by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

December, 2000

I have heard that there was a very poor pumpkin crop this year. I don’t know if that’s true but I believe it because we were unable to find a pumpkin this year for Halloween. We tried four supermarkets and two nurseries, and I was finally told that I might be able to find one in Chesterfield, MO, much too far to travel for a simple pumpkin. Finally, I bought an artificial one made of plastic with a light bulb inside it. My wife, Charlotte, and I were surprised by how realistic it looked. It was certainly better than no pumpkin at all.

Actually, the idea of an artificial pumpkin is not that far-fetched. Like many people, for Christmas, we will have an artificial Christmas tree, as we have had for the last several years. I’m sometimes amazed by how realistic artificial trees look. Ours even has some needles that are brown instead of green, so that it looks like some of them are dead, just like on a real tree. The only thing missing is the needles on the floor and, personally, I can live without them.

Not long ago, I was talking to a coworker, whose name is also David. He was surprised to learn that my first name is actually James and that David is my middle name. (It’s a tradition on my side of our family; both my parents use their middle names too.) He began kidding me, saying that I was a “fake Dave,” and a “Jim in Dave’s clothing.” If I hadn’t known Dave was kidding, I would’ve probably been offended.

The church in Corinth had a similar problem (1 Cor. 11:17-22). Some of the people there were not “real” or, as the Revised Standard Version puts it, “genuine.” Folks were behaving in some distinctly unchristian ways. They were heathen in Christians’ clothing, so to speak. But their behavior made it plain who was real and who wasn’t, especially during “the Lord’s supper.” At that time, in addition to the symbolic “Lord’s supper,” there was also a communal meal called a love-feast, which was more akin to our modern-day potlucks or fellowship dinners. During these meals, some people became drunk, some behaved like gluttons and others were just plain selfish, eating and drinking their fill while others had nothing. When Christians behaved genuinely, it must have been easy for them to stand out in such a crowd. But our own goal should not be to stand out because we are better than others but because we have Christ dwelling within us.

During the months leading up to the recent election, and even afterward, many people tried to say what persons of faith should do and believe. But their partisan wrangling and bickering only served to reveal their true motives, just as it did many years ago in Corinth: “I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” (1 Cor. 11:18b-19 RSV). Later, Paul went on to tell the Corinthians how others can tell our faith is real: “by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God;” (2 Cor. 6:6-7a RSV).

<>Sunspots, dark patches on the surface of the sun, are extremely hot, thousands of degrees, and incredibly bright. But they look dark because the areas around them are so much hotter and brighter. When we shine forth God’s light, we shine in a dark, sometimes gloomy world. And yet, there are many lights shining besides ours, many other voices trying to drown us out, many messages competing with the message of God that we bring. But the true light of God is brighter than any other light. The only thing that matters is how brightly we are willing to let it shine in us. If we are temperate, generous and considerate of others, then “the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God;” will shine through us and light the lives of everyone around us.

“We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God
we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;” (2 Cor. 6:3-8 RSV.)


Copyright © 2000 by David Phelps