Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What I Learned from My Mom

I used to go to church every Sunday with my mother. My father was either on call, or often just worn out on Sunday mornings (he was a family doctor and on call every other night, made house calls,etc.). At a certain point, my sister got to where she didn’t want to go to church. But, I really loved going to Sunday worship with my Mom. My sister was two years older, and I got to a point in high school when I wasn’t as interested either. But, I remember those days in late elementary, middle school, when I went with my Mom and just liked every bit of it. There was a real joy about it.

I can say one thing clearly. My Mom went for two reasons and two reasons only: to praise God, and to love people. And, the love of people clearly came out of the love of God. I found out over the years that was exactly why my Mom went to church. And, when it got to a point where church presented a hindrance to praising God and loving people – well, my Mom just didn’t go to church, but praised God and loved people outside of church. But, even in times when my Mom didn't "go to church," church went with my Mom.

I’ve never lost what I learned from my Mom. It is at the center of who I am. And, when I remember who I am, I carry on this praise and love both inside and outside the church. The important thing is not the inside or outside, but the praise and love. But, somehow, I'm not sure I would have understood that unless I had experienced it inside the church. Those times of going to worship, worshipping and coming home from worship. Those were good times, sacred times for me - and, I think they were for my Mom too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Talking Out Loud to My Self

There are three things I would like to be rid of: A spirit of criticism, a spirit of self-importance, and a spirit of anxiety.

By a spirit of criticism, I mean the thoughts that rise up within me that are in the first instance critical of another, before I really assess the situation and what is going on. Besides, why does it matter whether I approve or disapprove of another?

By a spirit of self-importance, I really mean a way of looking at life that always considers at the center how something reflects on me, makes me look, affects me, and that assumes I have more control over a situation than I do.

By a spirit of anxiety, I mean that unnerving feeling and set of thoughts that keep me from being at peace inside. I guess it's really this spirit of anxiety that gives rise to the spirit of criticism and self-importance. And, it seems like some freedom from that spirit of criticism and self-focus could really lead to some freedom from anxiety.

Along these lines, I was wondering today about the fact that I always feel a certain pressure in about every situation to make sure everyone gets along with everybody else. Who put me in charge of that? That seems to arise out of a spirit of anxiety, a spirit of criticism and a spirit of self-importance. Of course, it is good to hope for peace among people, but can you really achieve it if you are always anxious about it? Can you really enable it if you don't trust it depends on something greater than you?

I've lived for more than 48 years, and this is the first time I have ever asked: "who put me in charge of that?" Now, it may take me the rest of my life to answer that question or I may have just answered it by asking it!

Holy Words from Christoph Blumhardt

The following comes from a sermon preached by Christoph Blumhardt on June 29, 1897 in Germany. The scripture was Matthew 16:13-19, and the sermon title was "The Church of Jesus Christ."*

“How then does this church come into being? Those who have seen Jesus must really stop letting themselves get distracted from the revelation of the Father. . .

“Can God reveal himself in you, my friend? I will tell you when He can do it. It is when you are bent completely, fully, on God as love. Here the roads part. Believe me, I have rarely met a person who wanted this love of God. Does that surprise you? They all want to love, but they want to choose the people they love. They are cool toward or will even persecute with their hatred all those who do not suit them. Naturally everyone wants to love according to his sympathies. Everyone loves his family, her friends, his hobbies. However, it is quite a different matter to want God’s love fully and completely. There is a love that rules in the name of godless humanity; it is the most dangerous thing in the world! The love of the members of one party judges people belonging to the other parties. The love of the members of one church loves only these and condemns all others. The love that is in the world tears God’s love to pieces because it judges.

“Yet there is a love which denies itself, which esteems all people as equals, which respects creation and no longer judges. There is a love which saves, which does away with evil and fights against all evil in order that the evil person may be saved. There is a love which does not want to do away with anybody, so that nothing may be lost, because Jesus is here, because God is the Father of all people. Remember this. Whoever does not want this love, which is God’s love, will not recognize the living God, nor will he receive the revelation.”

*This sermon was printed in "Christoph Blumhardt and His Message," written in 1938 by R. Lejeune (Plough Publishing, reprint, 1963).