Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
I recently received a card from a friend. The front of it says, “Even when someone IRRITATES the crap out of you, you can still love them.” And then you open it up to find, “You taught me that.” I laughed and laughed and then laughed some more. But then I stopped. Why do I find that sooooo funny? What about that sentiment makes that a ridiculous statement or two?
Then it hit me. That card is so funny because community is hard stuff and I live in a space where I am expected to serve everyone by virtue of my job and call. It is funny because it is true! I am passionate about community. Therefore, I have learned how to love those I don’t even like. In our society, we don’t always make it that far. We are quick to want instant results that benefit our situation. It is sometimes too hard to stay in relationship. It is far too easy to just cut someone off. It is a large temptation in our world to give up on one another.
Today we are called to take a hard look at this temptation. Are we giving someone up because they just irritate us or are we setting healthy boundaries around someone and still finding ways to be in community with each other?
Isaiah is a call back into community. The prophet calls out hope and possibility in the face of impossibility. While the people of Israel are exiled it seems like it would be easy to give up on one another and walk away from the work to be done and yet here we are called back to the waters, called back to the feast.
Jesus shows us what it means to not give up on one another through parable. In the midst of great tragedy, when it would be easy to throw in the towel, Jesus presents a parable about tending to a fig tree that doesn’t bear fruit rather than getting rid of it. Notice there is a limit to this grace, but there is grace nonetheless. There is a timeline to when the tree needs to respond (notice not staying in a relationship that doesn’t give fruit after grace) but it is still cared for and not given up on.
We have a call in community to give the other another chance. With grace, honest communication, confession and forgiveness, we are called to come back to community over and over again even on days when every person irritates us or disappoints us or rubs us the wrong way. Without getting trampled on, we are called to not give up on each other right away. How are we connected once again this season?
Quotes for the Week
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” ― Chief Seattle
“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.” ― Albert Schweitzer
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
“I consider conversations with people to be mind exercises, but I don’t want to pull a muscle, so I stretch a lot. That’s why I’m constantly either rolling my eyes or yawning.” ― Jarod Kintz
“I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” ― Charles M. Schulz
Isaiah 55:1-9 (NRSV) Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV) At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Questions for the Week
What is the hardest part about being a part of a community?
Are you tempted to give up on people? If so, why?
What is your technique for staying in relationship with others? Is this a spiritual practice?