Sunday, July 22, 2018

Satisfaction Through our Love of Others

Romans 8:1-3 (NLT): Satisfaction Through our Love of Others
[T]here is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin . . . God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
Choosing the wrong thing is a life-long struggle for every human being, and I am the first to admit that I struggle with it daily. When faced with choices, we are prone to choose self protection, self comfort, and self preference. It is just the human way. Often, however, our choice of self over others leads to desensitization, separation, and indifference. Seeking the self-centered, insular life is dangerous, for in its lack of community, it can separate us from the love of God and others.
One afternoon, my wife was taking our kids to her parent’s house. The morning had been busy for me, for I was playing with my two younger children. I had a few personal and professional tasks to complete that day but did not find time to do them. Given the opportunity, I decided to stay home while my family went on their visit. My reason for staying behind, of course, was to get my “work” done. But I knew that would only take 30 minutes of the two hours they would be gone. I desired to have some “me” time in the quiet of the empty house.
Once my family left, I commenced my plan: I would whip through my chores and have the remaining time to relax -- I could read, watch a movie, or surf the Internet. Within 20 minutes, my conscience kicked in and my heart began to ache. I wanted the noise, chaos, demands, smiles, and questions of my children. I pined for the company of my wife. In the empty quiet of the house, I realized that my heart, too, felt empty, bereft of the life and spark of love that my family brings. And I had an epiphany: It is in community with my family that I am made complete. Within the next ten minutes, I finished up my chores, grabbed my wallet and keys, and drove to my in-laws.
Seeking the insular self, although immediately appealing, proves to be an empty end. True happiness is found in community with others, especially those we love.
In Romans 7-8, St. Paul points to his experience with the impulse to sin. He talks about wanting to do the right thing, but, instead, choosing what is wrong. And in this lesson, Paul teaches that through our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are redeemed. We are sinners, Paul teaches, in the hands of a loving, merciful God who sent his only Son to redeem us. When we listen to and choose the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the great gift we are all given through our baptism, we follow God’s personal plan for each of us, to live a life of self giving, mercy, and love in community with others.  
O’ Loving Father, please guide us by your Spirit to choose love of others over love of self. And in your wisdom, remind us that we are always your children through the redeeming love of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have a blessed week!
Stan

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Proclaiming the Love we Know

Matthew 10:27 (NLT): Proclaiming the Love we Know
What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!
Growing up in a small town meant that my circle of friends was close knit. This was both good and bad. The bad was when that group got involved in something risky, illegal, or hurtful, I was either with them or against them. Being a born follower, my choice was usually the former. During those impressionable years (between the ages of 11-15), I was forming an identity. And the people surrounding me were very influential. This more often turned out to be destructive.
There was one exception, however. He was older than me and a significant member of the crowd. He worked hard, saved his money, and did not get involved in the negative choices of the group. When poor choices were the norm, he chose the better way and let his example speak. It spoke loudly to me. This young man was the strong silent type, and he always reached out to me with kindness and included me when others ostracized. He was patient and a skilled fixer of things. And he is the one I remember 35 years later as my role model and influence. There was something about his character that announced goodness, kindness, hope, and care. Later in life, I both figured out and confirmed that he was a Christian. He just did not advertise it. Instead, he lived it.
As my friend’s example points out, through our baptism we are all commissioned to be both disciples (students) and apostles (evangelizers) of the Good News. This does not mean, however, that we must literally “shout [the Good News] from the housetops for all to hear!” For as we know, shouting often scares people away. Our “shouts” can be more subtle and in accordance with their context. Our “shouts,” moreover, should be reflected in the everyday way that we express love, kindness, care, and concern for others. Our “shouts” should show in the way that we include others and refrain from the temptation of gossip and judgment.
My childhood mentor -- even though he most likely had no clue he was this to me -- shouted a way of living that I found appealing. His life’s example stood out from the others and drew me in. And he said nothing to me about his faith; he simply lived it. Had I asked him about his faith, I am certain he would have opened up.
Some of us are more comfortable in directly sharing our faith with others; some are better at simply living the example. Whatever the context, whatever our strengths, let us pray to be the example in someone else’s life, drawing them and ourselves closer to Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have a blessed week!

Stan