Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Doing What I love

Since I was a wee child and would listen to stories read to me by my aunts Abba (Alma) and Lill, I have been enthralled by the written word. Perhaps that is the reason one of my greatest joys in my years of pastoring was writing: newsletters, articles, educational materials, newspaper columns, etc.

In recent years, even through three years of blogging and about 970 posts, I have still missed seeing the words I write in print! (Perhaps that’s an egotistical need; I really don’t know). So…. recently when I was asked to write a monthly column for a local church newsletter, I jumped at the chance.

Below is a not-yet-final-edit copy of my first newsletter article that will be published in June.

The Bishop’s Candlesticks

But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. ~ Luke 6: 27-31 (RSV)

I do a lot of blogging these days. Since my movement is restricted by a need for oxygen and a bum leg, most of my time is spent writing blogs. I suppose one could that blogging is now my media of ministry. For example, a while back a blogger posted about an incident that had him questioning whether he had done a good deed or been scammed and made a fool of. That reminded me of a decision I made many years ago not to be concerned about being scammed and so I wrote an article about it.

I have been scammed and conned by many folks, at times even when I knew what they were up to. The decision was made after I read and gained a new understanding of the chapter in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that I have labeled (when I’ve used it in a sermon) “The Bishop’s Candlesticks.” Here is that story as I remember it:

The protagonist, Jean Valjean, after being imprisoned for about 20 years for stealing bread to feed his family, is released but, as an ex-convict, can find no work and is himself on the verge of starvation when he comes upon the resident of a bishop and seeks food from the Bishop’s servants. The Bishop himself invites Valjean into his home and provides his hospitality of dinner at his own table and a bed for the night. When it comes time of retire, the bishop sends Valjean up to his room with one of the two very expensive silver candlesticks that grace the bishop’s dining table to light his away.

The following morning the servants of the Bishop awaken him with the revelation that not only has their guest departed before breakfast, but he has taken the costly candlestick with him. Later the same morning the police arrive at the Bishops residence with Valjean in custody and inform the bishop that they found the ex-con in possession of the candlestick that was recognized as belonging to the bishop. They asked the bishop to identify the candlestick so that they may charge Valjean with the theft.

The Bishop speaks directly to Valjean rather than the police. Says he is sorry that he, his guest, departed before sharing a fine breakfast with the Bishop, and then hand Valjean the mate to the candlestick he had stolen, saying, “You forgot this, my friend. I gave you both candlesticks. What good is one without the other?”

The police release Valjean, who at that moment is changed by forever by the Bishop’s action. He leaves with both candlesticks, walks to a nearby town, sells them, and using the proceeds, becomes a wealthy factory owner, known for his honesty generosity, and just dealings who eventually becomes mayor of the town.

Of course, there is much more to the book, but it is this story that I have told many times. I usually use it in a sermon as a story that I tell without commenting upon, thus allowing those who hear it glean from it whatever they need.

Thanks for listening.


  1. a story I know well as a former French teacher- but your application is Golden- Here's to many many illustrius issues in the future!!

    it willbe extremely well received I know it !! sandy Hi Alex

  2. I wonder if I would be able to let those candle sticks go and not punish the thief. I really do not know.

  3. I think this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of His teachings, for many people.

    Very thought-provoking.

  4. I wish I could hear you preach a sermon.

  5. Fabulous article ! I loved it - such a great lesson in love!


  6. Thanks!

    I needed that!

    The readers of the newsletter are lucky to have a column written by you (does your column have a name?).

    And I'm lucky because I found your blog.

  7. luv the story. I'll be stealing it for my own purposes.

  8. What you write says something to me that I have needed to hear for a long time. Maybe I can forgive myself for letting someone really con me bad.

  9. I need to go think about this for a while. The idea is so alien to the American way of life.

  10. This was wonderful reading Nick. Perhaps you could share your column with us too? I'd not be only one interested. :o)

  11. I loved The Bishop's Candlesticks! Your writing is a joy to read.

    Thanks for bringing to mind that touching scene from Les Misérables.

    Lovely reminder to be forgiving and generous.

  12. When I saw that part of the movie I expected he would be sent back to the prison ship. What the bishop did astonished me. I remember thinking that people just don’t do that.

  13. hmm I don't like being scammed. I don't like being fooled. I give but I do not give without thought.

  14. I suppose that is why there are preachers like you, Nick. Otherwise most of us wouldn’t pay attention to words in the Bible like the ones you quoted.

  15. what a great story! Like rimshot, I may be using this story one day too! Thanks

  16. Thank you for posting this again Nick. I am in the middle of something that has been bothering me again and this once again helps.

    I know this will sound bad but there is this one person that sits out on a bench near the building I work at during the lunch hours. I can not pass him without him specifically calling out to me to give money to him which I have many several times. Now I feel trapped when ever I go outside. But if I just look at if differently, more as the bishop did... you have touched me again with the very same story.

    Nick you can and do still make a difference. I think this column is a wonderful thing. I wish you well.

  17. Nick you have a talent. Thank you for sharing it with your readership.

  18. I am so happy you have this opportunity available to you. I know how much I enjoy reading what our Pastor has to say in the newsletter and his sermons and you Nick just have such a great soul I know you will do wonderful with this. I too wish I could have had the chance to enjoy a sermon.

  19. Thank You! That was a great feeling, you just passed my way.
    That felt good!