The messages from our Epistle and Gospel readings today really slam the rich who live totally for themselves and do little or nothing to help those in need and less fortunate. For those who love and are driven by wealth, their eternal lives are destined for an awful existence—that IS the really blunt message! These people have been warned many times before, and there is no more to say about it. Instead, the epistle says, “Shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called.”
Ok, I’ve covered our readings for today—I’m glad that is done! It’s ironic that about 4 years ago on this same Sunday of the year I preached about how a rich person can obtain eternal life—a different Gospel reading about the rich young ruler—but with a positive view of how to carry out God’s work.
I really struggled this week in coming up with some great revelation or new meaning from our readings, and finally decided to do something different. I miss being in the weekly Bible studies to talk about our readings, and hear all of your thoughts and insights to help come up with useful things to share when preaching on Sundays. So, lacking this help, I decided to talk about something I think is very meaningful for us in this time together—how do we all cope with our everyday lives—both the tough times and the great ones.
All of us deal with a variety of issues every day that challenge us, especially emotionally and spiritually. Jim and Candy Miller and their family and friends are dealing with the tragic loss of their son in the past two weeks. For the past several months and years some of our own people—Brad Creamer, John Tennefoss, Wanda Wahl, and Natalea Brumfield—have had to deal with their various cancer diseases and treatments. Dorothy McMeekin for years has had to work through the slow process of Alzheimer’s and finally the death of her husband John, while also having her own major health issues. Within our church family we have people dealing with divorce, children with distressing issues, other ongoing health concerns, job shortages, and money problems—just having enough to live in a reasonably way (not extravagantly) and just real poverty. And, whether we admit it or not, we have some differing opinions about how this country should live together—its culture, politics, morality, education, entertainment, raising children, and religion’s place in all of this.
Some would say all of this is just life as it is, that everything is never all positive and that bad things do happen. In response to all of this, people have various ways to cope. Some, maybe better than others. Such measures as alcohol and drugs, dropping out of society, wasting money on things which make one feel better but are also taking away from covering basic needs, dropping into depression—these provide maybe short term relief, or only a way to just get away from the problems for a while.
What do you all think is the answer? How do we find peace and help when we struggle with what life has brought us?
(Responses: Prayer, Other members of the church community, Helping others to bring one along and not dwell on own problems.)
The obvious answer, since we are in a church and worshipping God, is to turn to or remember our faith, and rely on prayer and the Bible to find that which will help us “get through” and “move on”. But there is more to this answer than just having a faith, prayer and some readings.
I believe our God has provided us with much more than just a faith directive and some words recorded a long time ago for us to live by. First, God has given us intelligence and reason, which can help us think through problems and research and discuss with others the best way to proceed. Also, God has given us lots of people who make it their life’s work or who are just determined to help with our issues and problems. Social workers, physicians, mental health specialists, finance experts, spiritual advisors—ministers and other people leading faith groups, local workers who operate food and clothing banks and missions where needy people can go.
One of the most important things God has given us is—each other!!! Whether it is our own families, neighbor or friends, our co-workers, those we know through community organizations or societies, even those we may know better through our internet and other media connections, these are people who we rely on and confide in as we deal with our daily lives. Someone once wrote, “No man is an island!” That may be the most profound thought ever written, and I could probably find somewhere in the Bible where this concept is brought out, but of course it is focused on not being alone because of our relationship with God. I agree with this, but also I believe that God gave us each other to live with and to support each other.
Recently I read that one of the possible turnoffs for new people to come to a church and to join is when they encounter a church that describes themselves by using the word “family” a lot. You know—“we are a nice church family, and you are invited to become one of us” (which might imply just like us). I submit that we are probably nothing like a secular family in many ways, and much like one in others. The word nice maybe isn’t the most correct descriptor to use for any church membership—there are the same personalities and egos and mindsets in churches that exist in most families, and these can clash, as well as support and boost each other. My point here is that it might be a stretch to call us a church family, but my hope is that we can live together in such a way that we all feel we can be supported in our times of trouble, and also share each of our joys. And our faith in God helps this to come about, as we come together for worship and prayer and praise. For us all, we are here for each other as well as to receive that which God gives us to know that in going into the rest of our daily lives we can function with confidence, yet also have compassion for those we meet along the way.