Weekly Devotion 10/20/22

Weekly Devotion with Kim Wu

After taking some time off from writing devotions, Kim Wu returns with a devotional message she shared at the Centreville UMC Women’s Retreat on Saturday.  Here’s the first half of her message; the second half will run next week.

I want to begin with the story of a card.  I received this card in the mail about a year ago that read, “Life is hard.  But at least you’re pretty.”

This saying has been a running joke with a friend.  She makes cards, and she happened to get that little gem of a saying in a pack of stamps she purchased.  We somehow found a lot of humor in the absurdity of it.  Perhaps especially so because we both have experienced a lot of sadness and heartache.

I still have that card.  It makes me smile to look at it.  And we sometimes text the “at least you’re pretty” line to each other when we know the other has had a tough day.

Today’s scripture we are focusing upon is found in John 15:4-5.  “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

I want to share some remarks on this particular scripture from an ordained Lutheran Pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber.  To appreciate her perspective, I’m giving you a little bit of background on her.  Her spiritual journey – her life journey – has not been a smooth one.  In her past, she was an alcoholic and drug abuser, and she said she often felt like one of society’s outsiders.  She’s been sober for more than 20 years, and prior to becoming an ordained minister, she was a standup comic.  She writes and speaks about personal failings, recovery, grace, and faith.  She describes herself as one who always sits in the corner with the other weirdos.  Her physical appearance is also an unlikely one for an ordained minister.  The entire Christian liturgical calendar is tattooed on her left arm, including biblical scenes from creation to Pentecost, and her right arm bears the scene of Mary Magdalene “schooling the bewildered all-male disciples about the resurrection.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber writes, “Vines, and branches off of vines, are all tangled and messy and it’s just too hard to know what is what…Not only are we dependent on Jesus, but our lives are uncomfortably tangled up together.  The Christian life is a vine-y, branch-y, jumbled mess of us and Jesus and others.”

Yes, the Christian life is a jumbled mess of us and Jesus and others.  That can make us uncomfortable because we like to think we can manage life on our own.  And for those who feel like outsiders, like Bolz-Weber, our lives being caught up in a tangled vine-y mass with a bunch of other people is terrifying.

The truth is that life can be beautiful – and we like to share our mountaintop moments with those around us and praise God for it - but life can also be hard. And in those moments, we need God’s strength and compassion, and we need each other.

But depending on other people requires a great deal of trust and courage, regardless of how plugged-in you feel with those around you.  Jen Hatmaker, in her book, “Of Mess and Moxie”, says “Life is crazy gorgeous and crazy hard, and we don’t mean to fail each other but we do, which is why Anne Lamott calls earth Forgiveness School.”

The hardest forgiveness work often begins with forgiving ourselves for all our imperfections.  We’re all imperfect people, who tend to compare our insides to other people’s outsides.  It takes courage to be our imperfect selves with each other; to be vulnerable.

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