When we are trying to discern where God is calling us, we need a conversation partner. We need someone whose presence gives us the opportunity to try to express what is going on in our conversation with God.
When life is full of trials and tribulations, I find it hard to bring all my feelings to God. I realize how quickly I edit my feelings. I don’t find it hard to ask God for help during these times. But if the truth be known, during such difficult times the real issue is not just the need for help, but that I am very frustrated and angry with God and I don’t easily go there.
When it comes to acknowledging weakness and failure, the most important thing we forget is this: It is precisely our weaknesses and failures that make us realize how much we need God and other people. In fact, the Christian journey begins when we acknowledge that we can’t go it alone and need help. We don’t receive the waters of baptism as a reward for our strength and virtuous behavior, but as a gift for acknowledging our need for God’s love and mercy.
The psalms of course are the primary school for prayer in the Bible. Many psalms of lament struggle with God's delay in answering prayer, but the usual pattern is that eventually God responds to the cry for help. In Ps. 31 the person in distress felt forsaken, but God eventually heard his cry. "I had said in my alarm, “I am driven far from your sight.” But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help (v.22).” This is the typical pattern in every case except for one, Ps. 88.
A fundamental conviction of the Bible is that no only does God have compassion for those who are hurting, but that God also has the ability to do something about it.
In a previous blog, I mentioned that we have had more people join St. Timothy’s in the last year than any of the previous 25 years that I have been the rector of this church. I bet that if I had all those people in a room discussing why they landed at St. Timothy’s, it would have to do with the combination of the divine and human welcome they received.
So what would it be like to live today governed by love rather than fear. What would it look like today to live trusting that God will provide and therefore we don’t need to be anxious about having enough? What would it be like today to live knowing that we matter whether we succeed or not? What would it be like today to realize that what ultimately governs all reality, and therefore will have its way in the end, is love beyond all imagining?
After 30 years of ordained ministry, I don’t claim to have a clear understanding of why churches grow or decline in membership. However, I do think we often give ourselves, rather than God, too much credit or blame for what happens.
Paul believed that in Christ we have been reconciled to God, and now we have been called to help God reconcile all humanity into a new kind of community. I saw Christ's ministry of reconciliation working through members of St. Timothy’s last Tuesday night.
Early Christians weren’t hated because they were good people; they were hated because their way of life was a judgment on the status quo, and the status quo fought back.