Never Tell Me the Odds

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Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-49 (NRSV)

Recently, our family went to see the new Star Wars movie, Solo.  While it has received mixed reviews, we all enjoyed it thoroughly.  I think for me, it had to do with director Ron Howard’s nod to the nostalgic revisiting of a beloved character.  Han Solo first came alive for me as a child and the bravado that he characterized captured not only my interest but that of the country.  His second big screen appearance (I’m not counting the Christmas special) in The Empire Strikes Back only added to his popularity.  One of my favorite lines in this movie was when they were trying to escape from the Empire in their starship, the Millennium Falcon.  They were frantically working on their engines when they get hit by a large thump.  They find out that they are entering an asteroid belt.  Instead of flying away from it, Han Solo flies directly into it, declaring, “They would be crazy to follow us!”  At this point, the android C-3PO tells Solo that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720 to 1 to which he replies, “Never tell me the odds!”

What he means is that he has already made up his mind to do it and doesn’t want any negativity ruining his confidence in his ability to succeed!

In this week’s scripture reading, we have this wonderful story that predates Star Wars by about three millennia.  David and Goliath have transcended the Bible and are a part of our culture.  To be a substantial underdog in a sports contest is often referred to as a David versus Goliath matchup.  We talk about defeating our Goliaths in reference to any large problem we may be facing.

As we re-read the story, we see that David had a certain amount of confidence of his own!  He recounts his own prowess in dispatching lions and bears (oh, my!).  He refers to Goliath as an “uncircumcised Philistine” showing his disdain for the foreigner rather than respect for his size and ability.  And then, like any good hero, he follows through on his promises.

This Sunday, we will revisit this old, old story.  We will see how it continues to live on for us today and how our confidence in taking on problems should have a little bravado in it.  I hope you’ll join us for worship and if you can’t make it in person, join us for our livestream or catch it later on the archives!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out more of Sam’s blog articles at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com.
Photo of “Han Solo” is a copyrighted promotional image used under the Fair Use license.

Music and Worship Ministry Update

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A New Doxology

Just as the United Methodist “Book of Discipline” serves as a rule and guide to our church polity, the “Book of Worship” is a resource that pastors and musicians within the denomination use to ensure that our worship services are theologically sound and consistently creative.  One of the suggestions it makes is to periodically change service music to keep worship fresh and vibrant.

With that in mind, starting this Sunday and continuing until the fall, we’ll be singing a new song as the gifts from our offering are presented at the altar entitled “Bless Thou the Gifts” (UMH # 587).  I fully realize that many of you have memorized our standard doxologies (aka “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”) and that this might be a minor shock to your musical system.  So, at all three services, the choir or a cantor will be teaching it to you at the beginning of the service.

I pray that this slight but profound change will add a new dimension to our worship, and don’t worry, you’ll have this new one memorized in no time!

Hymn Festival
Don’t forget that on Sunday, June 24 at 4:00, the adult choir and handbell choir will be teaming up to present a hymn festival, entitled: “With One Voice, A Celebration of Hymnody Through the Ages.”  This unique service will trace the development of hymns from the earliest chants to ecumenical favorites of today. An all-church mission fundraiser dinner will follow in the gym.  Dinner and a show—what more could you ask for!

Save the Dates!
Our Hymn Festival is only the beginning of our annual summer music series!  Mark your calendars for the annual organ recital on Sunday, July 15 at 3:00, and our all-church concert/talent show on Sunday August 19 at 3:00.  More details to follow!

Not the Number One Draft Pick

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Lectionary Reading for Sunday: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (NRSV)

This passage is rich for a lot of reasons.  I like how at the end of chapter 15, we see God regret some previous decisions.  This may raise a lot of theological questions on God’s knowledge of the future.  It even may allow people to query if God is infallible or not.  There’s a lot packed into that one sentence.

I also like the conversation between God and Samuel.  Samuel is worried that he will be killed for treason if he anoints another man king while Saul is still on the throne.  God works out his cover story for him!  This dialogue would not be available to everyone of that time.  They would have only seen Samuel as the sly old man who is working in a revolutionary manner by throwing his weight behind a new monarch. 

But maybe the best part of the story is the exposure of our preconceived ideas.  God does not look as mortals do (such as outward appearance) but God looks upon the heart.  Samuel and the rest have a good idea who they think will be the next king.  God’s candidate is definitely a dark horse!  But we see that God does know more about the future than we do as David eventually becomes the standard by which all other Israelite kings are measured.

Underdog was also a cartoon character

in the 1970's that evidently is still recognizable!

We all like a good underdog story.

Now that the NBA finals have wrapped up, Thunder fans are looking to free agency and the draft (even though we don’t have a first round pick this year).  My favorite NBA player is probably John Starks.  For full disclosure, this is largely because we are both alumni of Oklahoma State.  However, Starks for me rises ahead of other noteworthy players not because of his talent but because of his story.  Originally from Tulsa, Starks was only at OSU for a year after bouncing around several colleges.  He was not drafted when he finished his college eligibility.  He played during the summer and in the now-defunct CBA which were all minor leagues.  He was bagging groceries in Tulsa between college and the NBA.  Probably, he is most famous for his dunk over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference finals when the New York Knicks were playing the Chicago Bulls in 1993.  Now, John Starks is not even in the same ballpark (so to speak) as Michael Jordan and maybe that is why that particular play was so memorable (to Knick fans anyway).  For many, this seemed like David and Goliath - at least as far as athletic talent goes.

