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Category Archives: Spiritual Truths

The Real Deal

(a sermon for October 25, 2020, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, based on Matthew 22:34-46)

There’s no pretty way of saying this, so best to come right out with it:  our text this morning represents a fervent effort to expose Jesus as a fake! 

It’s true; our reading this morning from Matthew is in fact the culmination of several attempts on the part of the religious “powers-that-be” of the time – the Pharisees and the Sadducees – to question Jesus’ authority and to seek to discredit him amongst the people.  And in all honesty, looking at it from their perspective who could blame them for trying? 

Remember, all of this is taking place soon after Jesus has made his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, which in and of itself was pretty much a subversive act; and then almost immediately, Jesus turns over the tables of moneychangers in the temple, he curses a fig tree as though to put the whole religious establishment on notice, and then he goes on to tell at least three parables that were thinly veiled denunciations of the so-called righteousness of said “powers-that-be!”  It’s no coincidence that no sooner than Jesus had finished his teaching, those who would put Jesus to the test started to arrive, and not kindly: isn’t it true, after all, in the words of Alyce McKenzie, that “when those with prestige and position are challenged, when their presuppositions are upturned, they react with hostility and fear?”  Better, they reason, to try to trip Jesus up with impossible questions and humiliate him in front of all the people than perhaps actually have to listen to what Jesus is saying and realize that maybe the world – and they – will need to change because of it; in other words, if Jesus is made to look like a fake, then he goes away, life goes on and the status quo is maintained.

And like I said before, I understand; I get why they would do that; because the truth is, I’ve lived it.  And so, I’m guessing, have you.

Pastorally speaking, it’s there in the experience of having someone tell you that they’d never go to church because it’s filled with hypocrites; or else, when they let you know that while God is very well and good, they’ve got a real problem with “organized religion” (at which point, I am always tempted – but never quite dare – to reply, well, then, why not try our church, because we haven’t managed to get ourselves organized yet!).  More seriously, I hear it from those who tend to back themselves far away from faith because of all the sorrow and suffering that goes on in the world; why would a just and loving God ever let that happen, they reason.  And besides, they’ll say, aren’t there “extremists” to be found in every kind of religious tradition, and isn’t that really the problem in the world today?

So friends, I can certainly attest to the fact that in this modern era, just as in every one that’s come before, there will always be those who would seek to put Jesus to the test; people in the midst of the predominant culture and the politics of the time who would look at what we believe, what we stand for and who we follow, and wonder if it truly is “the real deal,” so to speak, or if there’s a way to be found to have it simply… all go away.

What’s interesting is that leading up to our reading for this morning, the Sadducees and Pharisees had been doing their dead level best for exactly that to happen!  First, in order “to entrap” Jesus, the Pharisees “sent their disciples” (aka, their lackeys!) to ask a question about taxes being paid to the emperor (Matt. 21:17).  And then the Sadducees, who were famous for not believing in resurrection, came along to try to trip Jesus on a tricky question about what would happen in the afterlife if one widow ended up married to more than one brother in a family!  It was all about creating a conundrum, an impossible riddle for Jesus to solve; but each time they try it, Jesus not only avoids the trap, but does so with theological depth and finesse.  In short, their attempts to paint Jesus as nothing but a charlatan and rabble rouser, so far had failed miserably.

But then they decided, why not get to the heart of the matter; this time, the Pharisees would come to Jesus in person and ask of him a single question; one that, by the way, happened to be a pretty common topic amongst the faithful of Jesus’ time:  “Teacher,” one of them asked (and you have to know that the title of “teacher” was dripping with what is often referred to these days as snarkiness!), “which commandment of the law is the greatest?”   It was the perfect question, at least as far as the Pharisees were concerned: they figured that whatever commandment that Jesus chose, they could then assume that apparently Jesus didn’t really care much about the other nine; and so then they could proclaim to everybody in Jerusalem that not only was this Jesus a flagrant commandment breaker, but a blasphemer as well (truthfully, I have to imagine that at the end of this proclamation, they’d end with their own 1st century Palestinian version of “we’re your scribes and Pharisees, and we approved this message!”).  Simply put, no matter how Jesus responded, they’d have the goods on him at last.

But then Jesus answered the question. 

