Tag Archives: Communications

Gifts Differing

Ordinary Time
January 21, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:14-20

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. –Mark 1:16-20

A friend and I were planning a trip recently.  I had left our last conversation thinking we had reached a decision on our plans and just needed to finalize the reservations and so forth. The first words out of her mouth when we met were that she had received an ad in the mail about a meeting on Sunday where several travel agencies would explore various ideas on vacations. My first response was to say I could not attend because I had a conflict, which was true, but my gut was reacting with thoughts that we did not need any more input. At that point, it dawned on me that her process orientation and my goal orientation were bumping heads. One is not better than the other; both are necessary for good decision making. I am referring to Myers Briggs personality types*. In a nutshell, these types include 16 combinations of eight opposite traits: Introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, and goal oriented/process oriented. The idea is that all of these types are necessary for our world but by their very nature they can cause confusion and misunderstanding. Learning about the types builds better understanding of communication.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus selected the twelve disciples that he did? Why Paul carefully taught that there are different gifts and all are important? God created an interdependent world. Synergy ** results when two or more are gathered together to go about the business of doing God’s work. Our investment in learning from one another and learning how to work with one another is directly related to the success of our work in God’s service

Prayer: Creator God, give us insight and wisdom to complement each others talents and skills so they may be used to your glory. Amen.

*For more information see http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm?bhcp=1

**Briefly the total equals more than the sum of the parts.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Clarity of Expression

Ordinary Time
January 19, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I follow the lectionary in writing these daily devotions because it challenges me to read scriptures to which I might not otherwise pay attention. Some, like the one above, leave me wondering what is, in this case, Paul trying to say? I consulted the NRSV commentary and found that the scripture is included with other suggestions (?) Paul has for the Corinthians and us too today, for how to live in the world but not of the world. Now the commentary did say that Paul left out some verbiage probably making it difficult to translate. Does he mean when he says let those who have wives be as though they had none that they should play the single man with other women or avoid intimate relationships with their wives? I will confess that I have reviewed some of my writing and in hindsight wondered what I meant by what I wrote. I hope that has not happened too often regarding anything that was read by others. One can see why strange interpretations can arise from Biblical texts at times though.

I say that only to caution us to search for deeper meanings when we come across something that is not clear at least to us. My final action in such instances is to determine whether my understanding of the text passes what I like to call the test of love. Does my interpretation of this scripture pass the test of love? Perhaps reading Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 would guide such discernment.

Prayer: Lord, help us to communicate your word and your way so that they are blessings to others and not stumbling blocks. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Words Matter

Epiphany
February 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
–1 Corinthians 2:1-5

What we say or write matters. How we say something or write it matters. Words coming from our mouths or keyboards broadcast through people’s reception systems, which always filters them based on the receivers’ experiences and beliefs. Is it any wonder that Paul began his preaching with much trembling? He carried the weight of sharing the love of God to strangers with different languages and customs and their own gods and religious practices. We must choose our words carefully and we must be willing to revisit conversations where misunderstandings occur.

I wrote a document recently for a Commission on which I serve outlining some ideas regarding ways churches might reduce racism. I emailed it to the other members of the group and asked for comments. The first response I received was a retired minister whose primary comment was that if he were still a senior minister, he probably would never have read it at all. It was too long. He was right. We live in a world of 250 characters. I do exactly what he was describing myself. I get numerous emails every day from respected sources but rarely get past the first paragraph of many of them. Some I leave on my computer thinking I will get back to them but rarely do.

How do we demonstrate Spirit and power in a 250-character driven world? How do we build the Kingdom of God in the digital age? How do we deepen our understanding amid the beautiful diversity in which we find ourselves? How do we overpower evil with good? How do we love like Jesus loves?

Paul juggled these questions and determined the only way he could answer his call to minister to the gentiles was to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ. I think it is a human tendency to project our righteousness as God’s justice. I think Paul is saying we need to squelch that desire, let go of our self-defined righteousness, and worked diligently toward identifying with God’s.

Prayer: Lord, changing decades of definitions regarding what is just and what is not is hard. Trying to find common ground among diverse people is a challenge. All good and right things are possible through you. Use our lives as resources toward building your Kingdom. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Making the Diverse One

Advent
December 1, 2016

Scripture Reading: Romans 15:4-13

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that thbilingual_speaker_2_by_getty_imagese Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name’ –Romans 15:7-9

Making the diverse one is easier said than done. Paul felt called to take the message of Jesus to non-Jewish people. People unacquainted with the rich, ancient traditions of Judaism. He walked a fine line as he helped Jews, steeped in the faith from the womb, equally welcome the Gentiles who in Jewish perception were unclean. Do we get a sense of the massive communications problems with which Paul dealt? He could not say, “It is like the Exodus or the exiles” with the expectation that his Gentile audience had any idea about what he spoke. Paul apparently knew the works of the ancient Greek philosophers and could weave them into his discussions with Gentiles but most likely not with Jews.

We face the same challenge today with an even wider canvass of differences in a world with instant communications. Millions can read an off-handed tweet sent in a burst of anger in a few minutes. We are quickly becoming a populace not trusting much if anything we read at least on social media. We are also being distracted by what is probably less than relevant in the long run, while important issues land at the bottom of the rubble of postings and responses. I do not see this as either good or bad. It is change. We will adapt to it, hopefully for the good. I once advised state employees never to send anything via email that they would not mind their mother reading on the front page of the local paper. I think that is even better advice today.

During this Advent season let us examine all our communications considering whether they support oneness. If they do not, how can they be changed to help us become one?

Prayer: Lord, may the words of my mouth, and my tweets and my emails and all my posts and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you*. Amen.

*Derived from Psalm 19:14

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.