"And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another . . . ." - Hebrews 10:24-25
I was working in the yard the other day and I heard my neighbor kids squabbling. A little while later, I heard the dad telling the kids to figure out what they needed to do to get along, and that getting along did not mean throwing handfuls of grass at one another. One of the kids said, "I was provoked"? Apparently, that was her rationale for throwing the grass. The idea being that her response to the provocation was somehow justified.
This mini-drama makes me think that this is why the action of being provoked is most often thought of as something negative, even an excuse for violence and mayhem. It makes us think that at the end of the day, we can blame the words or actions of someone else for our own bad behavior.
Instead of being provoked to do wrong, our devotional text today invites us to think of being provoked to do something good, something positive.
The author of Hebrews tells his/her readers that they can "provoke one another to love and good deeds". They can be encouragers who gather in community to lift one another up.
Have you had someone in your life who provoked you to do the right thing, to love your neighbor, to support and encourage those around you, to live a life of gratitude, and to serve God first? Maybe it wasn’t a person who provoked you with words, but with actions. You saw the kind of life that they led, and you felt called to emulate that life. Are you a person that needs a little provocation in your life right now?
Personally, I am feeling the need for some provocation right now. The circle of my life seems to have diminished a good deal due to not having as many places to go nor people with whom I can visit and interact with more directly. There are days when the pandemic makes me feel cut off.
Our world is filled with many negative things that provoke me to sadness and a loss of stamina. Sometimes it seems that our spiritual journey is walked in isolation. And without the loving provocation of good people of faith, the angry provocations of a harsh world can be overwhelming.
And so our job as followers of Christ in community is to choose to provoke one another with kindness, with compassion, with loving challenges, and with encouragement. I miss our congregation and I miss the ways in which they bless me and provoke me in positive ways through their presence. And so, my choice, each and every day, is to provoke others and to be provoked in good ways. Because ours truly is a provocative faith, in the very best sense of the word.
O God, provoke me, that I may provoke others, and that we may provoke the world to your way of life. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are now well into our fourth month of the current coronavirus pandemic, together with all the constraints and limitations that the stay-at-home order and the social distancing measures have imposed on us. Here at St. Andrew’s, a team has been working diligently on a plan to help us to safely reopen our church. The primary goal of our plan is to ‘First, Do No Harm’.
As I suspect is the case with many others, I find myself fighting quarantine fatigue and all that comes with it. I miss the personal contact that I so enjoy having with people. I am saddened by the physical absence of our congregation.
At the same time, I am thankful for technology which allows our small groups to meet during the week, and to provide for our weekly worship broadcast.
And while the glass may sometimes seem half empty, that means that the glass is also half full. As far as I am aware, no one in our congregation has tested positive for the virus. Thank You, God. In my mind, the glass runs over with goodness when I think of the ways that you have all reached out to care for one another. Many of you make calls or send cards, you shop for one another, and some of you make house visits. Thank you so much.
Whenever I find myself giving in to the temptation to indulge in self-pity, I remember the many people who face far greater challenges and burdens. Think of our first responders, medical workers and grocery store clerks, all those on the front lines of the battle. Think of those who have lost jobs, livelihoods, health, loved ones, or even their lives to this virus. Think of those whose lives were a struggle even before the virus. Some of us have been tested severely.
Instead of giving in to my quarantine fatigue, I am praying that we all remember that God has given us what we need to cope with these challenging times, and to keep on going. May we be reminded to be prayerful about those whose struggle is so much greater than ours.
Please know that you all remain in my steadfast prayers, in my fond thoughts and in my fervent hopes.
In Christ, Pastor Denise