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A Promise for the Fussing and Bothered

(a sermon for November 19, 2017, the 24th Sunday after Pentecost and Thanksgiving Sunday, based on Joel 2:12-17 and Matthew 6:25-34)

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…”

Don’t you just love that verse?  I mean, I think you’ll agree with me when I say that so often Holy Scripture has a way of shaking us out of our complacency and challenging what we’ve always held to be true in this life; there are times that biblical truth can be downright unsettling!  But not this time; here we have a simple and powerful affirmation from the mouth of Jesus himself: a sure and certain reminder that we need not ever be concerned about the stuff of life and living, because God will provide all that we need!  Whether it’s about what we’ll eat or drink, or our bodies, or our clothing; whatever it is for you, Jesus says, don’t worry, because it’s all good!

Like I said before, I love this verse; it speaks to the bounty of God’s blessing upon all of our lives, and what better time to lift that up than right now as we draw near to our celebration of Thanksgiving Day. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in Jesus’ words; so why is it that even as I hear them today, inside I’m thinking, “Are you kidding?  How am I not supposed to worry?”

The fact is, we all have more than enough to worry about, don’t we; worries attend us like bees to honey!  There are worries at home and about our loved ones; there are worries at work; these days we have worries about our safety and about the state of the world, worries that are exacerbated just about every time we turn on the news!  And then there’s all the rest of those unnamed anxieties that never seem to leave our thoughts.  Never mind that truism that states that 40% of the things we worry about never happen, another 30% have to do with things we can’t change anyway, and another 12% have to do with needless fears (I really can’t speak for the math there, but you know what I’m saying!); it just seems as though everywhere we turn in this life, we discover yet another thing to worry about!  It ends up being like the old story of one man who said to another, “You know, I’m so worried that if anything happens to me today, it will be two weeks before I can worry about it!”

So in the face of all of that, as wonderful and as inviting as it sounds for Jesus to say to you and to me, “Therefore, don’t worry about your life,” well, that just seems out of step with the kind of lives we lead in this modern age, to say nothing of the anxiety-ridden society of which we’re a part!  With all due respect, simply to go through life singing “Hakuna Matata” (which, if you happen to be familiar with the Disney musical “The Lion King,” is that “problem-free philosophy” that means “no worries, for the rest of your days!”) basically means you don’t understand the situation!  Bottom line is that there are problems in this world, and in our lives; so there’s plenty of things that give us concern… and we worry!

So all that said, what are we to do with Jesus’ admonition not to worry?  Where’s the truth in that word of comfort? Well, I would suggest to you this morning that our answer to that question comes in putting Jesus’ words in their proper context; because, in truth, I don’t think that Jesus is advocating for a “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle, any more than he would want us to spend all of our days whistling, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”  There’s more to life than this; and frankly more to following Jesus than this! In fact, if you’re truly paying attention to the whole of Jesus’ teachings you begin to realize that the ability, the grace, not to worry actually comes in everything that Jesus has said before!  It’s all right there in one word that began our text for this morning; it’s a word – an adverb – so small and seemingly inconsequential that I’m guessing that most of us didn’t even notice it: “Therefore…” 

…as in, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life…”

Remember, you see, that this reading from Matthew’s gospel comes toward the end of his account of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” that very familiar series of verses in which our Savior deals with some of the central and arguably heavier issues of walking in faith: the realities of being salt of the earth and light of the world, and what it means to obey and fulfill the laws of God; about the dicier aspects of dealing with anger, and forgiveness, and love.  Interestingly enough, in the verse just prior to what we read this morning there’s even a rather unsettling teaching about… guess what?  Money!  “No one can serve two masters,” says Jesus, “…you cannot serve God and wealth.” (6:24)  This sermon of Jesus, taken as a whole, ends up as no less than a summation of what God expects from his people; and by any standard, it’s a lot!  But here’s the thing; it’s right after all of this that Jesus looks to the crowds gathered around him and says to them, and to us, “Therefore… don’t worry about your life.”  In other words, quoting the Rev. Neil Chappell here, what’s happened is that “Jesus presents us with this long list of things to do, to follow, to remember and [of course] we worry whether we’re up to challenge.”  And this is when Jesus tells us, don’t worry!

To put a finer point on this, I found it particularly interesting this week how Eugene Peterson’s The Message translates this passage.  To be clear, this is a paraphrase and not a strict translation; but there’s something about Peterson’s interpretation of this text that makes clear sense about this admonition against worrying.  “If you decide for God,” it says, “living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes, or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion… [likewise] has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?”  To put this still another way, in the end it’s not that we don’t worry because God provides; it that because God provides, we don’t worry!

What Jesus reminds here is that when we are in relationship with God, and when God’s presence and guidance and love is at the center of everything we face in this life, we have entered what David Lose refers to as “the realm of abundance, the world of possibility, the world of contentment,” a place – which Jesus calls the “Kingdom of God,” by the way – where “not worrying actually becomes an option!”  Consider the birds of the air, or the grass of the field; “are you not of more value than they?”  God takes care of them, and so God will take care of you; even you who worries about anything and everything!  To quote The Message one more time, “People who don’t know God or the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. [So] steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.  Don’t worry about missing out.  You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Don’t worry… be happy (Okay, I couldn’t resist!), for if you “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”

You know, biblically and historically speaking, we really don’t know all that much about the prophet Joel; from whose book our Old Testament reading this morning is drawn. We know that he is named as one of the minor prophets, and that his words possibly date back to the eighth century before the Christian era; beyond that, we know very little… except that Joel was a spokesperson for God in a harrowing time, in the aftermath of a plague of locusts that left the land (and by extension, its people) utterly destroyed.  So the setting of the Book of Joel is of one of great calamity, followed by despair and all the deep anxieties that would most certainly come from that.  And yet, what does Joel say in the face of such worries?  “Do not fear… be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!”

It’s a beautiful and amazing passage; we read of how God will care for the land and the animals; how God will bring early and abundant rain “for [their] vindication,” and make the threshing floors once again full with the grain of the harvest.  “I will repay you,” says the Lord, “for the years that the swarming locust has eaten… you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.”  And perhaps most interesting of all here is that rather than calling the people to remorse or even to repentance, God calls them… to trust in his promise of abundance and to give thanks: “Praise the name of the Lord your God,” he says, “who has dealt wondrously with you.”

This is the beginning of faith, dear friends, and it is the very life to which Jesus calls you and me even now: one of true abundance that can only come from God.  Granted, to trust in that kind of promise is a hard thing for us in these times; especially given all the many kinds of scarcity and fear in this world that seek to cause us so much worry.  But if we focus on that which is good – acknowledging what God has done and continues to do in this world and in our lives, and living out that abundance – we may well find ourselves ready to heed Jesus’ call to relax, to breathe and to simply trust in God’s everlasting providence.

Well, in just a few days now, most of us will be gathered with some combination of family or friends to engage in that yearly, time-honored ritual of feasting we call Thanksgiving.  And in amidst the copious servings of turkey, mashed potato and pumpkin pie I trust that prayers will be said offering up thanks for the many blessings we’ve known in the past year: blessings of life and health and food; of love received and given; of the joys that were embraced and the sorrows that were somehow successfully endured.  Wherever we are and whoever we’re with this coming Thursday, we’ll be expressing praise and gratitude to the God “from whom all blessings flow.” And with humility and grace we’ll simply say, “Thank you.”

And so it should be… but might I suggest another prayer as well? It seems to me that this year we’d all do well to pray that in the year to come the Lord might deliver us from fussing… from allowing ourselves to become bothered by all those all-consuming and ultimately debilitating worries that keep us from wholly embracing the abundance of blessings that God has to offer us. I’m reminded here of something the late Henri Nouwen used to say about what it means to truly pray.  He used the image of a clenched fist, and explained that if we, after the manner of that closed hand, hold on tightly to those “clammy coins” we insist on keeping – things like hate and bitterness, disappointment and even worry – then you’re never going to be able to open your hand to receive all of the love the Lord wants to give you; to receive, you see, first you have to let go.

And so it is with all the worries that keep us from giving our full attention to what our Lord has to give us in the here and now, and also in the days to come; as the old saying goes, we simply need to “let go, and let God!”  Yes, there is true abundance in God, beloved; therefore, let us not be worried, but instead set ourselves to striving first for the kingdom of God… for in doing so, “all these things will be given to you as well.”

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear, dear friends, and may God continue to bless you and yours.

