Year B — Trinity Sunday

Commentary for June 3, 2012
Click here for today’s readings

Isaiah 6:1-8
I don’t know that any of us will ever be able to capture or imagine the awe and terror of Isaiah’s vision of a visit to the throne of the Lord. The hem of God’s robe fills the temple; now that’s a big robe!

Seraphim are there, hovering and shouting (though we often think of angels “singing,” the text never really says that they sing.)

The house is shaking and there’s smoke everywhere — much more dramatic than our sanctuaries on most Sundays, I’d say. 

The cumulative effect is that Isaiah comes quite undone. “Woe is me,” is the best hymn of praise that he can squawk out. Something about truly seeing God as holy reminds us deeply and painfully that we are not.

And, yet — the call of God comes: “Who will go for us?” Since there’s nobody else present, Isaiah steps us with one of his most famous lines: “Here am I (gulp); send me.”

The old evangelist used to say, “When it comes to the call of God, it’s not your ability God is interested in. It’s your availability!” I kind of like that, even if it makes me nervous!

Psalm 29
The psalm text offers accompaniment and counterpoint to Isaiah’s grand vision of God.The emphasis is on the commanding, calling “voice of the LORD.”

This voice is not for the faint of heart, yet it is a source of both strength and peace.

Romans 8:12-17
Our readings in Romans 8 continue, opening doors to yet more aspects of the limitless, ever-present Spirit of God. 

  •  The Spirit leads and guides
  • The Spirit “puts to death” our fleshly inclinations
  • The Spirit does not lead us to fear
  • The Spirit allows us to cry out to God, as a young child to a loving, trustworthy father
  • The Spirit assures us that we are, indeed, children of God

John 3:1-17  
We have encountered portions of this reading already through the church year; there is much of note in this third chapter of John’s gospel. On Trinity Sunday, however, perhaps the center of the text is found in v. 8:

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

One of the most difficult illusions for we human beings to give up is that of control over our lives. Experience teaches us that there are really very few things that are within our capacity to control.

Certainly, we do not control the Spirit of God — anymore than we can control the wind. (As I write these words, we are entering the “hurricane season” in Florida with a tropical storm just off the coast. If you’ve ever survived a hurricane or similar natural disaster, you realize just how little control you have!)

That image helps me connect to Isaiah’s experience in our first reading. His experience of God was somewhat out of control, to the point of being terrifying. Much like the roaring of hurricane-force winds and the sound of trees splitting or being ripped up by their roots.

May we not forget the power we are dealing with when we blithely mention the presence of the Spirit, pronouncing the Spirit’s blessings on the lives of those to whom we preach and with whom we minister.

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. Brief attempts to explain the Trinity remind me of my Daddy’s sister, Aunt Mildred. She talked on the phone with her friends a lot; a whole lot. The family joke was that she ended every conversation with the line, “I would tell you more, but I already told you more than I heard myself.”

Our Scripture lessons all make some sort of reference to a trinitarian understanding of the nature of God. Isaiah contains the line, “holy, holy, holy,” which can be stretched into a reference to the trinity if one is so inclined.

Romans says things about crying “Abba, Father,” and being a “joint heir with Christ,” and the “Spirit of God” letting us know that we are children of God.

John’s Gospel contains Jesus’ famous conversation with Nicodemus about being “born from above” and “born of water and the Spirit,” and most memorable of all, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

Nowhere do we find the word trinity or an explanation of how God is both three and one at the same time. Like I said, we have to be careful not to say more than we heard ourselves.

Me, I’m lazy. I use golf theology. Used to play golf with a minister friend of mine and we came up with the term.

We got to thinking about all the people we knew who spent a lot of time on the golf course complaining about their lie, or trying to improve their lie, legally or, most often, illegally and sneakily, moving the ball out of sand traps and from behind tress when they thought no one was looking.

Or they were obsessing about their score, or they were trying to improve their score, or they were lying about their score, etc.

And we realized that neither of us worried too much about all that. We were just glad to be out of the office and out on the golf course, whacking away at the ball in the general direction of the hole.

