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Finish! (Sermon June 28, 2015)

2 Corinthians 8:7–15 (NRSV)leap-joy-medium

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written,

“The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Although I am sure everyone’s minds have pulled various directions this week due to the topics on the news, I would like us center down for a moment and focus on faith, truth, and the holy rhythm of life that Jesus taught us. I challenge each of us, including myself to center on this because if the holy lifestyle of Christ is not at the center of our lives every moment of every day we will look at current events, and every other aspect of life there skewed lenses of personal perception.

Paul wrote these words to a community that was saturated with icons of entertainment and luxury. A culture that was devoted to commerce, athletics, sensual pleasures, and religious devotion. I want us all to remember the last statement I mentioned the most. Corinth was a devout city. Their entire culture revolved around their religious devotion. It permiated every aspect of their lives and livelihoods. Their athletic games were religious celebrations, their commerce was a blessing of their deity, and they gained great pleasure at their places of worship. They in many ways were not unlike us. The main difference was the deity they honored.

They lived and breathed their faith, it was something that affected every aspect of their lives. And Paul visited them and shared the Gospel of Christ. When he spoke to them, he spoke to them in terms that they would understand. He likened the holy lifestyle of Christ to the training an athlete would engage in while preparing for the games, a life of discipline and devotion. Not one that is easy but requires sacrifice and work. He then went deeper letting them know that this holy lifestyle we know as being a disciple of Christ focuses on loving God, embracing the Spirit’s leading and gifts, and living the love of Christ with others. He begins to speak with a language that they understand and then he goes deeper and deeper until the rhythm of God has so saturated their being that it begins to flow out of them to others.

Our mission in this Meeting is similar to that of Jesus and Paul, of all the apostles and the Church throughout the world. Our mission is to completely saturate individuals in the love and devotion to Christ to the point that that love will ooze out of us and flow to others within our community. This is why we considered our mission statement with careful consideration and discernment. Our mission statement, the statement we declare each week is, that we are a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. It was not something that came out of worldly leadership manuals, but it emerged among us as a group through prayer, careful consideration, and discernment. And that mission is constantly being supported though scripture.

I declare to you that our mission has not changed, and it will not change. I will continue to encourage everyone I meet to love God, embrace the Holy Spirit, and to live the love of Christ with other where ever I am and with whomever I am with. It is a mission centered on building the relational kingdom community that Jesus began centuries ago and pass on to those that follow him, first in Jerusalem, then to Judea, and to the ends of the Earth.

I say that this is our mission statement, but it really is not ours alone. It is the vision of Christ, it was the mission of Christ, with the foundations that go down to the very beginning of time. It has always been God’s mission to bring mankind back into relationship with him, to restore and redeem the world that was once launched into chaos by our first parents, when they sought to be gods instead of living life with God.

I say all of this because Corinth was a devoted city. Paul introduced the gospel of Christ to them and many embraced the Holy lifestyle that Paul showed them through his life and ministry. Yet they veered off course. They allowed the things to distract them. They once lived with a holy rhythm but they allowed that rhythm to get out of sync, and the beatings of their hearts stopped mimicking that of Christ and began instead to reflect something else entirely. Their heart beat with rhythms of commerce, games, and pleasure once more yet they still held to religious devotion.

Paul tells them, “[You] excel in everything – in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” These people were amazing people. Ancient myths speak about great kings that could turn everything they touch into gold, well these people could do this. They excelled in everything. If they had a goal set before them they could make it happen. That is what built their city, and their culture, if they decided to do something they did not just do it, they did it in such a way that it was great! Paul tells them this because he knows and they know that it is true. But with that statement he challenges them too.” [We] want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” The undertaking he is challenging them with is to devote all of that excellence into supporting the continued ministry of Christ.

In many ways Corinth pulled away from the larger church, they pulled away from engaging the culture in which they lived, and their message began to suffer because of it. They pulled away from the church because they had issues that they needed to deal with at home. In the first letter Paul sent to them he called them out on many areas of their individual and communal lives that had strayed from the rhythm of Christ. Because of this they tightened their belts and used their excellence to become a more devote church. They focused on making themselves better, exceling in speech, in knowledge and eagerness live correctly. Paul and the Church as a whole loved them for their devotion, but through this excellence they neglected a very important aspect of devotion to Christ, they neglected living the love of Christ with others. We might see that as being a minor thing. They had excellent worship services, they had excellent theology, excellent dedication to right living we might say they turned themselves into the model church after being the example of what not to do. But in all that excellence they dammed up the flow of grace to the world.

