religion



When reading the Daily Mail online about the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for “blasphemous comments” about Mohammad after she was denied water by Muslim women, I couldn’t help but see parallels with the persecution of Christians in the Roman era. It would seem that some of the Shariah law was taken from the Roman empire. There are several parallels seen in the Daily Mail of October 17, 2014.

Misunderstanding abounds.

Christian rituals were privately held in homes and not in public: the felt secrecy of their rituals inflamed the collective imagination of those who did not follow Jesus’ teachings. Indeed, in the early years Christians were accused of being impious atheists.

The Passover feast to remember Jesus’ act on the cross on humanity’s behalf was performed in the homes–thus a private affair. [No public prayers five times a day.] Not being able to do key word searches, the polytheistic population accused Christians of cannibalism due to the terms “body and blood” which actually referred to remembrance of sacrifice of the lamb God provided, not a humanly provided lamb.

The early Christians were also accused of incest referring to each other as “brothers” and “sisters”. Since then, many faith groups refer to other followers of the same faith in this way, Islam inclusive (The Muslim Brotherhood, for example) . The Christians’ refusal to participate in public religion and choose to retain maintain monotheism actually was quite threatening of the status quo since there was a superstition that bad things would befall the society if the public worship of established gods were not maintained.

The fabric of society was the combining of custom and education, that people in Roman society were obliged to revere the religious institutions of their country. Open disrespect of family beliefs by not following them and what they reverenced as true and sacred was deemed renouncing of family and country. Theocratic countries still have these issues. Pakistan’s Shariah law doesn’t help create people with differences to be equal citizens.

The Roman governor’s personal opinion reigned during adjudication. The law was fuzzy about dealing with Christians, just as the definition of blasphemy is just as wooly. An accuser/prosecutor could either be an official or a citizen. A charge of Christianity was enough for a governor to pass judgement. The accuser/prosecutor could be rewarded with some of the accused’s property if he made an adequate case. Indeed, the Daily Mail article side-bar draws attention to that lucrative loop-hole when accusing of blasphemy.

The Roman governor oversaw the trial from start to finish: he heard the arguments, decided on the verdict, and passed the sentence. Christians sometimes offered themselves up for punishment, and the hearings of such voluntary martyrs were conducted in the same way. I feel for Asia Bibi’s sense of fed-up and taking a stand to be treated as an equal human being. The civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s experienced just such change agents.

Political leaders in the Roman Empire were also public cult leaders. Political and religious life blended. This public religious practice was in their estimation critical to the social and political stability and success of both the local community and the empire as a whole.

Once distinguished from Judaism, Christianity was no longer seen as simply a bizarre sect of an old and venerable religion; it was new and unknown, a superstition laden with connotation of religious practices that were corrosive to society. Following Jesus’ teachings was seen as worshiping a convicted criminal, treason for refusing to “swear by the emperor’s genius, harshly criticized Rome in their holy books” and held their rites in private (Wiki). Merely speaking ill of the dominant Roman way of religion was treasonous.

Jews refused to obey the decree for pagan religious observance as a testament of allegiance to the empire. They were tolerated because they followed their own Jewish ancestral (therefore legitimate) ceremonial law, and as second class citizens had to give a Jewish tax. In a Caliphate Jews and Christians are second class citizens who pay extra tax. That is the best they can hope for.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire

retrieved Oct 18, 2014

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2796178/pakistani-christian-woman-sentenced-death-blasphemy-making-derogatory-remarks-muslim-neighbours-loses-appeal.html


Islam’s perspective on political development begins with the spiritual concept of the community of believers (the umma), their individual responsibility to community and to God. With this, other faith groups are not in dispute concerning their own spiritual communities.

In turn, the spiritual community of believers takes precedence over institutional structure within the Christian community. It is understood that the Holy Spirit– God’s breath and power– is upon all followers of Jesus and joins them together. The Passover Feast was Jesus’ last meal, emphasizing the scapegoat motif. Followers of Jesus ritually partake of that communal feast, and despite the Reformation of some 500 years ago that led to institutional splits, believers are still spiritually united in communion and identify with one another.

