“What Have We Learned?”

Psalm 119: 33-40
September 17th, 2017
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

Scripture:

“Hear now these words from the Psalmist, Psalm 119, verses 33 thru 40.”

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways. 38 Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. 39 Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good. 40 See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

“May our hearts be opened as we consider what this ancient scripture has to say to us, today, in the Twenty-First Century”

 

Sermon:

Throughout my journey, it seems I am continuously learning new things. When I was a young lad, my grandfather, The Pastor, was always looking for new ways to teach me things. One of his most noteworthy quotes was a simple one: “never turn down a teaching moment”. I think he felt this goes both ways. Meaning of course that the student ought to jump at the opportunity to be taught. Likewise, the teacher must never overlook the challenge to teach the willing student. I guess I have internalized this quote, as I am often accused of preaching my upcoming sermons to my family and friends, all week long, before you hear them!

As a youngster I was very impressionable, meaning of course sensitive, which I still am, and easily influenced, thus making me a good student. Of course, most teachers would rather have an ambitious student whom is ready to learn and truly motivated to learn! I think I acquired these traits much later-on, but not in my early years. With this being the case, my grandfather used every available opportunity to teach me something. He loved games and taught me many. I did learn that once I learned how to win… he would move on to another game. He was an understanding man and was very tolerant and kind to me as I often rode around with him; of course, ‘I now realize’ he made various pastoral calls, as he looked after me for my mom.

By the time I got out of the military and started to go to college via the evening program, night school. I was lead in the pathway of the willing student who became motivated to at least learn how to make it through the pile of books I was assigned. Unlike the military, where I was ordered to learn or be forced to keep doing things over-and-over again. In college, I learned that knowledge was my friend; although I struggled with my writing skills and was a terrible public speaker. Later, as I learned more about the proper ways to read and write, I found new freedoms and insights as instructor after instructor, taught me more and more about these critical skills. Clearly, it was because of good teachers that I learned how to be a better student. From there – I began to learn more and more. I am truly blessed that there were those who were willing to teach me, leading me into new opportunities and adventures to be sure! Looking back, I can see how my education turned my life around. I would not be who I am had this not been true.

Living in Florida has taught me many things I never knew. The school of ‘hard knocks’ seems to be one of the schools of learning which we Northerners must attend – before we learn to take hurricanes seriously. It is sad really, that it took storms like Andrew, Harvey, Wilma and now Irma to force us to learn how to build better and stronger houses, so that we might be better prepared when one comes our way. I put up most of my shutters for my home on Tuesday morning, before I really got to work on this sermon. Of course, at this point in my writing, I had no way of knowing as to what the extent our lesson would be and where it would take us. I pray we haven’t had to pay too high a price for these teachings this time! I pray that our families, friends and neighbors have weathered this tremendous storm. It is now Saturday, Irma is still a real threat to Florida. It appears that it will hit the south west side of our beautiful state as a strong category 4 hurricane. We are being told, that we, on the east coast, will be spared the worst of Irma, being battered by a mere category 1 or 2 storm. It is hard to rejoice over this news knowing many of my neighbors evacuated to the west coast.

In our lesson, this morning, the Psalmist is first and foremost expressing the belief that God is the teacher. Thereby, acknowledging this understanding of God’s role in our lives! /Cameron Howard/ Just like the storms, the hurricanes which hit land, God has also been striving to teach us some things we need to know as well. In our lesson, today, the Psalmist has laid out some steps or concepts for us to learn. There are seven principles, seven values being acknowledged regarding the ways of God. /Rolf Jacobson/ Each having its own verse, each worthy of a twenty-minute sermon! Do not fear, I plan to keep this down to only one sermon this morning. The last verse affirms the psalmist desire to follow the ways, follow the will of God. Yet another sermon worthy of discussion on another day. What we must not do is make these into more rules, as from the ancient Ten Commandments. These teachings are to be viewed as more instructional; better viewed as guidelines to knowing God better.

