This is going to be the last post on Stewardship. I know, there are many of you that are excited about that. That being said, I also want this to be a little bit more fun.
One of the traps that I think we get ourselves into is that we like to treat Stewardship with a lot of weight. We think, that because its such a serious topic, that we should treat it as such. It should be serious, and ponderous, and solemn, and “holy,” and full of onerous statements of philosophical certitude (and ain’t that a mouthful).
But, when we do that, we are doing Stewardship a huge disservice. When we do that, we saying that Stewardship only has one facet, and that it can’t have anything else. That is so far from the truth.
Now, we come across that rather honestly though. Think about it for a second. We do the same thing to the Bible. We treat it like we have to be solemn, and serious, and holy, and read it as if we’re James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. We approach our biblical studies with all the weight that only 2000+ years of theology, study, and interpretation can bring.
That’s a tough road to go, and it takes the Bible from the place that it should be in our lives, and relegates it only to those times of seriousness and times when we need ponderous certitude. Its really not that way. When we only treat the Bible, or Stewardship (for that matter) in this way, then we are showing our willingness to only commit a small part of ourselves to our faith. Our faith should be about more than just these weighty subjects.
If this is the only side that we let show in our faith, then we aren’t fully committed, and we’re holding back. If we only read the Bible in this way, then we are keeping ourselves from so much more. What we need to do is open ourselves up. One of the ways that we can do that is in the way that we read the Bible. We can know that the stories we read are about real people, and these real people were not always the serious people that we make them out to be.
Rather, they were also quite funny. One of the funniest people that we read about in the Bible is Jesus. These two stories are great examples of Jesus humor. Think about it for a second. In the first story we have Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James and John. And he does this through this great story about fish. He teaches from the boat for a while, and then tells Peter to put out a little farther to catch fish. Now, Peter thinks Jesus is nuts, but he does it anyway.
But remember, that a lot of times Peter has the mentality of a stubborn teenager. Jesus tells him to put out his nets, and can you imagine Peter’s reaction. Its not an enthusiastic tossing of the nets where he has a lot of confidence that he’s going to catch a bunch of fish. Its more of the, sarcastically dropping a net into the water, with all of the irritation and cynicism that an act like that can make, and then the pointed look over at Jesus that says, “There, I dropped my net, are you happy now?!”
But this is where I see Jesus smiling. Its a crooked little grin that says I know something you don’t know, but its a smile nonetheless (and by the way, I see Jesus grinning a lot through out the Gospels). That’s when Jesus gives that little head nod that says, go look in the net. Peter does so, and he looks back to Jesus, as if to say “I told you so, there’s nothing in the net” before his head whips back around and he really looks into the net, and realizes that its full. Its at this point that I think Jesus almost lets loose in a big belly laugh at Peter’s reaction.
Peter is standing there, with his mouth gaping open because his net is full of fish, and that was the last thing that he expected. After he brings in a lot of fish, then he falls to his knees (squishing in a boat full of fish) and says that he’s not worthy. But now Jesus grin changes to a full blown smile, because now Peter is beginning to get it. Jesus says, with just that smile and a few words, that “I’ve given you all of this. Just imagine what I’ll do now. Follow me and I’ll give you an even bigger catch than you’ve ever had.”
In the other story we have Peter walking on the water. The story picks up after a long day of teaching. Jesus goes away for some “me” time, and the disciples head out in a boat to cross the sea. While they’re out there a storm comes up and they all think they’re going to die (cue running around like chickens with their heads cut off). Then they see Jesus walking towards them (and he’s not walking on some hidden rocks either), and they get even more scared because they think he has to be a ghost. But he’s not, but Peter can’t help himself and he asks Jesus to prove it.
Cue Jesus grin….again. He says, okay. And now Peter has to put up or shut up. So Peter climbs out of the boat and on to the water. He’s doing okay, until he remembers the first rule of cartoon physics, which is don’t look down, or don’t get spooked. Unfortunately, he gets spooked by the wind, realizes he’s walking on water, and he begins to sink. He looks over at Jesus and says “Help Me!!!”
I can see this playing out in my head. Peter says help me, and Jesus says are you sure (with his grin). And Peter says stop grinning at me and pull me out!! Still grinning, Jesus pulls Peter up. I imagine him doing that with a smile on his face that says I’ve got you, even when you’re being a pig-headed idiot. Then Jesus actually says to him, why did you doubt? I can almost feel the warmth, and love flowing out of Jesus in the middle of this, and not the least bit of humor too. Jesus knew that Peter was never in any real trouble, so it is kind of funny.
But all of this humor is important. Humor shows real life. Humor shows reality and the way that we look at the world. If we look at the world without humor, then we are seeing very little of what is actually going on. We can never be fully committed to something unless we are willing to really commit to it with our whole selves, and not just a little bit of us, or just one side of us.
Throughout the Gospels we are presented with many faces of Jesus. There are the funny sides, the compassionate sides, the merciful sides, the understanding sides, the angry sides, the serious sides, the holy sides, and others. Jesus doesn’t ever just show us one part of himself, but he shows us his whole self. How can we follow someone if we don’t see more of the whole picture? How can we have faith in something if we only ever see just one side? How can we give if all we ever talk about is one part?
We are called to be fully committed. This means that we have to open our whole selves to what’s going on around us. I invite you to give more of your whole self. Commit this year to giving more, or to opening up another side of who you are. Don’t just stick with what you’ve always been, or what you’ve always done, but go for more. Great things happen when we open ourselves up. So commit this year and see what God can do with you! I