This may make me a dork, but sometimes I like to read different translations of the Bible just for fun. A word translated slightly different can open up a passage in a new way- even one that I have heard many times. Plus it reminds me that that Bible was not written in English and that it has brought meaning to people over thousands of years, each generation seeking God's guidance for their own experiences.
Here's my favorite example for today- Matthew chapter 5 verses 14 and 16 read "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden...In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." This translation from the New International Version (NIV) makes me think, "This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let it Shine" and the candle lit on a dark Christmas Eve night that then is shared throughout the Sanctuary and leaves me with the idea that I can be that candle.
Same passage, different translation, this time from Eugene Peterson's version he calls The Message. "You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill…Be generous with your lives. By opening up to others you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
This translation invokes images of the autumn leaves showing off in the sunlight. Without the sun shining on them, they look a bit drab, but at the right time of day they seem to dance with beauty. It's like all of a sudden they changed out of their sweats and into a sequined leotard, reflecting all of that light poured onto them.
We are called to shine on people, everyday events and interactions, so that God's generous love is known. A sparkle can be brought out of anyone when a light is shining in their lives. We can be that light, bringing out the God-colors everywhere we go!
Have you ever noticed how the characters in spy movies are able to seemlessly go from one secret identity to another without missing the accent, name or look that is required to go along with each passport or identification? I know I would be a hopeless spy, yet we all balance a multitude of identities each day.
For example: I am the Campus Minister for Wesley Foundation Merced which serves the campuses at Merced College and UC Merced. I am also mom to my four-year old son and partner to my spouse, Shinya. I am a Rotarian and an advisor for Rotaract. I usually direct a week of children's camp each summer, where the kids call me "Jen" and I try hard to learn all of their names as well.
As I look over this list, I am struck by the temporary nature of all of these identities I have woven for myself. My job is important to me, but I've had atleast 8 other jobs in my life as well. I'll always be Dakota's mom, but children grow up and move away. Choosing "mom" as my main identity will put me at a loss when that happens (just ask your moms).
As much as we like to think of marriage as permanent, even if divorce is avoided, death cannot be. There will be a time when we are parted. Even more importantly, if my relationship with my spouse becomes my core identity I wouldn't have as much to offer to that relationship.
While 6:30 am Rotary meetings are fun and all, I can imagine that this relationship might also be temporary. And the camp season always comes to an end, with the return to the "real world" that inevitably follows.
I touched base with a more permanent identity when I was a junior in high school. It was then that I realized that I was loved by God through Christ. And that became my core identity: one who is loved by God, called by God, sent out by God to love others. As jobs, location, class schedules, human relationships and club memberships change, the image that God has of me remains the same because nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Check out Romans 8:35-39 for more details).
First and foremost, I am God's beloved…. and so are you.
What difference does a dollar make?
For the past week, the Wesley Club members have been carrying around a dollar with the responsibility to use it in a way that will bless someone else and perhaps change the world. This dollar represents more than what just one dollar can buy. It has shaped the way we think about our resources.
It has made me aware of all of the opportunities to give. Here on campus there was the Gulu Walk, boxes filled for Operation Christmas Child and donations gathered to for natural disaster relief. In town I've encountered a homeless woman on the street, a restaurant server who could be blessed by an extra tip and collections for Children's Hospitals and Polio vaccinations. In my personal relationships, my sister needed sponsors for the AIDS walk, a friend would be blessed by an uplifting card, and a new neighbor would smile in response to a plate of cookies.
In this economic setting your financial identity is defined by different people in different ways. To some you are a future tax payer. To others you are a consumer, a target group for the consumption of goods and services- needed or not. This week we were reminded of our identity as "Stewards." Stewards are those who are trusted with a responsibility for resources. We are stewards with responsibility for all of the gifts given to us by God.
One dollar may not be much, but it's enough to change our thinking- and that can change the world.