By Rev. Dr. Linda Hollies
A young preacher went to an old preacher and asked, “How can I get victory over pride and criticism?” The preacher said, “Go to the grave of Brother Jones and as you stand by the grave say all the nice things you can about him. Flatter him greatly.”
Off to the graveyard the young preacher went to do as the old preacher had advised. Upon return the old preacher asked, “What did he say?” The answer, “Nothing. He’s dead.”
Then the old preacher said, “Go back out to the grave and criticize Brother Jones. “Say every mean thing imaginable to him.”
When the young preacher came back, the old preacher asked, “What did he say?” The young preacher said, “Nothing, He’s dead!”
The old preacher said, “Reckoning ourselves dead with Christ, we will be unmoved by flattery or criticism.” (Author Unknown, from http://www.mountainwings.com/)
Pray for me. I’m not there yet! Don’t laugh! For you have not arrived either! This is why all of us need the power of The gift of The Holy Spirit to be alive and operative in our lives! And, this quarter, we are going on a journey together to seek more wisdom about the person of the Trinity who we know as The Holy Spirit. As well we will look at the formation of The First Church and appreciate our history in Jesus Christ, who was not moved by either flattery or criticism.
The Church is about relationships! First, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and then, a relationship with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Church is about sharing! We are united around the globe through the blood of Jesus sacrificed to redeem all of us at Calvary. The Church is about being the body of Christ, both gathered and scattered. And, God knows that we know how to do “Church, together”. We like to eat together. We like to sing together. We like to meet in the parking lot together. We like to call one another and run other folks down, together. Notice that I left “worship” out of our togetherness. For when we are truly, in worship together, we experience the Love, that is God. And, we are forced, by the power of the Holy Spirit to pass that love along, after worship and during the week. Believers share one with another in the spirit of being The Body of Christ.
The call for flattery is worldwide. It’s not relegated to one gender, race, ethnic group or crowd. For self-esteem needs to be enhanced, every now and then, we all need a pat on the back. Yet, flattery is most often used to pump up an individual who has not really done all that much out of the ordinary! Flattery is old-fashioned butt kissing too often, and in too many instances. For too many of us are yet “stuck” in “dat’ll do” mode and don’t push ourselves to excellence! Flattery will keep you working and not doing your best! Flattery is often a nice form of lying! Beware of those who come to you with flattery all the time. Know that they are wanting/searching/seeking something from you. Be like Brother Jones and remain quiet.
The call to criticize is worldwide. It’s not relegated to one gender, race, ethnic group or crowd. For low self-esteem needs will cause many to run down, try to tear up, and make attempts to kill the influence of any “new” thing on the face of the earth! I know that all of us can use constructive criticism. I recognize that constructive criticism will allow my personal efforts to be improved by thoughts, ideas and strategies that I have not even considered. But, I’m not talking about constructive criticism. I’m addressing that old fashioned, every Sunday after Church or daily, after work, in the parking lot, discussing and pulling down of some new and innovative idea. When folks come to us with destructive criticism, we need to be like Brother Jones and remain quiet.
In order to skip both the flattery, that is a lie and the criticism that will be aimed at you as soon as your back is turned, we need the power of The Holy Spirit at work in us, on us, through us and in spite of us! “Spirit of The Living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of The Living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Spirit of The Living God, fall afresh on me.” This is a prayer. This is a plea. This is a petition. This is our energy that will allow us to go into places; deal with people and see about issues without becoming a hinderance to the Realm of God.
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.” (Acts 8: 14) Now, we know that the Jews and the Samarians were related by blood. But, since the Samarians were those who had married enemies of the Jews, The Assyrians, and the Jews were hateful, unforgiving and not in relationship at all! So, we can be assured that it was only the power of The Holy Spirit who was able to touch hearts, minds and spirits in order to have the Disciples send two of their top leaders into enemy territory! Thank God for Jesus Christ, who sent back the gift of The Holy Spirit to break down the walls between all of our different factions of The Body of Christ!
The Disciples went to share what they had with those folks who had been their generations long enemies. The Disciples went to help unify the Body of Christ. For the Love of God breaks down barriers of all sorts; erases hostility and unites us in Jesus Christ. We all have the same, efficacious blood covering us. We all have the same name, Christian connecting us. And, we all have the same Holy Spirit available to us as a gift!
It’s been the keeping power of The Holy Spirit who had me raised as a Pentecostal, educated and ordained as a United Methodist and able to worship freely in a Baptist congregation! God is all in all and through all who lift up the name of Jesus!
The early Church gives us our first portrait of how to eat, live, learn and grow spiritually into community. Church history provides us with a wealth of experiences to show how nations, countries and denominations have grown and spread because of the sharing nature of God’s people. Our own country is a prime example.
Do you know the history of your denomination and local congregation? When was the last time that your local congregation held a day, activity to uplift your history makers? Too much has been done, by so many generous souls and we say, way too little! Many folks have sacrificed, given and left legacies so that you and I might inhabit the buildings and the grounds we “claim” as our won. It was the power and fire and energizing power of The Holy Spirit that enabled folks with so little to achieve so much! Thanks be unto God that the same Holy Spirit has not grown tired for giving us the will and the abilities to share what we have with each other! And, the beat of God’s Church moves on!
Remember me, for I’m on the journey of sharing with you! Shalom, Sharing Ones….God’s best shalom!
On the journey with ya! Rev. Dr. Linda H. Hollies
Let’s live holy; laugh often; and let’s love with flair and with extravagance!
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