Great God, that I may see your glory today. Thank you for glimpses of your holiness which leave me feeling blessed beyond measure. Help me not to fear what I may see as truth, including that which makes me feel uncomfortable or threatened. Help me to see opportunities to serve those in need. Empower me to serve with a positive attitude, even towards those whom I find challenging to include in my circle of welcome. Draw me close to your heart of love so as to fill me with this all-unconditional love for others. Open my eyes, God...so that I may see you everywhere and in every thing. Amen.
“What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)
This powerful Bible verse follows the parable of “The Shrewd Manager,” which Jesus was telling his disciples. If we study the parable, we find that it asks us to consider the questions, what, or who, do we highly value? What are our passions? What motivates us to do what we do? Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
I have been thinking about fear a lot lately. I thought about it often when the COVID pandemic began a year and a half ago. Then as things loosened up, and people seemed less afraid, it wasn’t on my mind so much. But, now that the virus variants have emerged and the virus rates have gone up a bit and people we know are testing positive with COVID again; fear is on the rise too.
Four years ago, the Church of the Brethren embarked on a journey of discernment. The goal was to capture a vision for our denomination that congregations could get behind and move forward in this new era of time to do the work of following Jesus and help build God’s kingdom. Listening sessions were held throughout the denomination for the purpose of giving the grassroots congregants a voice in the discernment process. Coming together for discussion and listening provides an opening for the Spirit’s leading to be heard.
I’m writing this just four days before settlement on our new house. I never dreamed moving could be so stressful. Contributing to our stress are things like: selling our house, finding a house, applying for a mortgage, packing twenty-one years of stuff, moving Marvin (our cat) who has never been in a crate or outside of our house, dealing with last-minute underwriting documentation and whatever else I am not remembering right now. Our saving graces have been all of your prayers, the church’s decision to have a professional moving company move us…thank you…thank you… thank you, and a very patient realtor, Kim Mozick, who has made us feel like her only customer. Don and I will be so glad when this side of the process is all over next week and we can take our time making our new home our own.
Today as I am pondering this particular text, I am doing so because I am feeling the loosening of the pandemic restrictions and because the Summer season is upon us. Last year at this time there were many unknowns due to COVID and many of us had anxiety about what was safe to do and what was not. People skipped vacations and canceled family gatherings. Everything seemed to be on hold and it took much of the fun out of what is typically an active social time of year. The discouragement and depression many of us experienced due to the cancellations of our major holiday festivities was compounded when warmer weather arrived and we still had to endure the restrictions due to COVID. The church was not spared from the required restrictions; so, we felt the impact on our fellowship activities here at HCOB too.
It’s a curious thing how in just a matter of moments, life events can shift quickly and take us an unexpected direction. Our decisions may surprise us with unforeseen twists and turns. Events occurring around us may startle us and demand unplanned actions, taking us down roads in life that are filled with sharp turns and bumpy terrain. Tragedies like a large boulder may drop in our life path, paralyzing us emotionally, making life difficult to manage even the simplest of tasks.
Easter: the day we remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The days just prior to this glorious day, we were remembering the pain and suffering Jesus endured. If we allowed those moments of remembrance to touch our souls, we felt the weight of darkness and hopelessness.
At the time that I am writing this, we have a few weeks to go until we reach Holy Week. Our Lenten journey has us pondering what Jesus may have been feeling as he made his way to Jerusalem, knowing that it would be there that he would endure the devastating blows of suffering and the harshest punishment of the day resulting in death. We wonder why. Why did God find it necessary to let this happen? Why didn’t Jesus turn and run away?
On Wednesday, February 17, we recognize the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God and marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season. It is commonly observed with receiving ashes in the sign of the cross on the forehead and fasting.