Then, being preachers, we started thinking of all those pastor friends we knew who were always trying to improve their theological lie, trying to make things make better sense, etc. And we decided that we were golf theologians; we preferred to take things as they came, to play it as it lay, to whack away in the general direction of heaven.


So, rather than spend a lot of time on the philosophical understanding of the Trinity, I prefer to think a lot about the Trinity’s implications for the Christian life.

I like to meditate on the fact that God exists in community, in a family, a family of equals who share one calling and goal and life, but exist within that community and family as unique individuals who are stronger together than they could ever be apart.

That helps me understand the notion of the church better, because if we’re made in the image of God and God needs community, then it makes sense that we need community too; a community that is called together to move in the same general direction, loving each other and serving the world.

And sometimes when I think about the Trinity, I think about how each of us have different spiritual personalities and how some of us respond to Abba, the Father, the Creator, and how others of us really relate to God in Christ, the Son. There are many others who are touched deeply by the Spirit.

It just fascinates me how the idea of the Trinity manages to touch all those spiritual bases and keep them all in balance.

Our calling on Holy Trinity Sunday, is neither figuring out the Trinity nor explaining it.

Our calling is to live the Holy Trinity in our lives and in the holy and loving community we call the church.

AMEN

Year B — Day of Pentecost

Sermon for May 27, 2012
Click here for today’s readings


By the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

A few years ago, USA Today ran a story about the Connie T. Maxwell Home in Greenwood SC in its Life section. 

The article told about how the Baptists of the state had started the home as an orphanage and as times changed had adapted to serving children in any sort of need.

They had an interview with the director, a cheerful but harried woman, who told heart-breaking stories of the children’s lives before they were brought to Connie T. Maxwell. 

The reporter asked how she, and the other staff, cope with such constant stress and pain in others.

The director smiled and said that you had to keep a sense of humor and perspective. She showed the writer a file in her desk where she kept an anonymous collection of cute, poignant or funny things the children had said.

The director said, “Whenever I get over-whelmed, I just open this drawer and read a few of these and I feel better.”

USA Today printed several of the things the kids said. My favorite is this, from a 9 year old boy:
Germs, germs, germs! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! That’s all I ever hear about around here and I ain’t never seen either one of them.

That young boy sums up a problem that Jesus addresses in John 15: 26-27. 

It is Maundy Thursday and Jesus is in the midst of trying to explain everything to his disciples before he leaves. I’m not so sure they’re getting it, and neither is Jesus. 

He realizes that when he’s gone they’ll be like that little boy; hearing and talking about Jesus without ever seeing him. So Jesus promises an answer, a solution to this “Never Seeing Jesus” problem – the Holy Spirit. 

In our text Jesus talks about a “Counselor” and the “spirit of truth,” but it’s the Holy Spirit he’s talking about.

It is likely that the disciples heard that and looked at each other quizzically and nodded like they understood; but they really didn’t and after he quit talking, they promptly forgot what he said. 

We are all familiar with this; it’s what we all do when our husband or wife or boss or teacher or other significant other tells us things we don’t understand and don’t care enough about to ask for clarification.

So, they kind of forgot about it, and then the crucifixion and the resurrection and the hiding out and then the resurrection appearances of Jesus’ popping in and out of their lives for a few weeks happened and then the ascension, with Jesus’ floating off into heaven happened, and in midst of all that, who could remember a little un-comprehended promise about a counselor; I mean, really?

So, here they were minding their own insignificant little messianic Christian storefront cult business, singing hymns and praying and still hiding out from the authorities when whoosh, Jesus’ promise comes gloriously true.

Noise, wind, fire, voices shouting, movement, out of control religious excitement; of one thing we can be absolutely certain; the first church was definitely NOT Lutheran! 

The church was born in answer to the problem of talking about Jesus without being able to see him.


Germs, germs, germs. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That’s all I hear about around here and I ain’t never seen either one of them.

Though I understand what that young boy was talking about, I would beg to differ.

He saw Jesus every day in the very existence of that home, built and supported by the church. He saw Jesus every day in the people who bathed, fed, disciplined, taught and loved him. 

The church is the place and the people where and among whom Jesus is not just talked about but is shown to the world. It is not by accident that the New Testament constantly refers to the church as the body of Christ. 