And the answer was… brilliant.  “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This,” Jesus says, “is the greatest and first commandment.”  And, by the way, it pretty much sums up the first five of the Ten Commandments; covering false worship, idols, taking God’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath, and honoring one’s parents.  And Jesus isn’t done:  “And a second is like it:” he goes on, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  That would pretty well cover the second five commandments – that is, lying, stealing, coveting, adultery, false witness and murder – thus bringing all ten commandments into one razor sharp focus; or as Jesus concludes, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I would have loved to been there to see the Pharisees’ reaction; because whether they were willing to admit it or not, Jesus had not only avoided the trap they’d set for him, but he’d also answered their question correctly; deep down, they knew Jesus was right!  The Pharisees, remember, were all about the law; specifically, following the law to the letter; and to be fair to them, following the law to the letter was for them an act of great and pious faith!  But now here’s Jesus, to remind them that at the heart of all that law and deep in the midst of its interpretation and practice, is to be the one simple truth of LOVE.  Loving God… and loving people.  In the words of Hillel, an ancient teacher of the Jewish faith, it’s all about loving God and loving people; “the rest is commentary.” Every law, every rule, every custom and tradition we have, every act of piety we embrace as people of faith pretty much comes down to – or ought to come down to – LOVE.  And it’s LOVE, you see, that ultimately reveals Jesus – and our Christian faith – as “the real deal;” as something neither fake nor transitory nor empty in the face of the struggles faced in this world, but rather, in fact, that which is “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

Now, I know that as we look at this story, this all comes off as a pretty basic tenet of our Christian faith, does it not; I mean, if it isn’t all about loving God and loving our neighbor, then what is it that we really stand for as Christians or as the church?  But the fact is, this story of the Scribes and Pharisees’ challenge to Jesus actually raises for each one of us an important issue; and that’s whether or not we really understand how central love is to who we are and what we do?  Because in truth, the reason that there are many out there who are suspicious of faith and of those of us who espouse faith is that they don’t always see, or feel, or experience the love through us or in us!  What is that famous quote from Mahatma Ghandi:  “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”   That sounds harsh – and it is – but how are we ever to convey to the world the truth of our Christian faith if we ourselves are not “the real deal” where love is concerned?

The late Marcus Borg, the renowned Biblical Scholar and theologian, has written that so often “we have made being Christian very complex, as if it’s about getting our doctrines right.  But being Christian,” Borg says, “is actually very simple, even breathtakingly simple.”  And basically, it comes down to this: being Christian is about loving God and loving what God loves; and what God loves is the world… “not just you and me, not just Christians, not even just human beings, but the whole of creation.” 

Being Christian is about our working with God to become that kind of person; understanding of course, that we’re not talking about love in some sort of passive sense, but love actively; doing what we can do to be about the business of God’s love in the world: bringing light into darkness, lifting up the fallen and bringing them hope, doing justice in the places and amongst the people where “the power of politics, and the politics of power” seem to reign supreme.  It’s about living unto the love we have for God by letting it be transformed into the love we show for others; a simple thought, to be sure, but where the law and the prophets are concerned – as well as the mission of the church and, might I add, our own Christian walk, yours and mine – it’s where everything starts and on which its success truly hinges.

You might have noticed that there’s a brief postscript to our reading this morning, in which Jesus essentially turns the tables on the Pharisees by offering up a test of his own.  The question has to do with the Pharisee’s own interpretation of whose son the Messiah is supposed to be, and the exchange ends on a rather ominous note:  “No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any questions.”   It was the kind of exchange that those involved in the art of debate live for – the “drop the mic” moment, as it were (!) – the final, definitive statement that shuts down all further argument.  Of course, we know the gospel story and understand that once the Pharisees had retreated, the inevitable plan for Jesus’ death had already begun to unfold; so in a larger sense, the ending of these tests signaled the beginning of something even more crucial. 

Actually, read on in Matthew and it’s all there:  will we keep our lamps burning in anticipation of the kingdom to come?  Will we be investing our talents for the sake of the Master?  Will we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned?  Will we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, loving God by doing so?  And will we walk with Jesus, even if that walk inevitably leads to the cross?  Will our faith, our love, our loyalty be as fleeting as that of the disciples when they scattered, or will people see in us true faith, and know that we are “the real deal?”

Seems to me that that’s a test of a whole other sort!

Let us pray that as the test unfolds in our own lives this week, we’ll be able to say that we passed!