In antiquity it was the responsibility of the community to hand out justice. The five centuries up to now slowly evolved as there were attempts to put Godly principles into play politically, but the respective faith institutions became private personal affairs of conscience. The Holy Roman Empire had finally lost its grip.

The political Islamic perspective is that it is the responsibility of the state as the organizer of the community to promote and facilitate ethical behaviour prescribed in the Quran. It is a moral mission and activist posture to build with a divine role in the world.1

It has been said the Western perspective is that “political development is inversely related to religion in politics because secularism is a fundamental criterion of political development.”2 Mackenzie King might have disagreed. King started out longing to put an end to class conflict with a growing idea that the union of “religion, politics, and education” would best deliver reform. Ramsay Cook wrote that in the late nineteenth century King, shunning laissez-faire orthodoxy, had blended Calvinism [indicating the hand to the plow and not quitting?] and social reform producing a ‘religious liberalism.’ King’s aim for the Kingdom of God on earth ironically saw the development of the secular city.3 Industrialization and urbanization brought the end of many of the old ways of life and livelihood.

Cultures organize themselves with mores and routines; at a sophisticated level, we have political-civil society expressed by John Locke (1632-1704) as a tool for interpreting political behaviour, affected by beliefs, social forces, material traits of a social group. National identity might be associated with tribal, or clan structures or sects, carrying a collective awareness of a common history. Historically we have been limited by affectations of distinctive language and culture, and seeing differences in spiritualities instead of discovering similarities once weeding through dialects and customs. We need common identifiers in a transient world. Everyone needs to know at their core that they are a vital part of the community or we become as lost ships at sea.

1. Esposito, John L., ed. (1980). Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change. Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, pp. 3,4.

2. Ibid, p. 3.

3. Wardhaugh, Robert A., (2000). Mackenzie King and the Prairie West. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p.9.; George Ramsay Cook (1985). The Regenerators: Social Criticism in Late Victorian English Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, p. 169.


I was about twenty years old ( a collection of decades ago) when I read Eusebius’s book on the early church. Everything seemed to make progressive logical sense until his explanation of how Constantine was suppose to have become a Christian and to have had a weird vision from the “Christian” god leading him to victory. Nothing could be more contradictory to the teachings of Rabbi/Guru Jesus. I was left feeling out of synch (not for the first time) with the rest of my faith group who, as far as I could tell, bought this stuff hook-line-and-sucker. Everything seemed to go sideways after that, historically speaking.

When we look at art history, we get a more complete picture. Persecution was not able to eradicate these believers of the way. These “little Christs” met quietly and secretly in their house churches. Certain houses had baptismal tanks for the ritual of the water and word to symbolize the washing away of our tending to be outside of God’s loving will. The psychological and visceral impact coupled with pure intent is quite impactful. Many other people groups used baptism rituals, but this one was brought along from those of the Jewish faith. It is an act of humility that we cannot follow a pure path alone. It is a path and a work in progress as one allows the Divine to be a vital part of one’s life. They were a tight knit community.

Constantine, not wanting to be bested by these cell groups that quietly came and went, offered an olive branch of non persecution. Eusebius gets to become a bishop in this deal, which probably explains his easy enthusiasm for an Emperor who has a passion with associating himself as Sol Invictus “Unconquered Sun.” Various mosaics and massive sculptures would feature his having the rays of the sun radiating from Constantine’s head.

It was Constantine who initiated Sunday worship pushing the church to assume Sunday worship as their own. In the early years the followers of Jesus went to synagogue on the Sabbath. According to Wikipedia, Constantine decreed (March 7, 321) dies Solis –day of the sun, “Sunday”–as the Roman day of rest. Only farmers were exempt.

In a very deft move, Constantine routed the Christians out of hiding and gained complete control. The doctrine of the Trinity has the fingermarks of Constantine as with how he manipulated the Roman sun god imagery to his own advantage. Over interpretation and attribution of this document plagues and confuses people to this day, distracting from the core teachings of the prophet and rabbi Jesus.


