Our Own Worst Enemy
The one thing in our experience that we have absolute control over is how we frame our experiences and the world around us. It may not seem like it, but this is a tremendous amount of power. With this power comes great responsibility. We are responsible to educate ourselves so that we can clearly see and make sense of the facts that are set out before us. As simple and straightforward as this sounds, we know that it is anything but that. We have biases that skew the way we interpret otherwise straightforward facts. The variables that we all deal with come from upbringing, education, relationship experiences, the hard knocks of life and the experiences of friends and loved ones, just to name a few. No matter how much we try to filter out these biases, the reality is that none of us can truly solve for all of these variables. The best metaphor would be trying to hold the ocean back with a broom. These limitations also apply to our view and understanding of God.
Theology Shapes Ministry
This reality is sometimes the hardest to nail down. To state it simply, it begins with our general response to our understanding of the basic identity of God. If God is a harsh taskmaster that brings punishment and pain to those who step out of line, our life and faith will take on the task of making sure we don’t step out of line. This view of God bolsters the mistaken perception that we should be terrified of God (fear). In this mindset we will hold ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It often leads to an obsession to follow all the rules and do everything we can to avoid God. It’s kind of like how we used to avoid our parents when we did something wrong. If, on the other hand, we see God as gracious and forgiving our response will be different. We might then interpret God’s presence in our life as a source of renewal, healing and transformation. If that is how we see God, we are much more likely to seek out and be open to seeing and being with God every day. We would certainly be more disposed to living the kind of lives that become means of extending this grace to others.
Going All In
There is a term in Hold ‘em Poker…going all in. A player goes all in either because the player absolutely believes they have the winning hand; or, they want their opponents to think they have the winning hand and will drop out rather than risk more of their chips. In either case, going all in is a risky proposition. Our text for Sunday is about the spiritual equivalent of going all in. Jesus tells the parable about three persons who receive an incredible gift from their master. It is an extravagant gift, even though it is a different amount for each. The first two people would appear to have a favorable view of the master and upon receiving the gift they immediately get to work and in time, they double their money. They take responsibility for themselves and their view of the world and they do something extraordinary. The third person is mired in a different view of the master. This person is suspicious of the motives of the master and acts accordingly. They make excuses to justify their actions and refusal to take responsibility for what they have been given. This person’s view of the master, which clearly doesn’t align with reality, and his unwillingness to take responsibility leaves him separated from the master and from the community. Jesus’ intent in telling this parable is to encourage us in how to live in difficult and uncertain times. It is meant to also encourage trust and confidence in God’s promise to be present in our life, always working for renewal and restoration. I invite you to join on our Sunday live stream as we consider what it means to go “all in”.