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Category Archives: Epistles

The One Anothers

(a sermon for October 1, 2017, the 17th Sunday After Pentecost, based on 1 John 3:11, 16-24)

“For this is the message you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

Ultimately, that’s what it all boils down to around here, friends: LOVE.  It’s love, personified in Jesus Christ, that brings us into relationship with God; it’s love that forges that connection of kindred hearts that makes us more than friends in this place, more than community, but also a spiritual family; indeed, it’s love that gathers and binds us together as the Church of Jesus Christ.  Indeed; however else we might choose to name, describe, categorize, or even disseminate its relevance for today’s world, at its very core remains this impenetrable truth that the church is all about love!

And I’m here to tell you this morning that I am grateful for the presence of that church in my life!  But I also have to be honest: there are times for me when the church can be easily compared to the young man who wrote the following letter to the love of his life: “Dear Mary,” he wrote, “dear, sweet Mary… I would swim the deepest river for you.  I would climb the highest mountains!  I would walk over burning coals to be at your side.  All my love and my devotion… XOXOXO, Jack.

“P.S. I’ll be over Sunday if it doesn’t rain!”

It’s one thing, you see, to say “I love you,” quite another to actually mean it; to let that affirmation move our very lives.  In the end simply elaborating on the depth of our devotion is insufficient.  Words of devotion, while beautiful and often very welcome, are empty of meaning – and can even be offensive – when they are not accompanied by action!

And so it is with the church.  The fact is, in this place we have an abundance of good words with which to talk about love, and we’re not afraid to use them: in songs and stories, in “poems, prayers and promises” we regularly tell out our devotion to God, as well as the depth of our affection for those around us. There’s no question that where love is concerned, we in the church are very good at talking the talk!   The question is, does our “walk lives up to the talk;” or where love is concerned does there exist a “disconnect” between what we say and what we do?

That’s not an easy question; but I think it’s a good one for us “church folk” to ask ourselves from time to time!  After all, it’s pretty easy for us to come together on a Sunday morning and say “good things” about God, and faith, and love; the fact is, we do it every week, and it’s tempting to let ourselves float along on the warmth of that sentiment. But there’s also a danger, in that when those sentiments of love and faith fail to find any real expression, our lives end up carrying little or no resemblance to the virtues we proclaim.

And that’s not who we’re called to be, friends. We are a people gathered by Christ and led by the Holy Spirit to be the church, called to be a distinctively Christian community, and to live as the embodiment of God’s kingdom in this place and time.  And so both individually and collectively, it seems to me that this requires so much more from us than mere lip service!  Indeed, what our calling demands, as this morning’s reading from 1 John puts forth, is that we “love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action;” a love epitomized by Jesus who “laid down his life for us.”

The purpose of the church, you see, is for us to live out God’s intent for his creation and to love as God loves; but in order for that to happen, we have to do more than “just talk about love;” we have to “practice real love,” (The Message) building a deeper relationship with God and with God’s people as we do so; without that at the center, the work that we do is empty and without any real meaning.  Whether we’re talking how we worship, the ways we do fellowship or outreach, or even something as deceptively simple as putting on a great bean suppah… ultimately, the test of our life together as a church, the end verdict as to whether we sink or swim as God’s people, will always come down to our willingness and ability to truly and actively love one another as we have been loved.   As Leonard Sweet has aptly observed, “Love is the foundation of the Christian church, the cement that glues together the church community. Nothing else can come before this love. Nothing else is possible without this love.”  We would do well to always remember that.

It’s no accident that over thirty times in the New Testament we are told, in one manner or another, to “love one another.”  This has its source in the “new” commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples and to us: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) – this is the place we start when it comes to being the church – but then what we find out as we go through scripture is that there are a great many “one anothers” that apply to the Christian life.

For instance, just in Romans alone, we’re told to “be devoted to one another (12:10),” to “live in harmony with one another (12:16),” to “accept one another (15:7),” and “instruct one another (15:14).”  Elsewhere in the epistles there are admonitions that we are to bear with one another (Col. 3:13), forgive one another (Eph. 4:32), encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11) and build one another up (5:11). As believers, we are to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24) and to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9); that is, to welcome one another not because we have to, but because we have the joyful opportunity. We’re even urged, on a couple of different occasions in the Epistles, to “greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12); and to this, I can only say, bring on the hugs!