I don’t know about you, but today I am fed up to the eyeballs about how our news and internet are being taken over by ISIS snuff videos and the reporting of same. It is enough to get my juices going and to wake me up, whereas parts of me have been sleeping. I am sure we have all fallen into that malaise. It has also resolved me to become bolder in terms of life applications of spirituality. The days of being raised that we (mostly Christians) are not to talk about religion and politics are long gone by absolute necessity.

We may think it happened after 9/11 and 7/7, but really what we are in the face of right now is unfinished business since the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the venting of the collective Arabic spleen, and others. World War One (the Great War) has little been talked about as my parents’ generation produced volumes of movies and documentaries of World War Two.

Ed Husain, who wrote “The Islamist,” made two points about rejecting the Jewish and Christian faiths when he was in a space of personal spiritual crisis, having left violent Islamism behind. He rejected Judaism out of hand because it was “race” based. It ignores the universal truths the Hebrew tribe early identified and uniquely expressed in legal logic language to clearly delineate our human relationship with the Creator. Sammy Davis Junior, may he rest in peace, would soundly disagree with Ed.

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) for personal and communal transformation honours the atonement message’s deep psychological wisdom. During its ten days of repentance that extend from the first day of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (Yom Hazikaron–the Day of Remembrance) to Yom Kippur,  humanity through the Jewish faith tradition is encouraged to look at what we have done and what we have become in the past year. We are called to participate in an individual and collective reassessment of our lives and to reaffirm through prayer the possibilities of our lives individually and in community. Repentance (teshuvah) requires considerable detail exactly what we shall do differently in our lives while taking stock of what things will likely throw us off or undermine our resolve. Make concrete workable action plans based on our deepest and most searching self scrutiny.

In scapegoat imagery, the unblemished lamb on behalf of sins was a visceral contract rite to move the participant to accept letting go of guilt, accepting restoration of relationship. The altar was sanctified. The mechanism requires that we accept that the past errors of our lives need not stick to us as we embrace this living imagery of an internal transformative work.  The cross that Jesus  died on was a stumbling stone to the Jewish community in First Century.

So, the sensible reasoning goes, how can the vile criminal’s cross be sanctified to lay claim that the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross so everyone on the planet for all time can embrace this basic truth? This is where the drama in the last days and hours before the death of Jesus of Nazareth becomes essential for the imagery to have cohesive effect. In the end, the chief priests handed him over to Pilate whose form of execution was crucifixion, thus for this instance, sanctifying the cross Jesus died on. That was then.

Constantine, in the Fourth Century, foisted a belief system and made the followers of the way of the way, truth, and the life into dogmatists and doctrinaires including the new stumbling block of the doctrine of the Trinity, Ed Husain’s second pet peeve. Shall be  addressed in another blog.

Yom Kippur resources: Michael Lerner (1994). Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. HarperPerennial, New York, NY.

God’s dream is to not be alone, but to have humanity as a partner in the drama of continuous creation. By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


Normally I simply compile information with reflections on this site. However, today, this is a blog about some news: “NHS worker who ‘bullied’ Muslim by praying for her” by David Barrett, of the Telegraph, June 28, 2014. See http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/06/uk-christian-suspended-for-bullying-muslim-by-giving-her-christian-book and http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/06/uk-christian-suspended-for-bullying-muslim-by-giving-her-christian-book?utm_source=Jihad+watch+Daily+Digest&utm_campaign=3969b89d36-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ffcbf57bbb-3969b89d36-123486873

The comments on this blog site were most disturbing. First, we have devolved from a global society in which we share our spirituality with one another, to keeping “religion” out of the public or workplace discourse in order to not offend others of different backgrounds. As you read Victoria Wasteney’s comments in the above link you will see that she had a spiritual, not religious, communion with her. She was supportive, friendly, and welcoming. Her only “mistake” was to pass on the book for relatives to find it. This put the young lady in danger from her own family.  The real issue is freedom of public discourse, a matter Wasteney is attempting to address. The comments on these articles were not helpful.


The St. Giles Mission Awareness Sunday Service, April 17, 2005

Announcements:

The purpose of Mission Awareness Sunday is to increase our awareness of mission and to inform congregations about the Women’s Missionary Society and the Atlantic Mission Society. Please note your bulletin insert of the day. Evangel Hall is a particular thrust in mission of the Presbyterian Church at this time. I can’t help but think how much a place like that is needed here in the St. Catharines region. Please put it in your hearts and prayers that we be facilitators of just such a thrust in the community. St. Catharines has the RAFT, a Resource Allocation for Teens which is cramped, underfunded, and needs volunteer teams to make it truly mission. Bethlehem Place is a specialized housing help. Out of the Cold is a band aid help but a very important band aid. Perhaps we can learn from Evangel Hall. There are hundreds more who need help that are slipping through the cracks. Let us consider the ways we can work together to truly give a comprehensive voice and helping hand to others of our community.
The Lord’s Prayer shall be sung at the end of the Prayers of the People.
(pause)
Here I am to Worship Words and Music by Tim Hughes

Call to Worship:

Leader: The Father calls, that we might worship: “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!”
People: We will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
Leader: The Son sends, that we may serve: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
People: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
Leader: The Spirit speaks, that we may hear: “Hear, O my people, that you may live.”
People: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
All: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

Bible Entry

Hymn of Praise: #290 “Immortal, invisible, God only wise”

Prayers of Adoration and Confession: (in unison)

O God, our God, creator of all things,
Your name is great in all the earth!
You are the God who causes light to shine out of darkness,
Who sees the little sparrow fall,
Who wipes the tears from the eyes of those in grief and pain.
You love us beyond our ability to comprehend;
You welcome us home with open arms after our futile efforts
To find peace in the shallow attractions of the world.
We lift up our hearts to praise and adore Your glorious name,
O God most high!

Gracious God, when we catch a glimpse of your greatness,
When we sense just a little of the depth of your love for us in Jesus Christ,
We cannot help but confess to you our failures and sins.
We have not lived as you have called us to live.
We have not been careful stewards of your creation.
We have not loved and cared for others as you have taught us.
We have hurt others by our words and actions.
We have stood by in mute acceptance of a society in which the rich grow
Richer and the poor grow poorer.

Forgive us, O God, for these and all our sins,
and renew a right spirit within us.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Friends, hear this good news! The Lord says, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25 NRSV). So let us forget them as well, for we are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God!

Children’s Time:

The children come up and lead in “I will make you fishers of men.”

1. I will make you fishers of men,
fishers of men, fishers of men.
I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.
If you follow me, if you follow me.
I will make you fishers of men,
If you follow me.

2. Hear Christ calling, come unto Me,
Come unto Me, come unto Me;
Hear Christ calling,
Come unto Me, I will give you rest,
I will give you rest, I will give you rest.
Hear Christ calling, come unto Me, I will give you rest.

3. I will make you builders of love,
Builders of love, builders of love,
I will make you builders of love,
If you follow Me, if you follow Me, if you follow Me.
I will make you builders of love, if you follow Me.

Story: What does the word “missionary” mean?

There was a little boy who couldn’t remember very well the things his mother told him. His brother tried to teach him how to count but he got the numbers all mixed up. He could only learn things if he went over it and over it and over it many times.

On Jason’s first day of grade one he still couldn’t say his ABC’s and all the children laughed at him—all except one child. When he tried to count to ten at recess for everyone to run and hide, everyone laughed at him—all except one child. At lunch time, when he couldn’t explain very well what was in his lunch box, all the children laughed at him—all except one child.

That one child had a name and it was Kelly. Kelly would help Jason in class by leaning over and help him to find the right page. When others laughed at Jason, Kelly said, “Don’t laugh at him. How would you like it if everyone laughed at you?” In the playground, Kelly played with Jason while all the others ignored him.

One day as they climbed on to the swings, Jason said to Kelly, “I like you. You’re my friend. Nobody else is my friend.”
Kelly replied, “Oh, yes! You have another very, very good friend. Jesus is your friend.”
“Jesus?” said Jason. “I don’t know any Jesus. Who is he?”
So while they were sitting on the swings, Kelly told Jason about her friend, Jesus. “You can’t see him,” she said, “but he’s always with you. He never laughs at you when you make a mistake. He makes you feel good when you’re sad. He’s the best friend ever.”

