Monday, October 26, 2015

LOVE where you are...

Eyesight is a precious gift.  However the natural aging of our physical bodies, through no fault of our own, our eyesight slowly diminishes. It begins slowly but as we age, the vast majority of us will need corrective lens. Unless there is an injury our slow loss of sight is due to no fault of our own. It’s just part of the human aging process. Because sight digression is gradual most of us don’t even realize we need glasses, contacts or surgery to correct our vision. It is not until we see a doctor and our eyesight is corrected that we begin to see our world differently. We are able to focus on the small blades of grass. Individual leaves are now visible on trees.  Objects and people whom were once blurry quickly become clearer as we are able to make out the smallest of minute detail. We literally and metaphorically begin to view our world differently than before.
So is true with our faith as well. As we experience life, our relationships with God and others can slowly deteriorate out of focus. Sometimes we don’t even notice it until something comes along and corrects our vision.  Jesus gave specific instructions before he left our world. In his parting words before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said basically go love. This was a reminder of Jesus’ earlier statement that one could cover all of the 613 Jewish laws into two: Love your God and love your neighbor. If we are going to transition from a believer in Jesus to a follower of Jesus, we must fully understand what Jesus meant here. Jesus said perfectly clear just to love. Jesus didn’t say go start a church, march in the streets, or even tackle the moral ills of our world. Jesus didn’t say change the world, change a law, or join a political campaign. Jesus said go love your neighbor. Jesus said we do this one by one, life on life, person to person. Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus said to love where you are. He didn’t mean love where you are in the since that you deeply like where you are in life. He clearly meant to love those around us where we are. We can love no matter where we are in our faith journey. We can love no matter our physical location or address. We can love anytime, anyplace, and during any circumstances. Jesus also said to love our neighbor even when it’s very difficult to do so. For many of us, we have a hard time actually identifying or defining just who exactly our neighbor is. It is more than the person whose street address is one number off from ours. 
In the next few weeks as we begin a new journey and sermon series: Love Where You Are. We will begin to define and clarify what Jesus meant when He instructed us to go love. We will begin to correct our vision so we may see with clarity our spiritual goals and relationships are strengthened and our vision is clear. We will expand on Jesus’ instructions as we add clarity and understanding of his last instructions to us.  We will begin this week as we learn to love where we live.
Hope to see you in service until then take care of yourself and one another.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Rebuilding Block: Community

Over the last weeks we have been looking at the story of Nehemiah and his efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We have been viewing this remarkable story through the context of the ruins of our own life. We have all been standing in a position where we needed to rebuild. We have all looked around our own community and realized that it is not what it once was. Rebuilding is harder than building. When we build something new the entire process is filled with enthusiasm, vision, and expectations. When we are forced to rebuild we stand amongst the ruins of our reality with the memories of what once was.
This stands true in our own community as well. We hear catch phrases from politicians, community leaders, and religious clergy say “we need to return Centralia to the way it used to be,” or “we need our neighborhood like it once was.” Such statements reflect the ideology of those who stand in ruins focused on what once was. The real work of rebuilding takes place after the headlines fade, the march is over, and the sermon or election is far past. Like Nehemiah, the real rebuilding begins when no one is watching or even taking notice. So what have we learned from Nehemiah’s rebuilding blocks that are relevant for us today. First there needs to be unity of purpose. We need participants’ not just spectators. Individuals need to be moved so deeply that they actually stop commenting on social media and get their hands dirty. When an entire group of people can come together with a common goal or single purpose, amazing things can get accomplished. It takes unity with a purpose but it also takes harmony with diversity. Like Nehemiah we need families, clergy, politicians, rich people, poor people, business owners, young, old, men, women, and children all working together in harmony. We need religious leaders to put aside their personal theology or agendas and work with others who differ to serve all of God’s people. When we come together we can accomplish more but more importantly we get exposed to the diversity of our neighbor. Working alongside someone, we get to know them, understanding them more, and see your similarities and differences. You become a community when diverse people work together for a common communal goal.  There is unity with purpose, harmony with diversity, and last courage to participate. To rebuild takes courage. Rebuilding takes a tremendous amount of courage, strength, and endurance. We must acknowledge that there are individuals or groups in our life and in our community who do not desire to make it better. They will deflect, ridicule, and sabotage any rebuilding efforts. So like Nehemiah, we must not allow them to distract us from the job ahead. If we want to rebuild, before the first brick is replaced, we must be unified in our purpose, harmonious in our diversity, and courageous in our participation. It will not be as easy as standing in the ruins, remembering what once was, and doing nothing. So let us begin this journey of rebuilding together. 
Be kind to one another.. 
Peace, Love and Happiness: