RSS

Category Archives: Spiritual Truths

Are You Listening?

(a sermon for January 17, 2021, the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, based on 1 Samuel 3:1-20)

The story goes that two men were at the local diner one day, talking over a cup of coffee.  And the first man says, “You know, I’m concerned about my wife.  She’s talking to herself a lot these days.” And the second man thought about this for a moment, and replies, “Ayuh, my wife does that too, but she doesn’t know it.  She thinks I’m listening!”

LISTENING, it can be said, is one of the most important tools for a marriage or any relationship, and conversely, the lack of listening can be its greatest detriment.  As a pastor, I can tell you that I talk to people all the time – couples, parents and children, family members and friends – for whom this holds very true.  And as a husband and father, I can vouch for the fact that the vast majority of any conflict in our home can be traced back to a lapse in listening skills (and I will leave to your imaginations as to who that involves!).  Listening, you see, does not always come naturally to us, nor does it come easily; in fact, our dilemma is wonderfully expressed by the title character in Marjorie Kellogg’s book (and subsequent 1970’s era movie), “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.”  In that book, she declares to one of her closest friends, Arthur, “The trouble with you, Arthur, is that you seldom listen to me, and when you do you don’t hear, and when you do hear, you hear wrong, and even when you hear right you change it so fast that it’s never the same.”

So does that sound at all familiar?   I’m guessing it probably does, because the sad truth is that this is precisely how a lot of us listen to each other; but what’s even worse, especially for us who are people of faith, is that this is also how a great many of us listen to God!  

I’ll say it again: listening is one of the most important tools for any relationship, and the lack of listening can be its greatest detriment; and this is especially true as regards our relationship with God.  Let me put this another way: if God calls our name, how will we know unless we’re listening?  How will we know what God is saying to us or where God might be leading? For that matter, how will we recognize that it’s actually us that God is talking to; or even if what we’re hearing is God at all, as opposed to, say, some other overpowering voice in this world that demands our attention?  How will we know any of this… unless we’re truly listening?

One thing is clear: listening – and this applies whether we’re talking about our relationships with one another or our relationship with God – involves more than merely hearing; listening, in truth, is all encompassing.  It’s no accident that in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the word for listen is also the word for obey, which means that to listen to God is to open one’s whole life and self to God; and to attend wholly to that to which God is calling.

We see this very clearly in our scripture reading for this morning, the story of God’s call to Samuel; who was to become, as a judge and a prophet, one of Israel’s great leaders. But at the point we pick up the story today Samuel is still just a 12-year-old boy; who’s been sent by his mother Hannah to live in the temple as a servant of God under the authority of an old and blind priest by the name of Eli.  Right from the outset, we’re told that “the word of the LORD was rare in those days,” and that “visions were not widespread;” but what’s also true about those days is that Israel’s leadership at the time was particular corrupt in nature.  For Israel, this was an era of moral ambiguity and societal degradation that happened from the top down; not unlike our own time, really, when a voice of true faith can easily be drowned out in the sheer cacophony of all the world’s noise.  So yes, you can kind of understand how under such circumstances one might miss God’s call; after all, when there’s a hundred different voices clamoring for your attention, it’s hard to discern the one voice you’re supposed to be listening for!  

Actually, Samuel did hear that one voice; it’s just that he mistakenly assumed it was Eli calling his name.  This happened three times; and each time Samuel arose from his bed to go to Eli, assuming that the old man was in need of something. Samuel had no idea at all that it this was the voice of God calling him; it was, in fact, old Eli who finally began to realize that it was the Lord calling the boy.  “Go back and lie down,” Eli says to Samuel, and “if the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God, I’m your servant, ready to listen.”

And sure enough; it’s when Samuel understands that it’s God who is speaking to him – and then, of course, when he starts to really listen – that’s when things start to happen.  Did you catch what’s the first thing that God says to Samuel:  God says, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.”  Tingle!  Don’t you love that?!   That’s the perfect word for this; as author and UCC pastor Donna Shaper has written, it’s the experience of “hope kicking into high gear, forgiveness writ loud… [feeling] pins and needles all over your body because you [are] so excited” over what God is about to do!  In this case, what God is about to do essentially results in the fall of Eli’s house and the rise of Samuel’s; so what we’re seeing here is the beginning of a new life for Samuel as a messenger of God, and the thing is that it begins at the precise moment that Samuel stops to listen!

