and persistently good in the face of those who would change me?

 

Paul told those very early Christians that a life of faith = the basis for a good life.

Our faith contains a kind of template for good living.

When we practice our faith ie. when we use it every day – we discover that the challenges/obstacles, while very real, do not have to destroy or diminish us.

With faith we have an alternative to the bad behaviour of people around us.

 

A book was recently published by a management professor at Stanford University.

In it he gives a list of the behaviour of workplace jerks.

Actions that workplace jerks use:

Personal insults

Invading one’s personal territory

Uninvited personal contact

Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal

Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult-delivery systems

Withering email flames

Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims

Public shaming or status-degradation rituals

Rude interruptions

Two-faced attacks

Dirty looks

Treating people as if they are invisible

 

AUTHOR: Robert I. Sutton, Professor, Management of Science & Engineering, Stanford University, and author ofThe No Asshole Rule: Building a civilized workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (Warner, 2007). His blog is www.bobsutton.net  Copyright Robert Sutton © 2007 all rights reserved. Article used with the permission of the author.

 

To be good is often very different from being successful.

It is rarely about getting to the top or getting even BUT it is what Paul called a “Wide-open, spacious life” –> a life of grace -> a life that will be a blessing.

 

Go and make every day count -> leave a legacy that really matters.

Categories: Sermons