What we do need to keep in mind is an understanding that following this set of principles, will ultimately give, or cause us to strengthen our connection with the Psalmist’s idea of God’s role in one’s life. Perhaps, one might even find this to be true for oneself. Therefore, be aware that this lesson may have an effect upon you, it may influence you, if you take it to heart, even causing you to make some adjustments in your understanding of how your destiny shall be implemented! This is true based on our understanding of how imperative it is to form relationships – as we journey through life. It may not be needed to even say this, yet it is worth saying; because it is when we strengthen a relationship with one person or another, this is when it has a high probability of being a true influence on our attitude of and for life! And a strong likelihood it will also alter our methodology for living life. Consequently, these verses, which the Psalmist shares with us this morning, may truly alter our lives, especially if, we allow it to change our relationship with God even just a little bit!

The really good news is that we can become willing students at any age and at any stage of our lives. While I was in seminary a woman, age sixty-eight, graduated in my class. She later went on to serve her Church and was ordained in the Episcopal Church. I have also witnessed adults, whom having raised their children – putting them through college, then went on to finish their own educations. With this in mind, as we consider the things we may still need and or desire to learn about the ways of God, it is never too late. We are never too old if we are ready to become willing students.

In verse 34 of our lesson we are urged to ask God: “Give me understanding.” It seems evident that most of us, as we reach adulthood, have learned some elements of what it means to have understanding. Yet, we perhaps could all use a refresher course from time to time. And, who knows, we might even learn something new. So, we may want to add this simple prayer into our daily times of meditation. Also, it may be prudent to consider the depth of meaning in this simple word – compassion. As we seek to be truly compassionate we can take a simple survey at how considerate we are for the needs of others. For example: Do we take with us a proper level of concern for the wellbeing of those around us, or do we get caught up in our own needs first, neglecting the feelings or even the real needs of those we are interacting with? An attitude of kindheartedness can go a long way in a scenario of this type. Surely, we all want to come across as sympathetic rather than aloof or coldhearted! It is always important to work at grasping the other persons feelings or needs. Here again is an opportunity to pray to God for a deeper perception of another’s needs.

It is always important to ask for directions. My wife is always pointing out my unwillingness to ask directions. I have been told this is a man problem, yet, I do not believe it is truly only us men whom do not ask directions when lost or are losing our way. During the days of preparation for the storm named Irma, we the people in her way, were being lead and told when to evacuate as this hurricane’s pathway was predicted. The problem with this, is storms of this nature are very much like us: as typical Christians; unpredictable. (Of course, this comment applies to all of God’s children.) We do not like to be lead or told what to do! Therefore, our leaders in governmental posts, like Majors and Governors and chiefs of police and Fire departments, along with Utility chiefs and managers, are constantly trying to move, push even, us unwilling citizens into doing what is best for ourselves and the safety of others. It is no wonder God struggles so with us Christians as well! We are all human!

Our tasks, as good Christians, and as good citizens, and good neighbors is to work at not being selfish in times of chaos, mayhem or crisis. It is at these times, whether it be during preparations for a major storm, or for a simple event like a fund raiser or dinner; it is times like these when we need to put on our community hats; and act in concert with others for the greater good of all! Easy to say, hard to do. You know how hard this can be, if you have ever taken the time to evaluate your own behavior during such events. If we learn nothing else… let us at least learn this! God expects it of us. Our families and friends expect it of us. And most certainly our neighbors will be easier to live with if we worry a bit more about their needs than our own!

The biggest hurricanes to threaten our coastline, and the first one to be on the verge of hitting our great state of Florida in over a decade, may be bringing us many lessons. One of the biggest lessons which may be being offered, for those willing to still learn, is that we need to be humble. Humble in the presence of Mother Nature’s power and unpredictability and humble in the presence of God’s grace and mercy! All we need to do is ask God to keep our big-headedness, our egos in check and know that we all have the potential capacity to work as a team, and with others, for the safety and wellbeing of all! I do not believe God sends storms upon us to weed out the weak and helpless amongst us like a predator stocking their pray. Yet, like my grandfather, I believe God stands at the ready, willing to use any circumstance to teach us something new or something which we have been unwilling to learn!

