Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Thoughts: The Bishop’s Candlesticks

The Bishop’s Candlesticks

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. 

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. ~ Luke 6. 27-34 (NRSV)

I still do a lot of blogging these days. Since my movement is restricted by a need for oxygen and a bum leg, much of my awake time is spent writing blogs. I suppose one could say that blogging has become 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 conned, and so I wrote an article about it.

I have been scammed and conned by many folks, often when I knew what they were up to. I made decision to give unconditionally to these folks after I reaVictor Hugo’s Les Misérables (I have yet to see the newly produced film) and thus gained a new understanding of the 6th Chapter of Luke. The story in Les Misérables  that so enlightened me I have labeled “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 residence of a bishop and seeks food from the Bishop’s servants. The Bishop himself invites Valjean into his home and provides him the hospitality of dinner at his own table and a bed for the night. When it comes time to 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. He says that he is sorry that Valjean, his guest, departed before sharing a fine breakfast with the him. The Bishop then hands 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 benevolence. 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 this story that I have told many times. I usually use it as a story that I tell without commenting upon it, thus allowing those who hear it glean whatever they need.

Blessed  are those who have ears to hear and faith to act. Amen.


  1. You've really gotten me thinking. Thank you.

  2. Very good sermon, Pastor Nick. I seem to remember hearing you tell the story many years ago.

  3. Wonderful, Saintly Nick. This is one of your best.