Carrots, Eggs, and Coffee: Responding to Adversity
I’m a sucker for those cheesy “There’s good news/bad news” jokes. I heard one this week that I’m compelled to pass along…
An art gallery owner said to a local artist, “I have some good news and some bad news.” The artist asked, “What’s the good news?” The gallery owner said, “The good news is that a woman came by today who loved your work. She asked if the value would go up after you died. I told her yes. Then she bought every piece in the store. The artist said, “That’s fantastic. How can this be bad news?” --- “well… she was your wife.”
Life has good news, and it has bad news. This week we had another heartbreaking school shooting that testifies to our need for change. We had an NFL player suspended for hitting the opposing quarterback over the head with a helmet. Life seems risky.
Life is also rewarding. Maybe you saw the story about Charlotte and John Henson. They are the oldest living couple. They met at the University of Texas in… 1934. John is about to turn 107, and Charlotte is 105. In a couple of weeks they will celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary.
“What the secret to your longevity?” the reporter asked them. Charlotte said that she chose a long time ago to have a positive attitude. John piped it and said, “We’re positive people, and we laugh all the time. But it might have helped that we never had kids or teenagers either.”
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus was in the temple. He told his disciples that hard times were ahead: "War and destruction will visit this place. The Romans will tear it down to the last stone.” If that wasn’t bad enough, he said it would be worse: “The Roman armies will even detain you because you follow me instead of their gods.” That’s about as bad as bad news can get. But Jesus didn’t leave them without hope. Yes, they would experience adversity. But they had good news too; “If you remain faithful, not one hair of your head will perish, and your soul live in peace.”
He gave them practical advice to deal with adversity, trauma, fear, wars, disaster, and violence. That’s the focus of the sermon: How do we respond to adversity?
Jesus said to trust God.
He told them they would face difficult times. But he also encouraged them that they would persevere if they trusted God.
Have you ever placed your trust in the wrong thing or the wrong person? If you've ever been on a couple of dates, you understand. The fact is that we want to trust things we can touch. We say, “I’ll be happy if I buy one more pair of shoes.” These are all about me by the way… Or, “One more guitar.” Or just one more volume of 19th-century French love poetry.
Things cant bring comfort. People can't provide an easy fix, either. If you place trust in the clergy to fix everything, we will disappoint you. When we do, I do, have mercy on us, then put your faith in God instead of a collar.
Barbara Brown Taylor said, "When I say I trust Jesus, that is what I mean: I trust that the way of life leads through perseverance, not around it.”
Jesus also said that adversity is an opportunity to:
Share the Good News
He said in the reading, “In those days, you will have opportunities to testify, so decide now.”
Catastrophe always presents possibilities. After the hurricane, I met some of my neighbors for the first time. We rolled up our sleeves, put on our gloves, pick up our chain saws, and went to work. We preached the good news.
Today I understand evangelism differently than before the storm. One of the young men who helped me put the tin back on my roof was a walking plume of marijuana smoke. He struggled some meth addiction in the past as well. When we finished working, I invited him inside for some snacks and a drink. He had a lot of questions about God, faith, life, addiction, and the church. We talked about them. He said, “I ain’t ever felt comfortable with y’all preachers before. But you seem alright. Let’s talk again.”
It’s a memorable moment because I had the chance to show him that not all Christians exclude others. Some of us will welcome people with what Jesus called “a cup of cold water.”
When times are tough, find the positive and share it. But also:
Know Your Identity
Jesus also reminded the disciples to know their identity during a crisis. He said people would be cruel to them because they chose love and inclusion. In other words, "People will attack you when they know that your identity comes from following my way."
There’s a danger that we face today, forgetting who we are… neglecting our identity.
Us priests struggle with it. We can easily find our self-worth in a collar instead of in God. A friend who’s a surgeon privately confessed to me how he struggles to find identity outside an operating room. "I work all the time, and I feel like I'm just a scalpel." Some of my military friends who joined young have reached retirement age. One of them texted me a couple of weeks ago and said, “I don’t know who I am without rank on my chest.”
Life might tell you that your essence is a collar, an eagle, or a pair of scrubs. But it's not. Identity comes from being God's child, who follows the way of love. The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are.
I heard a story about a young woman who visited her grandmother during spring break.
All she did was complain and share bad news. Her professors were mean to her, the boys didn't like her, the weather was too cold, she couldn't get enough sleep and maintain her social life.
But granny was wise. While the girl talked, she filled three pots with water. She put them on the stove and brought them to a boil. She put carrots in one, eggs in the second, and ground coffee beans in the third. Her granddaughter kept going as if the universe faced imminent collapse. Granny turned off the stove and put the carrots in a bowl, the eggs in a separate bowl, and the coffee in a pot.
She said, "Honey, look, each of these faced the same adversity. The carrots went in strong, but they came out soft and weak. The eggs began with an outer shell that protected the inside. But the inside turned hard under heat. However, the coffee… it changed the water. Do you want to be carrots, eggs, or coffee?”
In a world that's filled with good news/bad news, don't forget to visit granny's for some coffee.
By: Rian Adams