Resting In God's Spirit
By Charles Rush
December 17, 2006
Isaiah 11: 1-5
(mp3, 4.6Mb) ]
e Spirit of the Lord be upon you"… That has a rich ring to it, does it not? I bet some of you are wishing you had just a wee bit more of the divine Spirit on you just now. This is the second year in a row that my family has taken a sabbatical from 'gift giving'. I have to tell you this is a very cool thing to do once in a while. We decided to travel together for the holidays to visit our Son Ian, his wife and our granddaughter in Hawaii instead of giving presents. I was all for it, as I am a pretty typical Man… I hate to shop.
I had an
interesting experience the other day. I had to get something at the Short Hills
Mall and I realized that, quite by accident, I haven't actually been there in
well over a year. I'm walking around, all these new stores, much better new and
improved crap at the Sharper Image. I found myself generating desire. An hour
earlier, I had been perfectly happy in my ignorant bliss, now I needed more and
more crap as I walked around. And if I could have afforded it, I would have
purchased half a dozen relatively superfluous items for myself and my family
just because it is great crap. I'm thinking to myself, this is very effective
marketing because I'm a guy that has devoted his vocation in a different
direction and still I could pick up almost everything in Williams Sonoma. I had
that same crashing realization that I get reading the Sunday Style section of
the New York Times or the New York magazine. This stuff gets me
thinking on all the wrong ways. It gets me going on all the wrong values, so I
finally stopped reading them.
The holiday season is curious like
that. The truth is that this couple of weeks is usually filled with quite a bit
of anxiety. I was talking to a friend the other day who called to report a full
blown screaming match he had with his spouse in front of the kids. It revolved
around extended family issues.
But if it is not that, there are end
of the year performance reviews and preparations for bonuses in the next few
weeks- cause for joy this year- but there is always anxiety about the size of
the pie relative to everyone else. For some of us, we are over-extended and
that comes home in a big way right now.
For most of our mothers, there is
really more than we need to do, more expectation to create something special,
and a 'to do' list that is expanding. The truth is, this is actually a pretty
anxious time of year. It feels like stuff could boil up.
We could use a bit of the Spirit of the Lord upon us… a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a
Spirit that delights in God, and shows favor upon those that are in need all
You've seen that survey where a group
of psychologists asked kids about the meaning of love.
Noelle, aged 7, said "Love is
when you tell a guy you like his shirt, and then he wears it every day."
Noelle is on to it.
Tommy, the realist, aged 6, said
'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends
even after they know each other so well.'
Cindy, aged 8, had a good insight.
Said she 'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked
at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the
only one doing that. I wasn't scared any
Terri, only aged 4, said, 'Love is what
makes you smile when you are tired.'
And it is about doing for others and
giving for others as Chrissy notes, aged 6, "Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody
most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.'
And on our best days, I think Bobby
is right, aged 7. He said, "Love is what's in the room with you at
Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
That is the Spirit that we hope to
invoke in this season of anxiety.
I love these presents that we
collect. On Thursday night, December 21, our Confirmands will go to Manhattan, pass our sandwiches and soup, and
give out the Christmas presents. I'm glad we do that. I'm glad that I get to be
part of that because it helps get me thinking in the right direction and
thinking about the right things.
The best part of what we do at
Bridges is the personal part. We know these men and women by name. I got an
e-mail from one of you this week, wanting to buy a coat for them… the note said
'I've know him for years.' That personal part is big, especially because when
you become homeless, your identity starts to fade. It is harder to get
documentation without an address and if you lose your license, it is much
harder to get it replaced… And after a few losses over a few years, you start
to become an anonymous bag lady. For some of them, it has been years since any
of their family or friends has cared about them specifically, done something
for them, the ordinary gestures of kindness that we experience every month.
These are important and without them we spiritually shrivel. That is why Jesus
taught us that in God's eyes, everybody is a child of God.
We take these requests in November.
If Santa could bring you something what would it be? We write it down, give it
to you all, then 6 weeks later, we deliver what we have. I remember about 4
years ago, when this program was just getting going, we ordered some boots,
like sized 15 for Lawrence Brown. It is not easy to even find boots for sized
15 feet but someone did.