That day, when his mom came to pick Jason up from school, he ran up to her with a big smile and shouted, “Hey, Mom! I got two friends now—Kelly and Jesus!”

What would you call Kelly?… I would call her a missionary! Does that sound funny? Missionaries are people who show the love of Jesus by what they do and by what they say. Can you say that after me?—“Missionaries are people—who show the love of Jesus—by what they do—and by what they say–.”

Let us pray:

Dear heavenly Father– help us to show Your love to others –as You showed Your love through Jesus Christ,– our best friend. Make the words that come out of our mouths– and the things that we do– show the love of Jesus– by the power of the Holy Spirit –who helps us to feel good about ourselves.—Amen.

Hymn: #570 (vs 1) “I have decided to follow Jesus”
Children leave sanctuary.

Prayer for Illumination: (unison)
Lord, take our minds and think through them.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hands and work through them.
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. Amen.

Scripture Reading:
Exodus 3: 7-12 (the Hebrew Scriptures)
Psalm 100
Matthew 28: 16-20 (the New Testament Scriptures)

Response: Hymn: #252 “He is Lord”

Sermon: What are we here for?

Adapted from Rev. Dr. H. Glen Davis, former missionary to Japan.

Creed: Living Faith

Hymn: 374: “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing”

Prayers of the People:

Thank you heavenly Father for every good and perfect gift. You are ever creating, loving and compassionate. We thank you for food, shelter and for those who love and care for us. We thank you for raindrops and new growth. We thank you for your church, the body of Christ, both here and around the world. We thank you that Christ’s victory over death ushers us into victory over darkness and death as well. We thank you for people of faith who first helped us to find our way to Jesus. Give to us, we pray, the faith and imagination and the will to do the same for others.

O God, help us to imagine a new world, a world filled with your love and peace, a world in which “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” We pray for the world; for just peace in the Middle East; for_____________; for people facing war and death and starvation every day; for children who go to bed hungry every night. We pray that we, and your people everywhere, will have the will and commitment to do everything that we can to bring an end their suffering and to share the good news of your love.

We pray for everyone here today who struggles with pain in body, heart or mind. Deliver them. Take their burden upon yourself, ease their pain and heal their wounded spirits. Be with those who cannot be here with us. There are family and friends who weigh heavily upon our hearts. We lift them up to you in the silence of this moment….(period of silence).

Hear these prayers, O God, and all the unspoken cries of our hearts, for we bring them to you in the strong name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who taught us to pray, singing: The Lord’s Prayer, music by Albert Hay Malotte.
Special Music: Shout to the North Words and music by Martin Smith

Minute for Mission:

The regional minister of the Presbytery of Temiskaming preaches once a month in each of the four congregations of Knox, Cochrane; St. John’s; Kapuskasing; St. Andrew’s, Kirkland Lake; and MacKay, Timmins where lay missionaries lead the services in the other three churches for the remaining Sundays. Since the regional minister is not available to each community throughout the week, much of the pastoral work is looked after by the lay missionaries. Pray for the four congregations in this Regional Ministry and their ministry team and for our giving to Presbyterian Sharing to help support this ministry.

Offertory:

Offering: In response to the good news of the gospel let us present to the Lord our tithes and offerings.

Prayer of Dedication:

Gracious God, you have blessed us beyond our deserving. You have called us to proclaim Your good news and to serve Your people. We present our gifts to You. As we dedicate them to the work of your kingdom, we dedicate ourselves to the mission of your church. Receive us and our gifts, we pray, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: #592 “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” Verses solos. Congregation: chorus

Commissioning and Benediction:

People of God, let us go into the world seeking the face of Jesus in everyone we meet. And may everyone we meet see the face of Jesus in us. May the grace of God, the Father, the love of God, the Son, and the power of God, the Holy Spirit, go with us all, now and forever more. Amen.