And may our thanks ever and always be unto God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on November 19, 2017 in Discipleship, Jesus, Life, Old Testament, Sermon, Thanksgiving

 

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Ready at the Right Time

(a sermon for November 12, 2017, the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, based on Matthew 25:1-13)

I would suspect that most, if not all of us in this room can vouch for this particular undeniable truth of life: that there are consequences for being unprepared!

I learned this truth back in school; although admittedly it took me quite a while!  After all, you can’t not read the assigned chapters in “Moby Dick” and expect to come even close to correctly answering the teacher’s questions about Captain Ahab the next day in class; and they’re called “pop quizzes” for a reason, and so not doing your homework is almost certainly a recipe for academic disaster!

And then there were the great many “all-nighters” I pulled in college, at least until eventually I discovered that I could not wait to study for exams or write my term papers at the last minute and expect to do well.  I remember one paper in particular; it was one of the very first I ever wrote for a seminary class, in fact. All these years later, I’m still not sure it was because of the work load from all my other courses or if it were just pure procrastination on my part, but I do remember that as I cranked out the final pages of that paper – due the very next day – that new day was actually dawning (!); and also that I was convinced that what I had written was brilliant, cutting edge theology!

But a few days later, when the professor invited me to his office and graciously allowed me the chance for a rewrite (!), I realized that what I’d passed in what was basically a 20 page-long run-on sentence, pretty much lacking any of the insights that should have come from a semester’s worth of study (the professor was kind, however: “Well, Michael,” he said, “this paper does have a great deal of vitality!”  Probably more like the effects of a great deal of caffeine, but I was grateful nonetheless).

In retrospect, I could never have hoped to have been ready with that paper at the last minute, any more than I could ever do well on a final exam without first having studied for that exam!  And therein lies the undeniable truth:  that in whatever opportunity, or challenge, or crisis comes our way, most often we cannot hope to have the tools, or the skills, or, for that matter, the character to face what’s coming unless that skill or that part of our character has been previously and sufficiently nurtured over time and with concerted effort.  In the end, you see, preparedness is not about what is done at the last minute, but everything else that’s been done in anticipation of that last minute.

Our gospel reading for this morning tells us that this is especially true for that which is the most important thing of all: the coming of God’s Kingdom into the world.  Jesus actually speaks a fair amount about this in Matthew’s gospel; the gist of the message being, “you… must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (24:44) But in order to illustrate the consequences for not being ready, Jesus goes on to tell the story of ten bridesmaids waiting with lamps burning for the arrival of the bridegroom and the beginning of a wedding feast.

It would have been a familiar scenario for those of Jesus’ time: it was customary in those days for a groom to escort his bride from her father’s house to his own home, followed by a grand procession of attendants, guests, musicians and townspeople.  Once they arrived – and sometimes this arrival would happen well into the evening, especially if the groom was bringing his bride from a neighboring village – they’d be met there by the bridesmaids waiting outside his door, the light of their lamps glowing in the night.  And then together the whole group would then go inside, so that the wedding celebration could start in earnest.  It was also a custom – and this is important – that once everyone had entered and the festivities had begun, the doors would be locked and no one admitted late.

So here, according to Jesus, according to proper wedding tradition and etiquette are these ten bridesmaids; except that Jesus also makes a point of telling us that “five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”  It’s an interesting distinction, because just like members of a wedding party today, they were probably identical in appearance and all dressed to the nines; they were certainly all friends and family of the bride; and each one of them had been invited to be there and equally desirous of celebrating this marriage!  And if we’re looking for a lack of etiquette, it wasn’t the fact that they fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom, who we’re told was delayed in his arrival; because all ten of them did that!

No, the only difference, the only thing that sets apart the foolish from the wise, turns out to be a lack of preparedness; specifically, five of the ten who did not bring along an extra flask of oil, and thus did not have enough fuel to keep their lamps burning through the night.  Asking the other bridesmaids to share their oil was no solution, since then none of them would have had enough fuel; so the only solution, they reasoned at this last minute, was to go out and buy some extra, and so off they went… and wouldn’t you know it; while they’re gone the wedding party arrives, the party begins, the doors are locked and those five bridesmaids miss it all.  And the story ends rather harshly, with the groom refusing to even recognize them, much less let them come to the reception.  But, suggests Jesus, sad as it is, it was the bridesmaids’ own fault because they weren’t ready when that crucial moment came; they were unprepared for the bridegroom’s coming!

