Two Hands Open: One to Give, the Other to Receive
Reflecting on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: One Day after Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 58
Old Testament: Jeremiah 2:23-37
Epistle: Hebrews 13:7-21
Psalter: Psalm 119:65-72
Old Testament: 2 Chronicles 12:1-12
Epistle: Hebrews 13:7-21
God of power and justice, like Jeremiah you weep over those who wander from you, turn aside to other gods, and enter into chaos and destruction. By your tears and through your mercy, teach us your ways and write them on our hearts so that we may follow faithfully the path you show us. Amen.
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:15-16)
I have spent many years taking short term mission trips to Cuba to teach in the Methodist seminary in Havana. It has been one of highlights of my life.
The missionary that first recruited me, who sadly passed away, had a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for mission. He also had a keen sense for how to go about mission work in other cultures. One of the things he most feared was recruiting someone who would go to Cuba with the “I am here to save and deliver you” attitude (a.k.a. “the ugly American”).
Joel told all the persons he recruited that they go into Cuba with two hands open—one to give what we are able by God’s grace, and the other to receive what the Christians in Cuba have to offer us by that very same grace. Every time I go to Cuba, I am told by the brothers and sisters there how much I bless them; but I am the one who returns home even more blessed in what I have received.
When willing and faithful service to God are combined with an attitude of humility, God can perform the miraculous and touch the lives of everyone involved. The work that God does in multiplying that work cannot be adequately measured nor humanly appraised in value. It transcends the brief time we are together in mission and it moves beyond the geography of the particular place where the gospel is presented and lived out. What we plant gets watered by others and God is the one who makes the work grow (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
In the midst of such work we come to realize that “we” is the operative word when it comes to the human endeavor. No one individual is indispensable to the purposes of God in this world, but we find that as we, the church serve as one community of faith in the U.S. and in Cuba, God accomplishes more than we can possibly imagine as lone individuals. And in the end we must never forget that the work ultimately is God’s and it is a privilege to be co-laborers with God in Jesus Christ in service to the Kingdom.
PRAYER: Redeeming Sustainer, visit your people and pour out your strength and courage upon us, that we may hurry to make you welcome not only in our concern for others, but by serving them generously and faithfully in your name. Amen.
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