It’s Not About Religion: Sermon


In Acts Chapter 17, we find the Apostle Paul is in Greece.    

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

In all their devotion, in their religious fervour and practice they were missing something.  Paul goes on to explain to them that there is one God, the creator of all, the definer of all.  He states:

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

It’s not about religion. It’s about Jesus, the “proof” given to everyone, and a relationship with Him.

People miss this point.  It is relationship that makes the difference.  The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and many people in our times think it’s about rules.  Look at Matthew 23:23:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Jesus was making it clear it isn’t about legalism, it is again about relationship.  He isn’t saying not to do good, but to do it for the right reasons.  It is about a relationship based on justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  It is not about check lists or a legalistic tick box exercise.  Think back to what Jesus said was the greatest commandment of the law: “To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind, and strength,” and “to love your neighbour as yourself.”   Yes, strive to do what is right, but don’t neglect the important things of relationship.  It isn’t about religious laws, it is a faithful spirit and a heart based on loving.

But that isn’t the only aspect of “religion,” that leads us astray.  Over the years I have had several students that in their explanations of the acts of Jesus or various prophets, commented that they did “Magic.”

Religion is often laced with this idea of magic.  Look at Second Kings 5:

1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Notice it wasn’t some elaborate ceremony with incantations, incense, or swinging a chicken over his head that was needed.   It wasn’t about show.  Magic shows belong in Las Vegas, not in our hearts of love and relationship.  The instructions were simple, go be washed. 

Jesus didn’t make a show either.  He addressed needs.  He healed the sick, He fed the hungry.  Acts of compassion, not magic.  Yet so often people can’t see beyond the miracles to see the true purpose behind them. 

In John Chapter 6, Jesus feeds the 5000, and then leaves them.   He isn’t just putting on a magic show for the applause.  He is showing compassion. 

But now we see another problem with a “religious” approach.  Religious approaches often centre not on relationship, but “what can I get out of it?” 

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Notice, they are back to the Scribes and Pharisees outlook: “What works?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

It is not in doing difficult tasks, or brave deeds.  It is about love and relationship.  Matthew 11 says:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We are back to what we noted before, it is about Jesus and a relationship with Him.

The final aspect that shows that it isn’t about religion, is putting trust in the wrong place.  Here I am talking about focusing of leaders and titles, rather than on a relationship with God.  Those with religious titles, be it pastor, reverend, priest, or even prophet, are still flawed human beings. 

In Numbers 22 we find the story of Balaam.  Balaam was a prophet.  He conversed with God, the passage tells us so.  What happens is the king of Moab is frightened by the approach of the people of Israel.  He offers to pay Balaam to curse them.   God clearly tells him, “No, these are my people.”  But Balaam ignores God’s instructions and stands against the people of God.  It is what happens next that is the important bit here.  Balaam’s donkey resists going to confront the Israelites.  In the end, Balaam beats the donkey, and the animal begins to speak.  It isn’t Balaam’s corruption, that is my focus, but the instrument that God uses.  He uses a humble donkey to teach His ultimate lesson.   Trust me, that puts being and minister and theologian into perspective! Let’s sum up then.  It’s not about religion.  It’s not about the shrines and buildings.  It’s not about laws and rules.  It’s not about “magic” or what you can get out of it.  It isn’t about titles and position.  It is about a relationship with Jesus, and with one another.


Padre (preached 9 May 2021)

Holy Islands: Haibun

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St Michael’s

The isolated islands, remote from the bustles and cares of daily life draw pilgrims and seekers.  Thus has it always been.  Scotland’s Isle was the place of Saint Molaise’s hermitage and monks in the Thirteenth Century made its shores their home.  Now the adherents of Siddhartha’s Path seek their way in the place where monks and saints have strode.

Inis Shroin Isle like
Lindisfarne, St Michael’s Mount
Faith rising from sea

Padre

Heeding Haiku With Chèvrefeuille, September 4th 2019, Holy Isle or Holy Island

 

 

Holy Intentions?

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

 

“Tell me honestly, My child, why have you come here?” the mother superior asked kindly.

“I wanted –  want to be a nun,” Regina responded.

“Do you feel you have a vocation?” the senior nun asked.

“Like a call from God?” Regina asked. “I’m not sure.  But it feels right.”

“How so?” the mother superior asked.

“I feel that I can ‘belong’ here,” the aspiring sister said.

“Don’t you ‘belong’ in your family and community?” the superior queried.

“No, Mother Superior, I have always felt an outsider beyond these walls.”

“Are you running from life, or to God?” the chief nun asked. “Ponder that before our next meeting.  Only when you can give a truthful answer to that can we consider your final vows.”