And to this Jesus says, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

It turns out that this parable of Jesus is all about spiritual readiness; about the faith necessary for this and every day until God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. We’re told by biblical scholars that this particular parable was Jesus’ way of saying (and by extension, Matthew’s reminder to the early church) that the kingdom might not come immediately but it will come; so we’d best be attentively and actively waiting on it.  Jesus is telling you and me that we need to be prepared; ready for the time that is the right time.  Because it’s important to note that while those five “foolish bridesmaids” (and understand, by the way, that they could have just as easily been five foolish groomsmen; this is not gender related at all!); that this “foolish five,” shall we say, may well have had good intentions to keep their lamps well-lit, the bottom line is that they ran out of time.

There are things in life that cannot be endlessly deferred; there are opportunities that come to us that do not come again.  There are moments in this life for decision, for commitment, for pronouncing the verdict of our very lives; and what the gospel tells us today is that there will be that moment, in the eloquent words of Will Willimon, “when God arrives on tiptoes, or comes rushing in, or surprises us with light, or flirts, or speaks.”  We’d better be watching for it, and we’d better be ready.

I recognize, of course, that when we’re here in worship or engaged in some faith-related activity, or perhaps about now when we approach the “holy seasons” of advent and Christmas, and later on with Lent and Easter; perhaps then our senses are more attuned to this kind of spiritual readiness. However, if we’re being honest, that kind of expectant spirit is hard for us to sustain over time, when the need is for that spirit to imbue all the other experiences on all the other days of our lives!  I love what M. Eugene Boring of Bright Divinity School has written about this; he says that “living the life of the kingdom” can be done relatively easily for the short term. But “when the kingdom is delayed, the problems arise… being a peacemaker for a day is not as demanding as being a peacemaker year after hostile year; being merciful for an evening can be a pleasant experience, but being merciful for a lifetime requires [true] spiritual preparedness.”

My point is that it is not easy to live the Christian life day in and day out; it is rarely a smooth road to travel when our own life’s journey is defined by our walk with Jesus Christ; when we’re imitating Christ and keeping the values of Christ as our own until Christ himself returns.  But it is crucial that we stay on that journey, and always be about this work of spiritual readiness, lest the kingdom of God comes and we be found asleep and unprepared.  Simply put, we need “oil in our lamps to keep them burning, burning, burning,” (!) the kind of spiritual fuel that gives light and direction to the standards of devotion and behavior we apply to our day to day lives; to the ways we nurture relationships with one another; in how we make real in our own lives the prayers we pray for peace, for justice and an end to hatred and all manner of abuse. And friends, make no mistake; ours is a lamp that needs to burn, and brightly; for in a time and place when there’s so much to be done for the sake of God’s kingdom, we would not want to be floundering in the darkness!  We need to be ready… and now is the right time. 

I’ve always loved the writings of Bill Bryson; as you might know he’s a mid-westerner who immigrated to England for a good many years and then returned to live with his family here in New Hampshire (up near Hanover, I believe), and from that perspective he writes these marvelous essays about American life and our history.  In his book Made in America, Bryson speaks rather frankly about the Pilgrims of the first Thanksgiving, saying that as much as we revere them, they were basically ill-suited for a life in the New England wilderness!

Consider how they packed for the trip:  historical records tell us they found room on the Mayflower for “sundials and candle snuffers, a drum and a trumpet, even a complete history of the country of Turkey.  One man named William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and thirteen pairs of boots.  Yet the Pilgrims failed to bring a single cow or horse, plow or fishing line.”  With the uncertain exception of Miles Standish (who, by the way, was not a Pilgrim per se but something of a soldier of fortune who got hired on for security purpose!), probably very few of these pilgrims had ever even tried to hunt a wild animal! Bryson writes that these pilgrims “were, in short, dangerously unprepared for the rigors ahead, and they demonstrated their incompetence in the most dramatic possible way:  by dying in droves.”  In fact, by the time spring arrived, only about 54 of them (nearly half of them children) remained; but these were the survivors who turned Plymouth into a self-sustaining colony and the ones who hosted the first Thanksgiving.

Think of that as a parable, friends; for while we may never find ourselves in the dire straits of our Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers, we do know what it is to be unprepared for what life thrusts upon us.  We also tend to carry unnecessary baggage through our lives and then find ourselves lacking that which we really need to survive the storms of tough times and unforeseen crises.  Better in the here and now to be preparing ourselves spiritually for all that awaits us; looking to Jesus for the skills and the grace we need to embody God’s love, his forgiveness, his joy and hope in how we live and in how we relate to one another.

Better to be ready… at the right time!

For our Lord makes it clear, beloved; this… this time and place… is not all there is or will be.  We are, in fact, on the verge of a moment in which this transient life we lead will be transformed into a kingdom of feasting and celebration.  It’s coming; so let us keep awake – let’s pay attention and get ready – for that time soon, and very soon, when the bridegroom arrives… for what a celebration that will be!

Thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in Discipleship, Jesus, Life, Sermon, Spiritual Truths

 

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What We Are, What We Will Be

(a sermon for November 5, 2017, the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, based on 1 John 3:1-3)

I remember his words as though it was yesterday:  “I realize,” he said, “that a lot of people look at me and think I’m nothing but a loser; and I know I’m considered by some to be the black sheep of the family.”

This sad but painfully honest assessment of things came in the midst of a late night phone conversation a number of years ago with an old friend of mine from high school (this guy was always calling me in the middle of the night!); and though, as that old friend and as that old friend who happened to be a pastor (!), I immediately sought to assure him that neither God nor the people who loved him thought of him that way, truth be told I understood what he was talking about.

For you see, though my friend was a good and fun-loving guy, and one who was always determined to put his best foot forward no matter what, he’d also had a very rough life, starting with the father who walked out on him when he was a little boy and continuing on from there.  Even as an adult it always seemed as though trouble and heartache were following close behind him at every junction of life.  Several failed marriages combined with some often bitter custody issues with his kids, moving around from place to place trying to eke out a living while dealing with a long series of medical problems that cost him a great many jobs over the years: this kind of thing just seemed to go on and on with him.  And yes, to be fair, some of the problems were of his own making, or at least were complicated by some very bad choices made along the way; in fact, it could probably be safely asserted that for most of his life, this man was “a day late and a dollar short,” in every sense of the expression!  And so, to the casual observer, it might have indeed seemed as though my friend was something of a loser and a black sheep; but interestingly enough, when my friend made this confession to me in the wee hours of that morning, it turned out that he wasn’t done speaking!

“I know I’m considered by some to be the black sheep of the family,” he did say; but then he added, “but you know what?  I’ve come a long way!  I’ve grown, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m a much better person than used to be; and despite everything, I managed to help raise three good kids who love me.  What’s better than that?” And as he went on, it became clear to me that he understood something that a whole lot of people never come to grips with: that while his life had been hard in so many ways, it was also good in others; and the best part is it wasn’t over yet!  That’s the reason he called me at four in the morning, you see; he was excited to let me know that he was going back to school; that he was going to get his degree; that he wanted to teach, to help young people in need; and now he was determined to show his now adult children, and everybody else (!) that “if the old man can reach his dream, then so can they.”  And as his friend, I wished him well; after all, life is not supposed to be something that we’re resigned to live out, but rather an adventure to be experienced: an evocation of a work in progress inspired by God’s own movement in our lives.

I still remember after hanging up the phone with him thinking of an old, admittedly lesser-known John Denver song that my friend and I knew well back in those days:

“Come, dance with the west wind and touch all the mountain tops,
Sail o’er the canyons, and up to the stars.
And reach for the heavens, and hope for the future,
For all that we can be, not just what we are.”
(from “The Eagle and the Hawk” by John Denver)

For all that we can be, not just what we are:  life is so often an intermingling of what is and what might be, of the actual and the potential, of the realized and unrealized parts of ourselves.   In other words, there’s always more to us than what meets the eye, more than others can see, more than we can even see in ourselves; our “true identity” might well be veiled by the challenges that life thrusts upon us, as well as by our own fears and self-doubts.   The hope for all of us is that over time and experience, by learning and through grace, each of us eventually comes to recognize and understand who he or she truly is, and thus embrace the whole meaning of life.

This also pretty much encapsulates our journeys of faith as well, does it not?