And there’s more; but do you see the thread that runs through all these admonitions? This isn’t about love as a warm and fuzzy sentiment; we’re talking about behavior here, about action rooted in faith. It’s about the church’s commitment to live together as a community, united in the truth of God’s love; and it’s about our commitment, yours and mine, to live our lives first and foremost as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, what we see in this is that a life lived in the Christian faith is never meant to be one lived in isolation.  Whereas the prevailing culture of these days seems to promote that which would separate us each from the other – be it by gender or race or economics or politics – the church is supposed to be radically different than that.  To put a finer point on it, if we are to truly live out our faith as it is to be lived out, that is, “to obey [God’s] commandments and do what pleases him… that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us;” then there never can be any room for the kind of division that fuels hatred and bigotry such as we’ve seen so much on display as of late. To quote Leonard Sweet again, to follow Jesus and to actively love others – all others – these are inseparable parts of a life of faith. “Those who purposefully sow discord in the community, whose actions are carried out without the primary concern of emulating Christ’s love, can’t be genuine disciples. 1 John,” Sweet goes on to say, “insists that to confess Christ is to love. Love is the one litmus test of faith.”

Make no mistake: what we’re talking about here are not spiritual truths in the abstract; this is quite simply the meat and potatoes of the Christian life! What we have in this text is practical advice for being an authentically loving Christian, both inside and outside the church.  And that’s the challenge, isn’t it; for us, each and all, to keep it real as persons and as a people of faith.  But if that’s going to happen, friends, it just seems to me that it’s always going to rest on how we deal with “the one anothers!”

Tony Campolo, the renowned pastor, preacher and sociologist, writes that when he was young he thought that a true Christian could be easily defined as “somebody who believed in God, who believed in the doctrines of the Apostles Creed, [and] who believed in the Bible.”  But whereas all that continued to be true, what Campolo eventually discovered was there was more to being a Christian than simply believing: it means going beyond faith as an intellectual exercise, and actually having a relationship with God; it means letting God invade you and possess you, and your surrendering to a presence of stillness and quietude in your life.  But, writes Campolo, “when the Spirit of God invades you there’s [also] a consequence you don’t anticipate… you find yourself becoming sensitive to Jesus […] in other people.  People become sacramental… [and they become] the kind of vehicles through whom Jesus comes to us, so that when we look into their eyes we have this eerie awareness that Jesus is staring back at us.  That’s what it means to be a Christian: to be filled with God and to be sensitive to Jesus, waiting to be loved in needy people.”

I’ve said it before from this pulpit, and it bears repeating: as a pastor it never ceases to amaze me the kind of diversity that’s to be found in your average congregation!  I mean, we’ve got it all in the church: older people and younger people, liberals and conservatives, evangelicals and progressives, people on the first steps of their journeys of faith and those who have been “on the way” their whole lives.  We have members who are very demonstrative about their faith, others who keep what they believe fairly private; and then there are folks who can be fairly and accurately described as “salt of the earth,” annnd… others who are, well, just kind of spicy!  But it’s all good: as they say, it takes all kinds to make a world, and that’s particularly true of the church; and it’s what makes what we do here an incredible joy… even if sometimes it creates a challenge or two!

But I have to wonder, friends, what would happen to us as Christians – what would happen to us as a church – if we were intentional about looking at one another with a different set of eyes?  I wonder how it would be if we began to look in one another’s eyes to see if we can find the face of Jesus?  And then, if we could do the same as we looked into the eyes of someone outside of this sanctuary… in the eyes of a friend, a neighbor… a stranger, even?  I wonder how much of a difference that could make in our life together; I wonder how our perceptions would change or how we might be moved for the sake of God’s kingdom in this place; I wonder what the church could become in these days… all because we started to perceive the presence of  Jesus Christ right here among us.

And the thing is, it’s not an improbable or unreasonable proposition; it’s all there in that message we’ve heard from the beginning, that “that we should love one another.”  The question is whether you and I are willing make it real.

Something to think about today as we come seeking this presence on this World Communion Sunday.

Thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Bringers of Good News

(a sermon for September 24, 2017, the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Romans 10:5-15 and Matthew 28:16-20)

It was Lee Iaccoca, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Chrysler Corporation who said it:  “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

As simple as that sounds, I dare say that Iaccoca knew what he was talking about.  Those of us “of a certain age” will probably remember that back in the 1980’s when Iaccoca was named the CEO of Chrysler, that company was virtually bankrupt.  But somehow this very aggressive, no-nonsense leader managed to get a loan from the only “bank” that had enough money to bail them out – the United States government (!) – and not only did he turn the company around, he paid the loan back ahead of schedule!  It was, by any standard, an unlikely and amazing feat; but Iaccoca somehow pulled it off, and later on when he was asked about it, he’d keep coming back to that same idea about keeping “the main thing the main thing!”

What was interesting about all this, however, was that for Iaccoca the “main thing” for the Chrysler Corporation was not, in fact, to keep the enterprise solvent, nor was it to make all the employees happy; neither was it to make money for stockholders, or to increase efficiency and production.  It wasn’t even simply to sell more cars!  Iaccoca kept saying over and over again – much to the consternation of many in power – that the Chrysler Corporation existed first and foremost to produce vehicles that would satisfy the customer; if you stick to that, he said, then everything else would follow; because the main thing is always to keep the main thing the main thing!

It seems to me, corporate credos aside, that that this is one particular philosophy applicable to other areas of life as well, including our own as the church!  Seriously; consider the myriad of things we do together in this or any church.  We provide a time, a place and a method for Christian worship, and everything that goes along with it; we offer education and nurture in the history and tradition of our faith; we’re an arm of outreach, from one to another, extending outward to the wider community and the world.  We stand up, we speak out and occasionally we act up (!), all in the name of God; truly, we are the ones to whom politicians and policy makers are referring when they talk about “faith based initiatives.”

But we’re also here for the sake of fellowship and community; to share in the celebrations of life, and to be present to one another during times of hardship and struggle.  We marry the couples, we bless the babies, we bury the dead; and in and through all of this we bake casseroles, hold yard sales and plan holiday fairs and “bean suppahs,” all of which, I might add, are very important rites of the church!

But, even given all of that (and so much more besides!), it does beg the question: can it be said of any of it that it’s the “main thing?”

And the answer… well, is… no; at least not according to scripture!

You see, for all the many and laudable things we involve ourselves in as the church, in the end the main thing all comes down to the one thing that maybe we don’t do enough of that which Jesus himself sent us to do: to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Now, before anyone gets the idea that I’ve suddenly become “anti-bean supper,” understand that there is an essential and important place for bean suppers and everything else we do as a congregation (do you know how much fun I have telling people that we here at East Church volunteer at the race track twice a year?) ; but we also need to understand that all of this is ultimately a means to an end, which is the fulfillment of that “great commission” I just shared with you.

Paul Schrage, another corporate mogul, this time from McDonald’s, actually explains this rather well.  He is quoted in Walt Kallestad’s book, Turn Your Church Inside Out, and he says that for all the things that McDonald’s does to get people in the door, “One of the most important things we do is ask for the order.” That makes a lot of sense; I mean, you can’t sell somebody a Big Mac until you take their order!  Well, Schrage goes on to say, what’s missing in most [churches] is that we never ask for the order!   “If someone goes into a restaurant hungry and thirsty and no one ever asks them for their order, they will leave and not return.  [Likewise,] those outside the church come inside the church hungering and thirsting for God, seeking healing, looking for meaning and purpose, [but if] no one ever ‘asks for their order,’ they will leave and not return.”

It’s such a simple thing; and yet the implications of it are huge. For you and me who are the church of Jesus Christ, the “main thing” is ever and always to bring the good news of the gospel to a world that is crying out for the love of God!  And make no mistake; as we hear it proclaimed in our gospel text for this morning, it’s more than simply a calling, or even a polite request on the part of Jesus: this is a mandate!  This is no less than the Risen Christ pushing us, as his disciples, out the door, stirring us out of our highly valued complacency and compelling us to speak and to act clearly and boldly for the sake of accomplishing God’s purpose of love for the world; and in doing so, to fulfill our own destinies along the way. There’s a reason, friends, why this portion of scripture is not referred to as “the Great Suggestion,” but rather “the Great Commission!”

For all that it does and all that seeks to do and to be for its own purposes, ultimately the church exists to serve the purposes of God; and God’s purpose is to bring every single one of us into his own loving care, so to be named now and forever as one of his own; forgiven and redeemed.  This is the central truth of our Christian faith, one proclaimed by Paul in our Epistle reading this morning from Romans:  “For, ‘Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’”  But here’s the thing; as Paul goes on to say (in what I’m finding to be one of the most haunting passages of the Epistles), “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?”

How are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? Or, in the parlance of The Message, “How can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?”

And that’s the “main thing” that we in the church need to keep the main thing; as simple (and as all-encompassing) as that.  What we’re talking about here, in the language of the church, is evangelism; a term that admittedly has long tended to make us mainstream and progressive Christians more than little bit uncomfortable (!); and yet, what is evangelism really, but Christian outreach at its most basic level? At its very heart, you see, it’s communicating – often one on one, in words and by action – the love of God in Jesus Christ; so that others can come to know God as we do.  And while that awareness may well come in the midst of one life’s huge moments or through the inevitable “times of stress and grief” that come to us all; it’s just as likely to happen in a conversation with someone over a cup of coffee; in some small, seemingly random act of caring and kindness extended to a friend or stranger in need; or even… hear this, beloved… in an invitation to someone near to you to come here to worship next Sunday!

The point is that Christ and his kingdom is profoundly proclaimed in ways we can’t even begin to imagine until it happens; and you and I need to recognize that we have the opportunity each and every day to be bringers of that good news!

Barry H. Corey, the president of Biola University in Californian, writes about his father, Hugh Corey, who was for many years a missionary on the poverty stricken streets of Bangladesh.  In a particularly difficult time in his ministry, the elder Corey told his son, “I don’t fully understand what Jesus meant when he said, ‘He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.’  But this I do know.  In everything I do I must make myself receivable to people God places in my life.  If the lives God intersects with mine do not have the opportunity to receive me, how will they ever know the infinite love the Father has for them?  I must live my life in a way that strangers, friends, [the] aching, lonely… [can] receive me and receive through me the amazing love God alone has authored.”

In everything I do, I must make myself receivable to the people God places in my life; that is Christian evangelism defined, a life poured out for others so that they, too, can know God personally through Christ.  In other words, unless we are able to be open enough before others that they will see and hear who we are and whose we are, we will have missed the opportunity and the responsibility of proclaiming good news and making disciples… and by extension, strengthening the church in the process.

Friends, let me ask you this:  how open and receivable are you to the people that God is even now placing in your life?  What are the spiritual resources in your own life that you can use in the effort to reach out to those around you who need the love of the Lord… and are you making use of those resources?  Can it be said of you that your life is so marked by the love of Christ that it cannot help but overflow into the hearts and lives of others in need?  And are we the kind of church, the sort of people in this place, who make this a priority in everything we do?

It’s not about our being spiritually eloquent, or having all the answers; it’s simply about knowing who and whose we are, focusing our daily energies on growing in the grace and knowledge of God, and then being willing to open ourselves to others with that same kind of love that we ourselves have received!

For you see, what is true about ourselves is that whatever it is we experience on the inside of our hearts and souls eventually has to bubble up the surface and overflow to others.  So if what you experience with God is pure joy, then what you give away to others is joy.  By the same token, of course, if we’re feeding our souls with something less than God’s priorities for our lives, what’s going to come across to others won’t be much better; in fact, it’ll be counterproductive!  What’s the expression… garbage in, garbage out?  Well, as Christians and as the church, it’s the love and joy that we have in believing that will be the key in our being the bringers of that truly good news.

Maybe we’ll never fully know what comes of that kind of openness; pn the other hand, maybe we’ll change a heart… and a life.  Maybe, just maybe, next Sunday that person to whom we opened ourselves will be sitting there in the pew beside us; ready to joyfully receive all of the blessings that God has to give in Christ Jesus.  But whatever happens, we’re creating a legacy… a legacy of faith, hope and love in which the spirit will move and work for a lifetime and beyond.

After all, “as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

So let’s get our feet to walking… and as we do, may our…

Thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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And When You Pray: The Times of Temptation

(a sermon for August 6, 2017, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost; sixth in a series, based on 1 Corinthians 10:1-17 and Matthew 6:9-13)

Well, not counting my time away, now we’re six weeks into this sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, and I have to tell you: speaking both as a preacher and as a hearer of God’s Word, I have been amazed by just how many big questions we’ve had to address as we’ve gone along!

I mean, from the very existence and nature of God (“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…”) and his unending grace and providence (“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”), to the gift of both sustenance (“…our daily bread”) and forgiveness (“…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”),  this seemingly little prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples not only touches upon many of the central issues of our Christian theology but also encompasses just about everything we hold dear about our faith; and friends, that’s a lot!  In fact, it can all be a bit overwhelming; and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that even in preparing these messages I’d find that for every one of these big questions I’d hoped I was answering for the sermon and for myself, I’d discover that there was another question to take its place (and trust me, that’s not something you want to happen late on a Saturday night!).

Honestly, sometimes it’s enough to make your head swim (!); but then, that’s sort of the nature of a life of faith.  What’s the expression about the unexamined life not being worth living?  Well, I’d suggest to you this morning that the unexamined faith is, well… impossible!  We reach out our hearts to God, knowing that God’s Spirit will intercede for us “with sighs too deep for words;” (Romans 8:26) but then we are left to prayerfully discern what the nature of that intercession and its meaning for our lives might be!   We seek to live, as the old confessional puts it, “a godly, righteous and sober life to the glory of God’s Holy name,” but then we have to wrestle with what that actually means in today’s world.  And we know that ought to be in accordance with biblical truth, however that happens to apply and based on what we’ve come to understand about scripture, and absolutely it needs to adhere to the teachings and the example of Jesus Christ.  But then in trying to do that we make a very interesting discovery: that it’s not so much what we don’t understand about scripture or about Jesus that raises up the bigger questions for us; it’s what we do understand about our Christian faith that gives us pause, leaves us confused, and sometimes, absolutely scares us!

You see what I mean?  Big questions, one right after another…

I tell you all this today because now we’ve come to the next to last petition of this “Prayer of Our Savior” that arguably raises as many questions for us as it answers:  “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Now, on the face of it, this is pretty straightforward language that represents a necessary shift in this prayer to a tone of stark realism.  Mickey Anders writes that this has to happen in the Lord’s Prayer, because ultimately “life is about more than lofty language about God’s kingdom, God’s will, daily bread and even forgiveness.  There is [also] the reality of temptation and evil, call it what you will… [and] we face the temptation to evil every day.”

Now, I love that quote; but I still have to ask, what does all this mean?  I mean, ordinarily when we talk about temptation we’re apt to be speaking about the need to avoid those worldly enticements that are bad for us and which keep us apart from God; ranging from the temptation toward eating too many sweets to being unfaithful in one’s relationships.  It’s all about ethics and morality, self-care and righteousness before the Lord; and while that’s most certainly a part of it, this prayer to God to “lead us not into temptation” really does seem to go much deeper than this.

And while we’re on the subject, are we really praying that God not “lead” us into temptation?  Why would the Lord who loves us beyond limit and who wishes us to be in a relationship with him ever be leading us into temptation to begin with?  If God is good, then why would God ever deign to tempt us to do evil, especially as we’re praying that he deliver us from said evil?   And here’s another question:  is it even possible to forever be led away from temptation?  That’s a question that’s at the heart of our reading this morning from 1 Corinthians, in which Paul – lifting up the example of generations of the faithful who had come before – says to these new Christians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind,” or to quote one very apt paraphrase, “If you think you are beyond the reach of temptation, be careful,” because nothing that comes your way is any different than what others have had to face!  Bottom line is that none of us are totally beyond the reach of temptation; quoting Mark Adams here, “All of us are tempted. The monk who lives behind cloistered walls wrestles with it just as much as the salesman out on the road.”

So… if temptation is an inevitable reality that all of us have to deal with; and if we understand that God’s would never be responsible for leading us into that place and probably cannot completely remove us from it; then what are we asking when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation?”

Questions…. Oy veh, the questions!

