Today’s Readings: Amos 6:1-8; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; Isaiah 12:2-6
I was talking with a retired clergy friend of mine a few weeks ago when he asked me what it was like to do ministry these days.
“What do you mean,” I asked – not sure of what he was getting at.
“Well, we are living in some of the most challenging economic times our country has faced since the Great Depression. Don’t you feel overwhelmed by the challenge of maintaining a church in the face of this?!”
His question stopped me dead in my tracks because I had truthfully not slowed down and thought about great the challenges we are facing these days was.
“And why not?” my colleague asked.
“Because I haven’t experienced a sense of overwhelming negativity within the churches I have served. In fact, I’ve been impressed by the can-do spirit I’ve seen alive and well in these churches in spite of these hardships.”
Those words might have sounded a bit corny to my friend, but they make perfect sense when held up in light of today’s reading from 2 Corinthians. In that passage Paul noted: “Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected,” Paul observed. “An outpouring of pure and generous gifts” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3 from The Message).
Those words reminded me of a powerful truth that periods of hardship can reveal when experienced communally: that truth is “we are all in it together”. That truth can produce an amazing strength within a community and help members of the community reach down deep and tap into an abundance of blessings it never realized it had before. It can inspire folks to find creative new ways to contribute to the life of the community. Most importantly, it allows members of the community to re-examine their lives and see what things are essential and must be held on to - and what things are extraneous and can be let go of. In other words, hard times can help us develop clarity about our identity and purpose in the world.
Perhaps you have been facing a period of hardship in your life. Maybe its relational, maybe it’s financial, or maybe it’s spiritual. Whatever the case, I would invite you to find some time today and reflect on what insights this hardship has produced for you. Those insights may not entirely make up for the pain of the losses you might have experienced– but those insights can help you connect with a spirit of abundance that you might have lost touch with: a spirit that will help sustain you through the remaining challenges that may lie ahead. Til next time…