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The Takeaway - Behaviors

The Takeaway - Behaviors

by Rev. Caroline Braskamp on March 17, 2020

This season we’ll be sharing tips for taking care of yourself during troubling times, ways to coach yourself through a tough spot. Adulting requires spiritual strength. In the words of Ruth Ann Harnisch, “All leadership begins with the leadership of self.” Today we’ll be talking about our behaviors, from handwashing to social distancing, and why they matter to God. Listen in.

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“May you live in interesting times.” Check. I have been reminded of this ancient proverb a lot lately. “Interesting,” as my 13-year-old daughter can tell you, is code for troubling, terrible, downright bad.

How are we handling today’s troubles?

  • Handwashing
  • Social distancing
  • Flattening the curve
  • Stocking up on toilet paper

Other troubling times have their own actions to be taken:

  • Watch for downed power lines
  • Clear away trees and other debris
  • Work to make roads passable for emergency vehicles

And still others troubling times from the past:

  • “keep calm and carry on” (WWII saying in Britain)
  • “loose lips sink ships” (WWII, from this side of the Atlantic)

What do all troubling times have in common? Most of the guidance given is about external behaviors. Sometimes they can seem absurd: including how “wash your hands” sounds after hearing it the 1000th time. The truth is that most of us don’t effectively wash our hands, even after all the exhortation.

These external behaviors (handwashing, social distancing, watch for downed power lines…) are things we can do with our bodies for our own safety and well-being, for the safety and well-being of those we love, and for the safety and well-being of our community and our world.

In other words, it’s not just for us. Or even just for our families. For the good of our community, our world.

Maybe you are thinking: I don’t need to practice social distancing. I am low-risk, my family is low-risk. Yet the well-being of our whole community, our whole social fabric is at risk. We are only as healthy as our most vulnerable member.

Recall our church’s vision statement: “Trusting that we all belong to God; living like we belong to one another.” Who knew we would have empirical proof that it is true? Well, we do belong to each other. One city, one state, one nation, one world. A virus is evidence of the truth of our vision.

“Living like we belong to one another”—is also a challenge. How will we respond, what kind of people will we be in the face of troubling times? Will our behaviors empirically show our care for our entire community? Our behaviors can be a physical, embodied blessing for others and our community at large.

Blessing is a trendy spiritual word of our time. Sometimes it means that things are going our way—money, status, family, etc. Blessing in the Bible is a little more radical than personal prosperity. Blessing comes from God or from human beings, for the well-being of another. One of the most formative blessings in the Bible is when God blesses Abraham, in Genesis chapter 12, verse 1-3.

Scripture: Genesis 12.1-3

Listen for God’s word for you today:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God says, I will bless you, so that you will be a blessing… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

This is not a sit back sort of blessing passively received; it’s one we can live into. A calling to bless others, one behavior at a time: for us, for our loved ones, for the good of the order.

We are receiving instructions, on repeat: do this, don’t do that. Do wash your hands, don’t go out in public—so that you will be a blessing. God calls us to be a living blessing. Let your actions be the vehicle through which all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

In the words of Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Prayer

Today’s prayer is from Ignatius of Loyola, a Catholic priest who lived in Spain in the 1500s, and who founded the order of the Jesuits.

Let us pray.

“Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous;

Teach me to serve thee as thou deservest;

To give and not to count the cost,

To fight and not to seek for rest,

To labour and not to seek reward,

Save that of knowing that I do thy will. Amen.”

Until next time, receive this blessing from God. It’s the oldest blessing in the Scriptures, the “priestly blessing” from Numbers 6.24-26:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Today, this week, and always. Amen.

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