March 29, 2022

From The Rector…

People say stupid sh*t all the time. Peter does it on the mountain in the midst of the Transfiguration moment. (Luke 9:33-35) James and John, the sons of Thunder, do it when the Samaritans do not receive Jesus and they ask him if they should call lightning down to kill them. (Luke 9:54) You get the picture.

Its not simply the stupid things people say that matters. It is also the way we respond to those stupid words. At the Oscars, Chris Rock made a bad joke…he said something stupid. The reaction by Will Smith was even more stupid…for several reasons but most of all for its violence.  

When I was a little girl, I would often say in a sing-song voice, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.” This is not actually true, words do hurt, a lot. But the sentiment is helpful in reminding one that there is a difference between violent actions and words and phrases. I guess Will Smith was not taught that rhyme.

I am not really concerned with starting a conversation about who was right and who was wrong at the awards show Sunday night, but I am desirous of a conversation about how we receive stupid things when they are said to us. We are all guilty of saying stupid stuff. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. At some time or another and maybe even several times in the same day we say something stupid. We offend the people around us, or a particular person. We harm another by our words whether or not we mean to. Hopefully we don’t do it often and the people around us are forgiving. But that is not always the case.  

Many of us display an incredible sensitivity to the words of another. That is, in part, what led Will Smith to go up on that stage (unless it was all an act then we need to have a talk about trust and the responsibility of the media). The sensitivity that he showed is not unique. We all are sensitive about something. But the way we respond to that nerve that gets “touched” by another’s words sets us up for success and failure in this world and in the kingdom as well.

We are taught to respond to our emotional cues. When we feel or think in a negative manner we respond in a particular way. It is the same when we feel or think in a positive way—though the response will look differently. It is not the response—but the way we feel that becomes the reward or punishment for certain experiences in our lives. I wonder if we were to release the negative and/or positive understandings of those same experiences might we think, feel, even act differently?

As Christians, and as humans in general, we have a deep desire for peace. We think that peace is an external thing and allow ourselves to get distracted by those things that drive our anxieties, our disappointments, and our celebrations. But when we live into a peaceful existence, the external factors—be they words or actions—no longer become the cause of our reactivity. We respond, instead, to life from a place of detachment—not because we no longer care but because we recognize and believe that what we do and who we are is not defined by those external circumstances. Jesus can choose the way of the cross not because he is not concerned about it but because he can detach from all of that and look with compassion on those who are involved saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

People are going to keep on saying stupid sh*t. You’re probably offended by my use of the word sh*t in this reflection. And that is ok. But if you get angry about it or disdainful or react in a negative way, it is your peace that you disturb. The true path to detaching from being overdriven by our feelings is to stay connected to that peace which passes all understanding—God’s peace.  

When peace becomes your default setting, no longer will you find yourself reacting to a world in which you or those who offend you are at the center of it. Instead, you will find a life in which God is your core and all that you experience comes from that place in which God responds to us all when we say or do something that is stupid. It is the same place he responds to us when we get it right too. It is the place of love. Peace emanates from love and it is central to the Christian’s experience because it is of God and only of God. You and I cannot create peace—we can only live within it.

May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Light and Life,

Candice+

candice@coascension.org