Tuesday, December 16, 2008

after the comma

Please read Isaiah 9:2-7

Jesus Christ, W.C.; M.G.; E.F.; PoP

According to Isaiah, this is the way that the business card or stationery for Jesus should read - with all his honorifics after the comma.

Or at least, that is the way it would read if Jesus was as obsessed with what comes after the comma as we, and our culture, seem to be. There on the door, or the nameplate on the desk, or in the brochure, or on the cover of the annual report are all those details about how well educated we are, how honored we are, how important we are (at least to ourselves).

Please don't misunderstand me. I know how hard folks work for such 'letters', for such an education, for such a title. It takes drive, determination, sacrifice, tenacity to reach those achievements. One of the reasons I did not go after a PhD is that I recognized that I did not have the qualities needed to pursue such a goal.

I have several certificates that have been framed for me - my degrees from college, as well as from the seminary I attended; the certificate attesting to my ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. But I have this nagging feeling that what Jesus might be handing me to hang on my walls is a picture of Mother Theresa with her lined and weary face, which I am coming more and more to believe is what God looks like.

Now that I am at a different church, I am asked about how I want to be called - Reverend, Doctor, RevDoc, Mr. I have to admit that usually when someone calls me by those titles, I think they are talking to someone else. While I prefer just plain Thom, I wouldn't mind being known as patient, compassionate, friend, chocolate-lover.

And while I have "earned" (whatever that means) the privilege of putting velvet bars on my robe, I am pretty sure that Jesus might find that a little bit ostentatious. After all, the one who talked about giving away coats and cloaks, of clothing the naked, of being more concerned about the poor than about how I look in fancy regalia, probably looks in askance at me at certain times.

For Jesus, it's far more important what we do before the comma. Do we reflect the love and care that went into the giving of our name? Do we carry on the heritage and hopes of those who stood before God and a faith community, naming us as God's own, God's beloved child? Do we live out our relationship with Jesus, our Brother, our Friend, our Servant - who calls us to be sisters and brothers to the castoffs of our society; who longs for us to befriend those whom the world hates; who sends us out from behind our desks, our homes, our titles to serve a creation that is broken and yearning for healing?

Prayer: Help us to realize that it is the life we live before the comma that makes all the difference for others, and for ourselves. In the name of the Prince of Peace, we pray. Amen.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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