Heroes and Villains: Nebuchadnezzar

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Daniel 4:13-17, 23-33.

Have you ever been told “You are getting too big for your britches?” Ahhh britches – one of those great Southern words, most likely appropriated from the English word breeches meaning trousers or – another personal favorite – pantaloons!

This might be hard for some of you to conceive (okay, maybe not), but it is very uncommon that I do not have a comment or opinion about the goings-on around me. I have had this quality from a very young age. My mother was raised in a house where children were seen and not heard and children did not speak until spoken to…that trait definitely skipped over me!

Due to my propensity to talk – and yes, even talk back – I heard “you are getting too big for your britches” as a chorus throughout my formative years. Perhaps the intent of hearing that phrase was to get me to be quiet…but that was not the effect it had on me. Rather, I heard that phrase…and after being a little irritated…would check in with my behavior. Was the concern with what I was saying or how I was saying it? Was I speaking from facts or from half-truths and hippopotamus-sized opinions? Was I engaged in an argument – a form of intelligent discourse that includes disagreement – or was I being argumentative?

Growing into our britches, if you will, is a vital part of the maturation process physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a process by which we become authorities, just not the authority. I believe this was Nebuchadnezzar’s folly.

The Book of Daniel details several accounts of Nebuchadnezzar getting too big for his britches. He is the Babylonian King and while the empire is his world, the world is not his empire. He abuses his power, he overreaches his authority, and in response, God intervenes and holds the monarch accountable. Nebuchadnezzar has dreams that precede or intercede his “too big” behaviors that Daniel interprets for him but to no avail. Like the Israelites that Nebuchadnezzar now calls “subjects,” he does what is right in his own eyes; he is too big for his own britches to his detriment…or should I say detrimoo-nt?

Although Nebuchadnezzar displays some behaviors that we do not want to emulate, he displays others that are quite useful to us. He asks questions, he seeks counsel…problems arose when he did not follow through on the answers given and counsel received.

Asking questions and seeking counsel are incredible assets to me as an individual and a leader. I ask answers so I do not assume. I seek counsel to invite a wider community into the decision-making process. Both of these behaviors are important practices in the act of discernment. Discernment encourages maturation without getting too big for our britches.

Consider in your daily interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors – how could you ask more questions or seek counsel? Identify the places where you may too easily become too big for your britches. Where are you an authority and need to remember you are not the authority? How can you engage in arguments without being argumentative?

Discern and then apply, and together we will mature with God.

Join us this Sunday in worship as we celebrate Samantha Aupperlee’s three years of ministry with us at Tuskawilla! She will preach both services as part of her farewell to the TUMC Family before beginning her seminary studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in August. Thank you, Samantha, for your preparation and leadership in worship this week. We adore you and look forward to celebrating you on Sunday!

Prayer: “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. For thyself, best Gift Divine, to the world so freely given, for that great, great love of thine, peace on earth, and joy in heaven: Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”* Amen.

*“For the Beauty of the Earth,” The United Methodist Hymnal 92.

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Just Walk Across The Room: Roles

Sunday’s Scripture ~ First Corinthians 9:19-23

This past Tuesday I completed my volunteering in a first grade class at the neighboring elementary school to Reeves.  This class of 17 six and seven year old taught me each time I visited them about true joy, hardwork, striving for excellence, and perseverance.  I am thankful that after 180 days these precious children will enjoy a great summer (although it’s very soggy today…six days into the 2013 Hurricane Season and Tropical Storm Andrea is just dumping precipitation on the Sunshine Rainy State).  I will miss these students and treasure the lessons they taught me.

At the beginning of each week the first graders would select jobs or roles they would serve in their classroom family for the week.  Roles ranged from doorholder to caboose to messenger to weather reporter to librarian to substitute, to teacher helper to day-of-the-week friend, to number-of-school-days-friend, and more!  There were 17 first graders and therefore 17 roles to fill.

The students took great responsibility in their roles.  They were always quick to jump up and perform or live into their role.  If they were a little slow to get up sometimes the substitute would move to stand in…or step on the toes of the student that was to be in that particular role.  When this happened, it didn’t go over well, because that role belonged to that particular student.  He or she took pride in completing it, serving his or her classmates in that way.

In the Scripture passage this week Paul talks about the role he played in “walking across the room” so that others would grow in their relationship with Christ.  Essentially he became all things to all people.  He adjusted or modified himself in order to meet people where they were and nurture them in their relationship with Christ.

Somedays he was prophet.  Somedays he was teacher.  Somedays he was pastor.  Somedays he was companion.  Somedays he was mentor.  Paul was attuned to the Spirit, which led him in the role he was to play at each time, and place, and community.

As we continue to read Scripture we can also identify times where Paul possibly pushed the role he was meant to live into a bit far and the situation became reactive by either escalating to argument or dissolving into frustration.  This is Scriptural evidence that we are called to only play the role set before us as led by the Spirit in each time, place, and community when we venture to walk across the room.

I hope as I – as we, the children of God – walk across the room we do so with discerning minds, connected to the Spirit so we know what role it is we are to engage in that space.  And I hope that I – we – do so in the passion of the first graders I spent three hours a week with for the past 20 weeks – excited, ready to work hard, to show what we know, and not let anyone take our place.

Let’s know our role.  And let’s walk across the room.

Prayer: “I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have born my peoples pain.  I have wept for love of them, they turn away.  I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.  I will speak my word to them,  Whom shall I send?  Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?  I have heard You calling in the night.  I will go Lord, if You lead me.  I will hold Your people in my heart.”*  Amen.

*”Here I Am, Lord” from The United Methodist Hymnal, 593.

God’s Balance Sheet: Lessons in Stewardship ~ Give With Us

Sunday’s Scripture Passages ~ Numbers 10:29-32; Proverbs 11:24-25; Acts 20:28-35

I am constantly amazed by where God’s Spirit leads me in the discernment of my sermons (and subsequently) the discernment of these blog posts.  This is where God led me this week…

This Sunday concludes our time spent with God’s Balance Sheet – Lessons in Stewardship.  The annual giving campaign at my church this year was entitled Give With Us and each week we thoughtfully explored what it means for individuals to collectively give to the furtherance of God’s Kingdom on earth.

This Sunday – the Sunday after a holiday where we pause to give thanks for our many blessings – Reeves will pause as a congregation to receive and rejoice for the riches that will be shared by individuals in the service of the Kingdom for the coming year.

All this got me thinking…what will all of this mean?

What’s next?

What all of it means is that we are continuing our legacy at Reeves.  And what a fruitful, Spirit-led, Christ-founded legacy it will be!

What’s next?  Well, I don’t know for sure.

What I do know for sure is there is great truth in the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  There have been several times in my life (and I’m sure there will be several, several more) where I have said, “God, where are you in this?!”  Frustrated, in the moment, I could not see.  But after that moment, in looking back I can see where God was creating space, crafting circumstances, and moving me into place, readying me to respond.  The path I have walked and continue to walk is part of my legacy.  It tells me where I have been and helps inform where I am going.

The same can be said for the church.  Throughout the ages God’s people have been crying out, “God, where are you in this?!”  And sometimes generations pass before the people are able to reflect and identify, “There.  God is there doing what it is that God does so well.”

The path the church walks and continues to walk is part of the church’s legacy – both the Church universal and the portion of Church I serve at Reeves.  Our legacy tells us where we have been and helps inform where we are going.  And our constant discernment and seeking the Lord’s guidance challenges us to further commit ourselves in strengthening our legacy through our service and stewarding of our resources.

Give With Us has been an opportunity for the family of faith at Reeves to consider our stewardship practices, to consider how Christ stewards us, and finally, to consider how we will participate in the legacy of the Kingdom.

I think we all want to leave a legacy.  And a good one, too.

Prayer: Legacy by Nichole Nordeman