So that’s the setting of the baptism of three thousand new Christians…all before doctrines muddied the theological waters, all before bishops and popes argued over beliefs, before creeds and tests of faith. These three thousand simply wanted to become followers of Jesus Christ, seeking new life through his teachings of love, mercy, justice, and peace. At the same time, their desire for baptism was still rooted in the Jewish tradition.
The Apostle Paul had great respect for the Roman government, even though it finally judged that he should lose his head. He appealed his legal case to the Roman court. He ordered his followers to obey the commands of the government for, he said, they were from God. And his advice has come down to us with the approval of important theologians and millions of faithful followers.
Living with disease for long periods of time promotes greater disability. The consequence of this may be, for the first time in America’s history, children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
In our nation today, and despite our best intentions, racism is still running strong in segments of our culture. But the tide is turning, thanks in part to people of faith who have said “No!” to the driver of racism and discrimination: fear. If fear is the opposite of faith, then it is clear where our allegiances should lie.
Today, the United Methodist Women is a “community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.”
While the crucifixion is the epitome of cruelty, the resurrection is the promise that God is never defeated. When we face cruelty, whether ourselves or others, we can be reminded that God is ever with us and will not allow cruelty to overcome the essence of our life: God with us.
It’s not just what we ‘tell’ or teach… it’s how we LIVE WITH each other – in relationship. Christianity is relational. It’s at the core of who we are. It’s incarnational – as it says in the Gospel of John Ch.1: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…”
When we use the word fear, what are we talking about? Fear, by its very nature, is future oriented. Our sign in front of church this week read, “…fear is the worst of prophets.” That is because fear’s prediction of the future is always negative—the future will be painful.
Loneliness signals a loss. The loss of a valued relationship can be disorienting bringing pain and sometimes panic. For those experiencing grief, loneliness often sets in after everyone has gone home and returned to their regular routines…except you.
Moving through loss is a universal human experience. We call it grieving as if it were some simple emotion that just had to be handled. In fact, grieving brings forth a constellation of emotions that can be confusing and painful.
In its most robust dimension a sense of shame gives a person “a sense of who one is and what one hopes to be.” If guilt concerns what we have done, shame concerns who we are. Guilt addresses correctness, but shame addresses worth.
Aristotle and the ancient Greeks took the view that anger was normative—an ordinary and useful emotion. He wrote, “We praise a person who feels anger on the right grounds and against the right persons and also in the right manner.”
And most certainly, God is found in the commonplace. We need only look beyond what we expect, to see the unexpected. We need only to listen beyond the noise, to hear the music of life. We need only to feel beyond our barriers, to touch another soul with love.