So might it be; and thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

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

 

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Nurturing a Good Name

(a sermon for October 11, 2020, the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Proverbs 22:1-11)

While going through some scrapbooks and photo albums up at my mother’s house this week, I came across something I literally hadn’t thought about in years:  clippings from the newspaper column I wrote for a couple of years in our hometown’s little weekly paper, The Katahdin Journal. Now, that’s not quite as impressive as it might sound: basically, I was a high school reporter and the column was a weekly conglomeration of basketball scores, student events and teacher interviews.  But I do have to say it was kind of neat; since in those days I fancied myself as a latter-day John-Boy Walton, writing something that actually ended up in print was quite a thrill for me, and the admittedly minor notoriety it garnered me in my home town wasn’t bad either! 

It was fun to read some of that stuff again, but what really made me laugh came at the end of my weekly report.  You see, early on I got into the habit of ending each column with a “quotable quote.”  And the quote was usually along the lines of this: “Until next week, think about this: ‘To get ahead in life, don’t stare up the steps, step up the stairs!’”  Or, “Till next time, ask yourself this question: ‘Is your mind open, or is it just vacant?’”  Just little one-line bits of wisdom that I’d scoured out of quotation books and my family’s small collection of Ideals magazines!  In retrospect, it was kind of an early foray into church newsletter writing, and yes… I’ll admit, it was a little cornball!   But as it turned out, it also was quite popular! 

In fact, what I started to find out was that the thing people remembered most about what I’d written were these silly little quotes I’d stuck in the last paragraph!  People regularly started asking me about those quotes and where I’d found them; and even the newspaper editor confessed to me that if on a particular week he had to cut it out for lack of space, he’d inevitably get a phone call from an irate reader asking where it was!  But the best thing of all was that I’d go over to friends’ houses and I’d often see these tiny little clippings from the end of my column on their refrigerator doors! 

It got to the point where I ended up spending nearly as much time finding good quotes as I did writing the column (I even managed to get a couple of Bible verses in there; which was quite a trick, considering the decidedly non-religious nature of my editor at the time!).  I suppose that it was an early indicator that my destiny did not lie in the world of hard-core journalism but rather behind a pulpit; but it was also a small lesson in the truth that people need, want and appreciate some encouragement in their lives, even when that encouragement comes in the form of a “pithy” little saying.

To put this another way, we all need some proverbs for our lives… and that’s what our text for this morning is all about.

By definition, friends, proverbs are short, one-sentence bits of wisdom drawn from everyday human experience, and they are intended to help us find our way in a confusing world.  Or as the Alyce McKenzie of Perkins School of Theology has said it, “proverbs help to create order and reliability in an often unreliable world.”  Historically speaking, Biblical scholars believe that what we know as the Book of Proverbs arose during a time of great social upheaval and moral dissolution in Israel, a period when society was rife with corruption and moral weakness; which means that a great deal of what we read in this part of scripture grew out of a time much like our own:  a moment in time when culture seems to be in chaos, when accepted ways are coming unglued and old truths are being questioned.  What’s needed in such times is an affirmation: a reminder, writes William Willimon, “that life has some answers, that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, morally speaking, in each generation.  Proverbs,” Willimon concludes, “point the way.”

Very true; most especially in times such as these.  In fact, it would seem to me that now more than ever, we need some “proverbial wisdom” for our lives, a world view that’s spun not on the dreams of riches, the desire for power or the wish to prevail over others at all costs but rather wholly focused on the Word of God.

The trouble with the Book of Proverbs, of course, is that every verse is its own sermon, and the topics often vary widely from verse to verse:  from child rearing (“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”), to care for the poor (“Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”), to taking a proper attitude towards God, self and others (“Those who love a pure heart and are gracious in speech will have the king as a friend.”).  And if you read for very long in Proverbs, you’re going to run headlong into some fairly harsh and explicit advice in dealing with the perverse, the wicked and those who engage in loose living; not to mention some verses that, given the times in which they were written, certainly don’t jibe with our modern sensibilities as regards discipline and the treatment of women and children.  Suffice to say that there’s a whole lot to digest in the Book of Proverbs!

