Monday, August 1, 2016

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment it.  Jesus responds, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’"

It saddens me to think that there is so much hatred in the world.  War, oppression, neglect, violence, abuse, racism, and trash talk all stem from hatred.  As Christians, we should be practicing what Jesus teaches us, simply put: love God, love others.  Yet all too often, we get swept away by the social talk of the day and pulled into to living and acting in ways that are contrary to God’s love.  While I recognize that not everything can be solved by loving others and loving God, I do know that it can make a difference in our own lives and in the lives that are around us.  If we can live our lives exemplifying love to God and neighbor, its effect on others will be noticed.

A friend of mine from years ago once told me how he had this coworker with a bad attitude.  Everyone at the office either ignored him or dismissed him.  He was not a nice guy to be around.  As part of a challenge program at church, my friend decided to be nice to him and start treating him like he would want to be treated.  It didn’t take long until this guy actually changed his attitude toward my friend and they ended up being friends.  Yet had my friend not made the effort to be kind to him, the other man would have never changed his attitude.  Loving others and loving God can and does make a difference!  I think of the song line, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  We need to take this one step further and say, “Let there be love on earth and let it begin with me.”

Monday, February 15, 2016

In a recent Bible Study on Paul’s letter to Philippians, we had a discussion on what it means to experience joy in Christ.  At the time this letter was written, Paul had been imprisoned in Rome and he faced charges that would have put him on death row.  Yet he was joyful about his experience because even in prison, he was able to share the good news of Jesus and help others experience the joy of God’s forgiveness and love.  He was joyful because he knew that if he was released from prison he could continue the work of sharing the good news but if he was executed then he would go to be with Jesus.

It’s challenging to view even what is bad as an opportunity for good.  And yet we are surrounded by God’s goodness whether we recognize it or not.  This is the joy that Paul was talking about.  No matter what situation we read about or find ourselves in the midst of, there is still something to be joyful about.  We have the choice of seeing the good or the bad, and the choice is up to us.  We have the choice of dwelling on doom and fear, or hope and joy.  It reminds me of this story:

Three people were visiting and viewing the Grand Canyon—an artist, a pastor, and a cowboy.  As they stood on the edge of that massive abyss, each one responded with a cry of exclamation.  The artist said, “Ah, what a beautiful scene to paint.”  The minister cried, “What a wonderful example of the handiwork of God!”  The cowboy mused, “What a terrible place to lose a cow!”

Experiencing the joy of Christ can be as simple as noticing a tiny flower spring forth in a sidewalk crack or celebrating the birth of a newborn child.  It may show up as a kind stranger during a difficult time or witnessing an act of love in an everyday circumstance, but the joy of Christ is there, right in front of you—waiting to be noticed.  What will you choose?  Will you choose joy and hope?  Or will you choose doom and fear?

Psalm 104:10-14
You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal…By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.  From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.  You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for he people to use, to bring fort food from the earth…

Monday, January 11, 2016

The new year year has come!  This past year was filled with many ups and downs, but through it all God has stood firm.  In light of the new year, I invite you to hear the words of this poem written by Sister Tillie Albright:
I know not what awaits me
As dawns another year; 
The path untrod I cannot see,
Yet knows my heart no fear!
I know not whether long or short
My pilgrimage may be!
I'll daily praise my God in song
For all His love for me. 
With joy I greet the year— 
It cannot bring me ill
Since Christ my Lord is ever near,
My soul with peace to fill. Amen!

Whatever this new year brings for you and yours, my prayer is that your love for the Lord with grow and your faith will mature.  The older I get, the stronger my trust in God becomes.  But this isn’t because I sat idle or went my own way.  The deep peace I feel inside isn’t something that magically appeared and stayed, but rather something that has grown deeper over time.

Just as healing takes time, so too it takes time to grow in our love for the Lord.  And with growth comes change.  A fruitful tree doesn’t simply grow leaves.  It has to blossom and bear fruit to be faithful.  And bearing fruit takes time, nurturing, and careful tending.  We cannot expect a deeper faith simply by proclaiming faith in Christ—we have to make efforts to spend time in God’s word, in prayer, and in the community of faith.  May this new year bring you faith-filled roots that deepen, and fruit that gives joy and love to others.

Faithfully In Jesus,

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl Bourne