What this story reminds us is that ours is a God of intrusion; and by that I mean that just when we’ve assumed that, in times like these when the word of the Lord does seem to be rare; when we reluctantly decide that religion ought be something best kept silent and settled, here comes God… quite literally bursting forth into our lives and living, bringing change and disruption and newness of life!  Barbara Brown Taylor talks about this; she says that “God’s language is not limited… [and] God’s word is not chained.  We cannot capture it in church, in time, in culture.  We cannot even capture it between the covers of the Bible, because if [scripture] is God’s true and lively word, then [it’s going to be] inventing new words all the time – percolating with the same creative energy that made heaven and earth.”

Perhaps at the end of the day that’s why you and I are so often reluctant or even afraid to listen: for in truth if we were to really listen for the word of God – in the silence of our hearts; in the journey of our lives; and even in the work of the church – if we really did listen, we might feel that tingle, and that would change everything for us forever!

Some years ago now, I attended a training seminar in Florida as part of the Stephen Ministry program; which is, if you don’t know, a wonderful and very worthwhile ministry of Christian caregiving for laity. I was actually being trained as a Stephen Leader, so that I could go back to my own congregation and equip the people of our church for a ministry of caregiving.  Well, part of that training involved learning the mechanics of peer supervision, in which those trained as caregivers gather regularly to discuss their own experiences in a nurturing and confidential manner, so to assure that those people you’re trying to help get the best care possible.

In that regard, we’d been asked the day before to come up with a case study of sorts; to either make something up, or, if it was to be based on something out of real life, take it out of the distant past or at least change it in a significant fashion.  And then we would do these role plays as if we were actually meeting as “Stephen Ministers” dealing with a caregiving situation before us.  So we’re around this table – there’s eight of us from all over the country and from across the “denominational spectrum” – and through the process we decide to discuss in-depth the situation of this one woman at our table, whose “care receiver,” according to her case study was an 18 year-old boy battling severe depression and now rebounding from several unsuccessful attempts at suicide. 

In the course of that conversation, we talked a great deal about how difficult a thing it can be to be a caregiver to somebody in this situation; we spoke about how hard it is to have your heart not break when you see what they’re going through.  We talked about the necessity of boundaries, the need for faith and the power of prayer; and we talked about letting go emotionally, and letting God carry the burden.   I’ll tell you, friends, I’ve never been a big one for role play as a way of learning (it’s always seemed a little too much like theater to me) but I must confess that afterward I was struck by how very real this experience was and how much I had learned.

Well, then it was all done; we went on to something else, and in fact, I didn’t see that woman again until the last night of the seminar at our closing service of worship.  After we had sung a closing hymn, as part of our benediction we passed the peace of Christ to one another; and this is when this woman comes over to me, gives me this big hug, and says simply, “I just want to thank you.”  And of course, I’m just kind of looking at her with this clueless look on my face because I don’t know what she’s thanking me for; but then she says, “You know the 18-year-old that I spoke of the other day?  That was my son.  And I know he’s going to be alright now… but now for the first time in a long time, I know I’m going to be alright.  And I just wanted to thank you for that.”

I’ve never forgotten that, mostly because even all these years later I’m still not sure what I said to her that made that kind of difference.  But I think maybe it was just that I listened; that all of us around that table listened.  In that moment, you see, it didn’t matter that we were in all actuality this group of random strangers who were totally from different places and backgrounds; all that mattered is that when we started to really listen to what was being said in that place, we became kindred spirits in the Lord, and somehow, God’s remarkable, ear-tingling, life-changing word got through.  And when that happened, things immediately started to change… for the better.

This is something I’ve always believed very strongly, but it’s something I don’t think that I have said often enough, especially in these days when we’ve all been scattered as a congregation.  And that’s that we’re all ministers, you and me; though I might have the “Rev” in front of my name, in this tradition we believe in the priesthood of all believers, and what that means is that every one of us – every one of you – is called to the work of ministry, and invited to it challenges and its joy.  It also means that we’ve been equipped and empowered by God; so that we might do what God needs to have done. 

Who knows what form that will take in each of our lives… maybe it’ll be to speak the words of love and support that need to be said at a crucial moment; perhaps it’ll be the opportunity we have before us to “teach our children well,” and to nurture them in the Christian faith; maybe it’s to be caregiver of one sort or another; and maybe it’s to stand up and work boldly toward a strong vision of the kingdom of God in this place and in these strange and difficult days.  Or maybe it is simply to listen: where you are and to whom is with you at that moment; which trust me, beloved, is no small gift. 

