When visitors come to a worship service in my own religious tradition, a great deal depends on how warmly they are welcomed and whether they feel included or excluded by what they hear during the whole time they are with us. We may have exactly one shot at communicating who we are to people who know nothing about us–or who think they already know a lot about us–but who, in either case, will remember us as the embodiment of out entire tradition, the prime exemplars of our faith.
Barbara Brown Taylor in “Holy Envy”
I had a friend who said “you may be the best Christian someone knows.” That is a scary thought. What do the people around us learn about Christianity from how we behave. Do we live up to what we say?
Religion tends to prefer and protect the status quo or the supposedly wonderful past, yet what we now see is that religion often simply preserves its own power and privilege. God does not need our protecting. We often worship old things as substitutes for eternal things.
We have to be careful to remember what is really important. We can easily substitute “the way we have always done it” for God Himself. We can’t make idols of things that make us feel comfortable. Jesus spent a lot of time making people uncomfortable.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
Sometimes trusting God is not easy. Sometimes things seem so bad that we think that God has deserted us. Sometimes we just want to fix things ourselves.
All of these are times when we have to pray fervently, listen and wait for God. God is with us through everything. He never leaves us. We are the ones who leave. Turn back to God.
We do often judge by appearance. It is such as easy thing to do. We choose those who seem like us and we don’t look beneath the surface. God looks at the heart. If we can learn to do the same we will find the most amazing people.
Know that God always sees you heart and loves you.
Have you noticed that Jesus rarely answered questions. Most of the time he told stories. We call them parables. He was one of the best storytellers of all time. His stories always had a moral and always left us thinking about the meaning. Stories stick with people better than anything else. It is hard to forget about the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan. If we grew up Christian just the mention of these stories brings up images. Go to the New Testament. Pick out and read the stories.
If someone wants to learn more about God, he(Jesus) implies, it will involve more than believing someone else’s answers. It will involve thinking deeply about the questions you are asking and why. Then it will involve acting on the answers you come up with in order to discover what is true. Barbara Brown Taylor in “Holy Envy.”
We must continue to question and grow in our faith. To sit and think we have all the answers is a mistake. We never have all the answers. Only God does.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
Our past has taught us so many lessons. God expects us to use them to move forward. The hurts we carry open us to more understanding. Use them to help others.
Prayer: Gracious God, help us to share the pains we have experienced so that others can feel our openness and our love. AMEN
Following the rules can be good but sometimes the rules can be stifling. We have to learn when the rules keep us in a safe place and when they need to be discarded. In our religion rules can be either. Discernment is needed to see when they are helping us to follow Christ’s way or when they are holding us back. Throwing out the rules in favor of heeding Christ’s word can be scary. Sometimes doing so can be disruptive and does not show respect for those around you. When, where and how must be chosen carefully. Much prayer and listening is needed but there are times when stepping out in faith is important.
We can end up in a box created by rules. The rules are supposed to allow us to move closer to God. Some of the rules seen in ritual can help us to “center down” and experience God. Bowing at a certain time, in some faiths taking your shoes off in a holy space, genuflecting, saying the proper responses can make you part of the experience.
However, some rules that are more related to following Christ’s actions may not be for you. These are not true of all Christian denominations but each denomination has their own set. Rules that keep us from reaching out in compassion to all others by condemning them do not seem to be Christ’s idea. He treated all people with love.
Some ideas block us in and make us feel unworthy: You are not knowledgeable enough. You are not educated enough. You are not holy enough. Most of all you must believe what those around you believe. You must see the same God that they do even though in truth none of us see the same God in our minds. These things keep us in the box.
These things can be meaningful if we do them because they move us in an emotional way closer to God. They can make us comfortable. But if we are doing them just to follow the rules then they put us in a box. In the box we must follow the rules in order to be accepted by God but the truth is that we are already accepted by God’s grace. There is nothing we can do to make us perfect enough to reach the level of God. No matter how hard we try.
I don’t remember anywhere in the Bible that Christ told anyone they could not heal or bless. He encouraged his disciples to baptize in the name of the father. He never said anything about forming a church or setting people apart from others. He encouraged us to go and make disciples of ALL. He said we could do all these things on our own. He never said you needed anyone’s permission except that you follow the 2 great commandments; love god, love one another. I will do my best to follow that.
Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul. Democritus
The Bible talks about making idols. Do we realize what those are? They are not statues made of gold but the things we love more than God. Idols can be money, possessions, power….anything that gets in the way of putting God first. Our happiness comes from loving God and knowing that we are loved.
And in times and places where there was not much persecution, people could become and continue Christians who neither were nor professed to be very devoted persons.
How will be behave when we are the persecuted? Will we fade into the background or stand up and be counted? Many of us are living in easy times and have not been tested. What will you do?