We are standing around the back of
the truck and one of my 8th graders called out 'Lawrence Brown'. From the
middle of the crowd, I heard 'Yeah, I'm Larry Brown'. He was astonished to
actually hear his own name. She said, 'I have something for you.' We walked
over to a bench together and sat down, Larry weighed 320 minimum, 6 feet 5
maybe 6 inches… My 8th grader reached in her shopping back, pulled out a
wrapped box. Larry said, 'What is this?' as he started opening it.
Now, here is this big, hulking guy,
probably 40, looks like 55, worn down by a life on the street. But as he is
tearing off his Christmas paper, you can almost see him in his pajamas on
Christmas morning because the expression on his face is still the same as it
always was. He opens the box and says, "Aw man, my boots. You remembered
my boots. You remembered me."
Plus, and here is the cool thing
about Summit, these were like nice boots, name brand boots. This was like
a real nice gift. The three of us just sat there, Larry lacing up some new
boots, trying to figure out what to do with the old ones. The financial
district is starting to empty out. It is cold. The Christmas decorations adorn
the bank windows. I can't think of any place more important to be for the
holidays. It just feels right.
On Christmas eve, we have a tradition
of taking up a collection at the Christmas eve services and splitting it
between a worth while charity that is picked by the Board of World Fellowship
and giving the other half to a family in need in our area. Usually these
families are identified by one of you. Usually we will know about the specific
nature of the need. I guess just about every year, in between services, one of
our treasurers hands me a thick stack of small bills. I write a note that says
something like, "We know that this will make a difference in this season.
In the fullness of time, you will know how to pass the blessing forward. Grace
and Peace be with you… Christ Church." Then I go with one of your,
or a Deacon, or Julie and we knock on someone's front door.
They don't know me. I don't know
them. So it is usually a little incredulous. I introduce myself, assure them
that we aren't going to stay, but that I'm just delivering something, and I
hand them a thickly envelope with a note card in it. They usually smile. I wish
them a "Merry Christmas" and we walk away. It is too hard to receive
too much in front of other people and that is not the point but I am curious.
One year, I was walking back to the
truck, and I stopped and looked back through a side window. This family had
been through medical issues and they wanted to be with their extended family
but they were just out of cash, so they were alone. I had handed this envelope
to the wife and she had opened it by the time I looked back through the window.
She had her head in her husband’s chest and he was holding her, rubbing her back.
I'm walking back to the truck but I was thinking to myself, 'This is just way
cool' what we do. This is what it is about. It is about giving and taking care
of other people. Making a spiritual and material difference in someone's life.
I hope the Spirit of God rests upon
you this season and that you can give and make a difference.
The greatest scholar of the medieval
world, Maimonides, the Physician who was also a Jewish theologian, said there
are 8 degrees of charity.
The most basic is when you give but
only reluctantly or with regret.
Then there are those who give but not
Then there are those who give
cheerfully and they give enough, but not until someone asks them.
Then there are those who give, who
give enough, but in such a way that they draw a lot of attention to themselves.
Then there are those who give
cheerfully, who give a bunch, and who do it anonymously because it is the right
thing to do. That is what Jesus enjoined us to do. Jesus used to say, 'Great is
your reward in Heaven'. That is to say, this is intrinsically beneficial. Needs
are being met around you and you are growing in 'soul strength'.
Finally, of course, Maimonides, said
that the highest form of giving is the prevention of poverty altogether. It is
a community where a working wage can sustain people and it is a community where
everyone is included in the benefits of the economy so that no one must seek
charity. The top of the ladder of charity is justice, the goal towards which we
must stay focused. It is intrinsically spiritually rounded for everyone
involved. As our scripture says this morning, 'With righteousness, he shall
judge on behalf of the poor and he shall decide with equity for the meek of the
earth.' Everyone has a place. Everyone gets remembered. Everyone has the simple
joy of being gifted.
You know that we need your money at Christ Church. You know that we need $3500/ family
to stay afloat. But that is not quite the central point. You need to give. Most
of you here need to give more than you are giving and not just to the Church.
You need to give because you can and because you need to become spiritually
stronger than you are.
I pray that in the midst of this
season of anxiety, the true Spirit of God will rest upon you and that you will
become a giver. I hope you give your money and make a difference. I hope you
give yourself and become warm, humane, and intimate with your family and your
friends. I hope you give thoughtful and caring gestures of good will, creative,
transforming little blessings to people around you. Bring them joy, blessing,
healing. It drives back anxiety. It keeps the malingering depression of the
short days at bay. It makes you a stronger, more rounded character. Rest in the
Spirit. Be the best you can be. Amen.
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