Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, 2 Kings 4:8-37, Acts 9:10-31, Luke 3:7-18
Have you ever received a gift you didn’t request or want, but which you didn’t feel comfortable returning? Something like a piece of art which you really don’t care for, but made especially for you by a loved one. Or maybe you’ve been given a pet you weren’t ready for. Suddenly we have to decide whether that sculpture has to be on the coffee table all the time or just when Aunt Molly visits, and whether we can afford next month’s planned vacation and a pet sitter.
The prophet Elisha gave an unexpected gift to a Shunnamite woman who had prepared a place for him to stay when he traveled. The childless woman was past the age when she expected to bear children, but through the power of God Elisha told her she would conceive. When her son was older he one day returned from the field with a mysterious headache, and died sitting on his mother’s lap. The woman was left with anger and grief over the loss of something she had never expected to have. Fortunately, Elisha was able to restore the son to life.
A disciple named Ananias was given an unexpected vision from God. Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians, was laid up blind and Ananias was to visit him so his sight could be restored. Ananias’s response was basically, “Really Lord? This guy?” but God reassured him Paul was to be an instrument of great evangelism. Sight restored, Paul started with a bang and so angered the Jews with his preaching that they plotted to kill him. The disciples had to sneak Paul out of town in a basket lowered through a hole in the city wall. Paul would turn out to be a difficult gift to wrangle for years to come.
The more strongly we feel about respecting the giver, the tougher it is to deny a gift we didn’t want in the first place. Isn’t God the giver we respect the most? Not every gift we have from God will be one we desire. It may be inconvenient. Burdensome. Painful even. We need to figure out what to do with it anyway.
Making room for the unwelcome gifts along with the welcome teaches you not every gift is about you, but might be about the grace that is found in sacrificial love. If you’re not going to go out and get it for yourself, somebody has to give it to you.
Comfort: Every gift from God, even an unwelcome one, is a treasure.
Challenge: Ask yourself which of your gifts you are not using, and why.
Prayer: May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him. (Psalm 67:7)
Discussion: What’s the worst gift you’ve given? How did you find out it was a bad idea?
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