Helping others is Self-Help

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A recent newspaper article titled, “How to be Your Own Life Coach,” stated: “You can’t always count on friends or family members for constant support—especially now, when everyone seems buffeted by uncertainty. Carve-out space in the morning to set priorities for the day. Then reflect on accomplishments in the evening and celebrate them.”

This self-help guru might have inspired some readers more versed in scripture to roll their eyes and turn the page. But then came her list of targeted goal-centered accomplishments. On it was, helping someone solve a problem. “A good coach will always remind a client that most setbacks are temporary,” the article concluded. “So remind yourself that this too shall pass.”

Could this New-Age guru have veered into some old-school scripture about the gift of hope?

“This too shall pass” resonates what Paul told the Corinthians about our calling to comfort others and bring the Holy Spirit to them (2Corinthians: 7-10):

“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”

In this Sunday’s second reading from First Corinthians (1 Cor 12:12-30), Paul tells us ALL people were designed to form the body of Christ and to manifest the holy spirit of hope for others. This is not reserved for one group.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

This Sunday, Paul’s letter is bookended by old and new-testament accounts of prophetic words spoken to bring hope—TO ALL. In the first reading (Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10), Ezra (the priest and scribe) is addressing a congregation of tearful people hungering for hope.

“Do not be sad, and do not weep,” he tells them. “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

In Luke’s gospel (Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21), Jesus reads the words of Isaiah to a crowd and establishes the same effect:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, Jesus handed it back to the attendant and sat down. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Sunday’s gospel reading ends there, but the full account shows that Jesus’ audience thought THEY were to be the exclusive beneficiaries of Isaiah’s promise as voiced by Jesus. But when Jesus implies the invitation to be among God’s chosen people is open to EVERYONE—not just Israelites—they come close to killing Jesus. 

His body WAS killed, eventually, but his spirit still thrives in the earthen vessels you and I and all people are called to be—otherwise known as the body of Christ. We may be cracked, but when we work to shore-up each other’s weaknesses, our human integrity ensures the hope flowing through us will spring eternal.

–Tom Andel

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