Category Archives: Love

FAQ’s of Faith: What’s Most Important?

(a sermon for March 11, 2018, the Fourth Sunday in Lent; fourth in a series, based on Mark 12:28-34)

I have to say that for me one of the great parts of the study of scripture is that no matter how many times and how many ways I return to a particular passage, there’s always something there that manages to surprise me!

Well, such is the case with our text for this morning; for in coming back this week to Mark’s account of how “one of the scribes” came to Jesus asking about which of the commandments is first and greatest of all, I was very surprised to discover that this actually is one of the rare instances in the gospels where Jesus and one of the religious leaders of his time actually… agree on something!

I mean, think about this with me for a moment:  here is Jesus, who long before this had established his overall opposition and basic animus for the practices of the religious establishment of his day; and then there’s this scribe, who’s not only a learned member of that religious establishment, but also part of the group who were intimately involved in the conspiracy to kill Jesus!  Add that to the fact that as we pick up the reading this morning, there had already been some rather intense words exchanged between Jesus and a series of representatives from the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees having to do with things like religious authority, the belief in resurrection and the legality of paying taxes unto Caesar; understanding, of course, that these “questions” had very little to do with theological discussion or debate and everything to do with at the very least undermining Jesus’ popularity amongst the people, or perhaps even trapping Jesus into saying something that could be branded as heresy, which would be most certainly be a punishable offense!  So it’s incredibly surprising that when this one, individual scribe – already, it should be pointed out here, impressed at how Jesus had answered those who had come before – asks this particular “frequently asked question” about the greatest commandment Jesus gives an answer on which they can both agree: simply put, it’s first to love God with your whole heart; and secondly, but just about as importantly, it’s to love your neighbor as yourself.

And that’s it; two simple commandments, dating back to the days of Moses, that would seem to encapsulate all the teachings of faith itself!  One could argue that there was a whole lot more that perhaps could have been said here; or that maybe Jesus should have seized the moment for a teaching about love leading to acts of righteousness or justice, or better yet, about the reality of hypocrisy regarding such matters!  But no, this time it’s just a simple response on Jesus’ part; and moreover, there’s nothing all that radical about what Jesus says here, nothing that any serious student of the Torah wouldn’t have already understood on some level!  But yet, it’s this very basic response that immediately leads to the scribe gushing about the correctness of Jesus’ answer, and it’s why Jesus could look to this scribe – the scribe, of all people (!) – and not only see that “he answered wisely,” but also be able say to this man who represented everything that was wrong with the practice of religion, “’You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”  For you see, whatever else divided them at that moment, where true faith was concerned they could agree on that which was the most important: to love God and to love others.

I must confess that even in my particular line of work, I don’t often get asked pointed questions about which of the commandments I feel to be the greatest.  I do, however, quite “frequently” get asked questions regarding what I think to be most important about faith, particularly among those who have been away from the church for a while, or who maybe are making their very steps toward faith.  Some want to know, for instance, how literally I take the Bible; or how, considering the world as it really is, how “optional” I would consider a few of the ten commandments to be (my answer to that has sometimes been to half-jokingly suggest that there’s a reason they’re not called “the ten suggestions,” but I’m not always sure that message is wholly understood!).

Some people will ask if I believe there’s a heaven and a hell; and more to the point, they want to know if everything they’ve done in the past could ever possibly qualify them for going to heaven when they die. They’re curious about this man Jesus, and they want to find out if he really is everything we Christians always say that he is; and though it’s not usually said in so many words, they truly want to know about salvation and redemption, and about things like confession and repentance; about love and grace (that’s next Sunday, by the way!); and what it means to be forgiven as well as to forgive.  Mostly, though, I have to say that in one way or the other the common thread running through all those questions is of what ends up being the most important facet of living a faithful life: of what it is we can and should do to best honor God; to obey Christ’s teaching in a way that pleases God and serves God by creating an atmosphere of justice, freedom and peace for all; and, ultimately, for each of us to be in this life the persons and the kind of people who we have been created to be from the beginning of our creation!

And I have to tell you – as a pastor, yes, but most especially as a person of faith – isn’t it interesting that the answer to this question of what’s most important turns out to be as simple – and as complicated (!) – as Jesus’ answer to that inquisitive scribe: first, to love God with our whole hearts, and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is, as the scribe noted, “much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices,” to say nothing of all the countless little rules and regulations, precepts and traditions, limits and boundaries we create for ourselves all for the sake of at least trying to get everything right where faith is concerned!  And I say “trying,” because inevitably such attempts, however well-intentioned, end up falling short of the mark.  To love God, and to love others… that’s what Jesus says, and that’s the most important thing.