It’s there in our text for this morning:  “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”  Basic to our understanding of the Christian faith is the truth that in God’s love, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are identified before all creation as God’s own children, holy and beloved; and what that means is that whoever else we are considered to be in this life, or whatever other label has been placed upon us and we carry around with us as we go, who we are, first and foremost and forever, are children of God!   But the best part is that that’s not even the end of the story; for if we read on in this passage from the 1st Epistle of John you find there’s a twist to this incredible affirmation:  “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”  It turns out that you and I, who have this sure identity as children of God, still have much to discover about who we are and what we are yet to become; and that is also good news indeed!

As Linda Johnson Seyenkulo, a Lutheran pastor and writer from Chicago, explains it, “What you are now is not the end.  You are a work in progress.  And the exciting part is, you don’t know what is possible until you open up to God’s possibilities.”  Faith, Seyenkulo goes on to say, is all about God-inspired and God-led possibility, “and so the Christian life is [by definition] a life of possibility, waiting to be revealed.”

And there’s great precedent for this: think of the disciples of Jesus who knew themselves to be his followers, but until that resurrection experience began to reveal itself and the Holy Spirit began to move in and through the reality of their lives they could not possibly imagine themselves to be the purveyors of his good news in the world.  Or think about the people who heard that good news from those disciples: I’m thinking of a story, for instance, from the 3rd chapter of Acts about a man regarded by everyone around as a beggar; a nameless, faceless indigent.  But upon being healed by Peter and John in the name of Christ, this beggar became something different, quite literally “walking and leaping and praising God” (3:8) as he went first into the temple, and then out to a new future… full of possibility!

For that matter, think about someone like my old friend; someone you know whose faith has so profoundly affected his or her life that who that person is now stands in sharp contrast to the person was before.  Maybe you can even see yourself in that regard; the point is that this love of God is the catalyst for true and ongoing transformation; it creates unlimited possibilities as to what can come as God’s own future unfolds.

What we will be is not yet revealed… all we know for now is that when Christ is revealed, that is, when the kingdom is come and all of Christ’s promises are fulfilled, then “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.   And…” – here’s a key verse (!) – “all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  Or, in the beautifully rendered words of The Message, we will have “the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.”

For what comes between what we are and what we will be is the journey; and how along live on the way.  Think of it as a journey of self-discovery on a divine scale. On the way from who we already are as God’s children to what we will be by God’s intent and purpose, we are being called to grow; spiritually, and by extension ethically, morally and socially.  We are being called to turn around from worn pathways and old ways of thinking and being; so that we might truly walk in newness of life after the manner of Jesus.

I love the story that Juanita Austin tells about her brother, who works as an accountant, and who is, as one might expect, up to his eyeballs in tax returns every April. Ordinarily, Austin writes, this would be a sure cause for stress and strain, but this year when she asked her brother how he was doing, he replied with great enthusiasm, “Great!  I’m doing just great!  I love this!”  Though her first instinct was to call a doctor and find out if her brother was in fact seriously sleep deprived (!), she asked him why he was so visibly excited by his job.  And he explained that on that particular day he’d been able to help this widow on a pension to increase her monthly income, “so that instead of barely scraping by she would be reasonably comfortable.  What her brother had as a gift – a knowledge about taxes combined with a [new, faith centered] compassion and desire for justice – he [was now able to give] to her.”

I love this story because like all of us who are children of God, what this man, this tax accountant (!), will be is yet to be revealed—and yet by the movement of his life we can begin to see a hint of what’s to come, a glimpse of the very purity of Jesus’ life in his own life. Well, my question for each of us today is what people might see in the movement of our lives here on Mountain Road; as Christians dwelling within a decidedly non-Christian culture; as persons and a people of faith dealing with the very real challenges of life here and now, yet on a journey full of possibilities for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.

It seems to me that in faith, you and I are ever to be giving thanks for “who we are” as children of God; but we also must never lose sight of “what we will be” by God’s own intent and purpose.  For between here and there, now and then, lay all the wonderful and heretofore unimagined possibilities that God is setting before each of us.  It’s ultimately what will help us to soar as the eagle and the hawk, to “reach for the heavens, and hope for the future.”  And it will be that which will reveal to us some of the “glistening purity of Jesus’ life” in everything we are and seek to be in this life.

Where we will go and what we will be; that is yet to be revealed. But we do know who we are, beloved; and as children of God, I hope and pray that we are ready for journey of faith and discovery they lay before us.  Because the possibilities… they’re endless!

May we be blessed on the journey… and may our thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c.2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2017 in Epistles, Faith, Life, Sermon, Spiritual Truths

 

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