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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not the Easy Path

by Paul Hettinga

John 15: 11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.”

 I’ve often wondered: How do I know that I believe in God, in Jesus Christ, in eternity, the presence of the Kingdom of God and so on? If I say the words “I believe” does that make it so? Or if I do my best to live an honest/upright life following all the moral precepts of Jesus - does that make it so? How about if I am religiously devout in reading, praying and worshiping? Does that really give me any ‘proof’ that I believe?

And further, will any of these things give me a sense of peace or joy that is promised by Jesus? Saying, “I believe” is a good starting place to define myself as not just ‘me’ but ‘me with God’; and acting out my life with honesty and moral purpose is obviously all good; and finally, being devout in reading, praying and worshiping - again all good things that help to keep me on God’s path.

But, do any of these things by themselves or taken together, prove my faith or more importantly, give me any deep and abiding sense of belonging to God or to the peace and fulfillment that comes from that mysterious relationship?

I think not - and from this verse from John 15 it strikes me that Jesus certainly knew that. I believe He knew that the only way we could find a relationship with Him that brought joy, completeness, peace and harmony with ourselves, other’s and God; the only way to gain that in our lives was to love as he loved by laying down our lives for others, especially our friends (and family I would add). Living this way assures us that we live in relationship with God and experience his love deep within our soul. Living this way confirms to ourselves the core both of who we are and who we want to be. It’s the proof of our belief and relationship with God, and while not always the easiest path to live on, is certainly the path of deep and abiding peace.

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.” John 15: 11

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Prayer for a Signboard and Two Variations

by Angier Brock

We are still one Nation under God.” Thus saith the latest church signboard to capture my attention and fire up my imagination. What prompted it? I wonder. And what does it intend to convey to those of us who see it as we drive along Virginia’s busy Route 17?

The slogan first appeared during an intense few weeks in June and July in which Momentous Decisions were being announced nationwide. The Supreme Court had decided that both Obamacare and same-sex marriage were constitutional. The South Carolina legislature had decided to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, and other legislatures had begun debating similar issues. Headlines rolled across the country like waves crashing onto a beach, gladdening some, maddening others. Perhaps the signboard was meant to remind us that that even fellow Americans who hold different points of view are beloved by God. “We are still one nation under God.” Perhaps those words are both a prayer and a call, a call to continue to seek common ground, finding ways to cleave to one another in love and support rather than allowing ourselves to be fractured by our differences.

I have two variations to propose in this summer of Momentous Events. Here’s one: “We are still one Planet under God.” That comes in response to On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis I’s encyclical on the environment which was published in that same weeks of early summer (and which is readily available online; if you have not read it, I commend it to you). The scope of the encyclical is far-ranging. Among other things, it addresses climate change, global inequalities, the destructive effects of modern anthropomorphism, religions in dialogue with science, and civic and political love. Ultimately it asks people of faith “to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” “We are still one planet under God.” That too could be a both a prayer and a call, a call to care not only for our nation but also for rest of “this fragile earth, our island home” with all its varied peoples and creatures and other living things.

Here’s the other variation I propose:  We are still one Solar System under God.” Thanks to NASA, this summer we have been seeing spectacular up-close photographs of the dwarf planet Pluto. I don’t know how they strike you, but I find them amazing. Who knew Pluto would have a heart-shaped ice field? “New Photos Reveal a Planet That’s Stunningly Alive” a National Geographic headline read just days ago. Is a prayer of awe and wonder implicit in that? Stunningly alive! Could that be what we are each called to be?

What a summer it has been! One Nation under God. One Planet under God. One Solar System under God. Is there a call in any of those signboards for you?