Are you guilty of Supererogation?

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A Sunday school class at church has been studying the Methodist Articles of Religion.  This is number eleven and it caught my eye:

Article XI — Of Works of Supererogation

Voluntary works—besides, over and above God’s commandments—which they call works of supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake than of bounden duty is required; whereas Christ saith plainly: When you have done all that is commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

Supererogation?  It sounds like someone who over waters their lawn.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the term before.  I had to look it up.  This statement, along with many of the other articles of religion, were written out of a Protestant response to Catholicism.

As best as I can describe it, Supererogation is over-doing it.  God expects X from you, but you do X2 hoping to keep the balance of your goodness in your own little spiritual bank account, that you can draw from on a rainy day.  (Or, to use to get out of doing penance for future wrong-doing).

Supererogation was one of Martin Luther’s main concerns when he launched the reformation.  His belief was that we’re called upon to do exactly what Christ requires of us — no less, no more.  To attempt to do more than is required is an act of impiety, going beyond Christs’s wishes in an arrogant way.

Although I’m fascinated with the Catholic perspective about this, I’m more interested today in how little this is talked about in churches I’ve been a part of.

I don’t think people are taught about supererogation.

In fact, I think we’re taught the opposite:  Serve Jesus till you drop!

The idea that Christ sets a limit on how much work you need to do would probably be a shock to several pastors I know, and church staff, and super-volunteers.

The whole Protestant work ethic prompts us to go-go-go!  That there is no end to the work we might do for Jesus.

In this article is the notion that Christ commands us to do only so much.  To do more than that is…excessive.  arrogant, even.

Maybe that is the main point.  There’s only so much we need to do.  There is no spiritual bank account to store your extra good deeds in.

There’s a reason for boundaries when it comes to work, even in Jesus’ name. Raise your hand if too much church work has ever burned you out before?

Perhaps you’re guilty of Works of Supererogation, driven by the notion that by working too hard you’re earning extra goody points. Don’t do that!

As the 4th commandment reminds us, life is about more than work.  Apparently Christ would have us discern that in our lives.

Don’t be lazy, of course.  And don’t be a workaholic, for God’s sake.

Just be a responsive, responsible disciple.

No less, no more.

Have a great week,

Mitch2927263748_e2a6e32e2e

The Little Red Invitation

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Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God. –Leviticus 25:17

Remember the Little Red Hen?

She found some wheat and wondered who would help turn it into bread.

“Not I” said the Pig.

“Not I” said the Cat.

“Not I” said the Rat.

Then, when the loaf of bread was hot, fresh and steaming, the Little Red Hen asked, “Who will help me eat the bread?”

“I will” said the Pig.

“I will” said the Cat.

“I will” said the Rat.

And the Little Red Hen said,

“Like h— you will!”And she ate the whole thing herself.

Or something like that.

I say Kudos to the Little Red Hen.  She stood up for herself.  She didn’t allow herself to be taken advantage of.

However…

I can’t help but ask the question…What would Jesus do?

Would Jesus have denied those other animals some bread because they were lazy and unhelpful?

Or would he have welcomed them to the table and fed them, even if they were undeserving?

Honestly, I’m not sure!

On the one hand, we preach a Gospel of Salvation by Faith alone.  Works are a response to Grace, not a requirement for it.

So the question is, do the Pig, the Cat, and the Rat offer up any sign of Faith?  Or are they more like the Goats–who say, “When did we see you in need of help and ignored you?”

To which Jesus says (gulp) “I never knew you.”

The invitation in our (United Methodist) liturgy says this:

Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wow.  The Pig and Cat and Rat don’t deserve that bread at ALL!”

Maybe.

But it’s the invitation that makes all the difference.

If the Little Red Hen, instead of flat-out denying the other animals because of their lack of effort, had spoken to them about what this bread means…

How it was prepared as a sign of Love…

How she was willing to share it with any of them who were willing to accept not just the bread, but the Love that came with it…

Maybe, just maybe, that loaf of bread could have been a means for transforming their lives.

Then the Little Red might not have felt so taken advantage of,

and the invitation to break bread

could have fallen on six willing ears.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Transparency

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For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  –Luke 8:17

 

So…perhaps you’re worried about your favorite presidential candidate.

Maybe they haven’t come clean about their health.  Or their tax records.

You could say that both leading presidential candidates are dealing with some transparency issues.  And it can make them look like they’ve got something to hide.

It’s a problem that anybody in the spotlight has to face:  How much goes public and how much stays private?

It’s not just a problem for famous people.  It’s a problem for you and I, too.

For instance:

If people thought you were grumpy, and it was because you have irritable bowel syndrome, that’s a transparency issue.

If fellow church members wondered why you were being so quiet, and it’s because your account was over-drafted and you didn’t know how to make it till payday, that’s a transparency issue.

If your mental illness keeps you from getting close to people, or your failing marriage keeps you from being social, or your ongoing struggle with alcohol makes you less fun at parties, those are issues with transparency!

In a better world we might share our weaknesses and illnesses with each other, expecting understanding and support, with no stigma attached. There are certain places and certain people where we can do that.

But in this world friendships hang in the balance, jobs can be on the line, and privacy can be essential.

In other words:  We can’t be transparent all the time.  It’s not always beneficial and it’s not always safe.

It’s important to remember that not everybody has to know everything about our lives…but God knows.

We must figure out how transparent to be with the people in our lives, but with God, there’s no hiding.

No holding back.

The Good News is that there’s no risk of embarrassment or judgment either.  God wants to know you, warts and all.

Here’s the cool thing:

When we willingly turn our whole lives over to God, we open ourselves to the fullness of God’s grace.  That grace is something we, in turn, can share with the people in our lives.

And the more grace we live with, the more transparent we may allow ourselves to be with others.

As for ‘Hil and Don?

I guess there may be some things that remain…

to be seen.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

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After Labor Day

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Here’s what I’m facing:

I sat down at my desk today and took a good long look at the fall ahead of me.  Yikes!  There’s a lot going on.  Do I have the energy?…
I checked the news and see one of the most contentious political races turning nastier by the day…
I fear that this broken world may yet get the best of me…

Thus begins a long, hard fall.

But I’m a rebel.  A maverick.

Let me tell you why.

Today it is officially post-Labor Day.

And when I got dressed this morning, I deliberately picked out something white to wear.

I’ve been wearing this white shirt everywhere I’ve gone today, and nobody has had the courage to tell me of my fashion faux pas to my face, but I know they’re thinking it.

That pastor is wearing white after labor day!

What can I tell you? I was born to break the rules.

Okay, okay, that’s not much of a “rule” to break.  That fashion advice went by the wayside years ago.

Which is good.  Because I think you and I should wear white all autumn long.

Why?

White is known as the color of innocence and purity.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. –Psalm 51:7

The Bible also points to white as symbolic of holiness:

 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. –Mark 16:5

Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.  –Ecclesiastes 9:8

 

And so I pray:

Instill in me, Jesus, a renewed innocence, that I may view the world through the eyes of a child, and the eyes of faith.
Grant me, Oh God, forgiveness and protection, that I may live in the purity of your Word.
Fill me, Spirit, with your holiness, that every step I take is a step closer to you.

 

Thus begins a long, hard fall.

And every day will be a labor day.

And I will endeavor

to wear white.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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