Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Greatest Truth

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost - July 24, 2011
Romans 8:26-39, Psalm 119:126-136
Gospel of Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

In his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, begins with these words: “Life is difficult.”

He continues, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”1

If, according to M. Scott Peck, “Life is difficult is a great truth,” than an even greater truth – in fact, the GREATEST TRUTH – is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”2

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.

This lesson, this Greatest Truth, was taught to the children at our Vacation Bible School. They learned that “God loves us no matter what.” God loves me no matter what. God loves you no matter what. GOD LOVES US NO MATTER WHAT!
Life is difficult. God loves us no matter what.

As individuals we may have regrets, guilt, anger, fear and frustration over what we’ve done and left undone, things we’ve said, ways we’ve hurt others, relationships that have failed, disappointments over not being or doing enough. The list could go on and on.

Life is difficult. God loves us no matter what.

As Americans we are challenged by rising gas prices, high unemployment rates, poverty and hunger, and a government that
cannot seem to find a way forward to deal with the debt ceiling and the economy. It seems that the rich – corporations and people – are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Did you know that thirty-seven million Americans, one in eight, rely on food programs for meals and groceries? This includes more than 14 million children!

Life is difficult. God loves us no matter what.

Internationally, people are dying because of the drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Norway is mourning the senseless deaths of 85 people. Southern Sudan is struggling to become its own country independent from Northern Sudan. Japan is recovering from the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Haiti is still rebuilding from the January 2010 earthquake. And wars rage in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world.

Life is difficult. God loves us no matter what.

Three years ago, the summer before my senior year at seminary, I had the great fortune to travel to South Africa. I spent two weeks traveling through the Diocese of Christ the King, south of Johannesburg, with clergy and the Diocesan HIV and AIDS Coordinator. I visited villages that bordered main highways to and from Jo-burg where houses were built of cardboard walls and tin roofs. The water supply was a communal faucet system in the center of the village where people, often children, filled large plastic containers and used wheelbarrows to transport the water back to their homes. Extension cords were strung from the electric poles and provided some power for hot plates for cooking. Grandmothers walked everywhere with babies tied with blankets to their backs. I learned that many of the mothers had died because of AIDS so the babies were being cared for by the grandmothers. I visited orphanages where babies, toddlers and infants, often children who were infected with HIV, lived twenty to a room. And I saw churches that were bursting at the seams, even with cardboard walls and tin roofs, because in spite of all the poverty, hardships and difficulty, people still gather together every Sunday to worship and celebrate the Greatest Truth that nothing separates them from the love of God.

Jim Wallis, the head of Sojourners, reflects on the Romans passage and says:

‘Paul assumes that weakness, conflict and hardship are normal for the Christian life, and for that matter, human life’. The promise of this passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans is not that God will remove the difficulties in life, but that God will continue to love us through them. People who accept the difficulties of life and find God’s love in the midst of them become wise, healed, joyful and whole people. 3

And isn’t that what we want? To become wise, healed, joyful and whole people. I certainly want to become wise, healed, joyful and whole. But I am imperfect and I fall short and I get caught up in the difficulties of life.
When regrets, guilt, anger, fear, frustration, failed relationships and disappointments threaten to overwhelm us, remember God loves you no matter what. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can ever stop God from loving you. This is the greatest truth.

The question is do you believe it?

1. M. Scott Peck, MD, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
2. Romans 8:38-39.
3. Jim Wallis, The Unshakable Promise of God. Preaching the Word: an online resource for preparing sermons and scripture reflections based on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I’m writing this on Wednesday, July 6, the first day South Summit Avenue and the high school parking lot is closed. In a way, I feel excited. After all, this is what we’ve been preparing for and waiting to happen since the end of the school year a few weeks ago. In a way, although I’ve never been pregnant, it feels like we’ve been through a first pregnancy and have finally given birth. We think we’re ready for this new, unknown experience, and while we’ve done our best to prepare we are certain that there will be challenges and missteps, and yet, there will also be exciting opportunities and joys that we can hardly imagine.

Yes, I believe there will be exciting opportunities and joys through this time of great transition and parking challenges. But like anything else, we must be attentive to the possibilities that good will come out of this time of transition. And we must be patient. The high school renovation project and our Ascension House parking lot project are going to take time. There is nothing we can do to rush either of these projects. We cannot wave a magic wand and be transported into the future when construction is completed.

No, we are going to have to adjust during this time of transition. Like having a newborn, our ways of doing things are going to be adjusted whether or not we’re ready for them or like them! We may lose some sleep and discover muscles we haven’t used in a while as we leave earlier to get to church and walk from remote parking lots on Sundays.

But we have the power within ourselves and among ourselves to use this time as an opportunity to strengthen our community. We might use this time to get to know one another on our walks to/from the parking lots to church and as we carpool together from our neighborhoods. We have a great advertisement program for Ascension in the construction that is happening! Why not invite your friends and neighbors to experience this vital and diverse parish community?

We can either look at this time as a time of growth and opportunity or a time of loss and insurmountable challenge. The choice is yours. I, for one, hope you celebrate with me this time of new birth, of exciting opportunities and of joys that we can hardly imagine.

~ Rev. Beth