So maybe what we need to do, at least for our purposes this morning, is to find a way to somehow bring all these proverbs together.  And for me, the key to this can actually can be found in the very first verse we shared today from the 22nd chapter of Proverbs: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

What’s interesting is that if you ask someone what they want out of life – particularly if you ask someone this question as they’re starting out in life – odds are this person will answer in one of two ways: either they will say something to the effect that they want to be successful (that is, to be powerful or popular or influential or rich) or that they wish to build a life that is based on happiness or security (you know, falling in love, raising a family, having a home, getting a job that not only pays the bills but offers some satisfaction).   Now, don’t misunderstand: this is not to say that these two points of view are mutually exclusive from  each other, nor that one choice is all bad and the other all good – there are those who do seem to “have it all,” as it were – it is just to suggest that when it all comes down in life, most of us end up in one way or another choosing in which direction we wish to go.  Whether we actually reach the destination we’ve chosen is almost beside the point; what matters is how the choice we’ve made defines who we are along the way.

So… when this proverb for today advises you and me to choose for ourselves a good name over great riches, you can’t help but wonder what true wisdom really is!  For instance, you might remember my telling you a few weeks ago how Lisa and I have been “binge-watching” old seasons of “Survivor” this summer and fall; well, I can share with you from that experience the insight that the most memorable players of that million-dollar game succeed through cunning and deceit, backstabbing and a decided lack of personal integrity!  Likewise, you don’t hear an awful lot of politicians running for office these days who focus solely on matters of one’s own goodness, mercy and worthiness for office, but rather on tearing down the character of that his or her opponent… even as they rail against negative campaigning!   But that’s the choice that they’ve made, and we refer to it as “politics as usual.”

By the same token, however, think for a moment about the handful of people who have meant the most to you in your lives: family members, friends, teachers, mentors of one sort or another; the people you love and who have loved you.  When you describe these people, what do you say?  I’m guessing that you’ll say that they were kind and generous to you; that they could be counted on through thick or thin; that they did so much good without ever saying anything about it.  The point here is that these are the people who have for you personified love and faith:  they may or may not have ever had anything in their lives approaching worldly success, but they were and are of good character, people who have chosen in their lives to make a good name for themselves; and that has made all the difference.

The very word character comes from the Greek word charaktíras, meaning “a engraving tool,” that is, that which creates and sharpens the unique traits of one’s personality.  So character does matter, doesn’t it; and it matters to you and to me as we walk the pathways of our lives.  Character is determined by the choices you and I make in how and which way to walk, and not only does that become integral to the way that life unfolds for us, it also has a profound effect on those who walk with us.  As theologian and author Stanley Hauerwas has written: “Be well assured,” he says, “that our character will conform to some account of what’s going on in the world.” 

The question is – it always is – which account… and is that account true?

I think I’ve shared with you before that one question I always ask every couple that comes to me wanting to get married is where they see themselves in, say, five or ten or twenty years?  What would they like to be doing?  Where would they like to be?  Actually, it’s a good question for any of us, married or no, to ask ourselves from time to time; basically, what do we want out of life, even as that life is being lived?  How do we wish to be seen by others – be they friends, neighbors, or even strangers – and who is it that we want to look like in terms of who we are?  When all is said and done, what is it that we fervently hope that the people who know us will say about us?

Will those people say we were “pure of heart and… gracious of speech?”   That we were generous to a fault, kind to others in their distress, both cautious and clever at the right time, people who live life in “humility and fear of the LORD,” and thus knew “riches and honor and life?”  Will they say of you and me that ours was a good name?

Well, the answers to such questions and so many others come down to the choices we make here and now… today, tomorrow and in every day that comes.  Because, beloved, the nurture of a good name is work that stretches over a lifetime.

And it begins and is rooted in the power and presence of God, because as the Book of Proverbs reminds us, “The rich and poor have [at least] this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all.” 

Yes, a good name is of greater value than anything the world can provide; so rest assured that what we do out there – as persons, as people, as the church of Jesus Christ – matters; and how we’re seen in these strange, divisive and distressing times is not only important, but crucial.  May it be truly said of you and of me that the light of our character and wisdom was but a reflection of our God, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And may our thanks be to God.

AMEN and AMEN!

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

 

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Stooping Down

(An Online Message for September 20, 2020, the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Mark 9:30-37)

Her name was Emily, she was six years old, and she was a visitor at our church that Sunday morning.  Well, not exactly a visitor, as she and her family were long time members of the congregation I was serving at the time, but they’d moved away to Atlanta the year before, and this was their first time back with us since they’d left.  So at the fellowship hour after worship, we’d all crowded around these old friends to visit and get caught up.