Too often we think of the church in personal terms, in terms of what I’m getting out of it, of “am I being fed,” “are my needs being met,” etc. 

To think that way is to misunderstand the nature of the church. 

The church is mentioned in the third article of the Creed, the part devoted to the Holy Spirit because the church is a work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

Luther’s explanation of this part of the creed says the church is:

“called, gathered, enlightened, made holy and sent”

The Holy Spirit is active in the church calling the world to God. Each of us has been called here by the spirit. we have been gathered together not for convenience; not because talking to a lot of people at once is more efficient than talking one on one or because we need more voices to make the hymns sound better, or the more people we have the better we can pay the pastor. 

No, we are gathered because it is the nature of human beings to need each other, to need to learn with and from each other, to learn to support and care for each other. 

It is in the midst of the gathered community that we become truly holy, not perfect, not ideal, not without problem or moral struggles and flaws, but holy, devoted to God and aware of God’s presence in us and in others and in the world.

And it is as we have been gathered and enlightened and made holy that we realize that we have not been made those things for ourselves and for our own benefit and for our own personal growth, but for the world. We realize that we have been gathered so that we might be sent, sent into a world that needs love, that needs care, that needs compassion, that needs to see Jesus in the midst of the toxic germs of modern life.

In his book Red Letter Christians, Tony Campolo tells of sitting down to dinner in a restaurant in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Seated next to the front window, he looked up from his plate to discover three little boys with their faces pressed against the window, staring at his plate full of food.

The waiter came by and pulled down the shade and said, “Don’t let them bother you, enjoy your meal.” (P. 24)

There is a world just outside these walls that is starving both for food and for what God has to offer them. And the question is: are we going to pull the shade? Or are we going to get up and go deal with them?

Amen and amen.

Year B — The Seventh Sunday of Easter

Commentary for May 20, 2012
Click here for today’s readings

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
You gotta love Matthias; he is the poster child of unsung heroes of the church everywhere.

It is “The Twelve” that get most of the attention during Jesus’ ministry — and, of course, it is the Big Three (Peter, James, and John) who get the most ink on top of that. After the shocking betrayal of Judas and the hurry-scurry days that followed Jesus’ resurrection, it takes a while for the leadership core to get around to filling out their numbers with another apostle.

An aside — I’ve sometimes wondered why Jesus himself didn’t ask them to pick a replacement for Judas. Was it just not on his radar during his post-resurrection appearances? He certainly had business with Peter (“feed my sheep”) and Thomas (“don’t doubt any longer”) and others who needed him. Or was Jesus just not that concerned with the numbers?

I know that we have a nearly legendary concern for numbers, and reports, balancing the books, filling up committees — sort of ecclesiastically rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, if you know what I mean. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Or is there? Are we consuming a good bit of our time and energy with the functional details of ministry, when we could be spending it on things that are more relational?


At any rate, Matthias is chosen to round out the Twelve. Check his record of consistency and persistence: he had been with Jesus and the other disciples “during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.”

Never held a position, never had a title, never noticed until the moment of need, not even a consensus candidate during the first round of balloting. But, in the end, he was present, available, willing and able. I like the guy…may his tribe increase!

Psalm 1
Psalm 1 is perhaps the clearest presentation of the Hebrew concept of the “two ways” in all of the Bible. Exercising the distinct human gift of free will (choice,) we may follow the way of the LORD — the righteous path — or the way of the wicked.

Both ways have attendant rewards and consequences; both paths require effort. It is the latter point that impresses me as I read Psalm 1 again. We often hear words along the line of, “It’s just too hard to follow God; God expects too much of me; I just can’t keep all those commandments.”

But we fail to realize that it takes a good deal of effort to walk the opposite path — to follow the advice of the wicked, one must first take time to listen; taking the path that sinners tread requires actually walking along that way; sitting in the seat of scoffers doesn’t “just happen.” You have to decide to stop and sit a spell, so to speak.

1 John 5:9-13
John writes very much in line with the concept of the “two ways.”

The church’s testimony has always been, as summarized in v. 11, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” That’s it. Jesus is the Savior of the world. In our fractious dissent (borne of that same pesky free will we just mentioned?), we have often debated just exactly HOW Jesus is the Savior of the world — but never IF.

Whatever the HOW, John holds that the inevitable conclusion is: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Thus, has the church been given a “great commission” to teach, tell, instruct, show, demonstrate and by any and all means get the message out to the world — “believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

John 17:6-19   
Jesus’ prayer of protection for his followers — also known as a prayer for the unity of his followers — is rooted in this same mission of making God known in the world. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.”


Part of the church’s life (at least) is to live in imitation of Jesus; what he does, we seek to do. Making God’s name known — through the life of Jesus — seems to me to be a basic part of the church’s job description.

Who are the ones that God has given us from the world? Who are we to pray for, protect, love, minister to? In whom — and in what ways — is God making our joy full as we share the life of Jesus?

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
 

Jesus prays in John’s Gospel, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
We are called to be united as the community of faith; yet we look around us and see much disunity and division in the churches.
One of the churches I served in North Carolina had had a church split in the 1890’s. It involved hurt feelings and loud meetings and even a Synod President (now called a bishop) threatened with arrest. After the dust settled there were three churches where for the previous 150 years there had been one.
Most of us agree that we want unity, we desire oneness. We lament the divisions and debates that drive us apart, we do not want to be divided, yet all too often, we are.
Why? In the face of our Lord’s command and our desire, why do we so frequently find ourselves at odds with each other?
The witness of Scripture is pretty clear on two points here:
1) Our disunity springs from seeking to do things our own way, and
2) The path to unity and oneness lies in seeking to do things God’s way.
Many hundreds of years before Christ, King Solomon built a temple, a place for the people of God to gather in worship.
II Chronicles 7:14 tells us of God’s response to King Solomon’s prayer of dedication:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.
Time and time again when the people of God lose their focus on God, trouble ensues. This trouble is not punishment from God; it is the natural result of what are essentially spiritual beings failing to attend to necessary spiritual things.
It is in unity with the holy, the divine, the spiritual, that we find wholeness within ourselves and unity with each other.
The words atone and atonement have an interesting history in English. We generally speak of atoning for our sins as somehow doing something to earn forgiveness, or performing some act of penance or restitution to make up for the bad that we have done.
In theology, atonement has become the name for the doctrine of what God in Christ accomplished by his death upon the cross.
What’s interesting is that the English root word doesn’t exactly mean making up for or paying for one’s sins or mistakes or crimes. The root word means “reconciliation.”
It comes from the Middle English atonen “to become reconciled” and from the French at on “in harmony” at +on = one (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, p.56).
How do we achieve unity, oneness, harmony? With God and with each other? Well, it seems obvious it begins with Christ and the cross.
Jesus stood amongst his disciples at the Last Supper and prayed that they might be one.
Then he went out and did something about it. He reconciled, he harmonized, he “at-oned” us.
Christ made us one with God and one with each other.
My favorite professor at the Lutheran Seminary in Columbia, SC, Dr. J. Benjamin Bedenbaugh defined God’s act of reconciliation as “God hugging the world to himself in an embrace of love.”
(Classroom lecture, Spring 1983)
God has made peace with us and, by extension, between us. If we are one with God, then we are also one with each other.
Dr. Paul Tournier, author of THE MEANING OF PERSONS has been quoted as saying: There are two things we cannot do alone. One is to be married, and the other is to be a Christian.”
We need to be one with one another within the body of Christ, the church, if for no other reason than without it we cannot learn to love and to be loved alone.
It is within the daily bump and grind of life together, of living and working and playing and praying together as the people of God that we find out what it means to be genuinely forgiven for our failures, praised for our efforts, appreciated for our virtues, prayed for in our sorrows, helped in the midst of our troubles, and loved in spite of ourselves.
It is only within the community of faith that we learn to be genuinely loving and praising and forgiving and helping toward others. We need each other in order to learn and to practice what it means to be Christian, to each other and to the world.
Our calling today is to do all that we can to be agents of at-one-ness. It begins here and goes spilling out those doors into the world, walking out of here with arms wide open, seeking to embrace the world with love of God.
Amen and amen.

