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About revmwlowry

Pastor of East Congregational United Church of Christ, Concord, NH I'm a husband, father, son, uncle, friend and pastor, having served churches in Maine, Ohio and most recently, New Hampshire; I'm also a true New Englander and "native Mainuh" who speaks Down East as a second language!

The Real Deal

(a sermon for October 25, 2020, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, based on Matthew 22:34-46)

There’s no pretty way of saying this, so best to come right out with it:  our text this morning represents a fervent effort to expose Jesus as a fake! 

It’s true; our reading this morning from Matthew is in fact the culmination of several attempts on the part of the religious “powers-that-be” of the time – the Pharisees and the Sadducees – to question Jesus’ authority and to seek to discredit him amongst the people.  And in all honesty, looking at it from their perspective who could blame them for trying? 

Remember, all of this is taking place soon after Jesus has made his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, which in and of itself was pretty much a subversive act; and then almost immediately, Jesus turns over the tables of moneychangers in the temple, he curses a fig tree as though to put the whole religious establishment on notice, and then he goes on to tell at least three parables that were thinly veiled denunciations of the so-called righteousness of said “powers-that-be!”  It’s no coincidence that no sooner than Jesus had finished his teaching, those who would put Jesus to the test started to arrive, and not kindly: isn’t it true, after all, in the words of Alyce McKenzie, that “when those with prestige and position are challenged, when their presuppositions are upturned, they react with hostility and fear?”  Better, they reason, to try to trip Jesus up with impossible questions and humiliate him in front of all the people than perhaps actually have to listen to what Jesus is saying and realize that maybe the world – and they – will need to change because of it; in other words, if Jesus is made to look like a fake, then he goes away, life goes on and the status quo is maintained.

And like I said before, I understand; I get why they would do that; because the truth is, I’ve lived it.  And so, I’m guessing, have you.

Pastorally speaking, it’s there in the experience of having someone tell you that they’d never go to church because it’s filled with hypocrites; or else, when they let you know that while God is very well and good, they’ve got a real problem with “organized religion” (at which point, I am always tempted – but never quite dare – to reply, well, then, why not try our church, because we haven’t managed to get ourselves organized yet!).  More seriously, I hear it from those who tend to back themselves far away from faith because of all the sorrow and suffering that goes on in the world; why would a just and loving God ever let that happen, they reason.  And besides, they’ll say, aren’t there “extremists” to be found in every kind of religious tradition, and isn’t that really the problem in the world today?

So friends, I can certainly attest to the fact that in this modern era, just as in every one that’s come before, there will always be those who would seek to put Jesus to the test; people in the midst of the predominant culture and the politics of the time who would look at what we believe, what we stand for and who we follow, and wonder if it truly is “the real deal,” so to speak, or if there’s a way to be found to have it simply… all go away.

What’s interesting is that leading up to our reading for this morning, the Sadducees and Pharisees had been doing their dead level best for exactly that to happen!  First, in order “to entrap” Jesus, the Pharisees “sent their disciples” (aka, their lackeys!) to ask a question about taxes being paid to the emperor (Matt. 21:17).  And then the Sadducees, who were famous for not believing in resurrection, came along to try to trip Jesus on a tricky question about what would happen in the afterlife if one widow ended up married to more than one brother in a family!  It was all about creating a conundrum, an impossible riddle for Jesus to solve; but each time they try it, Jesus not only avoids the trap, but does so with theological depth and finesse.  In short, their attempts to paint Jesus as nothing but a charlatan and rabble rouser, so far had failed miserably.

But then they decided, why not get to the heart of the matter; this time, the Pharisees would come to Jesus in person and ask of him a single question; one that, by the way, happened to be a pretty common topic amongst the faithful of Jesus’ time:  “Teacher,” one of them asked (and you have to know that the title of “teacher” was dripping with what is often referred to these days as snarkiness!), “which commandment of the law is the greatest?”   It was the perfect question, at least as far as the Pharisees were concerned: they figured that whatever commandment that Jesus chose, they could then assume that apparently Jesus didn’t really care much about the other nine; and so then they could proclaim to everybody in Jerusalem that not only was this Jesus a flagrant commandment breaker, but a blasphemer as well (truthfully, I have to imagine that at the end of this proclamation, they’d end with their own 1st century Palestinian version of “we’re your scribes and Pharisees, and we approved this message!”).  Simply put, no matter how Jesus responded, they’d have the goods on him at last.

But then Jesus answered the question. 

And the answer was… brilliant.  “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This,” Jesus says, “is the greatest and first commandment.”  And, by the way, it pretty much sums up the first five of the Ten Commandments; covering false worship, idols, taking God’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath, and honoring one’s parents.  And Jesus isn’t done:  “And a second is like it:” he goes on, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  That would pretty well cover the second five commandments – that is, lying, stealing, coveting, adultery, false witness and murder – thus bringing all ten commandments into one razor sharp focus; or as Jesus concludes, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I would have loved to been there to see the Pharisees’ reaction; because whether they were willing to admit it or not, Jesus had not only avoided the trap they’d set for him, but he’d also answered their question correctly; deep down, they knew Jesus was right!  The Pharisees, remember, were all about the law; specifically, following the law to the letter; and to be fair to them, following the law to the letter was for them an act of great and pious faith!  But now here’s Jesus, to remind them that at the heart of all that law and deep in the midst of its interpretation and practice, is to be the one simple truth of LOVE.  Loving God… and loving people.  In the words of Hillel, an ancient teacher of the Jewish faith, it’s all about loving God and loving people; “the rest is commentary.” Every law, every rule, every custom and tradition we have, every act of piety we embrace as people of faith pretty much comes down to – or ought to come down to – LOVE.  And it’s LOVE, you see, that ultimately reveals Jesus – and our Christian faith – as “the real deal;” as something neither fake nor transitory nor empty in the face of the struggles faced in this world, but rather, in fact, that which is “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

Now, I know that as we look at this story, this all comes off as a pretty basic tenet of our Christian faith, does it not; I mean, if it isn’t all about loving God and loving our neighbor, then what is it that we really stand for as Christians or as the church?  But the fact is, this story of the Scribes and Pharisees’ challenge to Jesus actually raises for each one of us an important issue; and that’s whether or not we really understand how central love is to who we are and what we do?  Because in truth, the reason that there are many out there who are suspicious of faith and of those of us who espouse faith is that they don’t always see, or feel, or experience the love through us or in us!  What is that famous quote from Mahatma Ghandi:  “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”   That sounds harsh – and it is – but how are we ever to convey to the world the truth of our Christian faith if we ourselves are not “the real deal” where love is concerned?

The late Marcus Borg, the renowned Biblical Scholar and theologian, has written that so often “we have made being Christian very complex, as if it’s about getting our doctrines right.  But being Christian,” Borg says, “is actually very simple, even breathtakingly simple.”  And basically, it comes down to this: being Christian is about loving God and loving what God loves; and what God loves is the world… “not just you and me, not just Christians, not even just human beings, but the whole of creation.” 

Being Christian is about our working with God to become that kind of person; understanding of course, that we’re not talking about love in some sort of passive sense, but love actively; doing what we can do to be about the business of God’s love in the world: bringing light into darkness, lifting up the fallen and bringing them hope, doing justice in the places and amongst the people where “the power of politics, and the politics of power” seem to reign supreme.  It’s about living unto the love we have for God by letting it be transformed into the love we show for others; a simple thought, to be sure, but where the law and the prophets are concerned – as well as the mission of the church and, might I add, our own Christian walk, yours and mine – it’s where everything starts and on which its success truly hinges.

You might have noticed that there’s a brief postscript to our reading this morning, in which Jesus essentially turns the tables on the Pharisees by offering up a test of his own.  The question has to do with the Pharisee’s own interpretation of whose son the Messiah is supposed to be, and the exchange ends on a rather ominous note:  “No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any questions.”   It was the kind of exchange that those involved in the art of debate live for – the “drop the mic” moment, as it were (!) – the final, definitive statement that shuts down all further argument.  Of course, we know the gospel story and understand that once the Pharisees had retreated, the inevitable plan for Jesus’ death had already begun to unfold; so in a larger sense, the ending of these tests signaled the beginning of something even more crucial. 

Actually, read on in Matthew and it’s all there:  will we keep our lamps burning in anticipation of the kingdom to come?  Will we be investing our talents for the sake of the Master?  Will we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned?  Will we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, loving God by doing so?  And will we walk with Jesus, even if that walk inevitably leads to the cross?  Will our faith, our love, our loyalty be as fleeting as that of the disciples when they scattered, or will people see in us true faith, and know that we are “the real deal?”

Seems to me that that’s a test of a whole other sort!

Let us pray that as the test unfolds in our own lives this week, we’ll be able to say that we passed!

So might it be; and thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

© 2020 Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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The Faith to Ask

(a sermon for October 18, 2020, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Mark 10:46-52)

The grade was a C minus!  And honestly, that was charitable; the only reason it wasn’t a D or worse was that the professor had given me partial credit for a couple of lame answers I’d desperately scribbled on the exam at the last minute!  So it could well have been worse, but since this particular exam counted for 40 percent of my grade, I was feeling like I was sinking fast!  Looking back on it now, I know it was just one test amongst many, but back then as a college freshman the whole thing sent me into a major panic.

So with both heart and exam in hand I dragged myself to the professor’s office to ask for help.  Understand, this was not something I wanted to do; this teacher had intimidated me from day one, and I knew he was going to lay into me about my shoddy work, if not berate me for having the gall to take his class in the first place!  Even as I knocked on his office door, I was convinced that this meeting could not possibly end well!

But as it turned out, the professor couldn’t have been nicer: warmly inviting me sit down and have a cup of coffee while he took a second look at my exam.  There were a couple of agonizing minutes as he went over my work: “Mmm hmm… OK… mmm hmm… Ohhhh… Uh-oh…” but when it was all over, he looked up with a smile and said, “Actually, you’re not too far off here; you’re just going about this the wrong way.  I think we can get your grade up.”   And to this, all I could say, in a voice that expressed a combination of fear, relief and utter amazement, was, “No way.”  To which he replied, “Oh, sure.  The only people who end up doing poorly in my class are the one who won’t come and ask for help.”

I ended up getting a B in that class – not too bad, considering – but I realize now this wasn’t because I was such a stellar student; mostly it was because I’d set aside my fear and my pride to ask for help.  It turned out to be a good lesson for what was to come in my college and seminary career; I’ve also come to realize over the years that it’s a pretty good life lesson as well!

The fact is that we all have times when we have to ask for help; moments of challenge and struggle in which if we are in any way to move forward, we need to turn to someone else – a family member, a friend or neighbor, maybe even a stranger – for our aid.  And if we’re being honest about it, that’s not always an easy thing to do; in fact, most of us have a laundry list of excuses for not asking for help: we don’t wish to be a bother or a burden; we don’t want to come off as appearing needy; we don’t want to be “beholden” to others; or maybe we’re like the stereotypical male who, on principle, refuses to ask for directions under any circumstance (which, as I and just every other man can tell you, is because we’re men and we don’t need no stinkin’ directions!).  But whatever it is, what it all amounts to is simply not wanting to ever admit we actually need help!

Bottom line; is all too often for us, this very basic human act of reaching out to others for help turns out to be just about one of the hardest things we ever have to do; and if that’s true on a personal level, on a spiritual level it can seem almost impossible!  Yes, again if we’re being honest, for many of us even asking for help from God seems to go against the grain of our independent, pull-ourselves-up-by-our-own-bootstraps, self-sufficient sensibilities; even in those horrible moments of life when it’s clear that all we have left is to cry out to God! 

And why is that?  Why is it so difficult for us to ask for help, particularly from God?  Well, for one thing, it’s humiliating; at least in the sense that it requires from us some humility.  In other words, it’s humbling to acknowledge our need, and in the process, our utter weakness. It’s hard for us to confess that no, we can’t do it all for ourselves, and then to put ourselves and our own brokenness out there on display in order to get the help we need.   To put this still another way, asking for help requires from us a change of heart; but the good news is that if we’ll just let that happen, not only do we get what we need, but we end up with much more than we were ever expecting. 

It’s a change of heart that leads to a change of life…

…and if you want another word for that, it’s FAITH.

Now, I know this runs headlong into this notion that so many of us cling to that faith means our having everything together and living with absolute certainty about… everything.  But that’s really not faith at all:  I actually love what the Rev. Susan Andrews says about this: “This is what faith looks like,” she writes.  “Faith is needy.  Faith is eager.  Faith is assertive.  Faith is hopeful.  Faith is impetuous and persistent and risky and raw.  Faith is personal and relational.  Faith ends something and faith begins something.  Faith is about God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and [in the end] faith is about us out of dumbstruck gratitude doing for God what only we can do.”   

We have a supreme example of all this in Mark’s story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar crying out for all he’s worth for Jesus to help him.   Now here was a man who’d not only lived most of his life in darkness, but also in poverty and outside the periphery of society, having long since been reduced to begging to passersby for any loose coins and leftover food in order to survive.  So Bartimaeus had a need that was raw and profound and immediate, and frankly, most people in his situation would have given up long ago on ever having that need answered.

But not Bartimaeus; he’s not at all afraid to ask for what he needs!  In fact, he’s persistent about it to the point of becoming a bit obnoxious (!): we’re told in Mark that even though “many sternly ordered him to be quiet,” Bartimaeus wasn’t about to be quiet; when they shush him, he just shouts for Jesus all the more loudly, until finally, this heart of crazy bold eagerness gets a response and Jesus does answer.

And did you notice – that after they call Bartimaeus, and he throws off his cloak, fairly well leaping to where Jesus is – how Jesus answers?  It’s “what do you want me to do for you?”  What is it that you need? “My teacher, let me see again,” says Bartimaeus, and to this Jesus says simply, “Go; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately, because he had the faith to ask, Bartimaeus gets the help, the healing that he needs.  To quote Andrews once again, there’s nothing “proper or pious or proud” about this, just “uppity, persistent, honest need,  and,” listen to this: “in offering that need assertively and eagerly to Jesus, Bartimaeus finds purpose.  He finds faith.  He finds new life.”

Isn’t it interesting how often in the gospels, when someone asks for, and receives what they need from Jesus, their first response is to follow Jesus; it’s the changed heart that leads to a changed life!  And that does make sense; after all, just as I wouldn’t have gotten a B in that class had I not made use of the help I’d gotten from the teacher, Bartimaeus regaining his sight would ultimately have meant very little if he’d continued living in a way that was disconnected to the world and to God!  For Bartimaeus, his new sight led to change in his vision for living.  And that’s the thing, you see; you not only gave to have the faith to ask, you also have to have the faith to follow.

I remember a piece I read several years back about a group of young people who, though they’d been essentially blind since their birth, underwent an advanced type of laser eye surgery and were enabled to see for the first time in their lives!  Think about that for a moment; what it must have been like for them to actually see a flower, or a sunset, the fall foliage or the people they loved for the very first time? 

But in fact, for many of them, it was literally an overwhelming experience.  One young woman said she was so stunned by the incredible beauty of it all that all she could do in response was to immediately shut her eyes and refuse to open them again for two weeks.  Others spoke of how difficult it was for them to get around: before, they’d been able to maneuver in the dark, but now in the light, they’d bang into furniture, and reach out for things, only to misjudge where they were and knock them to the floor!  Another even felt like he was going mad, so much there was for him to absorb! Turned out that for a lot of them, it was much easier to remain in the darkness than to face having vision, because having vision meant a life so radically different than before.

There’s a parable there for us, I think; and it’s that if you’re going to ask for sight, then you had best prepare for a change in your vision.  Because if you have the faith to ask God will give you what you need, but getting what you need will often lead you down a different pathway than the one you were on before, and you’ll need the faith to follow.  The story of Bartimaeus is a reminder to us that where Jesus is concerned, the miracle is just the beginning; and what follows is most certainly the glory of the journey ahead!

Beloved, let me share with you this morning a truth of faith that I’m learning and relearning every day of my life, most especially over the past six months or so:  that the good news of the gospel is that there is no situation in life and living so bad, so convoluted and without hope that we cannot go to God in Jesus Christ, ask for help, and not receive the help that we need.  Now, understand that how we’re answered and what we receive might not always be in the manner that we expect; but make no mistake, what we are given will be healing and transformative and life-changing.  This is what new, abundant life is all about, and it is what we’re promised: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you…”  (Matthew 7:7) that we might get the help we need and be set free; free to follow him where he leads. 

Even now, his voice is asking: “What do you want me to do for you?”  How can I help you?  What help do you need?

His help is there before us, and beloved, we must never be afraid to ask for it.  What that professor wisely said to me so many years ago, offers equal wisdom to you and me as we walk through this journey of life and faith… that ultimately, the ones who do poorly are the ones who won’t ask for help.

May we have the the faith to ask and the faith to follow, dear friends; and may our thanks be unto God.

AMEN and AMEN.

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2020 in Faith, Jesus, Life, Sermon

 

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Nurturing a Good Name

(a sermon for October 11, 2020, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Proverbs 22:1-11)

While going through some scrapbooks and photo albums up at my mother’s house this week, I came across something I literally hadn’t thought about in years:  clippings from the newspaper column I wrote for a couple of years in our hometown’s little weekly paper, The Katahdin Journal. Now, that’s not quite as impressive as it might sound: basically, I was a high school reporter and the column was a weekly conglomeration of basketball scores, student events and teacher interviews.  But I do have to say it was kind of neat; since in those days I fancied myself as a latter-day John-Boy Walton, writing something that actually ended up in print was quite a thrill for me, and the admittedly minor notoriety it garnered me in my home town wasn’t bad either! 

It was fun to read some of that stuff again, but what really made me laugh came at the end of my weekly report.  You see, early on I got into the habit of ending each column with a “quotable quote.”  And the quote was usually along the lines of this: “Until next week, think about this: ‘To get ahead in life, don’t stare up the steps, step up the stairs!’”  Or, “Till next time, ask yourself this question: ‘Is your mind open, or is it just vacant?’”  Just little one-line bits of wisdom that I’d scoured out of quotation books and my family’s small collection of Ideals magazines!  In retrospect, it was kind of an early foray into church newsletter writing, and yes… I’ll admit, it was a little cornball!   But as it turned out, it also was quite popular! 

In fact, what I started to find out was that the thing people remembered most about what I’d written were these silly little quotes I’d stuck in the last paragraph!  People regularly started asking me about those quotes and where I’d found them; and even the newspaper editor confessed to me that if on a particular week he had to cut it out for lack of space, he’d inevitably get a phone call from an irate reader asking where it was!  But the best thing of all was that I’d go over to friends’ houses and I’d often see these tiny little clippings from the end of my column on their refrigerator doors! 

It got to the point where I ended up spending nearly as much time finding good quotes as I did writing the column (I even managed to get a couple of Bible verses in there; which was quite a trick, considering the decidedly non-religious nature of my editor at the time!).  I suppose that it was an early indicator that my destiny did not lie in the world of hard-core journalism but rather behind a pulpit; but it was also a small lesson in the truth that people need, want and appreciate some encouragement in their lives, even when that encouragement comes in the form of a “pithy” little saying.

To put this another way, we all need some proverbs for our lives… and that’s what our text for this morning is all about.

By definition, friends, proverbs are short, one-sentence bits of wisdom drawn from everyday human experience, and they are intended to help us find our way in a confusing world.  Or as the Alyce McKenzie of Perkins School of Theology has said it, “proverbs help to create order and reliability in an often unreliable world.”  Historically speaking, Biblical scholars believe that what we know as the Book of Proverbs arose during a time of great social upheaval and moral dissolution in Israel, a period when society was rife with corruption and moral weakness; which means that a great deal of what we read in this part of scripture grew out of a time much like our own:  a moment in time when culture seems to be in chaos, when accepted ways are coming unglued and old truths are being questioned.  What’s needed in such times is an affirmation: a reminder, writes William Willimon, “that life has some answers, that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, morally speaking, in each generation.  Proverbs,” Willimon concludes, “point the way.”

Very true; most especially in times such as these.  In fact, it would seem to me that now more than ever, we need some “proverbial wisdom” for our lives, a world view that’s spun not on the dreams of riches, the desire for power or the wish to prevail over others at all costs but rather wholly focused on the Word of God.

The trouble with the Book of Proverbs, of course, is that every verse is its own sermon, and the topics often vary widely from verse to verse:  from child rearing (“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”), to care for the poor (“Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”), to taking a proper attitude towards God, self and others (“Those who love a pure heart and are gracious in speech will have the king as a friend.”).  And if you read for very long in Proverbs, you’re going to run headlong into some fairly harsh and explicit advice in dealing with the perverse, the wicked and those who engage in loose living; not to mention some verses that, given the times in which they were written, certainly don’t jibe with our modern sensibilities as regards discipline and the treatment of women and children.  Suffice to say that there’s a whole lot to digest in the Book of Proverbs!

