Tag Archives: wholeness

July 25, 2021 – Sunday Worship Livestream

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for July 25, 2021. Today we will be discovering the importance of loving friendships and how we are called to be loving friends to those we may not know yet.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

Ride the Waves

Read John 21:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1, NLT).

I LOVE THE OCEAN. No, seriously, I do. As much as I have traveled, have been to places like Pittsburgh, PA, Columbus, OH, Indianapolis, IN, and Denver, CO., I do not think I could ever live in an area that is extremely far from the ocean. My whole life, I have lived with in an 1 ½ – 2 hours from the shore and day trips to the beach are commonplace.

When I was a young boy, I remember being afraid to go into the ocean. It all started when I was “down the shore” (this should clue you in as to where I live if you are not already from my state) with my parents. I was super young, but old enough to remember the experience. My dad took me in to the ocean and I clung to him, enjoying the waves but also fightened by them.

That day the water was particularly rough and the undertow was strong. At one point, a large wave overtook my dad and I became separated from him. Tumbling through the water and foam, I can remember my terror in slow motion. Of course, I did eventually get my bearings as I washed up on the sand; however, that certainly put a fear of the ocean in me.

For the longest time, I would not go into the ocean. Eventually, I got enough courage to stand at the edge and allow the waves to crash on me where I could stand and they hit no further up than my legs or hips. But the fear of wiping out and possibly drowning kept me from experiencing the sort of freedom and adrenaline the ocean offers.

Eventually, as I got older I became more and more courageous because I knew that  a grown man couldn’t be afraid of the ocean. Eventually, I would have children and a family of my own and would bring them to the shore. So, eventually I forced myself to go in the ocean, but I still felt the fear crop up every time I entered and exited through the waves.

Overtime, though, I learned that, while it is important to respect the ocean, there is no need to fear swimming in it. The key is to ride the waves. If you are entering and you cannot get over a wave, ride it and head back out. Or, better yet, you could dive into the wait and ride the water underneat the wave. Either way, you are going with the flow, or underneath it, as opposed to resisting against it. It saves a ton of energy and is a rather fun experience as well.

In our lives, we often try to have such control over our situations that we find ourselves resisting the waves. When things don’t go according to the plan and we find waves pushing us back from where we want to be, or we find a rip current pulling us further out when we want to stay comfortably close to shore, we are best to not resist, but to let go, trust God, and go with the flow. Ride the waves, follow the current, and trust that Jesus Christ will bring us back to the shore at the place we need to be.

Do you trust God that much? Are you willing to let go and let God guide you through the waters? Will you be willing to let go and ride the waves? Will you be willing to ride the current and not resist the movement of the Holy Spirit? If so, you will eventually find that you belong in the ocean, you belong riding the waves, you belong catching the current of the Spirit and that you would want it no other way!

Let us be a people who fully put our faith back in God. Let us trust Jesus Christ when he tells us to NOT BE AFRAID. Rather, let us ride the waves and let God carry us to the next place the Gospel is needed to be shared. That way, we will be effective and faithful ambassasors to the Kingdom of God, in which we have our membership.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If you stand on the beach staring at the waves, you’ll never be refreshed by the water.

PRAYER
Lord, remove my fear and help me to put my trust in you so that I may go wherever you send me. Amen.

The Good News!

Read Luke 2:25-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

This may sound a little morbid and/or macabre, but I thoroughly enjoy officiating funerals. Okay, maybe enjoy might not be the right word…indeed, it is not the right word…no, I feel fulfilled in the ministry of serving families in times of grief and despair. I love being present for people in those times, and I thoroughly am blessed to be able to assure the family that death is not the end, but the beginning of something new and eternal…something we all get to join in on…not just now in this current world order, but in the new, eternal kingdom to come.

What good news that is! What awesome news, that we are already citizens of a coming kingdom. In fact, we are not just citizens, but ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. What’s more, we are not just citizens or ambassadors, but heirs to the Kingdom. That means, we’ve been adopted into the family of God and are children of God. What great news that is and it is my honor to share that message with families, because it reminds them of the great hope we have in God through Jesus Christ.

Recently I officiated a funeral for a family of a relatively young man in his 50s. I had deliberated on whether or not I should wear my suit jacket as I was wearing my short-sleeved collared clerical shirt and my tattoos, of which I have many, would be showing. It was summer and no one would blame me for showing up in a short-sleeved dress shirt; however, some might not be thrilled to see a tattoed minister! In my deliberations, I got distracted and ended up forgetting about making the decision.

Of course, that meant that I showed up to the funeral home and then realized I was not wearing my jacket. I was instantly self-conscious about it, but then a peace came over me. I was there to serve that family and I would not let a jacket stand in the way of that mission. I walked in, introduced myself to the family, got ready and officiated a celebration of life that seemed to be really meaningful for those who were gathered to remember the person who had died. I had created a space where they could grieve and celebrate freely.

Afterward, a woman who was probably in her late 60s or early 70s approached me and said, “Reverend, you are truly as cool as your tattoos!” I was taken back by her comment. I was not expecting that comment at all and was left somewhat speechless. All I could muster was an awkward, “Thank you.”

“No, you don’t understand,” she continued, “I have waited my whole life to see this…to see a minister who isn’t afraid to show their humanity.” Again, I was taken back, but managed to say, “Thank you so much, you’ve really blessed me with your words.”

“You are the one who blessed me,” the woman said assuredly. “Thank you so much for being here and for your words.”

I was stunned. I have had people comment on my tattoos before. Usually, I am asked whether or not my congregation knows I have them. I can appreciate the question because that is the perception of the church, a perception the church created itself by forgetting that it consisted of sinners redeemed by grace…not saved by the law or legalism.

This woman who approached me had clearly experienced that somewhere along the way in the church too. This woman so clearly articulated that church was the place where people shed their humanity and act like they are something better that human. The truth is that is NOT THE GOSPEL MESSAGE. We are not better than humanity, we are among those who make it up. We are sinners saved by a gracefuly, compassionate, merciful, and loving God. That is the Gospel message.

Just like Simeon, who had waited all his life to see the Christ child, this woman had waited all her life to see the church reclaim its humanity. It’s not about me and I am certainly not the only minister with tattoos…not in a long shot; however, it is about each of us being true to who we are…because Jesus accepts us for who we are. More than that, Jesus uses our uniqueness for the glory of God and the coming Kingdom. Submitting to Christ means being who we uniquely are for the sake of Christ and following him faithfully in that freedom.

Therefore, let us put on Christ and carry him out into the world in our unique way. Christ’s Kingdom is made up of a vast army of unique people, unified but NOT UNIFORM in Christ’s mission and ministry. If we do that, there will be no stopping what Christ will do next for the transformation of this world into the Kingdom God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
God didn’t create us to be robots, but to be autonomous, individual people with the freedom to use our unique gifts for the glory of God.

PRAYER
Lord, use me in ways that are unique to who I am so that others may come to know you and your love for them through me. Amen.

Sent to Siloam

Read John 9:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus told him, ‘I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’” (John 9:39)

siloam

At church I have been leading a summer Bible Study for those in our church that teach Children’s Sunday School during the year, so that they have time to be enriched as well as being an enrichment for others. The Study we have been doing is one called “Unusual Gospel” by Rev. Adam Thomas. In he covers the unusual Gospel of John and the unusual healings, the unusual people, and the unusual questions found throughout it. It is a very engaging and refreshing study.

One of the unusual healings is that of the man who was born blind. You may be wondering what is so unusual about that healing. Jesus healed many people, and he’s known to have healed the blind. The story of the man born blind is a very familiar one and is certainly one that many of us have heard if not have memorized. So what exactly is unusual about it?

In the story, Jesus approaches the man born blind, spits on the ground, makes mud and rubs it on the man’s eyes. Yuck! Then he tells the man to go and wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. The man, who now has Jesus saliva and dirt mixture smeared on his face, goes to the pool and washes his eyes. As he does so, he finds that he is healed. When he returned from the pool the people around him were astonished. In fact, they were more than astonished…they were confused. Something looked familiar about this man…but they just couldn’t place him.

“Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg,” his neighbors and other witnesses asked each other? Some replied, “Nah…this isn’t that man, he just looks like him.” The beggar kept assuring “I am the same one…I am the same one!” No one seemed to listen or recognize him…and when they did recognize him, they were more concerned with who healed him than the fact that he had been healed. The irony is that this man at one point could not physically see; however, his healing had revealed who was truly blind.

The people were blind to the blind man. They never really saw him for who he was. They only ever saw his limitation. When they looked at the blind man, they only ever saw blindness. And notice what I, the writers of the Bible, Jesus’ disciples, and the Bible translators often do…we all tend to label this man as “The Blind Man” or “The Man Born Blind”, despite that he was healed and HIS BLINDNESS wasn’t who he really was!

Jesus revealed that to him and to the disciples. Through the healing, Jesus also revealed the blindness of the man’s neighbors. They didn’t know anything about this man, but that he was blind. That is how they identified him…as blind. And Jesus revealed their own blindness to them. Through this unusual healing, Jesus reveals our blindness to us as well. How often do we identify people by their limitations. How often do we name them after their limitations. The Blind Person, The Drunk Person, That Suicidal Person, those Old People, that Young person. How often do we only see the label, the supposed “limitation”, but are blind to the actual person…the actual child of God that is before us.

Like he did in this unusual healing, Jesus is showing us our blindness and he is offering us healing from that blindness. If we humbly recognize that we have mud of our own on our eyes, if we obediently wash that mud off, if we open our eyes to the people that we’ve been blind to, we will be healed from that blindness. God wants us to see people as they really are, not for what we’ve deemed them to be. God is sending you to Siloam. Be healed and transformed!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Hate and mistrust are the children of [spiritual] blindness.” – William Watson

PRAYER
Lord, open the eyes of my heart for I want to see you in the people around me. Break me free from the chains of my blindness and give me the ability to see through your eyes. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: The Task at Hand

Read Acts 20:20-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

1600x1200-11587-nosferatu-wallpaper-hd

I have been a life-long fan of the classic horror films. Lon Chaney, Sr.’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” F.W. Murnau’s “Faust”, Lon Chaney, Jr.’s “The Wolfman”, Henry Hull’s “The Werewolf of London”, Bela Legosi’s “Dracula”, Boris Karloff’s “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy”. My all-time favorite horror film from the Silent Film era, is F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens” (translated as “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror). The film is a German Expressionist film about a vampire coming to Germany to prey on its citizens and it was loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

What makes me love this film is its use of lighting and shadow to pull off eerie special effects, the makeup work that was done to Max Schreck who plays the infamous “Count Orlok”, as well as Schreck’s amazing character acting. When watching the film, it is impossible to see Schreck’s Orlok as a “human being.” His rat-like features, pointy ears, sunken eyes, long tallon-like fingers, gaunt and lanky stature, and pale skin really make this character appear to be the monster that he is. Looking at him would make anyone’s skin crawl. Murnau created a film that is timeless and never feels dated, even though it is in black & white and has no audio aside from the music that has been added to it.

Back in 2011, I embarked on a project to rescore “Nosferatu.” There have been many attempts to rescore it, each trying to “update” the music in a way that makes it feel fresh and new; however, I have found every attempt (for the most part) to fall short of the film. None of the soundtracks seemed, in my opinion, to do justice to this film. So I figured I would rescore it, not trying to “update” the score with bells and whistles but, rather, trying to keep it simple and foreboding. I wanted a score that would give one the sense that evil was coming, and the urgency to rid the world of it.

As with all “great” ideas, it sounded much easier than it turned out to be. It is now July of 2014, and I have yet to finish the score. Life came in the way and I became preoccupied in other things. Inevitably, I let the rescoring of “Nosferatu” take a back seat to the “busy-ness” of life. Just recently, I decided to pick the project back up and to work on it whenever I have to the chance too. The more I work on it, the closer I get to completing it, the more and more fulfilled I feel. To be honest, whenever I start something without completing it, I feel incomplete.

While I have been using a “hobby” of mine as an illustration, how much more true is it that we feel incomplete when we don’t finish what Christ has called us, the church, to do. We are all called to be agents of God’s Kingdom of Heaven, of God’s hope, healing and wholeness, and we are all called to do different tasks in order to continue to usher in that Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, often times we get “burned out”, or the “busy-ness” of life gets in our way and we begin to fall away from the task that we’ve all been called to.

In the process, we find ourselves feeling incomplete. We often find ourselves lost, literally, in things that fill our time, but not our souls. Christ is calling us to reprioritize and to recommit our lives to the purpose that God has laid out for us. Let us not be a people that only starts projects, but never sees them through to completion; rather, let us be a people that completes that task at hand. Let us keep fighting the good fight and continuing on in the race. Let us remove the distractions of purposeless “busy-ness” and remember what it is that we’ve been called to do. Once we are realigned with our purpose, we shall feel fulfilled!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy

PRAYER

Lord, remind me of my purpose and spark a passion in me to see it through to completion. Amen.

July 11, 2021 – Sunday Worship Livestream

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)
on Sunday, July 11, 2021.

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Service for July 11, 2021. Today we will be discovering the nature and purpose of worship. Discover the life God created us to live.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

A LOOK BACK: Guilt-Free Zone

Read Psalm 22:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

grief

As a pastor and a spiritual counselor, I often deal with people who are going through rough times in their lives. Perhaps they have just lost a loved one and are beginning to go through the grieving process. Perhaps they are struggling in their relationships with others or with God. Perhaps they have been separated (for whatever reason) from their loved one(s). Perhaps they are struggling with alcoholism and/or addiction, or perhaps they know and love someone who is. Perhaps they are going through rough times financially or physically and they do not know how to begin to cope with the problems that are piling on top of them.

Whatever the case may be, each of us struggles in life one way or another. There is not a single person in this world who breezes through life without a host of “somethings” weighing them down. Each of us have our own set of struggles that we go through. I personally have suffered from teenage depression, the loss of loved ones, sudden and unexpected unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, and a whole host of other issues. And there were times I felt so burdened down by the weight of everything that I wondered if I could even carry on.

It is human to question ourselves, our surroundings, our situations and even God when things seem to be pressing down on us and crushing the life out of us. It is natural and human to be angry at God, to cry out from the depths of our soul in despair, to question where God has been in our lives. It is natural and healthy for us to be able to engage God with those questions; however, often times we feel guilty for doing so.

When we get angry at God, when we question why God is allowing stuff to happen to us, and when we begin to wonder if God is even there at all, we often will feel guilty because we feel that such anger, such questioning, and such “doubt” is a sign that our faith is weakening, or that it is a sign we don’t have faith, and that God will somehow hold that against us. We often pressure ourselves into repressing our emotions and shutting ourselves off from asking the questions that we so desperately need to ask.

What I would like to impart to you today is that you DO NOT need to add guilt to your grief. First, I would like to challenge you to rethink the question, “why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Is God “ALLOWING” something to happen or does life happen, with all of its ups and downs, despite what God does or doesn’t want? Second, God is love. God is grace. God is present. Repeat those words to yourself, make them your mantra and trust that God is with you, that God wants NOTHING MORE than for you to have hope, for you to rise up out of the situation you’re in, for you to heal, and for you to experience wholeness.

With that said, you do not need to add guilt to your grief. God doesn’t do guilt; guilt is not from God! It is not only okay for you to express your anger and doubt to God, but God WANTS YOU TO. It is a part of the grieving process, when we are grieving any type of loss or circumstance, and it is necessary to our health. Anger, doubt, and asking God the tough questions does not show a dying faith or a lack of faith; rather, quite the contrary…it shows a STRONG FAITH and a STRONG RELATIONSHIP with GOD.

So fear not, God is with you! Be liberated in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles. That in spirit, and in the lives of those supporting you, GOD IS WITH YOU. Do not add guilt to your grief, for your grief is enough to bear on its own. God is calling out to you through the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, for I will give you rest.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I am with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” – God (Joshua 1:5)

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for your undying presence in my life and thank you for your listening to me in my times of need. Help me to see when I cannot and to have the peace of your presence when the storms rage on and I feel alone. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Dying for Both Sides

Read Galatians 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:31)

saint-paul-the-apostle-07

In the Bible, there is a man named Saul who was born in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was well educated and rose up to be a scholar of the Torah, a Pharisee, and a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. When a new sect of Judaism broke out claiming that a Nazarene rabbi by the name of Yeshua bar Joseph was the messiah and that Gentiles should be included in the Jewish covenant, he lashed out against the group, having many of them arrested. According to Acts, one was even killed.

With that said, this Saul encountered the risen Yeshua, you may know him by his Greek name Jesus, somewhere in or around Damascus, which is a city in Syria. This experience transformed Saul into a follower of Jesus. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that, following the encounter with Christ, he went into Arabia for a while and then came back to Damascus. After three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Jesus’ brother James, and his disciples Peter and John.

To make a long story short, Jesus’ brother James and Paul didn’t really get along…at all. Peter and John weren’t too crazy about Paul either. James believed that in order for Gentiles (non-Jews) to become a follower of Christ they had to first become Jewish, since Jesus was a Jew. Paul thought this was ludicrous, seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as the opening up of the covenant to Gentiles. If they had faith in Jesus who was likened to a Gentile on the cross (being under God’s curse as the Torah claims of anyone hung on a tree), then they would be brought into the Jewish covenant despite not being circumcised or being bound to any one of the Jewish laws.

Though they struck a deal and Paul left thinking he had their blessing to go and preach the Gospel as he felt Jesus had called him to do, James, Peter and John never really accepted Paul’s vision. We find out from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and in Acts, that James and his followers were counteracting Paul’s Gospel message and causing people to question this “self-proclaimed apostle” who had never been an eye-witness of Jesus. This angered Paul, as anyone would imagine, but it did not stop him from trying.

Paul had been gathering up a collection for the church in Jerusalem and he was going to bring that collection to them, hoping to reconcile their differences if it cost him his very life. Paul was afraid it would. His last written words, written to the church in Rome (a community he had never met), ask for prayers that the non-believing Jews won’t attack him (as he was a heretic in their eyes having abandoned his Pharisaic Judaism for this new messianic Judaism) and that the church in Jerusalem would accept his offering. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered.

Paul was arrested, and eventually died, trying to get both sides (his and James’) to be unified, even if different, in the cause of Christ. Today, like then, the church is split on many fronts and we seem to get stuck on one side or the other. We fail to see Christ in the midst of our differences. Like Paul, we are called to see Christ in those who believe differently than us. We are called to find the balance of reconciliation, even while remaining true to what we firmly believe. There are many contentious issues dividing the church, yet there is still ONE Lord! Rather than deeming each other heretics, let us have the grace and the humility to see that Christ is indeed working in, through, and in spite of us all! Remember, he Gospel calls us to be a people who are unified in LOVE, even if divided by difference.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get unity by ignoring the questions that have to be faced.” – Jay Weatherill

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see you even in those who think and believe differently than me. Humble me, I pray. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Risky Business

Read Matthew 8:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

jesus-heals-the-leper

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite TV shows as of late is the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” Aside from it being about a world overrun by zombies, the show is filled with situational ethics, moral dilemmas, as well as metaphors for life.  Each character is tested to their limits with the things they have to deal with. They are literally living in a nightmare world and it is hard to imagine yourself having to live in a world like that.

Then again, take a look at the world around you. Our world may not be overrun by the walking dead; however, when you think about it, our world is filled with much worse. There are children being used as human shields, women being treated like property or worse, boys being forced to join armies and die for tyrants and murderous leaders. There are people starving because their economies are being undercut by rich, Western economies. There are people dying of common illnesses because corrupt governments won’t allow humanitarian aid into their countries.

We live in a broken, and often times ugly, world. Our reality may be different than the one found in “The Walking Dead”, however, if it is different, it is only so on the surface. In one episode of the series, the group is being threatened by a nasty illness that is highly contagious. In fact, there is an outbreak in the group and many of the people are isolated to keep the illness from spreading. The healthy people were separated from the sick. The sick, in essence, were left to choke on the blood they were coughing up…until they die.

One man, named Hershel, decided he wasn’t going to sit by and watch those people die. He went out and collected berries to make a tea that he knew was helpful for people who were sick with illnesses like the flu, and he was hoping that it would help buy others enough time to go and find medicine to bring back. But in order to give the people the tea, he had to go into the isolated area and risk being infected himself.

Though the others tried to talk him out of it, he couldn’t be persuaded. He went into the isolated area and began to treat one of the doctors who had fallen ill because he had been treating others. He cared for the man and even had blood coughed up on him in the process. Despite the personal risk to his own health, he chose to be present to someone in need of his help.

When I saw this, I instantly thought of Jesus. How many sick, disease-ridden people did Jesus surround himself with. How many of them touched him, breathed on him, coughed on him? He was laying his hands on people with contagious skin diseases such as leprosy. He was constantly putting himself at risk for others. Ministry, after all, is totally risky buisness…and God is calling us to it.

We have been given the opportunity to not value ourselves above others. We have been given the opportunity to take the next step in our faith and be present for people in need, no matter what the cost is. We have been called to be healers for those who are not well. We are called to risk it all for “the least of these”, just as Jesus did for us. Whether or not people are suffering from a physical illness, from oppression, from poverty, from starvation or anything else, Christ has called us into an active and living faith. Today’s challenge is for you, if you haven’t already, to begin to answer that call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates

PRAYER
Lord, use me to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Use me also to bring others your peace. Show me what you would have me do today. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Beyond the ‘L’ Word

Read John 14:11-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Quote

In our culture, we often romanticize what love is, do we not? When we hear the word “love”, we often think of bouquets of flowers, long walks along the shoreline in the moonlight, and romantic gondola rides through Venice. We often think of warm candlelight, nights with a loved one by the fireplace, and all of the warm and fuzzies that make our hearts flutter at the sound of “love.”

How can we help having such an image? Our culture is constantly feeding us with this understanding of love. Our supermarkets and bookstores are lined with romance novels, magazines with tips on having a better love life, cards that tell your significant others how much you love them and many other things that paint this particular picture of love. We are inundated with love songs that fill the radio airwaves and our mp3 players. Just try and find a song on the radio that is NOT about romantic love. They exist, but they are definitely hard to find. Romance also shows up in movies where characters are “in love” with people as well as monsters such as vampires, werewolves and, if you can believe it, even zombies.

If you were a visitor from another planet and you were trying to understand our language, you would come to the conclusion the word “love” mostly means “romance. Yet does that sufficiently describe the word love? Is romance all there is to the word love, or does love extend far beyond that particular definition. I am sure most, if not all, people know the answers to those questions; however, when love plays out in different ways in our lives we often don’t recognize it for the love that it is.

When I was a teenager, my parents loved me by not allowing me to do EVERYTHING I ever wanted to do. The loved me by not always letting me have my way. The loved me by allowing me to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. They loved me by holding me accountable to the expectations the set of me. They also loved me by letting me go to experience the world on my own terms. That last one is, perhaps, the hardest love for a parent to exhibit. Letting go, holding people accountable, allowing people to make their choices and reap the consequences, and saying “no” to people, often does not sound or feel like love. Yet, depending on the circumstances, it can and often is a form of love!

When Jesus called Peter to love and feed his sheep, he was not calling him to romance; however, he was calling him love in a much more profound and powerful way. He was called to love people as a brother, as a friend, and as a parent; however, Peter was also called to love beyond those classifications as well. He was called to love as GOD LOVES. He was called to invite those who wished to be invited and let go those who wished to be let go. He was called to guide and to lead; however, he was also called to step down and be led. He was called to live a life that brought hope, healing and wholeness to others, even if the cost of that would be his very life.

Christ calls us to do the same, we are not merely called to love our significant others. We are not called to get overly attached to the warm and the fuzzies; rather, we are called to exhibit the very LOVE of God. We are called to invite and to let go. We are called to guide and to lead, as well as to step down and be led. We are called to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, as we love ourselves. There is nothing that falls outside the breadth of God’s unconditional and unquellable love. Know that you are loved and BE LOVE in the lives of others. If God is love, and you are in God, then you are LOVE too!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Where there is love, there is life.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, lead me ever deeper into a life of love. Amen.