Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 29 March 2018, Maundy Thursday

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  1 Thessalonians 3:12 (NIV).

This is Paul talking about Jesus, about Jesus making the love of the Thessalonians increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.  Class dismissed.

But before you go, of course I have a few words.   Of course, since it’s Maundy Thursday, I’ll try to put them in that context.

Put yourself in the upper room that night.   You’re a helper bringing food in and out.   It’s a simple dinner, a menu that stretches back centuries.   Jesus and his friends, these famous people you’ve heard about, maybe met, maybe listened to, are here and you’re helping them celebrate the holiest night of the year.  You bring in lamb, herbs, unleavened bread, wine; you watch them as they say the words and ask the questions that Jews have said and asked most every year since the exodus from Egypt.

The overwhelming emotion in the room seems to be reverent sadness.   Given that this is the Passover, that’s appropriate.   But there’s something else afoot there, another emotion at work, something you can’t quite pin down but it’s moving and it’s growing.  Jesus is leading His friends in the mystical seder, and talking with them about sad things, about being tortured and persecuted and murdered.   He’s telling them strange things, speaking about His body and blood, and they are listening intently but don’t seem to really understand.

And then He’s talking with them about love, about incomparable love.   He’s talking about God’s love.   He’s telling them to love each other, to serve Him by serving others, to do as He does.  Jesus then stoops down to do the dirtiest job you know of:  He washes His friends’ feet.

That’s when you get a revelation, a light starts to shine in your head.   “He loves them.”  That’s a pretty obvious thought, but it’s miraculous.   He really, truly, fully loves these people the way only God does.   Jesus is talking the talk and walking the walk by both demonstrating and speaking of His love.   His love is expressed in everything He’s doing, and He’s serving them in ways you don’t expect God would.   But Jesus is doing it anyway and what He’s doing is inspiring, deeply moving, selfless and perfect.   Jesus is showing them, and you, the kind of person you want to be.   It’s life-changing.

And it happened on Maundy Thursday.   That kind of love is what Paul was talking about, the love Jesus would inspire and grow in the hearts of the Thessalonians.  It’s the kind of love that would make a wandering missionary long to see his friends.   It’s the kind of love that changes hearts, attitudes, and lives, both then and now.   It’s for you.

For further reading:   Matthew 26:17-35, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:7-38, John 13:1-17:26, 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

Lord, all praise to You for Your love, for the lessons You taught on Maundy Thursday.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10, verse 24

I’m a project manager.  I manage a team of people working on a project to remove Social Security numbers from older peoples’ Medicare ID cards.  Because I work remotely, I’ve never physically met most of the people on my team (though I do know some from previous jobs).  It’s tough to get to know people you don’t see face to face, and that makes. even more sense because I’m the new kid on the block.  On a work team, you’re drawn together by the commonality of your tasks and the fact that you’re employed for the same reason by the same people.  Yet in a virtual work environment, you never see your co-workers or team members in person.  Unless you know your co-workers from previous interaction, you don’t have common ground.   That makes motivating a team difficult.

So Hebrews 10, verse 24 is perhaps some of the best project management advice ever written, especially for virtual teams.

“Let us consider” is a call to friendly action.   Notice that it doesn’t say “do this” or “you will.”   It isn’t directive in nature and yet it places the reader in a position as if they had been directed.   “Let us consider” are three words that are swung as a velvet hammer.   They don’t force you to do anything yet place the burden of inaction squarely on you and you alone.   They ask you to do something without commanding you to do something.   They appeal to your reason and your sense of belonging.  That shouldn’t be surprising because that’s usually how Jesus operates.

“Spur” (according to dictionary.com) means “anything that goads, impels, or urges, as to action, speed, or achievement.”  The King James version of Hebrews uses the word “provoke” but no matter what version is used to translate the word, the intention is clearly to convince others to move.   A manager spends most of his time doing just this.   A good manager will do it in such a way as to inspire you to act on your own to do your part in a larger mission.   As managers, we spend most of our time spurring people forward to support the tasks we oversee.   As followers of Jesus, we should be spending most of our time doing the same thing, and the task with which we’re charged is sharing the Gospel.

And we are to spur one another TOWARD love and good deeds.   Sure, we are to comport ourselves in love and righteousness.   Jesus gave us both of those things and we’re to use them in living our lives.   Yet when we manage and lead others, we are to inspire them in the direction of love and good deeds.   We aren’t supposed to do other peoples’ love and good deeds for them.  Helicopter parents beware:   you aren’t responsible for living your kids’ lives.   Your job is to inspire them by parenting them, teaching them, preparing them.

Helicopter managers beware as well:   you’re responsible for the efforts of your team, but it isn’t your job to do their work for them.   It’s your job to spur them toward doing it.   It’s our job to serve a greater good by helping those around us serve it as well.  May I suggest that, whether you have Jesus followers on your team or not, some practical advice on why, even how, to do that is found first and foremost in the Bible (and not in the PM Body of Knowledge?)?

Best of all, we get to do these things while relying on the foundation of faith in Jesus’ true good news.   Love and good deeds are both the reason and the by-product of living in Jesus’ presence where love and good deeds become standard operating procedure.  In working with them we find it’s the journey and not the destination that matters most.

I don’t know whether my team-members are believers or not.   In today’s super-sensitive work climate, it’s almost taboo to discuss matters of faith.   Yet whether they’re believers or not, more often than not I find myself asking “what should I do” of my Savior when I have even the slightest question about work.   I’m learning to entreat Him into my routines, involving my faith more and more as a practical tool for managing my work team.   There is no downside to that.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14.

Lord, be involved in my work.   Lead me and teach me so I may lead and inspire others.