 

Padre

Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt: Sister Outsider

 

 

Remembering “The Guy”

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I was driving home from Newbury on Saturday night, and passed literally dozens of Bonfire Night celebrations.   Fireworks lit up the roadside as I bypassed towns from Berkshire to Cambridgeshire. The focus of these displays was the distant memory of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The 16th and 17th Centuries were a time of religious turmoil across Europe, and no less so in England.  The Elizabethan religious settlement had been an attempt to reach a compromise between the Catholics and traditionalists, and the Protestant reformers.  Devout Catholics (as well as extreme Puritans) faced severe penalties for non-conformity. With the ascension of James I, who had a more profound Protestant leaning, many Catholics felt increasingly oppressed.

In 1605, a plot was hatched to remove James, his lords, and the House of Commons by an act of terrorism.  The plotters were going to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the state opening, when the entire governing body would be under one roof.

Put simply, the plan failed. Guido Fawkes (known as Guy) was caught in the act of attempting to detonate barrels of gunpowder in cellars under the building. He confessed under torture, and his alleged co-conspirators were arrested and executed.

Confession under torture was well part of the criminal “justice” system of the time.  In addition, the plot led to more restrictions on Catholics, and public backlash largely made the life of non-Protestants more difficult.

In some ways we have parallels with Islamophobia in the post 9-11 world, or the recurrent rise of Antisemitism. The result then was among other things to mark the event with an annual remembrance in which “The Guy” is burned in effigy, as sign initially of anti-Catholic hysteria, and now of mere tradition.

It is interesting to me to reflect on our modern approach to this.  There would be some who would take the view that the Catesbys (fellow conspirators and ring leaders) and Fawkes were “freedom” fighters.  Others would call for even more sanctions against “the out group.” I imagine some newspapers and social media groups taking the stand, “Free the Westminster 13.” Headlines might read “Guido was framed,” or  “Justice for the Catesbys.” Rival political comment might call for mass expulsion of “Romanists.”

What should we then remember of “the Guy?” Firstly, religious toleration is not a given. “In” groups, and “Out” groups are often defined in imprecise terms. Whatever our denominational backgrounds, there is more than unites us than divides us. It is often the politics of the situation, or the media spin that is the true issue.

Fireworks and bonfires are festive, but let’s remember the issues behind them.

Padre

 

Why Teach Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy?

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Today my department will be showcasing itself. Various displays, artifacts, and samples of past work will be used to show the scope of Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy. So why teach it?

This is a complex question in today’s world, and one that transcends the simple answer that I am a theologian, minister, and religious educator – so its what I do. It is more the belief that it is even of more value in an increasingly secular society as it reminds us of the spiritual, and aids us in social and cultural appreciation as well.  Add to this the moral and philosophical aspects and we have a complete discipline in making well rounded human beings.

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Religion: a system of belief and practices usually related to the supernatural. This is far from a perfect definition, but one that gives us a starting point. I am a Christian as are approximately 2 billion others on the planet. Yet, in many places (even those which are nominally Christian) clear understanding of the faith is limited.  I teach then to bring others to a greater understanding of their own beliefs. I also do a survey of other world faiths, this promotes understanding, and hopefully promotes social cohesion and limits conflict. This comes as the second reason, understanding the beliefs of others. In England there is an additional aspect which is not ideologically important to me, but is nonetheless pertinent, that it is a required subject by law.

Ethics: the study of right and wrong. This too is a weak definition, but it does hold an importance in that it challenges students to explore morality and such questions of what makes something “good” or “bad.” Ideas of absolutism and relativism and examined. Questions of medical ethics (abortion, euthanasia,and “designer babies”) are explored.  Issues such as war and conflict, genocide, and much more, help a new generation to make, I would hope, a more enlightened entry into the complexities of adult life.

Philosophy: the study and implementation of ideas, helps students articulate their own thoughts. They are taught to examine the beliefs and assumptions of themselves, and others, and to apply logic and semantics to draw conclusions.

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Spiritually students find their own way in the “big questions” of purpose, of deity, and of issues of existence and “the afterlife.” Using religion and philosophy examinations are made of questions of reality.  “Just because you believe or disbelieve something, does this affect its existence or truth?”

Morally, the study of ethics helps students understand the “rules” of  the society in which they live, and to make value decisions on their own actions.

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Socially, students interact with the beliefs and faiths of others. They use moral decisions to judge and adapt their interactions with others.

Culturally, they can see how the richness of traditions have influenced, and shaped our world.  Whether this be the Judeo-Christian legacy of Europe, or shaping of diets along religious or ideological lines.

So why Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy? Because what makes us truly human, and not just “yet another species,” is our spiritual, social, and moral selves. We are complex and thinking beings. We are feeling and empathetic as well.  We are in fact in the image of the divine. I teach, promote, and showcase this beautiful subject because it is what makes us -US!

Padre

Jacob: A tale of despair and revival

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Brother Edward Issitt brought a really insightful message to us on Sunday about the Patriarch Jacob. Here are some reflections on his message and its theme.

Jacob was a man of energy and cunning.  He purchased his brother’s birth right for a bowl of stew, he disguised himself to receive his father’s blessing, and used selective breeding to extract the maximum pay-out from his father-in-law. He famously wrestled with God in an incident which gained him a new name, Israel: “struggles with God.”

For all of his ambition and drive, he was left devastated by the death of his beloved wife, Rachel; but found consolation with his son by her, Joseph.  He heaped praise and status upon Joseph much to the annoyance of his other 11 sons.  The result was a plan by his siblings to kill Joseph, which resulted in his sale into bondage instead.

But, here we have a dilemma, what will the brothers do to conceal their brother’s fate.  They devise a plan to take his “coat of many colours” and to douse it in blood.  They cleverly take it to Jacob for identification.  He mistakenly, but logically, concludes that Joseph has been devoured by a wild beast.  He rents his own clothes, and buys into this lie of his own invention.

Gone now is his drive.  For twenty years he mourns the loss of his favourite son, and by application his favourite wife.  He even concludes that all he has left is Benjamin (his youngest son by Rachel). He is separated from God.  He has lost his will to live.  He, in fact, seems to be living up to his name – Israel.  He sees the lies.  He sees his hurt.  For twenty years he “contends with God” the author (in his mind) of his misfortune.

It is in this state that he enters into the period of famine in the land.  How is it that this man of cunning and overarching ambition, no longer has the means to provide for his family after years of plenty?  Simply – he has lost the ability care.  He was dead inside.

The result is that his remaining sons must journey to Egypt, a land where cunning preparations have been made (by Joseph!).  After their encounter with their brother, the children of Israel return to their father with the news, that Joseph is alive.  They are forced to tell all that has happened and upon the overturning of the lie, Jacob is revived.  Truth has that effect.

All too often we are Israels.  We contend with God.  We blame him, our brethren, or others for our “bad luck” or misfortune.  We fail to look for truth, as we easily buy into lies which make for the easier options.  But God is good.  He does not want anything bad for His children.  So today let us not wrestle with God, but submit.  In that acknowledgement of His sovereignty we to can be revived.

Padre

 

 

 

A Place Called Gethsemane

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Olive Trees at Gethsemane

I have had the privilege of travelling in the Holy Land.  While there, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here are some of my reflections on the experience.

It is a fundamental Christian belief that Jesus was born to die.  Fair enough, we all die, but Jesus came with the expressed purpose of laying down His life so that others might live.

This is clearly prefigured in Matthew chapter 2.  The magi brought the infant Jesus three gifts:  gold (a present worthy of a king), frankincense ( a priestly offering) and myrrh (a substance used in embalming and symbolic of sacrifice).

This clear purpose of sacrifice is later alluded to again in Jesus’ confrontation with Satan in the wilderness. The devil makes three challenges to Jesus, the first (turn stones to bread) tempted Him to focus on His human needs, rather than the spiritual.  The second (to throw Himself off the temple) was a call for Him to seek followers based on signs rather than His message.  The third was an offer of power and rule over the peoples (and apparently their souls) at the expense of Jesus’ bowing down to Satan.  In short “we know why you have come Jesus, why die to redeem them, I will hand them over without pain (but at a price).  Jesus overcomes each trial, and in the end sets His death into motion.

After three years of ministry, this purposeful sacrifice comes to its eve.  The place is an olive grove at the base of the Mount of Olives – Gethsemane.  Here Jesus’ humanity is plain. Matthew 26:36f reads, “when Jesus went with them [the disciples] to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He prayed, “is there another way to do this?”  But in the end, He followed through.

Gethsemane is a pretty place, the ancient olive trees are peaceful.  The views to Jerusalem clear.  But in that night Jesus had to look beyond that peace, to the stark reality of His mission.

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Garden of Gethsemane

Today that agonizing self struggle of Jesus is memorialized by the Basilica of the Agony. Pilgrims and tourists make their way through the bright gardens, and to this church and its giant outdoor mosaic and dark interior.  Inside the ceiling suggests the star clustered sky of Jesus’ final night of His ministry.

