Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mother Theresa Liked It

Someone sent this to me earlier this week, as a follow up to Sunday’s sermon. We’ve been taking an in-depth look at the Beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel throughout Lent. This past week’s focus was on the merciful and the pure in heart. I was pretty upfront that this last one, pure in heart, was a tough one for me to interpret.

There are lots of ways we can look at it, and I wrestled with many of them…but finally, what seemed appropriate for me, at the time, was the idea that when we live out of the commandment to love God, love neighbor, and love self, we are more likely to respond to others in ways that reflect our understanding of God. It’s really simple. And, really hard. Because we – ok, I – have not yet gotten to the point where this commandment, this crazy love-attitude, is my knee-jerk reaction. I have to take the time to stop and think, to restrain myself from acting out of my natural human response.

The poem that was sent to me included a notation that it was penned by Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I don’t doubt that she could have written something like this but…I have gotten into the habit of verifying things, especially before I put them back out in cyberland. From what I can find, these words were originally written by Kent Keith when he was a 19 year old sophomore at Harvard College in 1968. Mother Theresa had the words (not the full text of Keith’s work) enlarged on a poster that she hung up on the wall of Shishu Bhavan, her children’s home in Calcutta. In response, those who visited assumed she had written it.

Even without her authorship, these words point us to an attitude about ourselves that frees us from the need for approval or acceptance from anyone other than God. I’ve read them several times this week and thought you might enjoy them, too.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.          

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.                 

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. 

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

There's something about the last line that doesn't sit all the way well with me but I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe its the idea that me and God are all I need when, really, God intended specifically for us to be in community, to be in relationship with one another. So, I think it matters what between us -- not for approval or acceptance, but for the sake of responding to God's love.

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