Author Archives: wlebolt
Dear World, forgive me.
In my desire to share what is so important to me, so necessary, so powerful, so helpful, so true, I have neglected to notice this about you: your cup is not empty.*
Willing students, perhaps, come with polished, expectant cups. Some with them behind their backs, waiting to see if the offering is worth the sloshing that would come with the filling.
But all others who come, even the parched and those drunk on new wine, come with cups that are not empty. They are filled with what the world has already had to offer. People and places, ideas and conversations, mothers and fathers, families, traditions and cultures. So much.
If I want to pour my ideas into your cup, I need to understand what’s already there. Perhaps sit and sip a while. Have some tea and a teacake. Listen and look. Waft and taste. Touch and let myself be touched.
Only newborn children come with empty cups.
We fill them. The world fills them. With good things and love. With encouragement and praise. Or not. Oh holy Lord, sometimes … With abuse and neglect. With harsh words or impossible expectations. With hunger, loneliness, violence, despair. Lord, let us be bearers of hope for these.
Friend, your cup is not empty and neither is mine.
World, forgive me. Lord, forgive us. For our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. May we taste and see, seeking first to understand.
*Melinda Gates in her book, The Moment of Lift.
World, you have some explaining to do!
This question needs an answer and I’m done waiting.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
To strengthen them, World replies.
But a person who is dear to me is now very weak.
Ah, but you are only looking at what you can see.
And you can see more?
Not exactly, but I think you’re missing something.
You, of sound body, are fixated on muscle tone as your strength representative.
On regular heartbeat and evenness of breath as indication of your vitality.
You are looking with near sight. I am seeing into the distance.
What do you see from a distance?
Not, from a distance. In the distance.
I am standing right there with you. In you, right here.
Looking out upon.
Oh, what do you see? Help me see, too.
Shift your gaze, dear one.
Look past weakness, to strength.
Look past rhythmic, to constant.
Look past steady, to stalwart.
Look past what’s before you to what’s beyond you and invite it into focus.
What do you see now?
Quite miraculous is the human mind, this amazing collection of circuits that have stood the test of time. That we, though lowly humans, are able to encounter our perception and grant entry to the wisdom of the universe.
In our weakness, We are strong and getting stronger.
Sheep and goats. Goats and sheep. That’s all we are. All we’ve ever been. All we’ll ever be. But here’s the rub, which are we?
Recently, I have been hearing a lot folks say they are tiring of the battle. Tired of the in-fighting. Tired of the online fighting. Tired of the rock-throwing, vitriol spewing free-for-all they are witnessing among their friends and family and in their community. They say with a sigh, “I just want to be part of Matthew 25 community.”
The Matthew 25 society they seek refers to the parable of the sheep and the goats — the one where Jesus does his sorting.
To the sheep on his right, he says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.“
To the goats on his left, he says, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
What’s a bit unnerving is that both sheep and goats respond to Jesus’ proclamation the same way. “When?… When did we see you?” Apparently, we don’t get to keep our own score. We aren’t privy to our sheep or goat status. What separates sheep from goats is the did or did not.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Jesus is in each of these interactions, and counting it for or against us.
We don’t get to record our own righteousness. Jesus does that. If we want a Matthew 25 community, we can build it, attending to one need at a time. Beginning with our own need of a Savior, who will help us with our deepest longings and strengthen us in our weakness. In our gratitude, we’ll begin feeling sheepish.
I have a sneaking suspicion that when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with him, and he sits on his throne, if he looked out upon all the nations gathered before him it would be to his utter delight to say, “Y’all come.”
Perhaps he knows though, that very likely there then would be a mad dash to the Kingdom door, with pushing and shoving and trampling. He would have to appear in the rear of His glory and remind us, The last shall be first… You goats in the back need not bother. Perhaps the separation of right and left is just his way of keeping things orderly so no one gets hurt.
The church is funny that way. Sometimes, it seems, that we think the ordering is up to us. Then in our trying to keep things orderly people end up getting hurt. I remember my hurt when I was a new Christian and, while I sat in the coffee shop reading my NIV version of the Bible, a total stranger approached in order to share that I was reading the wrong version of the Bible. The King James version was the only right one. What a goat, right?
Not necessarily; not my call. But certainly anyone witnessing this moment left with a sour taste in their mouth. Surely, at the very least, we should be living as good pasture grass so no ewe sheep will be driven to the goats.
What if, instead of aspiring to be sheep and not goats, we considered this sincere and honest admission from Abraham Lincoln. When asked why, with his obvious interest in religious matters and his familiarity with the Bible, he did not join a church, Lincoln replied:
When any church will inscribe over its altars, as its sole qualification for membership, the Savior’s condensed statement for the substance of both Law and gospel, “Though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and thy neighbor as thyself,” that church I will join with all my heart and soul.”Henry C Deming, Congressman from Connecticut, as quoted by Carl Sandburg in the introduction to Lincoln’s Daily Devotional
I want to be part of THAT community. Don’t you?