But whatever your ministry happens to be, it starts… with listening.  There is no limit as to what God can do through you and through me; but it all begins as we tune out the noise and chaos of life and fear and violence and the politics of the world around us… and begin focusing our ears and hearts on the sound of God’s voice in the midst of it all; to listen to God’s call and God’s plan.  

God is calling us, beloved; I pray today that we will have the grace to answer, “Here I am, Lord… speak, for we, your servants are listening.” 

Thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN.

© 2021  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Tags: , ,

Image

The Lost Christ

(a sermon for January 3, 2021, the 2nd Sunday after Christmas, based on Luke 2:39-52)

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”  That’s what Luke tells us in his gospel, but as far as I’m concerned it does absolutely nothing to satisfy my curiosity!

Actually, one of my great fascinations involving the gospel story has always been that of which we know very little: how Jesus, our Christ, grew from that tiny, helpless baby in the manger to a 30-year-old carpenter from Nazareth who came preaching salvation and the coming of God’s kingdom.

I wonder, for instance, if Jesus was ever a fussy baby.  Was he colicky?  What did he like to eat, and did he have a special toy or a “luvvy” (as our kids referred to it) that he clung to at night?  What made him smile and laugh (was he ticklish?), and did Jesus work and play well with other children?  Did Jesus go through “the terrible twos?”  And I wonder… how did Mary and Joseph react when he misbehaved?  Knowing what they did, could the two of them treat Jesus like any other child; would Joseph give him a “stern talking to,” or was there a little pat on the backside if he needed it?  I mean, how do you discipline the Son of God? And while we’re on the subject, was Jesus at all rebellious as a teenager?  Did Jesus really enjoy working alongside Joseph in the carpenter’s shop, or would he have rather been out with his friends?

Small questions, I know, and probably a bit impertinent; but I do wonder about such things, because in all honesty these are the questions that bring Jesus nearer to me and my life; for me, thinking about Jesus this way makes him human as well as divine, and I can wrap my mind and heart around that.  And I take solace in knowing I’m not alone in my wondering: biblical scholars, to say nothing of novelists, poets and artists throughout the centuries have long speculated on this subject.  In the end, however, all we have is speculation, because it turns out that we just don’t know all that much about Jesus’ childhood and youth.

In fact, one of the only stories we have about Jesus during this period is the one we just shared, regarding an incident that occurred when Jesus was about twelve years old, as he joined Mary and Joseph and a great caravan of other families from Nazareth on a trip to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 

Actually, that in and of itself tells us a great deal: that Jesus was raised in the rich Hebrew tradition of his family and community.  You see, not only was it Jewish law that every male Israelite living within fifteen miles of Jerusalem attend the festival of Passover there, it was also customary (and a privilege) for young, growing boys to make their appearance there as part of their passage into adulthood.  So, at age twelve, this was probably one of the first times that Jesus made the pilgrimage as required by law; and that’s significant for our understanding of who Jesus was, and the history and tradition of which he was a part.

But what’s even more significant about this story comes in what happened following the feast itself; for according to Luke, what we learn is that Mary and Joseph, in fact, lost Jesus!  Now, to be fair, it was nobody’s fault, and anyone, especially parents, can understand how such a thing could have happened.  You see, as regards these large caravans traveling to Jerusalem, the tradition of the time was for the women and children to start out on the journey earlier than the men; this was because the women and the children traveled more slowly.  The men would start out later in the day, moving at a faster pace, so that by the end of the day, the men and women would meet at the place of encampment at more or less the same time. 

This was also how, after the Passover celebration, they would make their way back to Nazareth.  But what happened was that Mary assumed that Jesus, having nearly reached the age of manhood, was with Joseph; and Joseph, on the other hand, assumed that since Jesus was not around, that the boy was surely with his mother.  It wasn’t until nightfall, when they’d set up camp for the night that Mary and Joseph realized, much to their horror, that Jesus was still back in Jerusalem!  And so what else could they do but then turn around, leave the caravan, and go back by themselves a day’s journey to Jerusalem to find Jesus!

See, it was an honest mistake! Mary and Joseph were not lax in their parental duties, nor were they neglectful of their son; but the fact remains that quite without their knowledge, they had lost Jesus and had gone on for quite some time without even realizing it! 

If you think about it, it’s actually quite a parable.  Here were Mary and Joseph, these two young people who’d brought this child into the world in a cold, dark stable; who’d willingly become refugees so to protect him from the murderous rage of King Herod; who’d let their lives become completely altered for the sake of God’s own son.  We look at Mary and Joseph and cannot help but marvel at their love and devotion to Jesus and yet, they still lost him!  And here’s where it becomes a parable; because, friends, if it’s possible for Mary and Joseph to lose Jesus, however unintentionally, then it’s also possible for you and me to lose him as well!

Truth is, it happens all too easily: we’re walking what we’re thinking is the sure and certain pace of the Christian walk; we’re moving along on what feels like a good and spiritual pathway for our lives, and suddenly we look up to notice that Jesus just doesn’t seem to be there!  That’s the irony of it, friends: we can be good, loving, faithful Christian people in just about every sense of the word; going to church regularly, involving ourselves in the church’s ministries, as well as doing good things out in the places where we dwell.  We’ll give of ourselves spiritually, physically, financially and otherwise, and do it all with love and as an act of praise and devotion… and yet we still somehow manage to have lost Christ somewhere along the way!

How it happens is hard to say – no doubt at one point Jesus had been there at the center of it – but now, even amidst all the so-called “religious” activity, there’s a palpable sense of emptiness.  Perhaps the meaning and purpose of what we were doing got overshadowed by the work of it, that is, our need to “get the job done,” so it had become less about our “faith response” than it was dealing with another obligation in our lives; or maybe it’s simply that we stopped paying attention to the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives, to the point where now, where a “Christian life” is concerned, we’re just going through the motions!

However it happens, the fact is that it can and does; and therein lay the question for each of us as we look around at our lives and living; and reflect on how this gift of divine love we’ve been given defines us, and how we live: Is Jesus there?  And if not, then where is he?  Can it be said of us that we, in fact, have lost Christ?

Of course, our story this morning has a happy ending: Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple, talking with and asking questions of the teachers there regarding matters of law, tradition and theology.  In fact, we’re told that “all who heard [Jesus] were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”   All very well and good – wonderful, in fact – but as you can imagine, his parents are still pretty upset, and understandably so!  Mary says to her son, “Child,” (notice that suddenly it’s “child!”) “why have you treated us like this?”  Didn’t you know that we’d be worried?  We’ve been looking for you all day, we had to come all the way back here to find you… what have you got to say for yourself, young man?

And to this, Jesus very calmly replies, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke goes on to say that “they did not understand what he said to them,” but Biblical scholars and theologians make the case that Jesus, even then, knew who he was.  But even more than this, I think that Jesus knew where to go.  Even at the age of twelve, Jesus understood that a life of faith is a life of seeking; always seeking, always asking questions, always wanting to know bit more than you knew before.  It’s about growing, in wisdom as well as in years… but growing ever and always in the company of God, there before you and beside you.

Friends, I ask you this morning, how can we really know God if we don’t take the time to be with God?

How can we live for Christ, if, in fact, we don’t seek to bring Christ near?

How can we know which way to walk on this Christian pilgrimage we’re on, if we don’t take the time to ask for directions in prayer? Or to pause along the journey to reflect both on where we’ve been, and where we’re going?

How can we call ourselves faithful when we won’t seek a deeper understanding of what that faith means?  Or to put it another way, how can we know the answers if we don’t first ask the questions?

I think that even as a child, our Lord understood that though God actively seeks us out where we are, we need to seek God… and seeking God begins with an incredible life-long walk with Jesus!  And if, along the way, we find that we’ve lost Jesus (or perhaps, more accurately, that we’ve misplaced him), the good news is that he can be found.

It oftentimes takes some rather intentional searching on our parts; it certainly requires getting out of our own way for a while, and by that I mean rearranging some of the priorities that may well have taken a stranglehold on our lives!  It means asking questions: sometimes very hard questions, not only of ourselves but also of God; and then prayerfully, deliberately and intently listening to God for answers. 

What we’re talking about here is spiritual discipline; but in such a discipline comes the remarkable discovery that not only have we found Jesus, but that all along Jesus has been waiting for us to find him!  All along the journey, no matter in what direction we’ve veered off the pathway, the good news is that Christ has been waiting – patiently, lovingly and relentlessly – waiting for us to find him.  Truly, this is the gift of every Christmas and the blessing of each and every New Year – most especially in this new year of 2021 – that even when we somehow manage to lose him, Jesus is ever and always there to be found!