The Sower, Mark 4:3-9 A spiritual diagnostic tool

Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, [and it was trodden down– Luke 8:5] and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away [Luke 8:6 because it lacked moisture]. Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundred fold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

 

In Matthew 13 we see that the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parables. Jesus responded that he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah which says (vs 14b-17):

By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and shall not perceive; For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be comforted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.

So why would this be so? Jesus is telling us, if we would only hear and see, for in the next instant he begins to explain the parable to the disciples. We must make compost for the good news to sink into the hearts of the people. It is a matter of preparation and timing.

Like throwing pearls to swine, the word will not be understood and properly received if the ground of the heart is not first prepared.We are given a diagnostic tool:
Verse 14: “The sower sows the word.” We understand this to be sowing the Word of God, the good news. The seed is the word and the ground is us.

There are four kinds of soil or ground. Some seeds fell by the path and the birds came and ate it. In verse 15 Satan immediately takes the newly sown word out of the people’s hearts just as in the parable when the birds took it and ate it. Unprepared people hear something they do not understand assume it is nonsense or misunderstand it in some convoluted way.

Luke the physician points out that the ground was trodden down. After all, it was along a well trodden path. We are left with a poser: What do we do in order to better repair the situation so the word/logos/reality be better received? What is Luke trying to convey?

The thought which immediately comes to mind is to put down more seed than the birds can eat. Some will take hold. But the ground is packed down from much business of to-and-fro. In gardening terms we might want to lightly rake the ground to keep the soil receptive to the seed.

The solution may be to wait until frenetic energy and stress of daily life has ceased and hearing of the word can take place. When the heart is a busy path, it is not ready to hear the word of God and understand. Although we are to pray without ceasing, we also are to set ourselves apart regularly to pray and meditate on our Lord or we become just a busy path.

Other seed fell on rocky ground. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

We often only think we understand. Jesus is cautioning us against shallowness of faith.

Other seed fell on rocky ground and the sun rose and scorched it. Without root and no water, it withered away. People with rocky ground for their hearts immediately receive the word with gladness. The adversary doesn’t immediately get the seed this time but the person for whom the message is sent snatches it up. However, the Word is not rooted within them and when affliction and persecution occur for the word’s sake they are offended. These are “fair weather” believers who think everything should always go smoothly now that they believe. John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress described this type of person.

What are we to do with “fair weather” believers? After all, they did receive the word gladly. It hurts us when we see people turning away from their faith. It isn’t like they never had it. Perhaps they will need time to feed the pigs before coming back as the prodigal son. But what can we do for our part?

Rocky ground needs shade, soil and water if it is to be prepared to take the word and thrive. In short, it needs a safe nurturing place. The safe place itself is a quality of God’s abiding love. This love needs to become so permeated into the heart that external circumstances cannot unsettle the relationship with God, and faith is secure.

Faith is evidence of things unseen. It is one thing to believe a thing but it is another to have the faith to continue on when all seems to go awry. The safe place which is needed is as the sheep beside the quiet waters. The safe place is a restored soul. The safe place becomes the pearl of greatest price and the affliction and persecution does not cause one to waver as the soul remains in that spirit of rest.

We water the ground with our prayers. We provide shade from the heat of the day as we take courage that God’s love can be expressed through us and we choose to provide friendly conversation. Encourage ourselves and one another that intensity of activity, as with scorching heat, is not the answer. Out of being one who is loved and loving does the appropriate level of effort and energy get expended. We provide soil as we continue to be supportive with whatever means we have available. Do not scorn the little things you may do for it is all a vital part of developing rich soil.

Thirdly, seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it– thorns that prick with lies, deceits and taunts and worries and cares of this world. What are we to do to intercede for these people? A very proven effective approach is to ask our Creative Creator, our parent originator, to provide a protective hedge around these people so that the thorns cannot prick. Or, as my daughter-in-law once said, to grow a thick fur for a thick fur would protect us from all sorts of buffeting and attack.

Last but not least, the soil falls on good soil yielding thirty, sixty and a hundred fold. And as we continue to worship, pray, meditate on the Word and fellowship in God’s love with those whom we meet, we continue to yield for our Lord, the connectedness, peace harmony, belonging we all seek. Amen and amen.

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