When we neglect living the love of Christ with others we cause the grace of God to become stagnat and the church fails. We fail because the church is not about perfect worship, it is not about perfect theology it is about His will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven. His will is to redeem and restore all of creation back to harmony with each other and with God once again, uniting Heaven and Earth through the hearts of mankind. Paul is saying to them join with us in this generous undertaking. Join with us as we allow the grace to flow to the people God loves and gave his Son to redeem.

As I reflect on this passage my mind wonders to the Gospel of John and the third time Jesus, well the third time John records Jesus meeting with the disciples. Peter and the other fishermen decided that they were done with waiting around in the upper room and return to their fishing boats. They labored all night with no return and in the morning Jesus calls out to them from the shore and tells them to throw the net over the right side.  They were each struck with a case of Déjà vu, and they come to the shore to eat with him. After the meal Jesus talks with Peter, asking if he loves him and peter answers three times that he does. With each answer Jesus encourages Peter to feed his lambs, tend His sheep, and to feed His sheep. This story is the very passage that God used to call me into the ministry I have pursued for the past thirteen years. And it is the passage that often Jesus brings me back to when He again reassures me that I need to continue down this path. But as I reflect this week I am drawn to the encouragement that Jesus gives to Peter, feed the lambs, tend the sheep, and feed the sheep. This is a call to get involved personally, and generously with the people. Feed, tend, and feed some more. This is a calling to live the love of Christ with others.

Paul, like Jesus to Peter, is challenging the people of Corinth with the question “Do you Love me?” He is not commanding that they participate in the outreach ministry of Apostles, but he is challenging them to consider their faith, devotion, and love for Christ. If you were to read the verses prior to this section you would find that Paul mentions the ministry of the churches in Macidonia and the way they had greatly advanced the kingdom even though they were impoverished, and Paul then asks the people of Corinth if their faith and love for Christ compares to theirs. They had and still have nothing yet they gave it all. Is your love any less?

“Do you love me?”  Jesus asks his disciple. “Do you love Him?”  Paul asks the people of Corinth. Do we love him, do we trust and believe to such a degree that we would be willing to not only love God and embrace the Holy Spirit, but to live the love of Christ with others? Do we not only love but do we trust Him? Do we entrust into his care our very lives and livelihoods? Will we be willing to give all that we have to excel in this generous undertaking?

All have sinned, all have been distracted from God, and all including each of us have allowed things both righteous and unrighteous to disrupt the holy rhythm of our lives with God. Yet while we were still and in some cases are still sinners Christ died for us. He left his lofty thrones in heaven to dwell among mankind on earth. He lived among us showing us what life with God looks like, and he did it while living in poverty. He grew up living and working with a handy man, he entered ministry after an entire career in that line of work, and he did it to show us how to live. And then he took on our sin, our guilt, and our shame hanging them on a cross and then burying them within a tomb. The wages of sin are death, but Christ came so that they may have life and have it abundantly. We are dead in sin but in Christ we are alive, made new, and have the hope of heaven even when we are on earth. Paul asks us, “do we love him, is our love for him any less than theirs?” Paul then encourages them to finish what they started. Finish strong like an athlete that has been well trained and disciplined for the race. Finish it. Do not let the world distract us from our vision and our mission. Let our vision be centered on Christ, and let our mission continue driving us to be a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. Let us finish what we started…what He started in us, let us join and finish with excellence the generous undertaking set before us, sacrificing everything so that the world might see life in Christ.

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Open Wide Your Hearts (Sermon June 21, 2015)

2 Corinthians 6:1–13 (NRSV)

Beckmann, Max, 1884-1950 Boston, MA

The Tempest Beckmann, Max, 1884-1950
Boston, MA

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,

and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13 In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

What is faith in God? What does it mean to be a Friend of truth, of God, and of man? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What is the purpose of the Church?  I hope that these questions have risen in your heart and your mind a few times as you have personally walked along the pathways of faith. I hope that you have questioned your faith for a reason. If we do not question our faith, if we do not challenge ourselves or our beliefs, do we actually believe anything?

Paul tells the people of Corinth not to accept the grace of God in vain. To me he is also challenging them to question or examine their faith. The term vain is an interesting word. It means without content, hollow, useless and careless. So when Paul speaks to these people he is challenging them to examine their lives of faith, to take a look inside themselves and their community, to investigate their actions and motives to see if they are hollow or filled.

This very idea probably scares many of us, frankly it scares me, because it requires that each of us must face the truth of ourselves and humbly walk before God. What if when we gaze into our lives of faith we find a void?  This prompts many of us to fear self-examination, to neglect it, and we begin to live a life of vanity. A hollow empty existence, where we have lied to ourselves about our faith and devotion of God, while in reality there is nothing there.