It’s like that little phrase you’ll see printed on cards and signs and even t-shirts this time of year, usually with a picture of a manger, a star and perhaps a camel or two: Wise Men still seek him.  Wise men, wise women, wise children: we would all do well to live our lives searching diligently for the child in the places where we dwell.  Because I’ll guarantee you one thing:  if we look, we’ll surely find the child who’s been waiting for us all along!

Dear friends, may you have a blessed and happy new year in the presence and blessing of Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!  

AMEN and AMEN!

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 3, 2021 in Christmas, Jesus, Life, Sermon, Spiritual Truths

 

Tags: , , ,

At the End of the Day

(a sermon for November 1, 2020, the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost and All Saint’s Day, based on Revelation 7:9-17)

The story goes that on one particular Sunday morning the pastor was talking about matters of life, death and afterlife during the children’s sermon in worship. He’d actually spent a great deal of time talking with these kids about what God has promised to those who believe, and when he’d finished with his talk, he said to them, “Now… don’t you want to go to heaven?”   And most of the kids joined in a chorus of affirmation, all except one little boy who responded quickly and rather loudly, “No way, not me!”

Of course, this was most decidedly not what the pastor was expecting to hear, so he looked at the little boy and asked, “You mean you don’t want to go to heaven when you die?”

Oh,” answered the boy.  “When I die?  Oh, sure!  I thought you were getting a group together to go right now!”

It’s true, you know; even for us adults who would name ourselves as believers, as the saying goes, when life is sweet heaven can wait!  By that I mean that when life’s blessings are pouring down in abundance, relationships are solid and faith is easy, on such occasions, to quote Edmund Steimle, “questions about the afterlife aren’t too pressing.”  We simply and purposefully move through our days bolstered by our confident (if somewhat vaguely understood) assurance that when the time comes, heaven will be there waiting for us.

On the other hand, however, we all know that life does not always consist of what we might perceive as an endless outpouring of blessing; there are going to be times when things are difficult and faith can be a real tough thing to hold on to.  The catalyst might be illness or grief or one of any number of life’s many challenges; hey, 2020 alone has offered up plenty of reasons to despair!  The point is that these are the times and situations when a concern for heaven’s promise and its reality becomes very central to our thoughts and prayers… these are the moments when a sure and certain hope is what we long for the most!

Back in seminary I did a paper on the theology contained within the African-American Spirituals that are such an indelible part of our Christian hymnody as well as the musical landscape of this nation.  I was sort of approaching the subject from a musical perspective, but what I discovered in my research is that this music was not created out of any real desire for art – though that’s certainly what it is – but rather as an expression of great and redeeming hope; both in this life (where these songs often served as a rallying cry for freedom via the Underground Railroad), as well as in the life to come. So, for instance, when the slaves sang of heaven being a place where all God’s children had shoes – “when I get to heaven I’m going to wear my shoes” – they sang those words as an affirmation that however hopeless their situation was now, someday they would be living the life that God had intended for them; until at the last, if not on earth then in heaven, they would finally be who they really were. 

And while it is true that in our comfort and privilege most of us cannot begin to wholly appreciate the meaning and cultural impact of these song, nonetheless there’s a powerful promise there for each of us who find ourselves in times of trouble… that there will be one, final decisive victory over all that which would seek to destroy us; that in the end God in Christ shall have his way with the world that he created and loves beyond measure; and that those who suffer and who find themselves in the grip of death will find their salvation, because nothing in life or death or all creation separates us from the love of God. No matter what befalls us in life, our enduring blessing is that God is with us; actively seeking, searching and inviting us into his love and care.  As C. S. Lewis has put it, “God is relentless in seeking what is his.” 

And this is the vision that we’re given in our text for this morning from the book of Revelation.  Now, Revelation is, to say the very least, one of the more difficult books of the Bible to wrap our minds around:  it’s a prophetic work, it’s overflowing with rich, diverse and oftentimes dense and confusing symbolism, and the tendency for many people studying this portion of scripture is to try to match up whatever’s happening in the world with what’s found there, as if to crack some kind of apocalyptic biblical code.  I’m not going to argue that theology here, but I will say that we need to be careful with that kind of thinking because it risks diminishing the powerful message that’s contained in this final book of the New Testament.

