The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. Deuteronomy 30:11-14
Two weeks ago I asked you to write a one-sentence sermon, what you believed God most wants to say to us in these challenging times.
Thanks to all who responded on Facebook, this page, and via email. Each of your many contributions is a gift; taken together, they provide a wealth of insight and exhortation. Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight different themes that emerge from your words and consider ways we can live by their light.
It’s striking that so many of you quoted Scripture. Some of you heard words from the prophets:
Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
And they shall call you, repairers of the breach…restorer of streets to live in.
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice; love kindness; and walk humbly with your God?
Others quoted the teachings of Jesus:
Your are the light of the world.
Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.
Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The words you cited most often are found throughout the Bible and are the pillars of faith:
Be not afraid.
Love one another.
Like our forebears, we wonder how not to be afraid when there is, in fact, so much to fear. But there is no judgment of our fears here; rather a calm assurance that we are not alone. We live, move and have our being within the heart of an all-loving God who knows our fears. Hold steady, God says to us. My grace is sufficient and my love will see you through.
Nor is the call of love simplistic or naive; it is the deepest, most important of biblical truths. Jesus came, like the prophets before him, to show us the breadth and depth of God’s love. He came to show us what it looks like to love, especially when it’s hard. For those of us drawn to follow Jesus, there is no other way. Even when we fail at love, he is there to forgive and help us carry on.
Consider this: These biblical truths came to you because they dwell within you. You already know what God wants us to remember. You have heard these truths read in church; you may have discussed them in Bible study or read them in a moment of quiet prayer. And when you needed to be reminded of what matters most, through the words you already know, God speaks.
That’s one reason why it’s so important that we make time to dwell deeply in the words of Scripture, to sit quietly for just a few minutes each day and read from the Bible. It matters that we gather in church to hear the Word and a preacher’s best efforts to bring ancient truths to life. We may not be inspired every day or by every sermon. But over time, the sacred stories and teachings become part of us, inform our worldview, and are there when we need them. When we’re get discouraged or anxious, these are among the many ways God can reorient us toward faith, hope, and love.
I’ve just returned from Nuevo Amanecer, a national gathering of Latino congregational leaders. It was among the most uplifting experiences of my summer. We prayed and sang a lot. And we drew deeply from the well of Scripture.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry couldn’t attend in person, but he sent a video message. He wanted to share with us a word from the Gospel of John, when Jesus was preparing his disciples for difficult times ahead: “Abide in me,” Jesus said, “as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
In challenging times, we need to draw from the well and abide in the vine that sustains us. With your help, I’ll reflect next on how we live more fully the words we hear. But first we need to hear them. And we can only hear if we listen to the one who speaks in the quiet of our hearts and through the ancient words of sacred texts.