This is the very thing that the early Friends challenged their countrymen about when they began forming their religious society. I am reminded of George Fox’s testimony of his spiritual journey, he eagerly sought direction and encouragement from the religious leaders throughout his travels each gave advice to quiet his passions yet all left him empty and hungry for more. One advised him to find himself a wife to divert his attention and to fill the void he was feeling with the passions and responsibilities of a family. Another told him to seek mental care through the use of tobacco and bloodletting.  While the third flew into a fit of rage because George stepped off of the pathway in the garden and crushed a leaf of one of the precious plants the priest was tending. Each of these men were respected individual within the religious community, they were people that George himself thought would be the ones that could answer the questions he had about his spiritual life. Yet their spiritual direction was distractions. Make a family, do drugs, or find fulfillment in temporal and material pursuits.

I imagine that the young George Fox probably felt as if the whole idea of faith was empty if the best advice given by the spiritual leaders is the same advice he could have received from anyone on the street or in the pub. He took his Bible and he walked out into the fields, broken, searching, and wondering.

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” Paul reminds the faithful of the words that God spoke to the prophet Isiah centuries before. Centuries before even the life of Jesus. And yet those words speak not only to those faithful from the Hebrew believes but also to the gentiles among the community. Fox described this as a day of visitation. A moment in time where the spirits of man and God brush together, a crossroad at which those journeying must make a decision of which direction they will proceed. Paul tells the people of Corinth that they are at one of those crossroads in faith.

Our spiritual journeys are filled with several of these crossroads. At times it seems as if every moment of every day is yet another day of visitation challenging us to make some sort of decision. It should not surprise us that so many in the faith communities question, examine, and decide to either stay or leave communities of faith.

This is where the Church is important. Those days of visitation can be very difficult to endure. The Church as a whole is probably one of the greatest days of visitation it has ever faced. We as individuals and a communities are facing pressures from within and without the church demanding attention. Does this mean we need to withdraw and retreat? Not in the slightest. It means we need to examine ourselves and our church meetings to determine if maybe we are being vain or being honest. We need to come back to the center and focus again on the most important aspects of our faith traditions and stop trying to be things we are not.

Paul explains this as putting out no obstacles, this is a very confusing term because on the surface we would assume that these would be legalistic rules that keep people from finding acceptance within a community. Hoops of requirements that we require people to jump through before they are found acceptable. This might be the case, but it goes deeper than that. This term is one that is personal; causing one to stumble, causing spiritual hurt, or causing offense. Think about that for a moment. The obstacles that Paul is speaking of are relational or the lack there of. Some might consider this to be liberal in theology, watering down the truth or even succumbing to the world, but before you jump to that conclusion remember who these people were that were reading this letter.

The people of Corinth were fixated on the feeding of their own personal desires. They worship the goddess of love, the partied around athletic events, and their livelihoods depended on trade and the servicing of the traders. Yet Paul says to them do not become offensive when you participate in the ministry of God. The call of God and the call of the culture are on very different edges of the spectrum of life for these people, but do not be offensive do not cause pain, or someone to stumble. In my mind I cannot really grasp how Paul expects us and them to not provide an obstacle to these people. It is impossible to preach the gospel and not be offensive to the world, without relationship with God and humanity being the goal.

Paul is urging them to go out in ministry, go out living the love of Christ with other, build friendships with the people of the world and show them a different lifestyle. Friends would call this living a sacramental life, fully devoted to God. Speaking through our actions as well as with our words. If we fail to live the love of Christ with others we will always be an obstacle, our words will fall on deaf ears because we have not given them a reason to listen. Without building a relationship, an authentic relationship where we accept them for who they are first and then encourage them to walk with us as we follow Christ, we are empty of the truth and they will only see us a judgmental bigots.

Paul then provides a testimony as to how to live life with others; endure the hardships, face the riots, the beatings, go hungry so others might have something to eat. In essence he is saying sacrifice all your security, and all of your comfort so that you can speak the truth to those around you at their level. Siding with the exploited ones, demanding justice for those who have been wronged, giving to those who have need. Yes the ministry of the church is social justice. Our hearts should break whenever and where ever we see inequality, prejudices, and exploitation. I say this because this is the ministry that Jesus himself started. And when he taught his disciples to pray they were to pray that “thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” On Earth as it is in Heaven, quite literally means that we should be striving to make heaven on earth. What would that look like?