I pray we shall not have paid too high a price for the lessons learned during this storm. Yet, we all might pray that once the price is paid we shall heed the lessons presented to us. Let us pray we shall honor those whom have lost a lot, and those who paid the ultimate price during this huge storm! With respect and love let us sort through all the possibilities which have been presented to us. May their lessons teach us, to turn more fully to the guidance that God has offered us today, through the words of the Psalmist of old!

Amen.

“Overcome Evil with Good”

Romans 12: 9-21
September 3rd, 2017
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

Scripture:

“Hear now the words of our scripture lesson, as recorded in the 12th chapter of Romans, verses 9 thru 21.”

Romans 12:9-21
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

“Let us allow the Spirit of God to work with our hearts as we discern the meaning of this passage in our lives today.”

 

Sermon:

In the first verse of our lesson, the Apostle Paul proclaims a wonderful yet perplexing oxymoron for us to grapple with today! “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;” /Romans 12: 9/ At first blush this seems to be a simply wonderful doctrine to live by! Yet, this appears to be contradictory to what he tells us to do in verse seventeen. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” /Romans 12:17/ First he tells us to hate evil – then he tells us not to repay evil with evil! How are we to hate, loathe and be repulsed by something, which is evil, but not indulge ourselves by returning it back upon itself!? It sure is easy to hate what is evil. We read about it in the newspapers. We see it on the nightly news. Television dramatizes it for us and makes it into a series for the whole season! Evil is the sinfulness, the immoral and criminal actions of wickedness, which have been plaguing humankind since the beginning! How can we, mere mortals, ‘not’ refund and pay back ‘what has been put upon us’ – in like manner!

It is our responsibilities, as followers of Jesus, to give this apostle named Paul, an opportunity to explain himself. For if we simple look to his words with this ‘attitude’, we will also find ourselves tied into the knots of hatred and evil… destroying everything Christ has worked so hard to impress upon us! We must be careful to not fall into this easily laid trap of words which could cause us, in carelessness, to believe for a moment that Paul would have us back in the Old Testament as written in the ancient Torah of Israel. Which tells us that one must repay evil with evil. “An eye for an eye, it is written!” In the King James Version of the Bible, in the Book of Exodus, chapter twenty-one, “If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” /Exodus 21:23-25/ Clearly, there are some within our own society, even some who seek to do what is right and follow the same doctrines that you and I follow, have fallen prey to this wrong understanding of Paul’s words! Paul, a disciple of Christ, was not saying this to us! Just the opposite! He said hate evil, but do not repay evil with evil! Yes, this is in direct opposition to what is written within the old writings of Exodus! But it conforms completely with the teachings of Jesus!

The Apostle Paul was preaching to the church in Rome that they were ‘yes’ to ‘dislike’ and even ‘loath’ the evil oppression they were under, because of and for their love of Christ. Yet, he was also warning them not to get caught up, ‘in this snare’ which would only ‘drag them down’ into the gutter of evil, with those who would put it upon them! Very, very different mindset than what was written before Christ re-adjusted the focus of these old doctrines. Jesus lifted-up the importance of loving God completely but also to love our neighbors as ourselves. A totally different attitude of ‘how’ to view the old rules of the Torah!

The Reverend Doctor Alan Brehm, of the Hickman Presbyterian Church, in Nebraska, puts forth in his teachings: “Only when we embrace those who do evil in our world with genuine love can we hope to respond to what they do in a way that will bring real change – responding to violence with forgiveness, responding to hatred with compassion, responding to hostility with peace.” /Alan Brehm/ Look again to the words of Paul: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” /Romans 12: 1/ “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” /Romans 12:17a/ Pastor Brehm has the right attitude, the approach to this subject that we all would be wise to consider. We, you and I, we must approach this topic as disciples of Christ, following the teachings of Jesus. If we allow our opinions to be swayed by our human hatred for those evil forces which are at work within our own society and beyond, then we shall no longer represent the positions and teachings of Jesus! This is not about politics, this is about Christianity and all it stands for!