Historically speaking, you see, the book of Revelation is a vision given to a CHhristian named John at the end of the 1st century; and by the way, most biblical scholars understand that this was not the John who wrote the fourth gospel, but rather a member of the early church who had been, because of his faith, banished to the small island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.  William Willimon, in his commentary on this text, puts it very bluntly: here was a man who was a “member of a tiny movement on the fringe of a great empire, [part of a] fragile church hanging on by its fingernails for life.”  What we know as the Book of Revelation was an epistle to encourage Christians in the seven churches of Asia Minor to remain faithful to Christ even as they were facing persecution, if not annihilation, at the hands of the Roman authorities.

It was a bleak time for the new church; so, imagine John’s astonishment to be given such a stunning vision as what we’ve shared here this morning.  A throne room, filled with a multitude of people from every nation and replete with all the trappings of royalty,  and it’s the  Lamb of God – the same Lamb who knows what it is to suffer, to be condemned to death, to be slain and humiliated; the Lamb once crucified, pushed aside by the ways of a cruel world – who now sits on the throne and rules all creation from the very center of heaven.

And what an incredible vision!  Hundreds of years ago, St. Augustine described these scenes as being ineffable, beyond words; and time has still not given us an adequate means of conveying the deep meaning of this vision.  This revelation, you see, is our ending and our answer to all the questions we pose about what life and this world is all about.  It sets forth the final victory of God in Christ over a hurting, rebellious world, the victory that most certainly will come to pass in the fulfillment of God’s own vision of time.

It is a sure and certain promise of God, and it is good news indeed; but here’s the thing:  it’s not the end of the vision.

In the midst of all of this, you see, is this great multitude of white robed worshipers “standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”   The question is asked, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from,” and the answer is given: “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  

These were the faithful who have endured to the end; these are the believers who suffered contempt and loneliness and abuse because they would not deny their Lord.  Some of them are truly the saints of God, martyrs who died dramatic and glorious deaths for the sake of their faith; but also there are those who might be referred to as “ordinary saints,” the ones who played their part in the great drama of salvation by showing unswerving loyalty to Christ in whatever their circumstances happened to be.   And here they all are, each one standing before the throne of God in heaven: believers who had once known suffering yet now “hunger no more, and thirst no more;” the faithful who have been sheltered by God’s presence, shepherded by Christ and refreshed by the waters of eternal life.

What we have here is a vision of the church, that even in the midst of its greatest tribulation, is able to sing a song of victory because whatever struggles it faces in the present time it will prevail; it will prevail because the power of death has already been vanquished forever in the cross of Christ! 

And the best part is that though this was a vision given to believers at the beginning of the first millennia, it remains a revelation for our lives here at the start of the third!  This is our divine assurance that though we struggle through the dark and rough patches of our lives, we will find the strength and hope we need for the way because we know that “at the end of the day” God in Jesus Christ is victorious over death and will lead us on the pathway home.  

And what that means for us is that though there are so many uncertainties and even more injustices in this life, we can walk forward with confidence and enduring hope because whether we live or whether we die we belong to God; and when we belong to God, rest assured are loved and supported in a way that will carry from the darkness to the dawn of a brand-new day.

You know, lately I’ve found myself thinking that amongst the worst feelings we can have is to not have any sense of how things are going to turn out; to be in the midst of a situation and really have no indication of how the story will end.  Take right now, for instance:  we don’t know how the election is going to turn out and what that means for us as a nation no matter who wins; we’re still incredibly uncertain as to what’s going to happen with the Coronavirus in the coming months and what kind of winter we’re going to have; at this point we’re not even sure what we’ll be able to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas, much less who we’ll cope throughout the coming winter!  The fact is, we just don’t know yet, and it’s hard in these present days not knowing how the world will turn.

But I do know this:  God is in charge.

I love what Jim Somerville says to this: “I picture it like you would see it acted out on a stage, all that carnage and bloodshed there on the stage, all those battles being fought, all that smoke going up.  The story is at its worst in that moment and you wonder how it can ever have a happy ending… [but] when God gets good and ready… he’s going the clear the stage of all that bloodshed and carnage.  He’s going to mop up the awful mess we’ve made of things.  He’s going to make a new heaven and new earth… in the end God will make an end of death itself and the last word will be the word of life.”

It will be the fulfillment of the highest and the best, the triumph of God’s love and that place where God dwells… and it will give us the hope and strength for the living of these days, whatever those days might bring.

Let us embrace that sure and certain promise, and may the Lord lead each of us to live on earth as it is in heaven… and may our thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

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

 

Tags: ,

 
%d bloggers like this: