I'm reflecting on the custom of gift-giving, which is grounded in God's greatest gift to us. We spend a lot of time selecting just the right gifts for our loved ones. And what shall I give to God? Advent provides me with the opportunity to consider that question.
Today, I'm thinking the gift of my trust is something God would value.
John the Baptizer had the task of pointing others to a greatness into which he himself did not enter. That required a great deal of trust on his part. In a Bible study course on the gospels, when we came to Matthew 11:2-11, the passage where John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah, the question arose, “Was John having second thoughts? Did he have doubts that Jesus was the long-awaited anointed one?”
I don’t think John was having second thoughts about Jesus. I think John realized his particular task was just about complete. His fate was sealed. The last thing he needed to do was to send his own disciples to Jesus so that they could join in following him. It was not John but John’s disciples, therefore, who needed convincing that day. So they said to Jesus: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And, Jesus reply was meant for them that they might believe – as eyewitnesses to his Messianic work: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And, blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Someone tells of how from the windows of his house every evening he used to watch the lamplighter go along the streets lighting the lamps. But the lamplighter was blind. He was bringing others light that he would never see. Like the lamplighter, John had to trust that his work had a purpose beyond what he could see with his own eyes.
Trust! That’s something I want to give God this year. But it is a costly gift.
It is so easy to fall into doubt and fear, especially during this horrible pandemic. The best way to resist doubt and fear is to practice trust; Trust God and one another to get us through. Frankly, practicing trust is harder than giving in to doubt and fear. We don't need God's grace to be afraid, do we. We need God's grace to be able to trust.
When I turn my life over to God, I give God leadership. Doing that means I will advance even though I do not know where God will lead me. It means I have to reshape my thinking to make my thoughts large enough for God to fit in! I have to let the size of my trust set the size of my aims and objectives in life so that my expectations match God’s abilities.
One of the things my Father and I always did together at this time of year was to string lights on the roof of our house. At first, my help was confined to checking the bulbs. Then, later, I could stand on a ladder and hang the ones under the eves. Finally, I was allowed to get up on the roof. But that required assistance. I needed a boost getting up and help getting down. The booster and the helper was my dad. If I wanted to help put up the lights, I’d have to trust him not to drop me. Because of that experience, I knew Dad could be trusted not to drop me.
The everlasting arms of God are even more trustworthy. They undergird all of us. They boost us up and they keep us from falling. Blessed are we when we trust God above all others.
I’m giving God my trust this year.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church