I’ve had an affinity for walking sticks for as long as I can remember. I am pretty sure it has something to do with glimpsing some portrayal of Moses and his “magical” walking staff sometime before I can consciously remember. Older now, I believe all walking staffs and canes have a bit of the holy in them. In one church I served we did a VBS that included a walking stick for everyone; one member had a basswood walking stick carved for me. Another woman gave me her late husband’s homemade cane along with the backstory of where to find and harvest diamond willow. Both pieces of wood whisper holiness every time I look at them. There’s something about walking sticks and canes that speaks of what it is to journey through life. I’ve even known people who’ve named their canes. Any of you known people to name their canes?
I’ve seen my Mom and Dad both go through times of needing to use a cane. I’ve seen both my children each have a time in their life when they needed to use a cane. My wife has a pink cane, purchased in Ohio that she needed to use for a month or so after a side-effect from a medication. I’ve needed to use a cane recovering from a back injury. We’ve never named any of them, though. Recently, I began to wonder what I would name this walking stick I have today. After years I’ve finally found a “new shoe” for its foot—and can use it for hiking again. I think I’ve come up with a name for it.
My Mom, after her hip surgeries, had kind of a love/hate relationship with her cane. Most of you know the relationship. She’d use her cane for a while. Then, she’d get up and walk across the room without it, while it rested on her chair. The beautiful thing about the cane was it was never offended. It always waited for her right where she left it. It never judged her or scolded her. If her cane had been a person: I think it would have been called forgiving, faithful or patient.
Earlier today we heard Jesus’ words. “Treat people the way you wish to be treated.” Be forgiving and faithful because we know how much we appreciate people who are patiently at their best when we are at our worst.
“No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.” One of the privileges I usually have when I officiate at a funeral is to hear people tell the stories of when their loved one was good to them—or helpful in some way to others. People beam with pride when they tell of Dad blowing out the neighbor’s driveway for free or Mom being the neighborhood Mom for all the kids. People heal faster when they have such stories to tell about loved ones. Kindness is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. Jesus says, “If you do good to those who do good to you, or lend expecting repayment, why should you be commended. “Instead, love your enemies. Do good expecting nothing in return.” “Act like this and you will be acting like God acts—generously.”
Our sight is limited. God can always see the entire picture. But, we cannot. There is way too much in this world we don’t know. So, err on the side of kindness. Jesus says, “Be compassionate just as my Father in heaven is compassionate.” Or, in the words of this slide, “You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always.”
A cane never asks, “How did you get broken?” A cane never shouts, “What were you thinking?” Or, “What did you learn?” It’s simply there when you reach for it. It’s there to steady your step, help you stand a bit taller, help you rebuild your life. A cane is there to support you when you need it most. Are these the exact things we are called to do as the church?
Jesus is reminding us that even though we come here to learn how to live a right and good life, we are here to work on our own lives, not to learn how to judge others. As Rich Walters says to all Christians, “You better start worrying about your own sins. God isn’t going to ask you about mine.” Or, in Jesus’ own words. “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn and you won’t be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder every day. Ruminating on another’s flaws is time poorly spent in Jesus’ worldview.
While the world wastes time chasing bunnies down the rabbit holes of judgement, Jesus is inviting us to transform the world. Jesus is inviting us—to let God transform our own lives. “Give and it will be given to you,” Jesus says. “Or, as the slide says, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” Give our best to another person and that person just may appreciate it. That person may grow into more of a blessing in our lives than we ever imagined. Give our best to someone, and even if they don’t do their best in return, we’re better for having given our best. We are more whole if we give generously to others. Jesus says, “The portion you give will be the portion you receive.”
“Love your enemies; Do good; Bless; Pray for those who aren’t good to you; Offer your coat and your shirt. Give freely. Be compassionate. Don’t Judge; Forgive; Give a good portion.” These are all the things Jesus tells us will fill our own lives to overflowing.
Last week I shared the definition of Grace as a verb. What does it mean to Grace someone? To grace another is to honor, dignify and bless that person.
I think Jesus is telling us the most inviting thing we can do as Christians is to Grow in Grace. The more gracious we become the more people will notice the good, the light and the kindness. Others will draw near. Grace is – shining so others can see (Jesus) though you.
Let others know they can count on you. Let others know you’ll be there when they reach out. Lend support when needed without judgment. Make it clear to someone you see in church, that if they ever need anything, you’re available for them outside of church. Let anyone outside of church know you’re there for them—no judgment, just grace. We may find, in time, that person will want to be with us in church.
Grace another’s life. And remember God’s promise. The gracious portion you give will be what you receive and more, packed down, firmly shaken and overflowing.
So, I believe I have a name for this hiking staff—ready to join me for a walk with its new shoe. What better name than for a strong, non-judgmental, steady support than…”Grace.”