This is an extremely difficult passage to really grasp. It feels as if Paul is speaking in two different directions when we know we can only go in one. This is why the church is so extremely important. It is the community of faithful that come alongside those that are experiencing those days of visitation, to provide encouragement to the ones that are struggling. It is the community that will help us discern the various voices calling us to different paths in life. The church is the place and the community that supports our ministries. It is the church that encourages us to adopt the holy lifestyle that Christ taught us, the life of prayer, worship and ministry. Without the church there is not a community, there is not support, and we are left alone trying to make vain attempts to fill a relational void yet having nothing to fill it.

How are we doing as a church? Are we vain, empty of all that really matters or are we filed with the love and grace of God? Are we putting obstacles before people or are we helping them walk around the very things that cause them to fall? Are we living the love of Christ with others? Paul closes this section of scripture by telling the people of Corinth that his heart is open to them. That he loves and accepts them for who they are. They should know this because he had spent so much time with them prior to him writing these two letters to them. He endured so much with them and yet they hesitate. They look to him with some contempt because they had hardened their hearts, they had slid back into previous lifestyles and they are seeing Paul as judging them instead of loving them. It is not Paul who has changed but them. It is their hearts that have hardened and forgotten how to love. They are the ones that have engaged in the obstacles and cooled the devotion. So Paul says “Open wide your hearts.”

As we enter into this time of open worship I encourage each of us to Open wide our hearts, to examine our faith and allow the Spirit to examine us as well. Have we became vain? Have we emptied ourselves of God’s grace and become obstacles to those that are seeking the acceptance of God? Is there room for improvement? We are in a day of visitation, and our salvation is just before us. If we earnestly seek Him He will be our ever present teacher and guide, He will lead us down the right paths even if our wisdom fails. So as we examine let us also seek that direction, let us ask that that very spirit will fill the areas of emptiness with grace and let us be moved to encourage those people whom God leads us to encourage.

Abide In Love (Sermon May 10, 2015)

friend-template-960x2501 John 5:1–6 (NRSV)

Faith Conquers the World

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Testimony concerning the Son of God

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

Over the course of the years many groups among the religious have made lists of who are Christian and who are not. It might surprise many about who are on which list. For example the author CS Lewis is considered by some as being a heretic because of his belief in purgatory and the possibility of evolution explaining aspects of creation, on this same list the reformer Martin Luther was considered a non-Christian because he raised questions about the numbers and figures in scripture. That is right the great reformer that took a stand for scripture over tradition questioned aspects of scripture and as a result some today question his very faith because of what? Honesty about doubts, differing philosophies about how God may have brought the world about or what the afterlife may be like? Great leaders today like Billy Graham are brought into question over differences of theology. Theology can only get us so far, because theology is the study of God and God is beyond our comprehension. So we must tread softly when we make claims in regard to God, we must always leave space for the possibility of a skewed human perspective.

These lists, denominations, and theological perspectives can all lead to division. Who is right, who is wrong? Which church is correct or which perspective is the most accurate? If we make a claim in any direction we risk demonizing an entire segment of the faithful and history. This is one of the reasons why Friends are very slow in making decisions and why they leave room within their theological statements, because when emotions are raised and arguments are made we can lose perspective and possibly follow our own wills instead of the will of God.

But how do we know God? How do we know which way to turn or what truth is? From the dawn of Christianity there have been different perspectives that have pulled on the faithful. Throughout the epistles we can read about various struggles that the early church faced. Every era of church history has faced something that threatens to pull the church apart or propel it into the next age. Today is no different. John wrote during one of those periods of history that faced these very things. There were people that proposed that the true faith was found only in following the ancient rites of the Jewish religion, others claimed that there was secret knowledge that could only be received by initiation and participation in secret ceremonies. We know the struggles because each epistle tells us about these struggles. John, the last apostle, writes to those that were faced with the end of an era. They have watched the apostles one by one pass to death, and as they witnessed this they began to question their faith. Things were not going exactly as they thought they would, and the ones that founded the church were no longer there to direct their steps. They lived through persecutions, they witnessed dehumanizing violence. They had also saw the miraculous, healings of diseases, people freed from bondages, and the feeding of thousands. Yet darkness always seemed to be gaining on them.

As darkness approached some began to rise up prophets calling people to walk one way or another, people began seek answers to direct their paths, yet they only saw a faint light. They cried out to God wondering if they had missed something, they began to listen to the words of man instead of waiting on the Spirit of God, and John their last apostle watched as a unified church began to divide and fragment. He watched as people of the church began to rely on their own wisdom instead of that of God. He watched and just as Jesus wept he too began to write through his tears because so many were seeking and lost yet were looking in the wrong direction.

