The Lord has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Last month, I asked you to send me a one-sentence sermon, what you hear God saying to us as Americans in a divisive, anxious time. In my last post, I highlighted the many responses that were direct quotes from Scripture, underscoring the spiritual power of a prayer discipline grounded in biblical texts.
Today, I’d like to share some of the other sentences that are words of consolation and exhortation:
Hear, first, these encouraging words:
–You can never fall out of the hands of God.
–Do not focus on the sin in your lives, but rather focus on the fact you are forgiven.
–We need not fear even the hardest of roads, for Jesus has walked that path ahead of us.
–God loves you, exactly as you are, without reservation, more than you can ask or begin to imagine.
–God believes in you even if you don’t believe in yourself.
–Come as you are–you belong here.
–There is more than enough for all if you ask God to bless it and break it into pieces to share.
–I am still here through all the terror and sadness.
–In the darkest of moments there is always a flicker of light.
–From Julian of Norwich: All shall be well.
–With an allusion to Dickens: It is the best of times and the worst of times, but God is still faithful.
–From Anne Lamott: Grace bats last.
And now, hear these words of gentle exhortation:
–Faith is the refusal to panic.
–Be a midwife to something good and different, as insignificant as it may seem.
–Err always on the side of generosity and hospitality.
–Don’t just talk about my words, act on them.
–Love whom God loves–everyone, without wondering if they’re worthy.
–Do not judge ever, but love always.
–Pray with your feet.
–It is good to give thanks for the blessings you’ve received; it is greater to be a blessing to others around us.
–Let love guide your behavior, conduct, deportment, and decisions.
–You may never know how the smallest of gestures has changed someone’s heart.
Several words are more pointed:
–Help me to deal with all the hate and anger in the world.
–We cannot love God more than the person we like least on this earth.
–We already know what God is doing, what are we doing?
–The Way teaches that when we open our hands to others, sometimes nails will be driven through them.
–Keep an open heart towards those with whom you disagree whether it is politics, religion, culture; chances are there will be something you need to hear from them.
–We get to the Kingdom by following the crucified and risen Lord, not by being more cultured, more thoughtful, or more tolerant than anyone else.
–Do not be swept away by the emotions incited by the media and mass culture; instead focus on what is yours to do in the world.
One respondent offered three sentences, which reads more as a rule of life:
I believe that as disciples, part of our spiritual practice is to pastor the community. That begins with introspection, as we consider where we can grow in love of God and neighbor. That then becomes a broader view, where we explore the brokenness of our world and ask how we may have participated in it. And then we ask how we might contribute to the healing of the world and teach our children well.
And one responded with a request:
I don’t have the one sentence sermon, but I do have a one sentence question I wish a longer sermon would help answer: How can we use our faith to help us navigate and grow during these stormy and chaotic times?
In a later post, I will do my best to respond to that last question. For today, I leave you with a word from the poet Wendell Berry, whom the Quaker author Parker Palmer quoted in his recent online course: Bridging the Political Divide. Parker recounted a story of when Berry was asked what we must do to solve the great problems of our time. Berry responded that it is misguided to assume there is one big answer. Given the complexities of the challenges we face, there are a million little answers. Each of us is given insight; each of us can do something small for a greater purpose.
I hear a million little answers in your one sentence sermons. I thank God for them, and pray that each of us be granted grace and courage to heed the words we hear.