The Ascension of Our Lord

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
. . . he ascended into heaven,” APOSTLES’ CREED and NICENE CREED
The story of the Ascension doesn’t get a lot of attention in the life of the church. I think this is because it is somewhat hard to see the point of it. Laying aside all the standard, modern, empirical doubts about the resurrection appearances themselves, there is still the question of why?
If Jesus was resurrected and if Jesus could flit here and there in his new resurrection body, appearing and disappearing at will as if he had Scotty from Star Trek beaming him about, why would he pull this somewhat theatrical stunt of floating off into heaven, like the Wizard taking leave of Oz in his balloon? Why didn’t he just say good-bye and go?
Well, for one thing it was important that when he went to “sit at the right hand of the father,” people knew that he was really gone this time. Gone and not coming back until he came back for good, came back to “judge the living and the dead.” If he had just disappeared again, well there would have been more Jesuses seen in Jerusalem than Elvises in Las Vegas. It’s difficult to get busy with the important business of loving the Christ in your neighbor if you are constantly on the lookout for another resurrection appearance.
The Ascension of Our Lord is the completion of his resurrection. Christ came from God to take on our flesh, our life, our troubles, our sin and yes, our death. In the mystery of the Three Days, sin was removed and death was defeated. For forty days Jesus walked and talked among the believers, making sure they knew that this new life was real and not imagined. And then he went back to God, in the spirit and in the flesh, fully human and fully divine forever and ever, amen.
And he left us here. We were all, in one sense, left behind. We were left but we were not abandoned. The Ascension marks the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus and prepares the way for the birth of the church with the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Up until this moment the Gospel has been about what God in Christ has done for us; from this day forth the Gospel is about what God is Christ is doing through us in the world.
This need to get on with ministry is reflected in Acts, “While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” (Acts 1:10-11, NRSV)
Every time I read that I remember being twelve years old and doing, or rather, not doing, my chores. I can hear my father come around the corner of the barn or see him suddenly appear beside me in the field. He would scowl and look disappointed and said, “What are you doing just standing there? Get busy; we’ve got a farm to run.” In the same way, we are reminded to stop looking up and to start looking around at the work we are called to do, at the world full of hurting people who need to hear and feel the love of Jesus in their lives.

Year B — The Sixth Sunday of Easter

 Sumus paenitet!

Sometimes, the Bubbas just get busy. We, too, are working pastors and the Lectionary Lab deadline occasionally gets pushed back for other “life events.” We’ll try not to be late on future editions, but, as Forrest Gump said about the doggie deposit on the bottom of his running shoes: “It happens!”

Commentary for May 13, 2012
Click here for today’s readings

Acts 10:44-48
“Surely God just can’t bless THEM!”

The “them” blank has been filled in with lots of suspects in Christian history. There are always people that “we Christians” are just sure reside outside the grace of God. In Acts 10, it was the uncircumcised believers; in our time, it could be Republican believers, or Democratic believers; upper 1% believers, or 99% believers; gay believers, or straight believers; “Muslim-loving” believers, or Christian-supremacist believers.


Of whom might it be said that you (or your congregation members) would be astounded to know they had received the gifts of God by the Spirit?

Psalm 98
Isn’t the Bible just absurd sometimes? I mean, come on — seas “roaring” and waves “clapping their hands?” Will the earth really “break into song” and put forth a few paeans of praise? Everybody knows you can’t take this stuff literally — right?


I love Bible texts like Psalm 98, precisely because they are absurd — absurdly wonderful! Let us join the cacophony of praise!

1 John 5:1-6
Well, I hope we’re getting the idea the “love” is important to God! These Eastertide readings from John — nicknamed the “Beloved” disciple — have emphasized over and over again just how tightly bound God’s presence in the world is to our expressions of love.

What’s love got to do with it? Everything, apparently.

John 15:9-17
Key points from John 15:

  • Jesus’ love for us is his imitation (much more than the sincerest form of flattery!) of God’s love for him; that is to say, Jesus learned love from the one he named his Heavenly Father. When he loves us, he’s just passing along what he’s always known!
  • Keeping the commandments of Christ always issues forth in one distinguishing way: love for others. If our actions and/or words are not loving, oughtn’t we pause to consider where they might be originating?
  • Jesus gives loving one another the force of a commandment (it’s not a suggestion, or merely an example.)
  • Jesus chose us — not vice versa.