I have to confess, at first I didn’t even realize that Emily was standing there, so involved was I in all the small talk flying around.  But Emily was there, patiently but quite persistently trying to get my attention.  First it was, “Mr. Lowry… Mr. Lowry… Mr. Lowry!” with the increasing sense of urgency and intensity that kids can do so well!  But such was the clamor of voices in the room and my lack of attentiveness that this wasn’t working, so then she moved on to repeatedly yanking on the ministerial robe!  Now this I noticed; but how did I respond?  I gave her one of these (the wait a minute and shh! Finger!), and went back to my “adult” conversation.

But Emily was undaunted, and a minute or three later, when the crowd had dispersed, I finally looked down to find that Emily’s eyes were completely fixed on any sign she might be granted an audience with her former pastor.  At this point, I’m finally starting to get it, and bending close so I could see and hear her, I say “And how are you, Emily?” 

And Emily, bless her, started to tell me:  about her new school, her teacher, her classmates, how hot Atlanta is, about what she had for breakfast that morning and other matters crucial in the life of a first grader.  The conversation didn’t really last all that long – she got bored with me pretty quickly – and when she was done, Emily gave me a big hug and ran off to be with the other kids of the church.  The whole scene made me laugh, but I have to tell you that I’ve never forgotten that particular pastoral conversation; not so much because of how incredibly important it was to her to tell me about all her adventures, but how much more important it was that I stooped down to really listen!

Wouldn’t you agree that in any true act of caring and love, you’re going to find someone “stooping down” in some way or another?  For instance, if you’re in a serious conversation with someone, one of the non-verbal signals that that person is truly listening to you is that they’ll lean in just a little bit, as if to say, “I’m coming a little closer, because I want to make sure I get every word.”  Likewise, if you’ve ever visited someone in the hospital, then you know how awkward it can be standing by the hospital bed and towering over this person who is feeling weak and sick; so what do you do, or at least what did you do in the days before Covid? You leaned over, or you knelt down, or you pulled up a chair so you can be at their level!  

It’s within such relatively small considerations that are found a spirit of caring and love (and, might I add, if you’ve had a loved one sick or hospitalized over the past several months, then you know that these are the considerations that are truly missed!).  Robert Browning, the great 19th century poet, says this beautifully in a verse we hear a lot at Christmastime: “Such ever was love’s way – to rise, it stoops.”  And according to Jesus, such is the kingdom of God.

In our text for this morning, Jesus and his disciples have journeyed through Galilee to the village of Capernaum.  They’ve reached the house where they’re staying, and this is when Jesus turns to the disciples and asks, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  Another simple question from Jesus without an easy answer, not to mention another one that’s met with embarrassed silence,  because what they’d been doing out there on the road was arguing about their legacy; specifically, who among them would be eventually be remembered as the best and greatest of disciples!  And even they know how inappropriate that was, not to mention ironic: after all, here was Jesus, who in every aspect of his life was the least, lowest, and servant of all and who’d just barely explained to them that this pilgrimage they were on would inevitably lead to betrayal and his death that would become this incredible sacrifice for the sake of a sinful humanity!  And yet, still here were these disciples all bickering over their own greatness! 

Well, Jesus’ response to this is, to say the least, swift and decisive: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all,” and to illustrate this point, he takes a child who’s there in the house and “puts it among them” as a living parable.  Cradling this little one in his arms, Jesus says to them, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me – God who sent me.” (The Message)

It’s a beautiful and familiar image; but we need to understand that this was no small gesture on Jesus’ part.  When we read this passage, you see, no doubt we think of children like our own; you know, cute and personable, little bundles of energy and personality.  But in Jesus’ time, children were not always viewed that way; but rather as unbridled bundles of chaos of little worth to the world. Many children in those days were sold into slavery, and that’s if they hadn’t already been cast out of society or killed, especially if they were girls. At best, children were to be seen and not heard, and then, not seen very much.

