FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
We are not to steal, cheat or lie. Those who now have claimed the Lord as their Lord shall not profane the name of their God, for the Lord’s name is hallowed, or holy. In other words, if we are living as the Lord wants us to live, we should not take the Lord’s name in vain or use inappropriate language. Excuses such as, “Well, I really did not mean it” or “I don’t even think about what I am saying” don’t cut it. If we are truly living for the Lord, the expectation is that we will strive all the time to watch what we say – not just when the preacher is around, or when we are in the presence of others who may not appreciate it. This is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week effort.
We also are told not to defraud our neighbor or steal from them. We are not to keep what is owed to others, but pay them in an expeditious manner.
We are not to slam or put down the deaf or put a stumbling block before those who are blind.
The Lord expects us to treat all persons fairly. We are not to treat the rich or those with power any less fairly or justly than we treat the poor and the powerless. Justice is not justice for some, but for all people.
We are not to slander others, nor are we to profit from the blood of our neighbor.
If we hate in our heart, our family or any others, we are told that the Lord will place guilt on us. It is something similar to what the Lord Jesus teaches us in what we call the Lord’s Prayer when he tells us to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgives those who trespass against us.” If we don’t forgive others, there is no rule that says that the Lord needs to forgive us.
Likewise, it is the Lord who will take care of vengeance, not we. Instead, we are to love our neighbors just as we love ourselves.
If Jesus were to summarize what has been said in this lesson, he would probably say something like this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, and you shall love others as you love yourself.”
This is the “Code that God calls us all to live.” This is not an option, but when we choose to follow the Lord, it becomes an expectation.
– Behrens is the administrative pastor of the Picture Rocks United Methodist Charge.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
When I watched the Super Bowl, I have to admit I was a little jealous. Like other sports there is a simplicity to which I’m attracted. I’m not saying it’s easy. But at the end of the day, you have either won or lost.
We rarely have that sense of knowing in our lives, even more so when we take stock of our relationship with the divine, or whatever you relate to that helps you connect with something bigger than yourself.
How do we know if we have succeeded or failed to have something holy in our lives?
Maybe this is the wrong question. Maybe we should be asking, “Am I able to build space for the divine to be present in my life and my community?”
Every week Jews around the world read a chapter from the Five Books of Moses, what we call the Torah. This week we read from Exodus, chapter Vayakhel, meaning assemble, referring to Moses assembling the people Israel. The Israelites, recently liberated from slavery in Egypt and in receipt of the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, still are figuring out what it means to have God in their lives.
Moses communicates how to build the mishkan, the portable dwelling-place or tabernacle, in which God will accompany the Israelites as they wander through the desert. Earlier in Exodus God says to Moses, “If they build a sanctuary, I will dwell among you.” This verse in Hebrew is sometimes paired with the beautiful Christian song “Sanctuary,” by Randy Scruggs and John Thompson, which says, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.” Individually, and when paired, these two lines inspire a shared message: We need to be the builders of the sanctuary in our lives and our communities. When we make space for the divine, God will be present among us.
But like scoring a touchdown, this is no simple task.
Vayakhel provides us some guidance on how to do this as God tells Moses, “And let all among you who are skilled come and make all that the Lord has commanded.” When we look at the Hebrew for skilled, we see two words, hacham-lev, which might be translated separately as wisdom and heart. In biblical times, the heart is associated with thinking and wisdom, whereas today we assign these capacities to the brain. A more colloquial translation might be “one who has the power of discerning and judging as to what is true or right.”
This is not your typical job requirement. It does not say that God seeks “artisan with five-plus years experience, skilled in working with a buzz saw, capable of surviving desert conditions, open to travel.”
The only qualification to be a builder of holy space for God to reside is to be hacham-lev. Only those who posses the capacity to discern between true and right for themselves and in their communities are able to be the builders of the mishkan.
Our relationship with the divine is not a game to be won or lost, but a path we all walk, as individuals and communities, cultivating our hacham lev.