Don’t, however, get the idea that this altogether simplifies things where faith is concerned! I love what the Rev. David F. Sellery, pastor and writer from Connecticut, says about this:  “Sure we’ve heard the words over and over,” he writes. “But do we live them over and over?  Is the message fresh and alive in us… shaping our thoughts and actions today… or has familiarity bred neglect… leaving love of God and neighbor as sweet sentiments reserved for Sunday mornings.”

“Love is the total reason for our being,” Sellery goes on to say, “the sole purpose for our Creation and our unique place in it.  Love defines us.  It must be who we are and what we do. If not, we’re just taking up space and wasting time.”

Love God… with heart and soul and mind and strength… and love others… with the same intensity and depth by which God loves us, and after the same manner that we are meant to love ourselves.  As people of faith, it is both our mission in this generation and, might I add, the legacy that we leave for the next.  I’m actually reminded here of something that John Westerhoff wrote about our shared task of Bringing Up Children in the Christian Faith (his book of the same title).  He correctly asserts that we cannot rely on the culture in which we live to impart faith to our children; this, in fact, is a task that belongs to each of us as Christians, and all of us as the church.  Not that we can “give” them faith, per se; faith, writes Westerhoff, “is a gift from God given to both us and our children.  [But,] we are called to live faithfully in childlike ways with our children so that we both might know the gift of faith and live in its grace.”

So it is with the all-important commandments to love God and to love others.  Granted, our love, whatever its shape or form, can only be but a pale reflection of God’s love that, in Christ, “surpasses all knowledge” and understanding (Ephesians 3:19); nonetheless the kind of divine love that’s reflected in us serves as a palpable and lasting way that we give form, substance and meaning to every one of the joys and challenges, the laughter and sorrow, the excitement, the boredom and the utter routine of our daily lives.  Moreover, and I can’t stress this strongly enough, love isn’t always about our being nice!  Quite frankly, some of the worst affronts to love and justice and true “Christian” morality has come about because of a refusal to be anything less than “nice” about the evils around us that we ought to deplore.  Love, as God gives it, intends it and yes, commands it means that we are both accountable for our own behavior and responsible for nurturing one another and our world in ways that are moral, ethical and in keeping with the all-inclusive love of Jesus Christ.

At the end of the day, and at the beginning of each new day, it’s important… most important (!) in everything we do that we love God and love our neighbor. If I might throw in just one more quote, this time from Mother Teresa, “It is not how much we do that is pleasing to God, but how much love we put into the doing.”

That is what’s most important.

Did you hear the story about the wife who wrote a letter to her husband who was in prison for armed robbery?  It was coming on to this time of year, close to springtime, and so in the letter she asked her husband, “I’ve been wondering; what’s the best time to plant potatoes in our garden?”  And the husband immediately wrote back, “Whatever you do, don’t dig in the garden, because that’s where I’ve hidden all of my guns!”  Well, as you might imagine, the mail going in and out of prison was intercepted, and soon as the guards read that particular sentence several men were dispatched to go to the woman’s home and dig up every square foot of her garden plot from one end to the other; but even after all that, they didn’t find a single gun!  When the wife reported this in a letter back to her husband, the husband again quickly wrote back to say, “Alright, then; the garden is now ready for you to go ahead and plant the potatoes!”

Well, it strikes me that just as you can’t throw seeds on hardened ground but rather have to plant them in soil that’s been first tilled and nurtured, it’s also true that for God’s purposes to be fulfilled, our hearts and lives need to be opened up and carefully tended so that real love, divine love transformed into human love can take root there.

The thing is that most of us, I believe, have come here today wanting to be, trying to be and are committed to being faithful by way of loving God and loving others in and through our very lives.  And yes, I’ll admit that these are times when given the world around us and the forces that tempt us to other sorts of responses that commitment to love often becomes difficult and confusing.  But we know what’s important where faith is concerned; we want to do what’s right, we want to live as we ought, and at heart, I believe that each and all of us wants to be the best we can be before God; and what the Gospel tells us this morning is that, as the song goes, “all you need is love.”

But remember, friends,  what makes the difference is love that has source in the one who first loved us, who lived and died for us in the person of Jesus Christ, and who continues even now to bring us closer to him by his Holy Spirit.  This is love made real in his presence and his power; and it’s love that can and will transform us into something brand new; that we might truly love as we have been loved… today, tomorrow and in every day that comes.