In Mark, when Jesus speaks of “welcoming” a child, the Greek word that’s used is decomai, which translates to mean “to receive or fully accept.”  What this means in the context of this passage is that we have this child who in the scheme of Palestinian life, power and culture means… little or nothing at all.  Jesus, however, embraces that child with love and affection and then says to the others, when you fully receive and accept this little one who’s weak, powerless, unappreciated and unworthy, you’re accepting me.  Now there’s a powerful image:  Jesus is saying, this is how you become “the greatest of all.” For you see, the Kingdom of God is entered through a very small door: in order to get in, you have to stoop to the level of a child!

Two thousand years later, of course, it’s safe to say that we do view the place of children differently and in a more enlightened fashion – in fact, for the most part, in our society today we place a high value on welcoming children, as well as on their welfare and nurture – understanding, of course, that the rising numbers of hurt, abused, abandoned and poverty-stricken children ought to be enough to remind us that as a people, we still have a ways to stoop to reach the level of a child and alleviate that pain. 

But that having been said, friends, I want to suggest to you this morning that for us to focus this text solely on children, as is very tempting to do, is to miss the point of what Jesus is saying.  The fact is, the child that Jesus is holding in his arms could be that homeless man who stands with his sign “Will work for food” down on Fort Eddy Road.  Or it could be that teenager who’s out on the street, abused, forgotten and pregnant, quite literally with no one to go home to.  Or for that matter, maybe it’s your neighbor who has faced such a barrage of tests and needles and chemotherapy that they are physically, emotionally and spiritually beaten down, to the point of feeling as though they don’t even really exist any longer… and being stuck in quarantine isn’t helping the situation at all.  Look in the arms of Jesus, friends, and you’ll see that in his loving embrace he’s cradling those who are weak and hurting and powerless, the outsiders and the nobodies.  Welcome these, Jesus says, receive these who are the least of all, and you’ll be receiving me. 

And whoever receives me, dear one, receives the one who sent me.

It’s still an important lesson, friends, because in truth, it’s all so very tempting, and easy, for us as Christians to glory at who we are!    I mean,  don’t misunderstand me here; I don’t want to overstate this, because I know that most of us don’t run around with an “holier than thou” attitude!   But it’s also true that in the empowerment our faith gives us, as well as in our joy of being with and serving God, there is always a danger of our standing so tall we’ll miss those below.

And that’s why we need Jesus, friends; and in this instance, not so much the “Jesus, Friend, Kind and Gentle” we love to sing about but rather the Jesus of Hard Truth who challenges us to live with a Servant’s heart.  If you’re going to follow me, he says, it begins by reaching out and reaching down into the places of hurt and suffering, stooping down as you go, so that you might be at the same level as those who have been beaten down by life and living, and love them as I have loved you.

This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, friends, and it’s a gospel that applies globally and societally; but never forget that it’s a gospel that applies first to you and me, here and now. Simply put, sometimes the best thing you and I ever do for others is to simply be with them, bringing the love of Christ to them in exactly the places where they are. 

One of the questions I get asked a lot as a pastor is what one is supposed to say to someone who’s just had a death in the family.  We’ve all been there, haven’t we: we’ve gone to the visiting hours, and we wonder how we can possibly get by the awkwardness of the moment and say something, anything that might give our friend some comfort in this horrible grief their experiencing; or at least not say something that will inadvertently make things worse! 

But, you see, the thing is that we really don’t have to worry about that: because it’s not really about what we say; the fact is, what they’re going to remember later on are not our words of eloquence and wisdom, or even that we were at a loss for words.  What they remember is that we were there; that we, that we looked them in the eyes to see their sadness; that we took their hands in ours and we hugged them (if only, these days, in a socially-distanced fashion!) and cried with them for a bit.  Maybe the only words spoken were “I’m sorry,” if that; but it spoke volumes, and trust me, we did more good in that moment, offered more healing, showed more love than we ever thought possible.  And all simply because we cared, and we showed that care by stooping down low enough that we might touch, and fell and share in their pain and grief.

Beloved, if you want an example of how to be “Christ-like” in these troubled times, there it is:  if we can love like that, if we will choose to love like that, letting Christ’s love be manifest in us, then we are not far from the kingdom of God.  As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, this is our life’s calling, yours and mine, wherever we are; to love one another with a love that stoops. As it says elsewhere in scripture, “Truly… just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me.”

Go forth and serve the Lord today with that kind of love.  And may our thanks be unto God!

AMEN and AMEN.

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

 
 

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