Monday, June 24, 2019

Faith as a Muscle

"If it don't kill ya, it just makes you stronger."
"The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow."
The letter of James even describes difficult times as times of joy because they test our faith and thereby make it stronger.
Faith is like any other muscle: if you don't use it it gets weaker. If you use your muscles regularly, and challenge them by adding weights or running/walking/cycling/swimming faster, your muscles will get stronger. They will be sore. You will be tired. But your body will only get stronger.
It's the same way with faith. If you challenge it by dealing with struggles in your life and accepting them, your faith will grow stronger. I know it's a stretch but what if God gave us those struggles to help us exercise our faith? To help our faith grow stronger?
We can't see that in the moment. When we feel discouraged, stressed, downtrodden, worried, exhausted. In that moment we can only hold on and try to keep going. But looking back we realize how much we have learned during that time, and how God has carried us through.
I've experienced that and I've heard people tell me about their own experiences.
Just like working out your body, it takes effort, and determination, and practice.
It also takes a certain openness to want to see God in all of it. God is not one to force Godself on us. God offers us unconditional love and unlimited grace. But we will only receive that if we are willing to let God in. Which also requires effort, and determination, and practice.
But oh, how good it feels when you realize how strong you are. How strong God is. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

How We Experience God

Yesterday, many churches celebrated Trinity Sunday: God is Creator, God is in Jesus Christ, and God is Spirit. God gives life, God shows us how to live, and God inspires us. 
Generations of scholars have tried to figure this out: How can God be experienced in three different ways, and yet be one and the same God?
I'm not going to try to figure that out, and I don't think we need to. God is beyond our comprehension. A God that we can figure out wouldn't be God. We need a power that is greater than our own, and greater than our minds. We need a power that can blow us away!
Some people experience God in nature, in the created world.
Others see God in the face of the person on the side of the street, asking for help.
And yet others feel closest to God when they hear music.
These are three random examples of how we experience God. There are a billion more. That's the amazing thing about God: God comes to each of us in the way that we need it. God speaks to us individually in a way that only we can understand.
So instead of trying to figure God out, let's just be open to God speaking to us.
Because God is speaking, to me and to you!
Praise God! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

God's Spirit

Yesterday, we celebrated Pentecost: The festival of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we believe that God's Spirit is poured out on all of God's children, gifting us, inspiring us, empowering us to speak and share the good news about Jesus Christ. 
The Book of Acts tells us that people from all over the world had come to Jerusalem, and suddenly they heard their own language being spoken. They understood the message about Jesus because God gifted Jesus' disciples to speak in other languages!
If only it were that easy for us today: If only we could suddenly, effortlessly speak Spanish or Mandarin.
Are there ways that we can speak the languages of other people? Can we learn the language of another generation, another culture, another ethnicity, even another political view?
Listening is the first step to understanding others. Before we can speak to them we need to listen. Listen to their stories, listen to their experience and to their needs. When we truly listen, and truly want to understand, we will learn to speak their language. We will be able to share with them the gifts God has given us.
Language isn't only words. Music can be language, as can art, or dance. Your facial expression and your body can communicate openness and kindness, or fear and judgment. Everything you do (or don't do) communicates a message.
Let that message be love.
God, let our message be love. Send your Spirit on us that we may listen and speak in love.

Monday, June 3, 2019


Last night I had the privilege of speaking at an interfaith event held at the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester. A Rabbi, a representative of the Sikhi faith, a Muslim, and I spoke about the concept of forgiveness in our faith tradition. We were all amazed by how much our faiths had in common: As human beings we are all sinners, no matter how hard we try to live a good life. We make mistakes, we hurt other people, we hurt ourselves and we act or speak against God's will. We are all in need of forgiveness. We know how difficult it is to forgive, and how freeing it can be. We know that we can't control what others do, we can only control our own decisions and actions. And we all believe that God is merciful and that it is not up to us to judge others.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters had their prayers at sunset, and we feasted on a wonderful meal, continuing our conversations. It was a time of learning, of laughter, of hospitality, and of hope: Hope that together, we can make this world better. We can learn to understand each other and don't have to fear one another. We all want a better world, where everyone can live in freedom and safety. We all want to reach our young people with the message of faith and hope, and we want to bring comfort to those who are struggling.
I had to officiate at the funeral for a child last week. It helped me put things in perspective. Life can be over so quickly. It's too short to be holding on to grudges or past hurts, to blame, or guilt. Life is too short for us not to forgive.
May God help us live in peace, and bring healing to our hurting hearts.