An Unencumbered Spirit

Life Notes—September 12, 2013 

  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

A decade ago we had an above ground swimming pool installed in our backyard.  I built a wooden deck around the pool and we had many years of summer fun with family and friends.  Youth group gatherings, family reunions, and other times of fellowship occurred in and around that pool.  However, our children grew and left for college.  In recent years there has been only one regular swimmer: me.  While I enjoyed the pool on hot days, it required regular allotments of time, energy, and money to maintain.  What was once a hub for fun and fellowship for many became an encumbrance on my life.  We decided to give the pool and deck away to another family to enjoy as their children grew.

Removing the pool and deck left a large open space in our yard.  I had grand visions of retaining walls, a fishpond, a waterfall, and a fire pit to fill the space.  My wife had a more practical vision of grass.  My vision, while potentially beautiful, would have required regular allotments of time and money to maintain.  My wife’s vision provided a simpler and less encumbering beauty.  For me, this experience illuminates the passage from Matthew, quoted above.  It is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  To be poor in spirit is not a highly valued characteristic today.  We equate being poor with lacking things of importance.  However, when we understand how some possessions come to possess us, being poor takes on a different character.  Does losing my pool make me poor?  It was a thing of value I no longer possess.  In truth, it was no longer blessing our family, and so it became a burden.  The net result of becoming poorer by giving away our pool was to become freer.  In my haste to fill the empty space in our yard, I nearly substituted one encumbrance for another.  At least in this case, simpler (or poorer) is better because it frees resources and energy for blessing others and myself in new ways.

I am amazed at the joyous, high-energy worship of some believers, particularly in third-world countries.  They praise with a freedom of spirit and emotion that seems out of proportion to their blessings. Yet, I wonder if their unfettered worship is the product of an unencumbered spirit.  Most of us are rich with stuff, not all of which actually blesses us.  Our possessions bind us in ways that leave that little energy for other purposes; like worship, thanksgiving and praise.  Perhaps our subdued worship is due to worshippers with heavily encumbered spirits.  Jesus says the poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven.  There must be unseen riches in being poor.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Strive to become poorer in spirit with us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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