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
 

Writing in USA Today, Presbyterian Pastor Henry G. Brinton made a helpful “two kinds of Christians” argument. Or rather, he argued that each of us carries two, often contradictory, religious impulses: 1) obligation-keeping and 2) liberation-seeking.(1)

I have found this a helpful tool for thinking about my faith. I have begun to ask myself: “Which of my religious notions is based in obligation-keeping and which are rooted in liberation-seeking?” Pro-life or pro-choice, peace-activist or military defender, capitalism versus socialism, science and religion; which impulse rules in what areas?

This week’s lessons pose an interesting opportunity to play with this question. In both the second reading from I John and the gospel lesson from John 15, we get a lot of obligation keeping language, “I command” and “obey his commandments” and “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

On the other hand, the Acts lesson is about all kinds of liberation. Peter becomes liberated from his notions about the Gentiles and their need to follow certain rules and regulations in order to be accepted by God. And the gentile believers get liberated from a potentially very uncomfortable surgical procedure and a restrictive diet. Peter also discovers that God pours out the Spirit on whomever God chooses, strangely ignoring us and our traditional notions of other people’s readiness for our level of holiness.

Peter verbalizes this shift from obligation-keeping mode to liberation-seeking mode when he says “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

The tricky thing is balancing somewhere on the tightrope between obligation keeping and liberation seeking. Most of us know that pure obligation-keeping religion leads to an oppressive, stifling, regimented legalism that creates communities of faith with blinders on, unable and unwilling to respond either to the world or to God’s new movements of the spirit.

On the other hand, pure liberation-seeking leads to “tossing to and fro on the winds of doctrine,” seeking the next new thing (whatever it is) that will turn us loose from whatever restrictions we wishes to be released from.

When I was in college I was what I now jokingly call a Metho-Bap-Terian, a generic mainline Protestant with a toe in several churches and my heart and commitment in none. Feeling called to ministry, but not knowing which “company” to sign up with, I went to one of my religion professor for help. He didn’t give me an answer but he did give me a tool for thinking. (Good professor, right?)
He told me that almost any decision in life is about finding a balance between two equally valuable things: freedom and security. Basically the freer you are, the less security you have and vice versa. A system whereby clergy are appointed to their churches is very secure, but there is little freedom. A pure call system is very free with an almost complete lack of security.
Many times we try to increase our feelings of security with God by trying to restrict both our and God’s freedom. We try to draw inviolable lines of what’s okay and what’s not okay; of who’s in and who’s out; of what God can and can’t do.
And it is very scary to embrace the freedom that comes with realizing that those lines are fuzzier than we thought, and that God, being God, is free to do as God pleases and to love whom God loves whether we like it or not.

The command to love is probably as good a balancing point as any. My Mama told me once that Jesus had to command us to love one another, because love is not easy sometimes. If it were easy, no commands, no orders would be necessary. As it is there are times when we need the command to love so that we continue to behave in loving ways, even when we don’t feel like it. Thanks Mama.

G.K. Chesterton said somewhere, “Jesus told us to love our neighbors. In another place, he told us to love our enemies. This is because, generally speaking, they are the same people.” Again, the command is very, very clear because the task is very, very hard.

So, what is it that the gospel calls to today? Some of us may need to think about establishing a few guidelines, obligations so to speak, for our lives. A little discipline never hurt anybody. Think of it as diet and exercise for the soul.
But most of us need to think through and change whatever attitudes and behaviors we are carrying around that may be protecting our own feelings of security but which are hampering the God-given freedom of others.
The story is that sometime during the early days of the reformation, someone insisted to Luther that the “obligation” to go to confession and to attend mass every week had to be retained. “If we don’t require it, people won’t come,” they said.
Luther replied, “Well, that is just the risk we will have to take for the freedom of the gospel.”
The question today is, “What risks are we called to make for the freedom of the gospel?”
Amen and amen.
(1) USA Today, May 8, 2006