Monday, March 3, 2014 – Week of Last Epiphany, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 25 (morning) // 9, 15 (evening)
Proverbs 27:1-6, 10-12
John 18:15-18, 25-27
We’ve all had days when we wonder, “What’s the point?” Whether we ask this question when struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or when collapsing onto the couch after a long day, we wonder what our lives amount to.
I imagine that Paul had similar days. His own prompts for wondering “what’s the point?” probably came after exhaustion in the mission field, fallings-out with his fellow evangelists, poor responses to his fundraising letters, and struggles within the communities that he had founded with such high hopes. These are common triggers for self-doubt and skepticism: tiredness, conflict, budget shortfalls, and disappointments.
It’s worth joining Paul and spelling out for ourselves what we expect the minimum impact of our lives and our faith to be. Paul does this for the Philippians, telling them what simple, basic effects that he expects their Christian faith to have. To paraphrase Paul, “If there’s any point at all to our faith, if there’s any effect that Christ’s love should have in your life, it’s this.”
To go on in Paul’s actual words, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” This, for Paul, is the whole point—to take on a mind that abandons self-interest as the driving force of our lives.
This is what Paul longed for on rough days: A Christian community that was not ambitious, not conceited, and not self-interested. A people who would not take comfort their own success, safety, or moral superiority. A church that would let Christ really sink into our hearts and minds.
This self-giving response puts Christianity to the test. If we don’t respond to Christ by abandoning narrow self-interest and pursuing the common good, then there’s just no point to our faith. But, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy “—any truth or goodness in our faith—then we will respond by reorienting our ambitions, our ethics, and our interests toward the good of others.
If Paul were writing for the Episcopal church, he might have added, “If there is any sustenance in the Eucharist, any inspiration in the Book of Common Prayer, any hope in the Hymnal.” If there are such things, then we will define our success by serving and fighting for others rather than by serving our own self-interest or anxiously protecting ourselves. Is our association with Christ having this effect in our lives? This should be the minimum impact as we worship, pray, and encounter Christ in Word and Sacrament—that we adopt the mind of Christ. Otherwise, there’s just no point.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.