Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Erring on the Side of Dignity

Curtis Almquist is one of the brothers at the Society of St. John the Evangelist, where I am part of the Fellowship of St. John. He preached a sermon four years ago that was recently re-released on the SSJE web page. You can read it here.

For me, this is the key paragraph:
I’m reminded of my own experience this past December around Christmas.  I was at a shopping center where I passed by someone who was collecting money and supplies for needy children and their families.  I had several sacks of purchases in my arms.  I passed by this collection point and made no contribution.  The person overseeing this collection station called to me, and made several rather-badgering comments to me about why I should be contributing to this worthy cause.  I simply passed by, a little offended, mostly saddened, and I made no response to this person.  What he did not know was the sacks in my arms were supplies and gifts for poor children and their families in Tanzania and Kenya, where several of us brothers traveled on mission just after Christmas.  That was our plan.  I was on a mission.  This other man – a good soul, undoubtedly – simply did not know that he did not know that I was already on a mission.  And I would say we’re all on a mission and we don’t usually know the full story of one another.  It seems to me we should err on the side of dignity as we look on one another as they make their own way.
In the Baptismal Covenant, we promise to "respect the dignity of every person." Curtis is right, there is so much we don't know, not only about the mission work others do but in general about what makes "the other" tick or where her deep wounds are. Much is beyond our understanding. We are tempted to think that what we are doing is the most important, and sometimes even the only work. Christian congregants are particularly susceptible to this temptation.

And because of that, we need to learn to see each other in ways that "err on the side of dignity." We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Something to work on during this Easter season, I think.

With God's help.

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