Thanks be to God for that love we are given, and that we are challenged to share.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on March 11, 2018 in Faith, Jesus, Lent, Love, Sermon, Sermon Series


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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.


c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry


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Equipped for Ministry

homecoming(a sermon for September 11, 2016, the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Ephesians 4:11-16)

It’s amazing the difference that something like a comma can make!

That’s the proposition of a bestselling book from a few years back entitled Eats, Shoots and Leaves in which the author, Lynn Truss, makes the strong case for proper punctuation in today’s society.  Now that may sound like the stuff of a third grade textbook; but what Truss proposes is that in this world increasingly filled with tweets, texts and emails, a punctuation mark can very well make all the difference in getting a message across properly… or not!

For instance, she says, you might send this text message to a friend:  “What’s the latest dope?”  Add a comma, and that message becomes, “What’s the latest, dope?” which is not apt to endear you to your friend!  A theater critic might write that “the play ended happily,” but with a comma it comes out as “the play ended, happily,” and that’s a different review altogether!  Or imagine reading this headline tomorrow morning in the Concord Monitor:  “Democrats say Republicans are Sure to Win!”   It’d be a whole different story if it read, “Democrats, say Republicans, are Sure to Win!”  (Either way, however, there’d be lots of letters to the editor!)

The use of a comma, you see (or for that matter, a period or an exclamation point), not only changes how you read a sentence, it can sometimes even alter its true meaning!  It can even happen in the way we read scripture; which brings us to our reading this morning from Ephesians, in which Paul speaks about how as believers we are all united in the Body of Christ, and yet how each one of us has been given unique gifts as part of that Body:  “that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.”   Well, there are some older versions of scripture that actually translate the original Greek in this way:  “some [should be] pastors and teachers [comma], for the equipment of saints [comma], for the work of ministry [comma], for building up the body of Christ.”  What that seems to suggest is that pastors and teachers have the job of equipping the saints (that is, to direct and empower the membership of the church) and, along with that, also doing the work of ministry, and building up the body of Christ!

And in all honesty, that sounds kind of reasonable; after all, that’s what we pastors do, right?  As “trained religious professionals,” doing the work of ministry and building does seem to be an accurate and appropriate part of the job description; look on any ministerial profile, and you’re bound to find that right up front!  But… here’s the thing about this text: modern biblical scholars, as well as experts in ancient languages, have come to understand that in translating the original Greek into English, there may well have been… a punctuation error!   Basically, there are too many commas!  And so that verse we shared really ought to read this way: that “some [should be] pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, [and] for building up the body of Christ.”  Turns out, friends, that my job is not as much to equip the saints and do the work of ministry as it is to equip the saints for the work of ministry!  Or, as it’s beautifully translated in the New International Version of scripture, “to prepare God’s people for the works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith.”

Now, let’s look at that for a moment; because when you think about it this is actually a pretty radical concept about the nature of church and ministry!    Because what this makes clear is that the church is not the building, or the steeple, or even the organization, per se; it’s the people that God has called out of the world and into community, and then who are sent forth to make God known in the world.  And while we clergy-types have our own unique and particular place and calling in that ministry, ultimately it will be the people of God who by their very lives will serve as visible reflections of the invisible God in our world.  What this means is that you and I – and I do include myself in this admonition – you and I can never succumb to the notion that we can leave these crucial tasks of Christian ministry, outreach and nurture to “the professionals,” whoever we might perceive “the professionals” to be!  Each one of us, you see, are meant to be out there living as we have been graced to live, reaching out to others as we have been equipped and empowered to do, and then sharing what it is that we ourselves have been given.

That is our ministry; but that’s also the challenge for us, isn’t it?  Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, and pastor of Saddleback Church in California (a congregation of over 20,000 members!) writes that nonetheless church pews are often filled with members who are “doing nothing with their faith except ‘keeping’ it.” In fact, Warren goes on to say, “if we [could] ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, resources, creativity, and energy lying dormant in the typical local church, Christianity [would] explode at an unprecedented rate.”

The bottom line is that whether the congregation numbers 20,000, 200 or even 20 a healthy, vibrant church functions through its people:  people equipped to share their spiritual gifts and to unleash all those incredible talents and creativity that God has placed with them for the sake of doing the work of ministry in Christ’s name.  This is how we truly become one body, as Paul describes it to the church in Ephesus, “grow[ing] up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,”   so that, as The Message translates this, “his very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”

I’ll say it again, friends; that’s our ministry, yours and mine; and it’s at no time more applicable than right now as we begin a new season of Christian formation and nurture amongst our children here at East Church.

