Most of the time, I have to figure out what to write for my Midweek Message. This week’s message practically fell into my lap.
Last Tuesday, during our staff chapel, as we were preparing to pray for the joys and concerns submitted by the congregation last Sunday, our Business Administrator Meagan Kempton led our morning devotional with a piece she found online. It turns out that it was written by a clergy colleague of mine, Rev. Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, of Coronado Community UMC in New Smyrna Beach. Rev. Degrenia gave me permission to share this remarkably profound and timely message with you:
TWO POCKETS: HEALTHY, FAITHFUL PERSPECTIVE
A well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi named Simcha Bunim used to say, “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says:
- ‘For my sake was the world created.’
- In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”
Rabbi Bunim went on to say one must know how to use the notes, each one in its proper place and at the right time. He knows us well. When misused, we hunker down in one pocket and make a home. We use a note to justify, judge and deflect self-examination.
“For my sake the world was created – I’m all that and a bag of chips.”
“I am dust and ashes – Eeyore is my best buddy.”
But, when we open to the wisdom of the notes, we accept we are not one or the other. We realize we are both notes. Both pockets. We see the wisdom of the notes in the wisdom of God’s Word which goes back and forth, naming us and reminding us who we are – beloved and dust. We are both and we need both.
“I am dust and ashes”
When we are too proud, too entitled, too full of ourselves, too self-sufficient, we reach in a pocket and remember “anokhi afar va’efer,” I am dust and ashes.
- I am small
- I am worthless
- I am mortal
- I am unclean
- I miss the mark, I stray from the path – that’s what the word sin literally means in Greek
- I am like everyone else who has ever lived and who will live
- I need a savior
Psalm 90:3 NRSV: You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
Ecclesiastes 3:20b NIV: All come from dust, and to dust all return.
Luke 9:41 NRSV: “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”
In Luke 3, John the Baptist is right to remind us we are a “brood of vipers” and of our need of repentance, to turn back to God’s path, not just with our words but our actions.
“For my sake was the world created”
Then, when we are discouraged, overwhelmed and losing faith (when we feel like dirt) we reach in the other pocket and remember bishvili nivra ha’olam, for my sake was the world created.
I am a unique and beloved child of the King of kings
- Christ loved me enough to die for me and raise me to new life
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made
- I am called
- I am gifted
- I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things for God
- God is using me in the salvation and transformation of the world
Psalm 8:4-8 NRSV: What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Psalm 139:14 NRSV: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
We stand with Jesus in our baptism, water washed, anointed with the fiery dove of the Holy Spirit, named and claimed by God as beloved children.
Jesus stepped into the water not out of his need but of ours. To remind us of our great need – I am dust and ashes. To remind us who we are in Him- For my sake the world was created.
PRAYER FOR PERSPECTIVE
And then, Rev. Degrenia offers this powerful prayer, which I invite you to pray with me:
Eternal and Beautiful God,
The One who births us and names us
Grant us perspective
A holy centering
of truth, humility and our belovedness
Not too high that we fall away from you
our need of you
our need of others
Not too low that we fail to trust
to reach out for you
to reach out with you
In you, with you, for you we are
humble and powerful
unique and alike
common and regal
priceless and dust
Grant us perspective, Merciful One
A holy centering
Let no voice be too loud
Or too soft
So we may persevere in faith
Grace and Peace,
THIS SUNDAY: MISSIONS CELEBRATION
Join us Sunday for our annual Mission Celebration. Our guest preacher is Derrick Scott. He is the Executive Director and United Methodist Campus Minister for the Campus to City Wesley Foundation in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Fl. He has been leading ministry to college students and young adults for more than 18 years. He is passionate about raising up a new generation of leaders and laborers who will live as disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world. Our Celebration also showcases the many ministries in our city, state and around the world that Hyde Park supports financially and through our volunteers.