As we come to the end of the church year and start the flurry of Christmas, here is a thought-provoking meditation to help us think through our priorities. Use it for your home groups, or as a personal devotion. It is great for adults and for older children too.
You will need scissors and some lengths (about 50cm) of different coloured yarns – at least five colours and enough for five lengths each.
We are going to use the fingers of the hand to think of areas of our lives where we have control or duty. It is good to take responsibility for the things entrusted to us, but it is also good to remember that we are only stewards.
Thumb: this is the strongest digit
Think of your areas of strength, your talents, your skills. Choose a colour of yarn to represent the things that you are good at. Tie a small loop at one end, just big enough to fit over your thumb. This is the rein that controls your talents. You may feel you have a lot of control, or not so much. Slip the loop onto your thumb.
Index finger: this points the way
Choose another yarn to represent your ambitions and goals, the direction you are headed. Perhaps this feels an unguided area. Make another rein and slip it onto your index finger.
Middle finger: this is the tallest finger
For the middle finger we think of important people in our lives, the people we admire and follow, our role models. Perhaps they are friends or colleagues, perhaps public figures. Choose a yarn and make a rein.
Ring finger: this finger is for relationships
Our relationships could be with family, with friends, church members or colleagues. Make a rein for these and wear it on your ring finger.
Little finger: this is the weakest finger
We will think about the weaknesses in our lives. What are the areas we are finding a struggle? Even if we cannot control circumstances, we can control our reactions. Put a rein on this finger too.
These are some of the areas where we are acting as stewards for God. He gives good things for us to enjoy and use. God entrusts us with the reins of our lives. We are not supposed to act like the servant who hid his master’s money, but to use God’s gifts wisely in the consciousness that we are only stewards, not owners.
Quietly think about each yarn in turn and, after examining that aspect of your life, cut the yarn off your finger, symbolically relinquishing the ultimate control to the rightful king.
I love the Lord of the Rings films. Mostly because I love the books, but it certainly helps to have drool-worthy Aragorn flashed across the screen from time to time.
He’s an interesting fellow, Aragorn, or Strider as he is known when we first meet him. If you don’t know the stories, he is introduced as a shady character, a lone wanderer with a non-too-glorious past. Who is he? Can we trust him? What is the secret he is hiding? Two thousand pages later, he turns out to be the rightful king of men and he Gets The Girl.
No-one would have believed that at the start – he neither looked like a king, nor acted like one. But appearances can be deceptive, as we see in today’s reading. Jesus and Strider have a lot in common.
All the time that Strider was wandering around Middle Earth in a grubby cloak, he was the king. It didn’t matter if people knew that or not. It didn’t matter if they acknowledged his authority or not. They could reject him, insult him, try to kill him. Yet he was still the king. Sound like anyone else?
A lot of people were confused about Jesus. They had heard about his being a king, supposedly, but he didn’t dress like a king, he didn’t talk like a king, he certainly didn’t act like a king. So perhaps he wasn’t a king, not really.
If not a king then what? Maybe we can dismiss him as a good teacher. Then we can pick and choose the nice bits he said and agree with them, but ignore the harder stuff. If he’s not a king, we don’t have to obey when we don’t fancy it. We can keep our own little kingdoms.
That certainly would make things easier. When Strider was found to be the rightful heir to the throne of men, not everyone was pleased. The appointed stewards, who had been keeping the throne warm for the last few generations, were none too pleased at the thought of losing control of their kingdom – even though they were only looking after it for the long-awaited king.
It was the same with Jesus. When he turned up and started fulfilling prophecies of another long-awaited king, there were plenty of ‘stewards’ who had become quite used to their borrowed thrones and were not keen to move aside.
Pilate – he had a throne to defend, but he needn’t have worried. Jesus was not after earthly power, although everyone from Satan in the desert to his disciples thought he should be.
The religious folk – They certainly had a kingdom to protect. They had been maintaining the faith of the children of Abraham for centuries and they were not about to let some jumped-up messiah carpenter from the ill-educated north start rocking the boat.
We find it easy to wag a finger at them from the safety of 2000 years, but would we so easily see the truth had Jesus been ruffling feathers here today? These people we criticise for their blindness were the church elders, the well-respected theologians, the conference speakers, the ministers, the house-group leaders of the day. Let us make sure we are not building our kingdoms when we seek to build his.
But what about the smaller kingdoms? We are all stewards of our own little domains. How easy do we find it to hand the reins of power to the rightful king when he asks for them back? The rich young man of Mark 10 wanted to keep a firm grip on the reins of his riches, and money can so often be the place where it is hardest for us to let go.
The uncomfortable truth is that Jesus is king, whether we like it or not. If we welcome him with rejoicing or if we fight to keep the power we think is ours, he is king. If we gladly bow in worship or if we turn our backs and ignore the commands we don’t like, he is king. If we freely offer all our gifts and possessions back to the one who gave them or if we snarlingly guard them as a dog his food bowl, He Is King.
King of all past empires,
Lord of all present rulers,
Master of all that is to come,
Lord of kingdoms great and tiny,
Teach us to hold lightly on to the reins of our supposed power,
Remembering that all aspects of our life and loves, our work and worship, our time and treasure are under your rule,
And that in all things,
You are king,
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’
‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’
‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’
Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’
‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’
New International Version – UK Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
This item first blogged in 2015