Turn Back…

There is something special about being beachside early evening before the sun takes leave of the day. Oftentimes, as the day time masses thin out and before the night time crowd heads into full swing, there is a lull… a window through which one can see and hear more clearly the ocean. At this time, one can also see his/her full shadow or spread belongings freely where just a short while earlier space was rather sparse.

Sitting there looking and listening to the waves breaking and feeling a gentle breeze can be very relaxing, almost entrancing. While this may be an experience one could label as being good, it can also be limiting. It can turn from being a respite into being an escape. And while we all need a break from time to time, it is also important to consider one’s trends and tendencies, and to where they lead.

A few weeks ago, there was a re-run of a Simon & Garfunkel concert that was held in New York’s Central Park in 1981. It was hard to believe that this event had taken place 36 years ago and featured songs that were even older than that. One of the things that I found particularly striking, as I listened, was the phrase, “Silence like a cancer grows.”

Silence can often be the great pretender. It may seem safe and masquerade as the voice of reason or the way of peace, when it may actually be a dangerous route to travel. While silence and the path of least resistance may be appealing, in the long haul, they can quietly and subtly cause destruction and promote decay and indifference. More often than not, when all is quiet, all is not well.

Sometimes we can be drawn into a false sense of well-being and enticed toward the easy way out. We can be lured toward that which, on the surface, might be perceived as “good.” We can also be tempted to gloss over or to look the other way… cajoled into making no waves or steering clear of anything that might possibly lead to confrontation or dissent.

The Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, contains a plethora of verses with the exact words, or something very similar to, “do not be afraid.” Many times, whether we recognize it or not, fear is at the root of silence. Many times we can be lulled into sitting quietly, peacefully looking and listening to the breaking waves, not even realizing that our backs are turned to the Light.

Jesus said:

“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.” –  Matthew 10:26-28

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Be the Church…

A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105

Venturing out on a beautiful day, I came across a banner with writing and a broad spectrum of colors in the background. Initially it was the array of color, against a mostly white backdrop, that caught my eye. However, upon further examination, what seemed to be horizontal bands of color, now appeared to be pieces of wood, shaped and stacked as if they were part of a log cabin.

The colors were beautiful, but underneath them, each piece…each log still showed signs of the grain that is part, and parcel, of wood. This background image, along with the words written across some of the logs, gave it character and made it compelling. Perhaps the most thought provoking part of the banner was the first line of words, “BE THE CHURCH.” I cannot help but wonder, what church? Is there a church that offers the experience of the words that followed (protect the environment …fight for the powerless …embrace diversity, etc.)?

“BE THE CHURCH.” Next I think, who? Who is to be the church? Is it the priests or ministers and staff, or the people who attend? Is it a combination? Is it for all to partake in?

Then, a childhood rhyme, one accompanied by hand and finger movement, comes to me. “Here is the church. / Here is the steeple. / Open the door, and see all the people.” It used to seem true. Only, I had just been to church and I did not see “all” the people.

“BE THE CHURCH.” Upon further reflection, I am sure many people already are the church, even if they are not “in” the church. In fact, I know many who take being the church to heart and strive to do so in their daily lives. Perhaps those who have left the building, do not enter because it lacks the character, diversity and integrity… because it is no longer (or maybe it never was) a place where they can truly “BE THE CHURCH.” Perhaps it is because so often, those who “run” the church forget about the people, and more importantly, lose sight of the purpose. Then again, that would be the people.

“BE THE CHURCH.” Be who God created you to be, and wherever you are, be faithful to God.

To truly serve and honor God is to serve and honor God’s people and all creation. We must remember that God’s people are ALL people.

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Possibilities…

It seems that so much in life begins with believing. In order to accomplish just about anything one has to believe that the task or the dream envisioned is possible. Otherwise, it would not be attempted.

In addition, what one believes often determines how one views and responds to the world and its happenings. Throughout history, many a person has heard the words, “that’s impossible,” only to prove them wrong. Why is it that where one person may see a dead end and nothing further that another sees possibility and options to be explored?

There is often a drive or a spirit that cannot be denied. It leads the way for the one who truly believes. Sometimes it is for good and at other times, not so much.

In The Minpins, Roald Dahl wrote, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” While this was written in a children’s book about a fictional community living high up in a tree, it is applicable to life on the ground and in reality. There is a great sense of direction, inner strength and wisdom that can come with believing.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, went to Jesus in the dark of night, seeking the truth—light. In their conversation, Jesus said to him,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:16-18

Nicodemus heard these words, but did he believe them? More importantly, do we believe them?

Nicodemus started the whole conversation with Jesus by stating what he knew (John 3:2). It seems that his knowledge prompted him to seek out Jesus—Light in the dark of the night. However, it was more than that. Both his mind and his heart were open.

How do our minds and hearts lead us? How do they shape our actions?

We are called not only to seek, but also to live in the Truth and Light. Do we really believe this, and how do we allow it to inspire and influence us as we go about our way each day?

We are different, but at the same time we are alike… all created in the image of God, and as such, in the same image of Jesus and blessed with the Holy Spirit to guide us. How bright the world can shine, one person at a time, when we embrace that place, and live from it.

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

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More than days…

Growing up we had a wrought iron fence around the patio in the back yard. It was a nice looking fence, sturdy and reliable, creating an enclosure and added layer of safety. In order to keep and protect its appearance and function though, every so many years it required maintenance.

I remember the first time I helped my father with this process. Before we could paint, we had to use a wire brush to remove any rust that might have developed in the time since the fence’s last painting. While it may have been easier to just paint over the rust, neglecting to scrape it away and sand it down, would result in the paint breaking off and exposing the fence to further deterioration, in addition to necessitating more frequent painting.

Our lives can be similar to wrought iron fences, in that we also can have spots that are rusty, or things that cause us to shine less brightly than we are capable of… to be less than who we really are and have been created to be.

On the feast of Pentecost, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the people were gathered together in one place.

In the Old Testament description of the preparation for Pentecost (a.k.a. the Feast of Weeks), it is written:

You shall rejoice in the presence of the LORD, your God, together with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite within your gates, as well as the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow among you, in the place which the LORD, your God, will choose as the dwelling place of his name. – Deuteronomy 16:11

And, in the New Testament description of the coming of the Holy Spirit after the Ascension, it is written:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. – Acts 2:1-3

Part of the preparation to receive the blessings of the feast was gathering together. There was a gathering in the Spirit to receive the Spirit. However, even before this could happen, other things needed to transpire. At the forefront, people needed to make time to prepare. They needed to make time for both themselves and each other as well as for God. In doing so, they were scraped and primed, and ready to be made new by the Holy Spirit.

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