I think we all long for the same destinations, the same goals and objectives. It doesn’t matter the color of our skin, our ethnic backgrounds, rich or poor, gay or straight, we all seek after the common threads of our humanness. We want to be treated fairly, have a good school for our children, and an equal opportunity for jobs. We all want to be able to purse life, liberty and happiness. Sound familiar? “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect.” /Wikepedia/ That begins the list, a list that we all carry or ascribe to in one manner or another. We all struggle with our own humanness and our mortal destinies. We all are programed with different biases and understandings of the world based on the environment and culture we were brought up in and in which we now reside. That’s a fact, whether we like it or not. This is basic. How we reach our objectives and aims in life is a whole different matter. When Paul started writing it seems he was trying to teach the church, and we know that church is synonymous with ‘we the people’. He was teaching about how to live as Christians in a world that was not in sync with our beliefs and doctrines.

Let’s take-a-look at this writing of Paul’s, from this Christian point of view. In so doing let us approach this conversation from where we are today.

Our goals, our destinations are not the primary concerns we need to address nor concentrate on today. First and foremost, we must stay focused on our journeys. In so doing, we shall realize it is in the ‘journey’ itself which is of upmost importance! Ultimately, life is not about the arrival at our goals and objectives – it is, however, all about how we get there, how we conduct ourselves and how we live ‘life’ on ‘life’s’ terms along the way! It will take a lot of hard work, patience, tolerance and an attitude about life which may be out-of-step with the people, the institutions and communities or even the culture where we live, which we are a part of. That’s the hard part. Or, at least, at times, it appears to be. The Apostle Paul’s writings are often striving to assist people, help churches; they are teachings about how to live within the settings which we, which they find themselves in.

Let us listen once more to Paul’s words, words which clearly are meant to teach us ways and attitudes for living which shall help us to interact with others around us with integrity, grace and some degree of decency and hope. “Let love be genuine; hate what is (cruel, mean and even revolting), hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor (and respect). Do not lag (or delay) in (passion and enthusiasm), be (dedicated and committed) in spirit, help(ing) and assist(ing) God… in the work which is to be done. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere (and continue) in prayer. Contribute (give) to the needs of (those who work for the good of the church within this community); extend hospitality to strangers. /Romans 12: 9-13/ This does not sound like a teaching of vengeance or repaying wrong with wrong. It is a formula for promoting the good which was seen within the man Jesus, as he walked amongst the people and taught his understanding of God’s love and kindness; combined with an attitude of forgiveness, recovery, and help; and the freedom which only God can give us through grace and mercy.

You and me, we can be difficult at times. You know that and so do the people around us. Yet, we are, as members of the “Christian” Body of Christ, we are meant to do as Jesus did. Love others unconditionally, forgive our enemies. What did he say when he was dying upon the cross? Was it not “forgive them for they know not what they do.” /Luke 23:34/ One theologians tells us how “The tricky part is that the Body of Christ includes an awful lot of people who are every bit as difficult as we are.” /Sarah Dylan Breuer/ So, there it is, we are not saints either. Sad, isn’t it? We raise up the Saints that came before, just as Christ rose from death. Yet, we find out this awful truth: if we are like the Saints, then they too were not perfect! Remember how Jesus stopped the crowd from stoning to death the woman accused of adultery? “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” /John 8:7/ So what do we do when we realize someone, within our own community, has withheld the truth and out of omission has caused you or another pain? Or out of insensitivity to the feelings of another, said something hurtful about them to others. Paul clearly tells us the answer. “Do not repay anyone (wrong for wrong) evil for evil, but take thought (meditate and think first) for what is noble (honorable, self-sacrificing and principled) in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably (calmly and agreeably) with all.” /Romans 12:17-18/ In other words, Paul is telling us to “take it up a notch” and give back good even when what we receive is bad. Jesus taught us to forgive others, give someone a second chance, rather than condemn them for their humanness, which resides in us all!

Our destiny and our fate will collide somewhere in the future. But the future is not ours to live. That which is yet to come belongs to the winds of the Spirit. Our journeys remain in today, no matter how many todays it takes. Focus on this and the teachings of love, forgiveness and kindness. These are the teachings which lead to the desires of the true follower of Jesus and his early disciples – like the Apostle Paul. And the Psalmist said unto them: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.” /Psalm 23:6/

Amen.

“Transforming Lives”

Romans 12: 1-8
August 27th, 2017
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

Scripture:

“May our ears be attuned to the shifting and moving words of this ancient scripture lesson which the Apostle Paul wrote so long ago for the early church in Rome.”

Romans 12:1-8
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

“Let us now allow the Spirit of the Living God to alter and change the way we view one another – within this body, this fellowship of faith.”

 

Sermon:

Without a doubt, the most amazing thing, in all of Creation, is the body; the human body. Its vast complexity is something which scientists continue to learn about and they are still discovering new things, virtually everyday!! Yes, we learn more about the uniqueness of our bodies all the time! It seems like there is always something new being discussed! I am not personally knowledgeable on the complexities of the human system. But now and then, I read about new understandings and discoveries from the medical field which are presented in that higher language which scientists use! Which means it is important, even if I don’t fully understand all of what I am reading or hearing! Yet, because of these findings new medical processes for trying to improve the quality, as-well-as the length of life seems to continue moving forward! It is no wonder that our scripture this morning uses it as the center piece to talk about how we can come together as faith communities. Coming together, working together to do all which our God has envisioned for us to be and to do! Fascinating, what the possibilities are when we contrast the simplistic and clumsy ways we see our communities, and the delicate and complex structures our Creator has imbedded within our own bodies.

If we could, and if we would start to simply realize how important the wellbeing of our community is, just as we appreciate the importance of caring for our individual bodies, this would be a moment of growth! For no matter where we are as individuals within the communities we live, function and operate in… there is always an opportunity to improve. I do not put this forward as criticism… but as an occasion for each one of us to take a careful and critical look at ‘how’ we might enhance ‘who’ and ‘what,’ we ‘are’ within the larger communities which are intergraded into our lives. We cannot just limit this to our faith community either. This is indeed a good place to practice those new ideas, those new skills and improve this body; but, it is also an opportunity to improve the social systems outside the walls of this church or any church for that matter.

Let us digress for a moment. Most of us begin our educations as children. We first learn to crawl then walk. As time moves forward we learn how to develop and cultivate our motor skills. Great athletes begin training their skills, at a very early age. How often have we seen a picture of a famous athlete, throwing a football or swinging a golf club, as a young child? We go on to learn how to use our vocal cords; first we cry, then we yell a bit, cry some more… and the process begins as we learn to form words and then sentences and by the time we are my age – some of us have forgotten how to stop the flow of words. Yes, sometimes silence is a blessing! Hopefully, along the way, we each learn the proper use of our native languages to effectively communicate with others. And in a similar manner we learn all of the other basics which we humans need to master, one step at a time; one day at a time. Ultimately, we are all expected to learn the basics and start taking care of ourselves first, as we learn how to develop our life styles as adults. And then we get involved in the interactions of different circles of people within our system of life. Clearly, I am only generalizing here, hopefully, you are getting the point of this thought process!

There is an old saying we often hear kicked around as we become adults. “Everything we need to know as adults we learned in kindergarten!” Do you remember some of the things we were taught at that age? Play nice! Don’t hit others. Share with others. Clean up after yourself. Many times, it is apparent we are getting bogged down in the simplest of things, especially when we are interacting with others. You all know what is meant by getting ‘bogged’ down, right? Sometimes we get so caught up in what we want to say to others – we forget to listen to them! Can you imagine! Other times we get stuck on some trivial, petty thing. Usually, this is caused by something someone careless says to us, or about us, and it spoils our ability to interact as we ought! Life isn’t as simple as when we were in kindergarten, but, idealistically, wouldn’t it be great if adults followed some of those basic early guidelines we were given as children?

“When we relate to the people around us with compassion, we find God’s compassion surrounding us all. That’s where we look for God: in ordinary, everyday compassion towards other people.” This simple thought comes from a theologian named Alan Brehm whom I have quoted before. Could it be all that simple? This is like when the nutritionist tells us to only eat foods with vitamins and protein, rather than empty calories with high sugar and or fat content! Be compassionate! Isn’t this like sharing and playing nice, but in grown up language! As adults, we must come to realize that being kind, considerate and actually-caring for others is what Jesus and our early Sunday School teachers taught – all the time!

What is it that the Apostle Paul is trying to communicate to us in this lesson before us today? Looking at verse two we hear how we ought “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” /Romans 12:2/ This is a complex sentence with a lot to consider! The sentence concludes by telling us if we ‘discern’ the will of God, we will be led to know and understand what is good, acceptable and perfect! This means we must distinguish, separate and come to recognize the will of God in our lives, if we are to fully use our human bodies in an acceptable way, thereby being ‘in tune’ to the Spiritual life, which is in-essence a state of perpetual worship! Again, we must fall back upon what we learned early in life. You have heard me say or infer this, many times when I talk with the children. To be in relationship with God, to be connected to what God is wanting us to do, we need to interact and build a communications network between God and ourselves. That’s right, we need to be hooked up to the Spiritual network of God. This is a lot more powerful than this thing we call the internet!

Let’s go back to the first part of that second verse: we ought “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” /Romans 12:2/ Which means we are not to imitate, follow nor adapt ourselves to the ways of the world; meaning the material and physical world. Not if we wish to be in tune with the Spiritual world! Rather, Paul is saying: we are to be transformed! Wow, that is a big word! We are to be changed, converted and made over in a new way! Clearly, Paul is saying to us: if we want to be truly connected to God, in the realm of the spiritual world we must go through a change! It is important to understand that we are not talking about changing our physical selves, for we have already established that God wants us to use our bodies for good purposes. We are talking about the spiritual domain and jurisdiction of the “Heavenly, Mystifying God of Creation!” By imitating Christ in the words, which we use, words filled with kindness and compassion at-all-times. It is then that we shall move closer and closer to this awesome mind changing state of mind and heart! By following in the example Jesus set, in his deeds, helping others, reaching across social norms when necessary to show acts of kindness and mercy, being compassionate towards others always! This will more closely center us in the opportune space – where God’s ‘will’ shall be most often heard and understood.

Hear these thoughts from other pastors. “Paul is clear about the general direction of the journey with Jesus: transformed non-conformity.” /Daniel B. Clendenin/ “When we are free from the obsession with establishing our own importance, we can then see ourselves for who we are.” /William Loader, Murdoch University/ As these clergymen are pointing out, we need to be striving for different values than the crowd we see ‘strutting’ their things and ‘boasting’ of their powers and ‘bragging’ about their talents for all to see and hear! No, as we use our bodies for the good of others and the service of the needy, out of love of God and the children of God, we shall have no need for these self-edifying practices of a selfish people! This is what transformation is all about! It is looking to God for approval and direction; not those we callously, heartlessly and coldly interact with along our journey. The challenge: is to seek a makeover, stepping out of the herd and learning to love with total empathy and compassion; just as we have been taught that Jesus did!

The question is not what are the details and how do all our arteries work? We can leave that up to the medical research teams whom at least know the difference between a vein and an artery! The question we need to reflect on, for our own spiritual wellbeing, is what does God want us to do with our physical bodies, as we work to be more in touch with the ‘will’ of God? This needs to be considered as we get more in touch with the bodies, the communities and the circles of people we interact with, as-well-as the body of Christ to which we have committed to serve and love. Let us strive to come together, with love and kindness for ‘one another’ as we serve from this body of faith, worshipping and praising God! When we do this, then we shall be ready to serve God with gladness and serve God’s children with compassion and love!

Amen.