Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lenten Reflection: The Spiritual Practice of Doing Our Own Work

A clever cartoon (can't find the artist's info)
Jesus said, “‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. –Matthew 7

I once went on a silent retreat at a Buddhist monastery. As part of the retreat, I was assigned to chop vegetables in the kitchen, along with a few others. We were given a knife, a chopping board, and a bucket of carrots, along with some simple instructions on how the chef wanted them chopped. We began our task. I noticed that my neighbor was not chopping the same way that I was. My immediate impulse was to correct them. But as it was a silent retreat and we were to be meditating as we worked, I kept quiet. It was not my job to correct my neighbor or control the quality of their work. My job was to concentrate on chopping the carrots in front of me, to chop them to the best of my ability.

So often, we may be tempted to worry about what other people are doing. We see their actions and worry for them. Focusing on other people conveniently excuses us from looking at our own work- that is, our own shortcomings.

In his explanation of Confession in the Small Catechism, Martin Luther invites us to consider our shortcomings in this way:  “Reflect on your walk of life in light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted, or injured anything.”

looking in the mirrorLuther asks us to think about our lives in particular, to think about what we have done or not done. Jesus calls us to pay attention to our own sins before we worry about the sins of others.

Let us pray: God of mercy, help me to trust in your love and grace for me, so that I may have the courage to honestly look at my own faults and shortcomings. Lead me and guide me, so that I may grow into the person you call me to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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