– Ross is a student rabbi at Temple Beth Ha Sholom in Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
Enjoying our winter snowstorms? Though the white snow is pretty, our roads must be cleared. A couple of weeks ago, I looked at my car, covered with cinder, salt and mess from traveling the roads, and thought to myself, “You need to wash this thing. You know you dislike a dirty car.” Then another thought promptly replied, “Don’t bother. It will only get covered again because they’re calling for more snow.” Someone told me once that it is not good for the car to have all that salt on it, so I made my way to the car wash.
I also looked online to see whether I had heard right about the effect of the road cinder and salt on my car. There, I saw an article that said (according to Matt Feehan, president of American Auto Body in Brooklyn Park in Minnesota), “the corrosion-resistant coatings are better, and the manufacturers are more complete in the painting processes … All of these components are heavily built, so it’s largely a cosmetic issue (to wash the car). However, while it can take years for the rust to manifest itself on the car’s exterior salt can cause rust to build up on hidden parts of your car and slowly eat away at the metal.” I did what I could and washed the parts I could see, but I have no idea how to wash all the “hidden parts” to prevent corrosion.
We can go to great lengths to keep our human bodies clean and healthy, perhaps by losing weight, buying a gym membership and showering daily. Our efforts to make the outside look good are just part of life’s journey. What can we do about the “hidden parts” within us? Is the dirt of this world eating away at our spiritual cleanliness? It is easy to ignore that part of our body and think that no one can see it. And besides, like my car, we are at a loss in knowing how to rid ourselves of those secret hidden habits.
On our own, we can’t. However, with God’s help, we can. The composer of Psalm 51 wrote a great prayer that we can use: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow … blot out all my iniquities (i.e. sin, immorality, injustice, etc.). Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Oh yes, just like my car, we’ll end up in a mess again. We have said or done what we know we should not have; we have slid right back into that awful habit that we asked God to cleanse us of last month or even yesterday. What to do? Give up? No!
God’s arms always are open, offering us undeserved mercy, love and forgiveness. God’s love will continually wash those hidden areas that collect so much of the world’s unhealthy influence. There’s nothing like the peace and joy of a clean life!
– Minnick is the pastor at Oval United Methodist Church.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
We all know that every child is precious and “created in the image and likeness of God.” Raising children today and addressing issues and dealing with the many varied concerns and struggles of family life are indeed daunting.
The Family Life Task Force of the United Churches of Lycoming County has conducted several workshops and seminars over the years and participated and supported many community and church endeavors that have “run the gamut” on several fronts. Parents or primary care givers are invited to participate in an upcoming three-part series titled “Conversations based on the book of ‘Secrets of Happy Families’ ” by Bruce Feiler (the book was reviewed in a “Parade Magazine” article about a year ago in the Sun-Gazette). A seed was sown at that time, and perhaps you or someone you know would like to attend and benefit from the series with your family. A meal, program and child care will be provided at no cost to you.
A child’s family has the most critical influence in his/her life. Through family we build self-esteem, learn how to deal with and resolve conflict, gain concepts of right and wrong, learn how to love and forgive and 101 other values and virtues that equip us to live in today’s complicated world. We know that when a family partnership extends to a positive school and community interaction and learning, small miracles can happen that help your child and family make the world a better place.
We constantly hear about the many struggles in family life and that the family is under attack. These challenges include communication and conflict, underemployment and financial struggles, divorce, teen pregnancy and single parenthood, addiction, illness, as well as forces from within and outside the home that challenges the very fabric of families. As parents we have been placed in situations no one can be or has been prepared for.
But let us be positive; most of us have turned out OK! The crisis of last week has been forgotten, and something is brewing on the back burner working its way to the front that we don’t know about. But it will arrive, and you will get through it and survive.
Sometimes it might be nice to have some gentle and non-threatening support. Perhaps it would helpful in a small or a large way to hear suggestions and/or comments and be in conversation with other parents on this incredible journey of raising a family in today’s world.
Albeit coordinated by United Church of Lycoming County, the series is presented by counseling staff from many area school districts and colleges. The dates are Tuesdays, March 25, April 1 and April 8 from 6-8 p.m. at the St. Joseph the Worker Parish Fleming Center, 720 W. Fourth St. in Williamsport. Registration is limited, so please call the United Churches office at 570-322-1110 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register.
– Foran is director of Religious Education at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport.