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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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As Bread for the Broken

(a sermon for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost and World Communion Sunday, based on  Exodus 16:2-15)

I suppose that it was inevitable.

After all, it was now about six weeks out from their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and their subsequent journey across the parted Red Sea into the Sinai wilderness: just long enough for food supplies to run out, patience to wear thin and the harsh reality of their situation to settle in.  And moreover, to be fair, there was a certain vagueness to this whole enterprise.  There’d been a whole lot of talk about freedom, a better life and “a land flowing with milk and honey,” (Exodus 3:8) which was all very good, but so far no specific indications as to how that was all going to work out; nor had they had any real say in the process.  All they knew is that this pilgrimage through the wilderness had now become a battle for survival; bad to the point where they’d even begun to reminiscence that even in the worst of times back in Egypt, they “sat by the fleshpots” and ate their fill of bread!  So it was kind of understandable that what they did in response was exactly what any of us might have done under the circumstances:  they complained. 

Now, in other translations of scripture, the word used is grumble, but actually for my money the best translation comes from the old King James Version where it says that “whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured” against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  The idea that out amidst the dry sand and blistering winds these people were murmuring their discontent, for me says it all: no rioting, no attempted coup or petitions for asylum; just this growing crescendo of fear and uncertainty, an overwhelming feeling of helplessness that builds into hopelessness, and then to anger and desperation.

And that we can understand, right?  Because after all, we are a people who want, need and expect some measure of control in our lives!  M. Craig Barnes says this very well: “Vague is one of our least favorite adjectives.  If you give a report or presentation at work, the last thing you want to hear is that you were vague… when your daughter announces she is getting married and you ask about their plans for the future, you don’t want to hear they plan to live on love.  Vague frightens us.  We are a people who prefer plans, strategies, numbers, and lots of details.”

The trouble with all this, however, is that oftentimes life is far out of our control; and just like Israel, we find ourselves wandering aimlessly in the desert.  Things are going along just fine, and then you lose a job; there’s a health scare; a cherished relationship comes to an abrupt end; a world-wide global pandemic (!) leads to months of quarantine… and suddenly that pathway you’ve been walking along every day of your life takes a sharp turn into unfamiliar territory. You’re totally disoriented, scared to death and wanting like anything to go back to the way things were, where at least it was safe. 

That’s the desert experience, friends; that’s what the Israelites were facing out there in the wilderness; and that’s what you and I very often have to deal with in the utter uncertainty of our own lives! In the face of that, murmuring just seems like the proper response!

But here’s the other thing about the desert experience:  while it is most definitely the place where we have to give up control, it is also the place “where we learn to receive the mysterious future God has for us.”  To quote Craig Barnes again: “The desert journey is hard because it is so threatening.  Resources and assurances are few; questions and anxiety are plentiful.  In the desert you discover you have no choice but to trust God, which is why it is a place where souls are shaped.

In today’s reading from the book of Exodus we discover that the Israelites’ problem is ultimately not with Moses and Aaron, but with God.  Even Moses can see this: it’s not he or his brother that the people can’t trust, it’s Yahweh; and that’s because they don’t know or understand that this same God who enacted their deliverance also plans to be with them in the wilderness.  They don’t “get” that while their plight is very real, God in his providence will sustain them for the journey ahead.  Once you’ve started crossing the desert, you see, there is no going back; the future and its promise lay ahead and Israel had not yet come to embrace the truth that only the God of mystery could get them there.

So what does God do in the midst of the murmuring?  How will God respond to a people who won’t trust him to lead?  Well, the answer comes in one of the most evocative images we have in the Old Testament:  God tells Moses that “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you.”  It’s manna, “a fine, flaky substance” appearing each new day with the morning dew, “as fine as the frost on the ground,” as Exodus describes it; in fact, we’re told later on in this chapter that “the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (16:31)  It’s a true gift of God, but it’s a gift that comes with instructions:  first, every family has to gather their own; you can’t hoard it because by the middle of the day it will have been spoiled by the worms; and only one day’s ration was allowed, except on the sixth day of the week, when you could have an extra portion for the Sabbath.  So, manna in the morning, followed by the arrival of quail in the evening for meat: not too much food, to be sure; but enough, just enough sustenance to keep them going on the journey.

Interestingly enough, while Moses is very reassuring in bringing this news to the people – “in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining,” he says to them – God, on the other hand, is more than up front as to how this is, in fact, a test of Israel’s trust and faith; a determination as to whether or not this measure of food will lead them in trusting that God will continue to provide for them along the way… or not!  If you read through the entirety of this 16th chapter of Exodus, at first it sounds kind of vindictive, the very vision of the judgmental God of the Old Testament.  But looking at it a little more closely, it makes perfect sense that God would see this as a test of faith; in fact, it actually kind of completes the gift!

You see, just as God understood that the Israelites would most certainly not be wholly satisfied with what they were being given; God also knows that there will never be enough sustenance in this world, at least, to rid you and me of every concern and anxiety we carry; because the true nature of life, friends, is that life is predictably unpredictable!  In other words, just about the time we figure out what we need to survive whatever it is we’re facing today, here comes another challenge that needs facing tomorrow!  On some level or another we will always be hungry, we will always be thirsty, there will always be yet another unexpected twist and turn along the pathways we follow: like it or not, that is simply what life is, and if you and I are going to live that life with any sort of confidence or integrity or purpose, friends, we are going to have to walk those pathways trusting God, knowing that there will be more manna and quail when we need it.

Granted, we all do the best we can along the way: we put away money for the future, we build up our pension accounts, we get serious about losing weight and exercising more, we wear our masks and make every effort to stay socially distanced from one another.  But at the end of the day, that kind of effort only takes us so far, and the time will inevitably come when in the midst of our challenges, our “murmuring” and even our brokenness, we’ll have to give the rest over to God… this God who provides for us one meal, one day, one blessing at a time; truly giving us “this day our daily bread.”

Today, of course, is World Communion Sunday and in a few moments, we’ll be gathering – however remotely in 2020 (!) – at the Lord’s Table with believers the world over so that we might know his presence in the broken bread and shared cup.  It’s also, I think, a time to reflect on the true meaning of this sacrament as regards our Christian faith and moreover, a chance for each of us to remember and give thanks for how this deceptively simple meal has nourished our own spiritual growth. 

For me, this day is filled with the memories of moments when in either receiving or serving communion I was made newly and palpably aware of the Lord’s presence in the bread and cup, as well as the powerful movement of God’s Holy Spirit in and through my life and the life of the church of which I was a part.  But of all those memories, perhaps the one that stands out the most happened right here in this very sanctuary; shortly after I’d arrived here at East Church as your pastor. 

As most of you know, before we came here, I was at a place I like to refer to as “in-between callings.”  Lisa, the children and I had left Ohio and had come back to Maine, where I was going to focus all my attention on the search and call process and finding a new church.  And we did so knowing that in the United Church of Christ, this is a process that can take some time; but hey, it was summer, we had the camp and it was going to be fine!  But… as August turned into September and the days of autumn crept toward a long Maine winter with still nothing concrete about a pastoral position, I’ll be honest with you; I had begun to do more than just a little “murmuring” of my own! Now, in retrospect, I don’t know if I ever doubted God through all of that but I certainly doubted myself and day by day I was feeling increasingly mired and broken there in the middle of my own personal desert wilderness. 

But you all know what happened:  our wonderfully amazing graceful God managed to bring us together as pastor and parish here at East Church.  And now, about a month in, it was the first Sunday of the month, we were in worship and I was leading us in communion; something that as a pastor I’d done literally hundreds of times over the years… but this time it was different.

And I can tell you exactly the moment I realized it:  it’s when I said, as I almost always do during communion, “In the broken bread we participate in the broken body of Christ… in the cup of blessing, we celebrate the new life that Christ brings.”  I tore the bread, and the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks:  I’d been broken!  All the challenges and struggles of the past few months, all of the uncertainties, all of the doubt, all of the lingering feelings of regret and fear and anger and… brokenness in my life: I was suddenly and profoundly and deeply aware that Jesus’ body was broken for my sake so that I might know redemption and hope and life, not to mention forgiveness and the ability to forgive; all of this even when I’d been too mired in my own feelings of being lost and broken to fully know and trust in it.  But now I realized that I was, in fact, “participating in the broken body of Christ,” a recipient of love infinite and unending… and able, at last, to truly and wholly celebrate the new life Christ brings.  As bread was given for the broken in the form of manna, at that very moment of celebration in our worship I was given the sustenance I needed.

And I’m telling you about this today because if right now you’re feeling broken – maybe seven months of pandemic has finally gotten to you… perhaps the onslaught of negativity and divisiveness in this election year has left you exhausted, angry and bitter… or maybe you’ve come to the sad conclusion that this roller coaster ride that is 2020 is much more than you can handle and now you’re just broken as a result – if that’s you, beloved, then know that this Holy Meal we’re about to share is for you.  As the song goes, “there’s life to be shared in the bread and the wine,” and whereas this act of worship might not change the ever-spinning nature of the world in these times, it will give you and me the sustenance we need for this desert journey…

…so let us come to the table so that we might be fed, and that we might know the presence, the power and the Glory of God in Jesus Christ in the process.

And may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

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

 

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And That Is What We Are

(An Online Message for September 13, 2020, based on 1 John 3:1-7)

It has newly occurred to me this summer that each day as I set out to face both the world and the challenges that await me there, I leave carrying a great deal of “stuff” along with me.

 Mostly, it’s the things you’d expect: my wallet, keys, phone, sunglasses, maybe some pocket change; and of course, these days you don’t go anywhere without a mask!  Just the everyday essentials for what you’ve got to do every day, right?  But along with all the rest of it, I also carry with me something of much greater importance; and in fact, in your own way, so are each one of you: because each one of us, wherever we go and in whatever we do, brings with us who we are.  Actually, in truth of fact, we carry with us several identities by which we are recognized and distinguished by others; and these are the ways that quite often serve to determine how we relate with those around us.

For instance, I’m Lisa’s husband, I’m my kids’ Dad; I’m also (and shall ever be!) my mother’s son (true story: one day last month while my mother was still in the hospital, I had to go to her bank; and not only did I not know anybody working there, nor had I introduced myself – and I was wearing a mask – the woman behind the counter immediately greeted me by asking how my mother was doing after her fall (!) …she told me afterward she knew who I was because of my eyes!).  And besides that, I’m a son-in-law, a father-in-law and a brother-in-law as well as an uncle to several nieces and nephews. I am a proud resident of the Granite State, but most assuredly a native “Main-uh;” moreover, I’m an American citizen, a tax payer and a voter, thank you very much.  

And to a great many people, I’m also identified, perhaps primarily, as a church pastor.  Now I realize not everybody knows me that way but I have to tell you that over the years I’ve been continually amazed by the number of those outside of the churches I serve who do see me that way, and who approach me just on the basis of that: people (even strangers!) who just want to talk about faith, particularly, as of late, as it applies to these strange and tumultuous times in which we live.   And I’ve never minded that, because I’ve always felt that part of my identity as “a minister” is to pastor to the larger community.

On the other hand, however, I have to be careful not to assume too much: once a few years back, on a day when I happened to be all dressed up in a shirt and tie, I was at a mall department store; and this elderly woman came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and when I’d turned around she said, “You!  Do you know where the light bulbs are?”  Now, for some strange reason, I went right into “pastor mode.”  I simply smiled at this lady and answered, “Well, probably down near the light fixtures, but I don’t really know for sure. Why don’t we find somebody to ask?”  To which this lovely lady replied in a huff, “You don’t know!?  Don’t you work here?”

 So I suppose there are times when that pastoral identity doesn’t come into play, but then again, there have been many other strange and powerful moments over the years when for some unknown reason I have encountered individuals who, right in that place where we were, at that precise moment of the day or night needed me to be… a pastor. These are the moments when this identity I carry as pastor, as a Christian, as a Child of God comes to the forefront, and it suddenly becomes clear to me that this is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing at this particular moment.  This is who I am.

 And I don’t share this with you this morning to let you know what a great person I am, but rather as a reminder to each of you that you carry this same identity.  No, your job description may not list “pastor” as its title; and even as a person of faith, you might not always consider yourself to be particularly “religious” as it relates to what you do for a living.

On the other hand, though, perhaps for you there was that moment when a friend or a neighbor chose your shoulder on which to cry, and even as you were offering up some comfort, silently you were wondering why you, and not someone else!  Or maybe it was when you found yourself in the middle of a conflict and were surprised to realize that yours had become the voice of reason and reconciliation; or in these strange days of pandemic, that you somehow became the example of hope and strength for the people around you! Or maybe at a time when it was far easier to turn away, you were the one to stand up and speak out for that which is only right and just, or you were the one who rushed in to risk love and care to those in need.  Let me tell you, friends; if any of this applies to you – and I suspect it might – the truth is that you might be more of a “minister” than you think!

For you see, one of the hallmarks of our Christian faith is that as Christians, each of us serves as a reflection of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  You may well carry a number of identities in your life – man, woman, spouse, parent, child, friend, worker, teacher, coach, retiree, student – but in and through all of these you carry a name that is given by God and which connects you to God!  Just as a child is a reflection of his or her parents, you too are a reflection of your heavenly parent, a true child of God. That’s the “lesson” of scripture today: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” That is what we are!  That is who I am, and that is who you are! 

So often our mistake is that we assume we work our way up to become children of God.  But our reading from 1 John this morning makes it very clear that we’re already there! We are God’s children now, a status and relationship that is the gift and consequence of God’s love, demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

And this is good news indeed!  As William Willimon has put it, the best thing about all this is that this is God’s work, not ours.  “I do not always feel like a child of God,” he says.  “I do not always look like a child of God.  God knows I do not always act like a child of God!  But I am.  I am one of God’s children not because of what I did or because of who I am but because God chose me, out of all the universe, to be his child.”

 And so, in love, we have been chosen, you and I.  We’ve been given a new identity, and that transforms… everything! But we need to understand that along with this new identity comes new responsibility.  What’s the first thing we read in 1st John after this glorious affirmation of our being called Children of God?  It’s that “no one who abides in him sins: no one who sins has either seen him or known him.”  Or, as The Message goes on to translate it, “Don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah.” In other words, a change of identity means a change of stance!  Suddenly, it’s no longer appropriate to do that which goes against our relationship with God.  From here on out, it’s going to matter what it is we reflect toward others; we’re going to need to show forth love and righteousness rather than sin and disobedience; for friends, whatever shines out from us is now a reflection of God!

To be child of God, you see, carries with it the weight of responsible living, of words that speak the true nature of one’s Christian faith, and actions that speak louder than those words; not that we always succeed at that. 

Do you know that there are stores where you can actually rent an engagement ring? Seriously!   I don’t know where this place is, but a few years ago I read an interview with the manager of a store in Boston that was created for just this purpose, and he explained that there are a lot of men who are thinking about proposing to their significant others, but aren’t quite sure if they want to follow through!  And so, not to have make a full commitment of time or money, these men rent the ring for 30 days in order to make their half-hearted proposal!  (Ah, romance!)

Well, folks, there are a great many people today who are living out their faith in exactly the same manner: half-heartedly, with no real commitment nor with any depth to what they believe at all.  But you and I, who are called children of God – for “that is what we are” – and we are called to something more.  We are called to be a reflection of God in all the ways that we speak and live and love; most especially in these days of pandemic when our “visibility,” so to speak, has been forced into the background.

I wonder what kind of commitment, what kind of love and compassion, what kind of faith people see when they look at us.   I mean, it’s one thing to have a sign out front that says “We are the church no matter where or how we meet,” but how is that actually perceived out in the world?  How are we seen, beloved?  Do people see in us merely a half-hearted effort to be good, or at least good enough people; or do they see a shining example of righteousness; people who are not led astray by whatever seems easier or more expedient or personally beneficial for the short term, but who do the right thing in keeping with the Lord’s principles, standing up, speaking out and living what we believe even if that means taking a personal risk for doing so?

It comes down to our statement of faith, made real and “identifiable” in our identity as children of God…

and that is what we are, beloved: in the work we do, in the ways we relate to one another, in the ways we seek to be faithful in all our dealings, in what we intend for the world.  This day and every day, may that faith come shining through in every large and small happen, in every good word and every warm embrace.  In all things, may our identity be rooted in the love of Jesus Christ!

Thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN.

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

 

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