Actually, part of the problem here has to do with translation.  The Greek word that’s used here for “temptation” is “peirasmus,” and this is a word that just as appropriately can be translated as “enticement or temptation,” or (and listen to this!) “a test or trial.”  That’s how in a number of biblical translations, including our own NRSV, this verse in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer can be read, “And do not bring us to the time of trial.”   This might seem like a subtle change, but for me it brings this prayer from seeking refuge from a place of hopeless repetition of inevitable mistakes to… a way of enduring and triumphing over the trials and tribulations of life; in particular the life of faith. For me, you see, what we’re praying for is a way to confront the struggle we all have with this thing we refer to as temptation, but which is in fact the effort that it takes to face up to the reality of evil and live that “godly, righteous and sober life” in a fallen world: “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (we’ll get to that second part in just a minute…)

So… here’s yet another question: what is the nature of temptation; what is the time of trial we you and I will so often have to face?  Actually, to answer this I always come back to a verse from Romans – and by the way, friends, if there’s any verse in Holy Scripture that seems tailor made to make one’s head spin, this is it – “…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (14:23)

Let me just repeat that just one more time so it can sink in:  “…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Now, understand that Paul is saying this in the context of admonishing the Roman Christians to not be a stumbling black to those whose practice of the faith might differ from their own (specifically, what is permissible to eat under the canon of law).  In other words, this is a stern message not to let one’s faith become a means of arrogance because if your actions and attitudes aren’t wholly attuned to your faith then it’s no longer faith but sin.

Opens up a whole bunch more questions, doesn’t it?  What that means is that even our most well-intentioned behaviors, as good and even  as “religious” as they might well be, end up not proceeding from faith at all if they are not rooted in our “own conviction before God.” (v. 22) Worship, outreach, mission, stewardship, the things we do for the church, the things we do for the world, the things we do for each other, to say nothing of our own personal piety; the applications to such a truth as this are literally endless!  I remember back in seminary, when we had to “exegete” this particular passage in our systematic theology class, our heads pretty much exploded (!); and if that’s your reaction when you go home today and start thinking about all this, I’m truly sorry; although, if it ends up in some spiritual self-evaluation, then so much the better!

But I also have to tell you that this very difficult assertion from Paul ends up connection with this every Sunday prayer I pray that my God “lead[s] me not into temptation.”  If, in fact, there is so much that apart from my faith is sinful behavior, then I need God, in Jesus Christ, to save me from it; to lead me beyond the barren and empty temptations of the world so that everything that God has given me and has empowered me to do and to be in this life can work to deepen the relationship I have with God, and to strengthen me to be more fully a disciple of Jesus Christ in my walk through these days of, to say the very least, confused situations.  I need my Lord to save me from this time of trial; understanding I can avoid it, but I can triumph over it.  It won’t be easy, for the evil in this world is real and relentless, but I won’t be alone in the effort either.

That’s where the second half of this petition comes in:  “…but deliver us from evil,” or, as our gospel reading puts it, “…rescue us from the evil one.”  Now whether one takes the view that the “evil one” depicted here is quite literally the figure of Satan, or rather a representation of the whole curse of a sinful humanity from back in the time of Genesis (now there’s a big question for another day!), the meaning is nonetheless the same: there is ever and always going to be the temptation before us to succumb to the evils of this world.  And lest we forget the story of Adam and Eve, evil can come in very attractive and enticing packages; even sometimes in what looks all the world like goodness and light.  We need to be delivered from that kind of evil; and that only comes in walking arm and arm, heart in heart with God himself!

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  A hard prayer this is; but a necessary one.  And, might I add, nothing new for any of God’s people past or present.  Remember that passage from 1 Corinthians?  “Our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock tha followed them, and the rock was Christ.”  And it was not always easy; the way was very often filled with temptation, and very often they failed in the midst of trial, to the point, Paul says, “that God was not pleased with most of them.”

But they persisted on the journey, seeking to live unto their faith in the Lrod their God… generation after generation, from age to age, through countless challenges and in the midst of a thousand or more big questions;  and today they are part of a communion of saints of which you and I are part and which we celebrate at this table set before us; indeed, “there is one bread, [and] we who are many are one body.”

Let us today allow this holy meal, and those with whom we share it, be our inspiration as we walk the walk of faithful discipleship in Christ’s name, having been lead beyond the times of temptation… and delivered from all evil.

Thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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