After the Sermon: Facing the Stress of the Moment Luke 12:49-53

StressAt my last physical, my doctor asked me about stress in my life.  I said, “Ah, I don’t have much.”  He knew my family history and recent events and he began to recount them.  He ended with, “And you’re a Methodist pastor who can be moved at the Bishop’s beckoning, leaving you few roots that serve as your support and you say you have no stress, Hello?

If we’re alive, we have stress; the more alive we are, the more stress we carry throughout all moments in our lives.  Stress is the pressure of external forces that strain internal strength.  The deeper a submarine dives, the greater the pressure from the outside, the more a sub must pressurize inside to match the pressure outside.  Too much stress working on the outside of our lives compared to our inward capacity to cope can cause us to feel like we are being crushed from the outside in.

Stress often comes in two forms.  Physical stress tries the heart and lung’s ability to handle pressure from increased activity.  Emotional stress tests our psychological capacity to handle financial, relational, social, or other tests.  Stress can manifest itself in our body or psyche because of the demands of the day or from the emotional drain of circumstances. The issue isn’t the amount of stress.  The question is what spiritual resources do we rely to face physical or emotional stress in any moment of our lives.Pressure

Some of us might be surprised to think of Jesus facing stress.  We picture Jesus to be more like a tranquil monk rather than a maligned messiah.  We wrongly envision him as a gentle soul who accepted suffering by detaching from worldly concerns; giving him a surplus of inner peace.  Jesus doesn’t say he came to put out fires and usher in a peace on earth and goodwill to all.  He says: “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled”!  Then he says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Jesus ModelJesus knew “The Way” would be hard-won and cause his followers and he great stress.  His presence would create real conflict with real powers in this world that stood in the way of the ways of God.  His words would bring fire that purifies.  His actions would bring divisions that cut away the cancers that keep people from being made well.  Jesus knew spreading the love of God abroad would not be an easy task.

When Jesus uses the word stress, he is speaking of something seizing and controlling him.  He feels the burden of incarnating God’s love; knowing his mission must be carried out, no matter the stress.  He doesn’t ride above life; he engages it; loving us enough to place himself under the gun.  In the Garden, his desire to show his love competed with a desire to not drink the cup of suffering. In that same Garden, he shows the spiritual wherewithal needed while under stress that enabled him to say, “Your will, not mine.”Open Hand

He doesn’t ask us to face anything he wasn’t willing to face.  He offers us the same inner strength that enabled him to endure suffering for the sake of a greater call.  We can access in our relationship with Christ what is needed to face our own stress tests.  In him, we can cultivate spiritual resources to navigate the pressure we feel in all moments of our lives.

A woman was worried about her son’s addiction to sweets.  She took him to the doctor and asked the physician to tell her son to stop eating sugar.  He said,.  “Come back in two weeks.”  Two weeks later she brought the boy back and the doctor said, “Stop eating sugar.”  “Thank you”, the woman said, “But why couldn’t you have told him that two weeks ago.”  The doc said, “Because two weeks ago, I was still eating sugar myself.”

Vine Stain GlassThe more we know the One who faced stress in carrying out the mission of his life; the more we’re ready to face our own stresses; living well into our purposes.  The more firmly we’re grafted to the Vine, the more spiritual strength we have to face the winds of any moment.  We can be connected to the Source that provides spiritual resources needed for any test we are called to take.  The gospel becomes good news as real growth occurs while walking through a stressful matter.  There we discover new handles we can hold onto while answering the higher call of God in our lives.

Growth always breeds change; and change breeds misunderstanding from those unsure of the changes.  This cycle often causes stress to ramp up in our lives.  It can happen among those we love and who love us.  Jesus doesn’t want families to be divided; he wants families to share the spirit of promoting the love of God in their world.  In this sense, blood is not thicker than baptismal water.  Jesus warns what can occur even in our families as we grow into the changes the stress has wrought in following Christ’s call.

The disciples brought Jesus food after Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well.  He did not eat what they offered and told them, “I have food to eat you know not of.”  He shows again that sharing the love of God fuels life and helps us negotiate whatever stress come while serving another.Offering Ourselves

Nothing can enliven us more than offering God’s love; it’s the source of all living things.  Carrying out our mission in life makes our lives feel full because we possess a growing strength within and we manifest an obvious energy without.  This happens as we seek to be a redeeming agent for those we’re privileged to offer Christ’s love.  It happens after the sermon, or at any moment of our life, no matter the stress we feel.

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Published in: on August 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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