So maybe what we need to do, at least for our purposes this morning, is to find a way to somehow bring all these proverbs together.  And for me, the key to this can actually can be found in the very first verse we shared today from the 22nd chapter of Proverbs: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

What’s interesting is that if you ask someone what they want out of life – particularly if you ask someone this question as they’re starting out in life – odds are this person will answer in one of two ways: either they will say something to the effect that they want to be successful (that is, to be powerful or popular or influential or rich) or that they wish to build a life that is based on happiness or security (you know, falling in love, raising a family, having a home, getting a job that not only pays the bills but offers some satisfaction).   Now, don’t misunderstand: this is not to say that these two points of view are mutually exclusive from  each other, nor that one choice is all bad and the other all good – there are those who do seem to “have it all,” as it were – it is just to suggest that when it all comes down in life, most of us end up in one way or another choosing in which direction we wish to go.  Whether we actually reach the destination we’ve chosen is almost beside the point; what matters is how the choice we’ve made defines who we are along the way.

So… when this proverb for today advises you and me to choose for ourselves a good name over great riches, you can’t help but wonder what true wisdom really is!  For instance, you might remember my telling you a few weeks ago how Lisa and I have been “binge-watching” old seasons of “Survivor” this summer and fall; well, I can share with you from that experience the insight that the most memorable players of that million-dollar game succeed through cunning and deceit, backstabbing and a decided lack of personal integrity!  Likewise, you don’t hear an awful lot of politicians running for office these days who focus solely on matters of one’s own goodness, mercy and worthiness for office, but rather on tearing down the character of that his or her opponent… even as they rail against negative campaigning!   But that’s the choice that they’ve made, and we refer to it as “politics as usual.”

By the same token, however, think for a moment about the handful of people who have meant the most to you in your lives: family members, friends, teachers, mentors of one sort or another; the people you love and who have loved you.  When you describe these people, what do you say?  I’m guessing that you’ll say that they were kind and generous to you; that they could be counted on through thick or thin; that they did so much good without ever saying anything about it.  The point here is that these are the people who have for you personified love and faith:  they may or may not have ever had anything in their lives approaching worldly success, but they were and are of good character, people who have chosen in their lives to make a good name for themselves; and that has made all the difference.

The very word character comes from the Greek word charaktíras, meaning “a engraving tool,” that is, that which creates and sharpens the unique traits of one’s personality.  So character does matter, doesn’t it; and it matters to you and to me as we walk the pathways of our lives.  Character is determined by the choices you and I make in how and which way to walk, and not only does that become integral to the way that life unfolds for us, it also has a profound effect on those who walk with us.  As theologian and author Stanley Hauerwas has written: “Be well assured,” he says, “that our character will conform to some account of what’s going on in the world.” 

The question is – it always is – which account… and is that account true?

I think I’ve shared with you before that one question I always ask every couple that comes to me wanting to get married is where they see themselves in, say, five or ten or twenty years?  What would they like to be doing?  Where would they like to be?  Actually, it’s a good question for any of us, married or no, to ask ourselves from time to time; basically, what do we want out of life, even as that life is being lived?  How do we wish to be seen by others – be they friends, neighbors, or even strangers – and who is it that we want to look like in terms of who we are?  When all is said and done, what is it that we fervently hope that the people who know us will say about us?

Will those people say we were “pure of heart and… gracious of speech?”   That we were generous to a fault, kind to others in their distress, both cautious and clever at the right time, people who live life in “humility and fear of the LORD,” and thus knew “riches and honor and life?”  Will they say of you and me that ours was a good name?

Well, the answers to such questions and so many others come down to the choices we make here and now… today, tomorrow and in every day that comes.  Because, beloved, the nurture of a good name is work that stretches over a lifetime.

And it begins and is rooted in the power and presence of God, because as the Book of Proverbs reminds us, “The rich and poor have [at least] this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all.” 

Yes, a good name is of greater value than anything the world can provide; so rest assured that what we do out there – as persons, as people, as the church of Jesus Christ – matters; and how we’re seen in these strange, divisive and distressing times is not only important, but crucial.  May it be truly said of you and of me that the light of our character and wisdom was but a reflection of our God, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And may our thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN!

© 2020 Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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