Romans 12:10 ďLove one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.Ē
Iíve been part of a lot of honoring lately.† The Massachusetts Bible Society gives an award to seminary students (in Massachusetts) for Excellence in the Liturgical Reading of the Scriptures.† With many seminaries in the area, the practical implication of the award is that as the school year draws to a close, I am dashing hither and yon to make the presentation at the awards ceremonies of the various schools.† From the evangelicals at Gordon-Conwell to the Greek Orthodox at Holy Cross and everything in-between, I have witnessed the ways that people of faith honor each other.
Some ceremonies have been in services of worship.† Some were standing around a food table in an informal crowd.† Some were integrated into graduations, some had a time just for awards.† Some had outside presenters like myself personally give the award, others had us wave from the crowd.† Some hooted and hollered, some sat in silence with polite applause; some gave long descriptions of the recipientís merits or the awardís criteria, others just read names.† Some recipients were dressed in flowing robes, others in suits, others in jeans.†
In all of it, I found myself trying to figure out how to make my own presentation in a way that would honor the recipient in a given setting.† But I also noticed that style wasnít the only part of honor.† Perhaps a larger part was presence.† In several cases it seemed to make an honest-to-goodness difference that I showed up in person to present the award.† When those schools said that they were honored that I came, they meant it.† Recognizing that took a little bit of the pressure off trying to get the presentation style right.† I showed up, and it mattered.
All of that is to say that I donít believe that Paul would have us be too worried about the particular things we say and do in giving honor to each other.† Of course most of us have read about public gaffes where someone failed to understand a cultural difference and ended up heaping insult instead of honor on another person, group, or nation.† But what my recent experiences have taught me is that across all those dividing lines, there is a common thread of presence.† When we sit down and share a meal; when we attend the event that bores us silly but is important to someone else; when we go to the wedding or funeral or sit by the side of someone who is hurting, we are giving honor.
Thatís what Jesus did, precisely for those that the culture said were not worthy of honoróthe sinners, the Gentiles, the tax collectors, the poor, the lepers.† And thatís what Paul echoes as he calls for us to outdo one another in showing honor.† Donít just get the customs right.† Show up.† Be present, and the Spirit of God will do the rest.
Thank you, God, for showing upófor being with us and making us worthy of honor.† Amen.
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