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There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. -I John 4:18-19.
This is one of those verses of scripture, I have to keep close. For there is so much fear does in our lives. It prevents love, sows hate and misunderstanding, even can lead to indifference. The scripture tells us that fear has to do with punishment — which generally involves judgement and hurting another in some way. But what God calls us to is a love that casts out fear.
Recently we, as disciples of Jesus, have been called to cast out our fear and to love as we have been loved. First, there are the students of Independence High School; students who did not do well in the conventional learning environment, or have had trouble of varying sorts in their lives. It would be easy out of our fear of the unconventional or those whose lives are so different from ours, to simply walk away, saying they are not worth our time or investment.
Secondly, we have been made aware of the need to help asylum seekers from Central America with hospitality as they make their way to the families/sponsors. These are people who are traveling with nothing, often only the clothing on their backs, fleeing the violence in their homeland. It would be easy to be fearful of these strangers in our midst, to judge them as undeserving of our love and care. We don’t understand what their lives are like (and fear will keep us from finding out); we don’t trust that they are “good” people (and again fear will keep us from knowing them). It is easy to fear and step back from both of these groups.
That’s why I need to keep the verse from I John close at hand – particularly verse 19: “We love because he first loved us.” And we are not loved because we deserve it, or because we are worth God’s time and attention – we are loved because we are God’s children. As are these students and families. There are days I admit that I struggle with this. Which is why I need this reminder.
Jesus calls us to cast out our fear and to love as we have been loved – unconditionally and with boldness and wholeheartedness. Even those who cannot love us back . . especially those who cannot love us back. I think Jesus had something to say about that too.
Seeking to Serve Christ with You,
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my sout.” Ps. 23:2-3.
The season of Lent is meant to be a reflective time. Time for more prayer and self-examination. Time practicing spiritual disciplines in the hopes they will become habits. The work of greater faithfulness, not just in thought, but in action.
It’s hard to do this when your phone is beeping with text messages, when schedules become cramped with all those things we “need: to do. Sometimes our bodies will tell us when we are doing too much and not being enough. We get sick or exhausted.
David in Psalm 23 must have some of these issues for he writes that God “makes” him lie down in green pastures and “leads” him beside still waters. Apparently these are not places David seeks out regularly for himself. It takes the Creator of the universe to bring him to those places that will restore his soul.
What does it take for us? Getting sick? Being so weary we can hardly function? We are privileged because many of us have the Sandias as view from our window, or can hear/see the Rio Grande River. Neither is far for any of us . . .if we take the time to go. God has led us to this placer of the red mountain and flowing water (at least in some seasons) – these are our green pastures and still waters. We also have skies that are big and starlit at night and blue as can be. How can God “make” us lie down or sit beside what will restore our soul?
It is my prayer you will find your green pasture and still waters. That this season will help to restore your soul, that you might experience God’s nearness and peace.
Praying for you,
To see with the heart . . . it is the way we hope God sees us. It is also the way we are to see one another. Not with an analyzing mind or eyes that see every flaw. But, with the heart — to see the beauty, the divine presence in all of creation.
Lent is a season where you have the opportunity to practice new spiritual practices. One you may not have tried is called ” visio divina” which means “divine seeing”. One uses an image and a view as the focus of prayer and meditation. It allows you to reflect on the beauty and peace around you as parts of God’s handiwork.
Here is an example. Find a place with a good view of the Sandias. Breathe deeply as you take in the view. What do you notice first? Focus for a moment on that. What do you see with your heart? What is beautiful? What is hopeful? What words of thanks do you want to share with God?
If you want to pair it with scripture, I’d suggest a Psalm. Lent can be dreary for some folks, with all the focus on repentance, sin, confession, inward examination. Visio divina provides an opportunity for reflection, but with the heart and eyes.
The PC(USA) has a Lenten devotion available for those who would like to explore this scripture practice. Let me know if I can get one for you.
Our columbarium has arrived and is now installed on its foundation. Soon the brick work will be done around it, and in the spring there will be additional landscaping for the entrance to the area. There will be a dedication when the Memorial Garden Committee decides it’s time.
For those who may not know, the memorial garden will be part of the patio off my office. Some have wondered how I would like having the columbarium there. Actually, I am looking forward to it. A couple of people who have already passed will be placed there shortly after all is finished. The idea of having beloved folks from the company of saints watching over me and our ministry here is reassuring. It also will be a reminder that folks have come before us and will come after us in the life of the church and we are just part of the ongoing ministry of Jesus in this place.
I hope people will see this as a quiet and peaceful place to come and pray and reflect, mindful of the faithfulness of others who continue to inspire us.
Serving Christ with you,
e we are struggling, or grieving, or exhausted. The daily concerns do not magically disappear during December. If anything they become magnified because the expectation is that this is the season of joy.
And yet, as the verse from John testifies, Jesus did not come into the world with great joy and fanfare. He came into the world in a strange place, a place of darkness – the same darkness that exists today – people who struggle each day to live, those who are grieving or fearful. Those who are seeking refuge from the storms of the world. Jesus came because there is darkness in the world. He came to bring light – a light the darkness cannot overcome. Christ came precisely because of whatever we are going through in our lives.
On Friday, December 21st at 7 pm we will be having our Longest Night Service. This is a reflective, contemplative service, a quiet place in the midst of the Christmas noise. We do this on the Longest Night of the year as a reminder that no matter how long the darkness, the light will come. I hope you will join us, if only a respite from the mad rush of the holidays. Here you may find peace for your souls.
Grace and Peace,