Very quickly people began to question the faith, they deemed it in their own minds that they must do more at very least they should follow the Torah, and the fact that darkness was creeping into the world around them must mean that they must do more.  John says to them, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” Yes that is what we said the prophets begin to argue, we must follow the law. But what are the commandments that John speaks of? They begin to consider the words that John the elder once spoke when he was younger. The words that he heard the Lord speak.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. (John 15:9-17 NRSV)

Abide in the love of God. Abide is an interesting word, because it is one that is so difficult to do. It means to remain in, to tarry, to stay in, and to dwell. So John lovingly reminds them of the commands of Jesus to wait, and dwell in the love of God. This is the most difficult thing for mankind to do because we like action. To sit around and wait is so contrary to our nature. “We must do something…anything to keep the darkness at bay.” The prophets say to the people. Yet John tells them, “abide, just wait, remember the command of our Lord. Love one another. It is not burdensome. You do not have to add to it, just remain and love.”

Just wait…just love…just do what Jesus has commanded. Do not worry about the darkness closing in around us it is merely an illusion, as long as we abide we will overcome the world. John can say this because he has seen it. He has seen the power of God working all around him. He had witnessed God coming into the lives of Jew and Gentile and totally changing everything. He has seen cities totally devoted to the worship of idols become cities earnestly seeking the one true living God. He was most likely writing this letter in the city of Ephesus, a city that contained one of the largest temples in the world devoted to the roman god Diana, and the city that Jesus spoke to in his Revelation about their zeal for truth and right doctrine. John saw many things. He saw these things because he learned the holy rhythm of Christ. A lifestyle devoted to worship, prayer, and service to others. Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and living the love of Christ with others.

When people participate in this holy lifestyle they begin to see change at first with one person, then multiplying as each person actively lives and participates. One by one as people turn to the lifestyle of Christ the trappings of the world begin to fall away, the darkness is overcome by the light and faith conquers the world. But is all begins with abiding in the love of God. Sitting in the love of Christ. Waiting for God and listening to His voice.

We do not have to have all the right answers, we do not have to have a theology that can answer every question of God. We do not have to save the world, because that is not our job. Jesus is the one that conquers the world. He is the one who came by water and blood, who was born and crucified for our salvation and who rose again to lift all mankind back into the glory of God. It is Jesus who does the work, we are only required to abide in him and love those he leads us to.

John encourages us to adopt the lifestyle the holy rhythm Jesus taught us to live for a reason. When we move away from this rhythm we begin to rely on our own strength and our own minds. We begin to think that we are the ones that are doing the work, that we are the ones that conquer the world. I said that Jesus said that Ephesus was seekers of truth and right doctrine, they were the strongest of the seven churches of Asia because they were earnest in their seeking of what was right, but Jesus spoke against them because they lost their first love. They pulled away from the holy rhythm and began to trust themselves and little by little they fell away from Christ and as they began to fall away darkness began to take hold of them again. So they began to seek more truth and right doctrine only to have more darkness close in, because they did not abide first, they did not abide in love.

What does this say about us today? We are living on the edge, many of us see darkness all around us. We see the world conquering the church instead of the church conquering the world. We feel as if we need take things into our own hands to speak out and force righteousness onto the people all around us. I ask one thing as we set off down this road, how long have we remained in the love of God today, yesterday, the day before, and how long will we abide in his love tomorrow? Have we adopted first a rhythm of life that reflects Christ a lifestyle that mimics Christ in all we do before we go out to conquer darkness? Have we been people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others? I ask because John says that that is the lifestyle that will conquer the world and bring light into the darkness. Abide in love first.

The writings of John are important to us as Friends. We derive our name from the words that he pinned at the closing of the era of Church history. Our original name The Religious Society of Friends means that our religion is a society based on becoming Friends with God. The only way for this to happen is for us to abide first and then live that love with others. We base our entire belief system on the idea that we can know where God leads us if we abide in His love, and then we can respond accordingly. Ephesus sought truth above all else, they sought righteousness and were great at exposing the false teachings of many, but they lacked one thing love. They left their first love behind as they moved forward into the world they were called to minister to. They walked into the darkness without carrying the light of Christ. Their eagerness to be right above all else caused them to live in infamy throughout church history because they forgot the main point. Love conquers the world.

As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, I encourage each of us to examine our lives and our lifestyles are we abiding in love or are we walking into the darkness without our first love? Are we focusing on being right in our own minds or are we allowing the Spirit to work through us? Are we making lists or are we encouraging all we meet to abide in the love of God where they are and walking with them as they begin to enter into the holy rhythm of Christ’s life? Do we as followers of Christ fear the darkness of the world or do we trust that Jesus Christ can overcome the world just as he overcame the grave? Do we truly believe and live in the power of the resurrection of Christ?

Jared A. Warner

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