Monday, May 31, 2010

Practical Faith

Yesterday my pastor finished the second half of his message from two weeks ago on "the end times" (an expression I no longer find valid, but for continuity purposes will use it here). He was supposed to finish on the May long weekend, but a lot of people were away and I begged him to wait.

Of course, I was scheduled not only to teach preschool but as a family we were on for greeting, so it was a busy Sunday morning, but it was my last time to teach before the fall and I put some serious pressure on Jason to take the shift so I could hear the end of the message. It worked, not without some grumbling from my lovely husband, but he ended up enjoying the preschool kids and I heard that William "came alive" with Jason as his teacher, participating and laughing and singing instead of viciously sniffing his bear like he usually does when I am his teacher. But that's another blog post.

This one is about the conclusion to that message. I've been amazed by the number of people who found his first message as inspiring as I did, even just by reading a tiny bit about it in this blog. It goes to show that new ideas that have a ring of truth contain power to change people's ideas and therefore their lives. I've discovered this transformation during the last 3 1/2 years at my church, and it means more to me than I can say.

My pastor wasn't as fired up emotionally this week as he was two weeks ago, but that fit the context of his topic, which was another reassurance that our lives are in God's hands, and it doesn't matter whether we are alive or dead, healthy or sick, happy or unhappy, rich or poor, if we believe that God loves us and will take care of us, we have no need to be afraid. So much of my earlier Christian life was based on fear and anxiety: a sense of panic that I wasn't doing it right, that all of my sins would be brought back to haunt me, and fear that I was going to be found out as a fraud, not good enough for God's love.

It is all so much simpler than that. My pastor continued to assert that if we feel anxiety about God or what is going to happen in the future, we are missing the peace and joy that God has for us. God is about love, and mercy, and joy, not fear and worry. Such a simple idea, but so much power contained inside of it for how we live our daily lives.

He talked about the practical nature of our faith. If we attempt to hoard God's love and blessing for ourselves, we are missing the point again. It should flow through us, meeting our needs and then flowing out to others. He said that he's so tired of the huge ministries being built as legacies, that tend to fall apart under the weight of their own expectations. It's about people around us. How we treat those in our circle is what matters, and what leaves a lasting impact.

Do we offer water to someone who is thirsty? Do we spend time with someone who is lonely? Do we give food to the hungry and clothes to those who are cold and in need of warmth? This is faith in action; not because we are looking for a reward, but because we have been loved and our heart's desire is to show love in return.

I felt comforted and warm after yesterday's message. At peace in a turbulent world. It is much simpler than what I have previously been taught. Love God. Love others. The rest is just so much noise in an already overcrowded world. I want peace, and joy, and love to flow from my life. To give as I have been blessed. To reflect the love and forgiveness of God to those in my circle, and to withhold judgement. No easy task, but something to work toward on a day by day basis.

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