FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
In last Sunday’s appointed Gospel lesson (Luke 13:10-17), we see a very compelling interaction between Jesus and a religious professional. Jesus is teaching a crowd of people in a synagogue on the sabbath when a woman walks in bent over with a crippling disability from which she has suffered for nearly 20 years. Jesus stops teaching, calls out to her, lays his hands on her, and heals her. In doing so, Jesus broke at least two religious rules: (1) he touched a woman who was not his wife, and (2) he worked” on the day of rest.
Rather than thank Jesus for his act of love and compassion toward this woman, the religious professional (read: pastor, priest, or minister) rebukes Jesus for having broken the rules. Jesus returns the admonition and uses the opportunity to teach the crowd that love and compassion are more important than blind submission to religious rules.
The Christian scriptures teach us that God is love (1 John 4:8b). They also teach us that Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate – that is, God in human form. Therefore, if God is love and Jesus is God, then Jesus is Love in human form. When God visited us in the form of Jesus Christ, Jesus himself taught us that the highest, most important commandment is to love – that is, to love God, neighbor and self. We’re even supposed to love our enemies! We might then say that nearly the whole point of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is simply this: love. I sometimes put it this way to my parishioners: “You were made of Love, in the image of Love, for the purpose of Love; and when you die to this life, you will return to that Love, forever.”
How sad then that from early in the history of the church we forgot those truths and began to build a religion about rules instead of love. Very rarely in our modern world will you find Christians described as “those people who love, no matter what.” More often we are described (and even describe ourselves!) not by what we can do but by what we supposedly can’t or won’t do. We can’t share communion with them; it’s against the rules. We can’t join those two people in marriage; it’s against the rules. We can’t ordain them; it’s against the rules. We can’t help those people; it’s against the rules.
It’s not that all rules are bad. In fact, most rules are good. But I believe that what Jesus teaches us when he reaches out and touches a suffering woman and heals her on the sabbath is that whenever a rule gets in the way of love, we must always choose love and break the rule.
Christians, use the opportunity given by this Gospel lesson to examine how you practice your faith. Or is your faith about love above all? If not, it might be time to break some rules.
– Reeder is the rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
Tomorrow, interested viewers from around the globe will be tuned in to the final game of our “claim to fame” in Williamsport as the new Little League champions of the world will be crowned. For many of the participants and their families, memories of this year’s Series will be cherished for a lifetime.
As our overnight temperature dropped to the mid 40s last week, we suddenly were made aware that the summer of 2013 was in the “home stretch.” The beautiful greens of the Bald Eagle Mountain in South Williamsport will soon be aglow with reds, oranges and yellows.
This being said, we brace ourselves for the “first day of school” or for recent graduates “off to college.” We all have countless memories, thoughts and experiences from our years of education.
As another September rolls around, let us pray that the hopes and dreams of students at all levels are realized. Perhaps it’s good to be aware that every time you come to the plate of life experiences, you will not hit a home run. And sometimes the easy fly ball to right field may unexpectedly be dropped. There will be joys, struggles, disappointments and unexpected moments of absolute exhilaration beyond anything that you have dreamed of.
As students leave for college, I recall words and advice of a pastor at a Baccalaureate service, he said, “Don’t pray that you will get a good roommate; be a good roommate.” “Don’t pray that you will get a great professor; rather, pray that you will be a good and worthy student.”
Mahatma Gandhi told us, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
As a community we all value the importance of education. “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and the world better than you found it,” said Marian Wright Edelman.
Yes, today we pray for and encourage every student from pre-school to last year of college and beyond. Let us be grateful for all those involved in our education system. We think of the superintendents, principals, teachers, coaches and so many support staff at all levels that help to keep the ball in play in this sphere of education for the betterment of our world.
Have a great year, students and staff. You have our prayers and support. It is going to be a great year!
– Foran is the director of religious education at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
A hearty “welcome” to visiting Little Leaguers and their families. It is our joy to receive you and pray that your experience here in beautiful Lycoming County is, well beautiful.
We have a local minor league Phillies affiliate, the Crosscutters, and we often hear spontaneously over the stadium PA system “Be-au-ti-ful.” So, when you see that home run hit during the Little League Series, you can use that word freely. We do. Likewise, enjoy our mountains, valleys, river and streams with their myriad of flora and fauna, with colors and shapes that inspire. Sometimes when we are spell bound by nature, the only thing we can say is “Beautiful.” It’s a short hand way of praying, and giving thanks, on the spot.
In late spring this year, a retired field biologist friend specializing in water quality studies and I hiked through a portion of the Loyalsock State Forest in the general area of the Clarence Moore Tract. We wanted to confirm the actual locations of several bogs and wetlands that were on a 1980s map approximated via aerial survey. Leaving Ellenton Ridge Road and using both the Long and Short Run Trails as location points, we cut through the forest to the probable locations. We found three bogs, one of which we estimated to be about 14 acres. The wide open sunlit canopy caressed wild flowers, multiple species of ferns, reeds, sedges and plenty of sphagnum moss, all of which for eons of time survived with water-tolerant root systems. Aquatic creatures and their larvae were present, as well as bird species like pine warbler, flycatcher, nesting summer junco, raven, ovenbird and winter wren.
Retracing our steps, we paused at Long Run, which gently feeds these high mountain plateau wetlands, to measure water quality. Whereas distilled water has a TDS (total dissolved solids) of 0, bottled water is regulated at 50-150 and tap water at 150-400, this mountain water was 15. Simply amazing! No wonder fisherman, hikers and outdoor folks love Pleasant Stream and Rock Run with its crystal clear water flowing into Lycoming Creek near Bodines and at Ralston.
In that moment of inspiration on the trail, I paused and said “Beautiful.” As Quaker theology might propose, “the Christ within me” spoke to my deeper self, and I could not help but lift a word of thanks. My Baptist tradition would also remind me about the “Living Christ” who “made all things” (Rom 11:36).
So, when you are sitting in Lamade (or Volunteer) Stadium this week and watch a ball thrown by the catcher, and it streaks to the second baseman a split-second before the runner gets there, and goose bumps go up your arm, it’s OK to say “Beautiful.” Then, take a moment right there, and lift your eyes to the South Williamsport “hills” like the Psalmist and acknowledge God’s presence, especially “For the Beauty of the Earth” with all its human and natural inspiration. Blessings.
– Waltz is a retired American Baptist pastor and member of First Baptist Church in Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
This article highlights the basic tenets and beliefs in Islam. Different people have different ideas and impressions about Islam due to existing world conditions. Islam is a continuation of monotheistic belief and was preached by Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.*), who was born in Arabia in 570 A.D. Although he lacked formal education, he started preaching Islam after receiving divine revelation at the age of 40 through the angel Gabriel. The revelation, which took 23 years to complete, is the Holy Quran, and it still exists in its original Arabic text. Translations are available in different languages of the world along side the original Arabic.
The Holy Quran contains a complete code of life. It came when Arabia was passing through dark ages and detached from other civilizations. Tribal warfare, idol worship and female infanticide were the norm.
The Quran contains information about previous prophets and their teachings, starting from Adam and going all the way to Prophet Jesus (p.b.u.h.*). Muslims are supposed to revere and believe all prophets equally. Besides the Quran, muslins also follow the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, which really are derived from the teachings of the Quran.
To quote from the Quran: “Say: we believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes, Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord.” “O Mankind, I have created you from a male and female, made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. The best of you in the sight of your lord is the one best in conduct.”
To deal with others Islam instructs,” Repel evil with that which is better.” “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and reason with them in the better way.” “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it.” “Argue not with the People of the book unless it be in a better way.” ” People who make mischief will find their place in Hell.”
The Prophet told his followers, “No body can be a good muslim unless he/she checks whether their neighbor has something to eat before going to bed.”
There are seven aspects of belief in Islam: the oneness of God, angels, prophets, divine books, day of judgment, hell and heaven, and fate.
There are five basic pillars of Islam:
Belief in One God,
Prayer five times daily,
Fasting one month during Ramadan,
Paying obligatory poor dues, and
Going on pilgrimage once in a lifetime if one has the financial ability.
These rituals help followers practice complete submission to the will of God.
During five various parts of the day, muslims pray, which purifies their hearts and reminds them constantly about God.
During the month of Ramadan, which began July 9 this year, muslims do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. Not only do they need to abstain from eating and drinking, they must avoid evil talk or thought or any unlawful act that may nullify the fast. Fasting teaches fellow feeling for the poor and starving. After Ramadan ends, muslims celebrate with feasts, donations to poor and gifts to friends and family.
Rich people should give 2.5 percent of their annual savings to the poor and needy besides other optional charity. Once in a lifetime a rich and healthy muslim should go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the time for which comes after about two months of Ramadan.
To learn more about Islam, readers can check web sites such as www.islamicfinder.org or visit a mosque or Islamic center. All are welcome to visit and interact with others.
(*) p.b.u.h. stand for the phrase, “peace be upon him,” used to honor all prophets.
– Pathan makes his home in Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
I don’t like to move. I like to settle into a place and be comfortable in familiar surroundings. So when we built our house in Picture Rocks, I anticipated being there for many years. We were able to make a number of changes in the design, and were pleased with the result.
My wife planted gardens around the house, and I planted more than 1,000 seedlings on our 3 1/2 acres. (I lost track after a thousand.) I bought a lawn tractor and enjoyed cutting 2 of our acres. I wouldn’t call it a lawn, but it was nice and green, and kept the dust down. I even had a meditation circle of pine trees that modeled circles that my father and uncle had created on their land.
We added other improvements over the years, and were comfortable. But then our children began to worry. We were getting older (like over 80), and it was over four hours to our closest family member. How much longer could we manage, and whom could we call on for help? They urged us to move, and we decided it was the right thing to do. So we began to look at houses that were close to three of our children and our four youngest grandchildren.
It wasn’t easy. Finding a house to buy required a number of scouting trips. In the meantime we began to pack and to downsize the amount of our possessions. I spent many hours by our wood-burning stove burning old papers and bills. Somehow we were able to navigate the process of buying a house and selling a house. And then the time of moving arrived.
When I got stressed, I thought of Abraham, who went forth without knowing where he was going. He left his familiar surroundings to go forth into a new land. He didn’t even have maps to guide him. He just trusted in the Lord who had called him forth. And I thought of Jesus who noted without complaining that foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. I thought of Paul, who always was on the move, and I was strengthened by their example to take the next steps in my journey of faith. It is good to have footsteps to follow.
Now, we are settled in our new home. We have found doctors, contractors (there is always something to do) and a new church where we have been welcomed. We rejoice in the closeness of children and grandchildren and feel privileged to participate in their growing up. We have more of life’s journey ahead of us, but we trust in Him who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
And we look forward to that last and best move in our journey.
– Mercer is the pastor emeritus at Picture Rocks Baptist Church.