COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. - Book of Common Prayer, p. 219
…Life has a way of just rolling on along, no matter what our experiences or anxieties might be, so the next day the man got up and went to work as normal. And the day after that, and the day after that – well, you get the picture. But he had been deeply affected by his meeting with the stranger in the parking garage, and he looked at things from a little different perspective after that. A face to face with God will tend to do that. He never mentioned the encounter to his wife, but she noticed a change in him- hard to put into words, but still there. He seemed more patient with the children and with her, even with the cat. He was less stressed, even though the general circumstances of their lives had not changed much. They were going to church regularly, almost every Sunday, and they had agreed that they would try to be a little more generous with their regular contributions.
For his part, the man was determined to find out what God wanted from him. He read his Bible regularly each week, attended Christian Education classes at church, went to a regular Bible Study at mid-week with some friends from church. But the more he studied, the more questions arose. He soon learned that that was just the nature God’s word. It could be applied across a broad range of problems and circumstances and across thousands of years, but it was still relevant to today’s situations. God is a master of human nature, and His answers are always right – not easy, but right.
And just how important is the righteousness of God’s word? The man pondered that a lot. God gave us the 10 Commandments, and Jesus gives us a slightly different view of these laws, but as a whole, God’s laws are perfect. While people often have different interpretations of scripture, God’s view of right and wrong seldom allows room for gray. Our trouble is that we just can’t seem to do what we ought, even when we know what the right of it is. We are still just human, and we, like the secular world around us, are almost always selfish and self-centered, and that always leads to disaster. Clearly, scripture provides the “Plumb line,” the standard on which we build our lives. Without God’s perfect guidance, we are lost in a corrupt and confused world.
So the man continued his search for God’s plan for him, for that is what he believed God wanted him to do. How did God want him to treat his neighbors, his friends, his family members, his church family? The man thought he was doing pretty well at that. He didn’t cheat people, worked hard, didn’t cut people off in traffic (well, not very often, anyway), was friendly to those around him. Wasn’t that “good” enough? Then he found the verse that said, in effect, well, even the heathens and Yankees do that! But then he came across one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, and heard in it a different meaning. Jesus was asked “Rabi, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus did not hesitate, but answered “the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it- Love thy neighbor as thy self.” That seemed, to the man, more than a little troubling. How was he supposed to love his neighbors? He didn’t even like most of them, let alone love them. Clearly, he wasn’t there yet. But he kept going back to that passage in John that said that God had sent his only son into this world to save it. Scripture says that God knew how Jesus would be received, how he would be treated, that he would die a gruesome death. God knew this, and yet he did it anyway. Why? Why did he care? The man couldn’t get his head around this, but he knew that this was the key to his understanding of the path God had set before him. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth ………… and it was good. Everything that came into being, He created. And he created man in his own image. God clearly liked what He had brought into being, but man was his favorite creation. But, the man thought, God gave man free will to choose his own path, and it is clear from history and the scriptures that man went astray- often, and for long periods of time. Yet God never gave up completely, only He knows why. Finally, He sent his son, Jesus, a man like us. He did this out of love for us, for his creation. What sort of love is this that God would sacrifice himself for us? Truly, it is a love greater than anything we are capable of without first knowing God’s love in our lives. Finally, the man thought, one answer that he knew was absolutely correct. We can love our neighbors, indeed all those around us, because God has first loved us. There is really no understanding why God loves us that much, but he surely does. The man compared his ability to love to the example God has given the world. He clearly didn’t measure up, knew he never would, but was determined to try …to be continued.