You know, each year as we welcome our kids back to Sunday School I find myself reflecting on what it is we really offer these children in the hour or so we have them each week.  I mean, we sing a song or two, they hear a Bible story and play a game or do a craft; and then, of course, I have my very small window of opportunity to impart some measure of spiritual wisdom before they run off to Sunday School!  Not long ago I spoke with my nephew who’d been asked if he might speak at a local church in his community about the mission project that he’s part of, and this included a children’s message; and so he called to ask his uncle the minister if I had any advice about that.  I simply said, “Rule number one, you’ve got maybe three minutes before you start to lose ‘em; and rule number two, what they want to talk about is not necessarily what you want to talk about… so be prepared! The point is that we’ve got so much we want to teach them about God’s love, so many of Jesus’ teachings that we want them to know and to make real in their hearts and lives; but in a world where these kids (and their families!) are already being pulled in a hundred different directions, “tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine,” so to speak, how can this ever happen?  How do we nurture within them an authentic Christian faith that will ultimately define their very lives; not to mention change the world for the better?

It seems to me that Paul has given us the “curriculum,” as it were, simply in reminding us that “some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.”  In other words, our task, our call to do ministry and to build up even the youngest parts of the Body of Christ, involves each and every one of us with our own unique, God-given gifts.

It begins, you see, with discipleship.

It is no accident that the word “disciple” appears 269 times in the New Testament.  In fact, here’s an interesting fact: the word “Christian” only appears three times; and refers directly to the disciples themselves!  To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ; and our discipleship comes down to how we seek to live out the teachings of Jesus in our lives; it’s as simple as that.  So you want our children to grow up surrounded by the presence of loving God?  You want them to profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus as best they are able?  Do you wish for them to truly understand what it is to love one another after the manner of Jesus?  You want them to have lives girded in peace and true justice, and for them to direct their own pathways in a way that says that this is what they intend for the whole world?  You want these kids growing up to be disciples of Jesus Christ?  Well, it begin with our being disciples of Jesus Christ… by sharing what we’ve received so that they might be equipped for ministry.

Perhaps you read in the paper this week about the passing of Hugh O’Brian at the age of 91.  Hugh O’Brian, if you don’t know, was an actor who appeared on Broadway and in Hollywood in a whole lot of movies over the years, and was best known for playing Wyatt Earp on television during the 50’s and 60’s.  He was, as the article I read in the paper put it, a “household name” for many years; but as it turned out, Hugh O’Brian’s greatest legacy was something much different than a fast “quick-draw.”

It seems that in 1958, at the height of his popularity, O’Brian accepted the invitation from the medical missionary Dr. Albert Schweitzer to visit him at his hospital in the African wilderness.  O’Brian spent nine days working as a volunteer at this place, his evenings spent talking for hours with Schweitzer himself.  They spoke together about the precarious state of the world at the time; about global peace, the urgency for change and how education must teach young people to think for themselves.  As O’Brian said later, it was a life-changing experience, far removed from what he’d known and experienced in Hollywood.  And at the end of it all, as he was preparing to depart down river, Schweitzer took O’Brian’s hand and asked, “Hugh, what are you going to do with this?”

Well, later that same year this so-called “cowboy actor” created the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program (HOBY, for short), and to date, over 450,000 high school sophomores across the country have been selected by their schools to learn more about their potential for leadership and service in the world. I am pleased to say that our own daughter Sarah was one of those selected back when she was in high school; and she will tell you it was a very powerful and worthwhile experience.  As O’Brian himself described the program, “I believe that every person is created to be the steward of his own destiny with great power for a specific purpose to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.”

I love that; and the fact is, you and I are also stewards with great power and a purpose; a power that comes to us in Christ Jesus, and a purpose that is revealed in countless ways as we share the gifts we’ve been given: with our children… and with one another; also with those who are sick and struggling, who are lost and lonely and grieving and in the need of care; and with those who are downtrodden or who have found themselves on the outside looking in.  As disciples of Jesus, and ministering in his name, you and I have this incredible opportunity, right here and right now, to share with all those around us “a reverence for life in a spirit of love,” and in the process helping each one of themselves in being equipped for ministry.

That cannot help but raise up our children – and everyone else – in the way they should go; and it will most certainly help this Body “in building itself up in love.”

May the Lord guide us and bless us in this ministry we share!

And may our thanks be to God.


c. 2016  Rev. Michael W. Lowry


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