Church of all Nations or Basilica of the Agony

Basilica of the Agony

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Basilica Ceiling

Gethsemane is a powerful place to visit.  It is spiritually challenging to believers, as they face the reality of their own role in Jesus’ sacrifice.  It is a beautiful place for tourists as it offers the contrasts of light and dark, the natural and the human.  It as a pilgrim and a tourist is one of the most memorable places I have visited.

Gethsemane Sign

Padre

Elizabeth a Curse?

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In Luke 1:25 we read Elizabeth’s words,  “25 ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.'” But what favour?  She is pregnant.  So what disgrace?  She had been barren.

Deuteronomy 7:12-14 paints a picture for us. “12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless . . . .” Elizabeth’s childlessness, rightly or wrongly, would have been seen by her contemporaries of her or Zechariah’s sin.

As Zechariah was a priest, of good reputation (he had not been barred from his temple functions), then in many’s minds the fault must have been Elizabeth’s.  This in people’s minds would be the issue of unfaithfulness/adultery.  Numbers 5 : 20f reads, “ But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” 

Remember the Middle East in the 1st Century was obsessed with the ideas of shame and honour.  In fact, they believed that honour was a limited commodity like gold or silver. If you had it, someone else didn’t.  Shame likewise could diminish the honour someone held, making more available for you.  So quick judgement of Elizabeth by her peers would be in keeping with her culture.

In addition to the perceived sin, and shame versus honour considerations, Elizabeth’s barrenness had a practical aspect as well.   Children were security for the future. There were no pensions or retirement plans.  It was your children that took care of you in your old age.  No one else would!

So even on a personal level, Elizabeth would have “felt cursed” by the lack of children. Her pregnancy with John was a blessing on several levels.  She had a carer for her dotage. Zechariah had an heir. People’s mutterings about sin in the family were proven for naught.

This is a wonderful little passage.  Elizabeth is moved from a state of “disgrace” to “favour.” Her relative sinlessness (for all people are sinners), is shown to her fellows. Her future is for the time being secured.  And in the end, a great prophet enters the world through her.

As a side point, let us be quick to recognise favour in others, and slow to shower disgrace.

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

Listen Carefully

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One of the catchphrases of the comedy programme “Allo, Allo” was “listen very carefully for I will only say this once.”  The Gospel on the other hand calls on us to listen carefully, and to aid us on our way repeats its message over and over.

Hebrews 2 reads in part, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment,  how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (v 1-4).”

This message of “the good news,” of the coming of a savior, not only appears in four different accounts in the Gospels, but in various letters and testimonies as well.

Let us first look at the Gospels.  The Hebrews writer remarks that “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles.”  John’s gospel in particular focuses on these with a structure based around seven key miracles.  From water into wine, to the raising of the dead, God’s power through Jesus is manifest. In fact, John concludes his account thus, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).”

Later the power of the gospel was shown in Acts 2.  As Hebrews cites, “God also testified . . . . by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”  Acts reads, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ (Acts 2: 4-11).”

These gifts kick-started the fledgling church.  Uneducated fishermen, and tax collectors from the backwaters of Galilee changed the world. Their message (in whatever tongue) was simple, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Listen carefully,  we have been proclaiming it for 2000 years.

Padre

Soft Power

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Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Here is a man writing from prison, admonishing Timothy to live with power.

Today religion in general, and Christianity in particular are seen as personal lifestyle choices, and in many places in the Western world are not so much despised as they are ignored as irrelevant.

The challenge for Timothy and Paul was an open hostility to the message of the Gospel.  But, Paul here notes that this was not to make them timid, because it was difficult.  He also noted that the characteristics necessary to make advances in such a world were provided by the Spirit: love and self-discipline.

Isn’t this still the case with us?  We are called to not be timid of our calling, just as Timothy was.  Our views, or at least the world’s perception of our views may be unpopular.  Here is where the love and self-discipline comes in.  In John 13, Jesus said,  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  This testimony of love should be an overriding principle in our lives.  We need to live beyond our narrow theological differences, by finding what we share.   And this does not mean we should be accepting of blatant sin, but rather to address these issues in a spirit of love. This is even more true of issues of interpretation. In living accordingly by love, many of the perceived “intolerances” attributed to us will be shown to be false perceptions.

So we should not be timid with the Gospel, but we also need not to be bullies with it either.  Soft power goes a long way. Francis de Sales put it well when he said, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” 

Here the self-discipline come in.  We need to live the life we profess.  Our example is more powerful than our words.  In acting in a controlled, spiritually focused way we don’t send mixed messages.  It also means that we live a life controlled by love.  We are not here to condemn others.  It’s not our job.  We can teach, even admonish, but ultimately we need to show.

Let us not be timid in showing His and our love. That’s where real power lies.

Padre