Starks is one more underdog story.  There are lots of them.

They remind us that the most talented or the richest don’t always win.  Sometimes people have something in them that allows them to overcome people with greater ability.  As we think about this spiritually, we would say that God’s grace is available to all people.  This levels the playing field in a way that nothing else does.  It means that we each have the possibility to thrive and succeed.

While not everyone may see your potential, we believe that God does. 

Sometimes that’s all we need.

In Christ,

Sam
Photo by Alicia Griffin via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Worship and Music Ministry Update

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Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries
andrew@fumcedmond.org

Hymn Festival
On Sunday, June 24 at 4:00, the adult choir and handbell choir will be teaming up to present a hymn festival, entitled: “With One Voice, A Celebration of Hymnody Through the Ages.”  This unique service will trace the development of hymns from the earliest chants to ecumenical favorites of today.  

Hymn Festival Dinner
Following the Hymn Festival on Sunday, June 24, the Missions committee will be hosting a fundraiser supporting our missionary, Rev. Carmen Ana Perez-Rios who is serving the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.  Our offering, both at the Hymn Festival and at the dinner will be directed toward her work in the areas that were ravaged by Hurricane Maria.  If you can’t make the event, but would still like to support the cause, you may donate by sending a check to the church with “missionary” in the memo line.  If you have any questions about our missionary, you may contact Marie Gately at 249-1107.   

Annual Conference
Last week, the Adult Choir had the high honor of singing for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination for Annual Conference, held at St. Luke’s downtown.  In addition to helping lead the liturgical music and hymns, the choir teamed up with the adult choirs of St. Luke’s Edmond and St. Luke’s downtown for three rousing anthems.  We are grateful for this connectional opportunity and look forward to ways we can serve by singing outside of our own church doors!

 

Making Hard Decisions

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Do you have any strong memories tied to a certain taste?  I hate drinking Barq’s Root Beer.  Do you remember that old school silver can with the cursive script?  I cannot stand to drink it.  If I was stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean and the only option was dehydration or drinking Barq’s Root Beer, well, I’d be meeting our Lord and Savior a little quicker—I just wouldn’t drink it.

This is weird because growing up at church when I was really young, I used to always drink Barq’s Root Beer.  I remember digging through my mom’s purse to try and collect enough change to get that silver can from the vending machine whenever I was left alone up at church.  What changed?

In elementary school I got really sick; I don’t remember what it was, and it wasn’t life threatening, but at the age, I felt like the end was near.  I had to take this medicine in liquid form, and it was the worst kind of flavor that I still to do this day remember vividly.  Can you guess what that flavor was?  Root beer.  Yuck.

There’s a cruel irony in life that it seems like the worse medicine tastes, the better it is for you.  If it had been up to me, I truly don’t think I’d have taken the medicine when I was sick.  Why should I drink something that tasted bad while I was already sick?  To a child, that makes zero sense.

Sometimes we are still like that today.  We often know what is good for us, what would make us healthier.  Whether it’s exercise, taking medicine, or eating healthier, we don’t want to made healthy.  Our faith life is like that often.  We don’t want to make hard choices, instead choose the road of least resistance.  In systems theory, we talk about how systems avoid change at any cost, even if what is popular is not always good for us.

God sent Jesus to us in order to show us different ways to live, different ways to connect with God and neighbor.  Sometimes that means change, means swallowing some root beer flavored medicine.  Join us on Sunday as we examine what it means to make the hard decisions, that even though they may taste bad, they’ll help us follow God a little bit closer.

Blessings!

Pastor Trey
Photo by Christopher Cacho via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Breakin’ the Law

 A statue of Robin Hood in Nottingham

A statue of Robin Hood in Nottingham


Lectionary Scripture: Mark 2:23-3:6 (NRSV)

One of the oldest vigilante characters in literature is Robin Hood.  In his story, he was forced to go outside the law when injustice was prevailing by those supposed to uphold the law.  We remember that he robs from the rich to give to the poor.  While later legends make him nobility that takes the cause of the commoner, the earliest legends make Robin Hood an outlaw not of royal blood.

 

Every age seems to tell his story and a new movie is set to be released in November.

There is a romance about someone finding justice outside the law.  It is no surprise that people often feel that they have been treated unfairly in life.  We look to someone to right the wrongs.  After all, what can we do if the system fails us?

Unfortunately, romance aside, vigilante justice often circumvents the rights of people and mob rule often isn’t interested in due process.  Innocent people are often hurt and killed when people go outside the law.  So when should we circumvent the law and when should we uphold it?

Jesus finds that the religious law in his day kept people from being helped as they should.  He gives a kind of priority to helping people over and above the religious observance of the Sabbath.  He wants to make sure that the leaders understand this priority and makes an example of a man with a withered hand.  But taking the law into one’s own hands is often seen as subversive.  Jesus was breaking age-old traditions and when this was thrown in their faces, they were mad enough to kill him.

This reminds us of how seriously people resist change!

On Sunday, I hope to explore how Christians seek to bring justice to a hurting world.  We do what we can because Jesus did what he could to alleviate suffering.  The difficulty is when systems are set up to allow people to suffer needlessly.  How do we respond and what is the right thing to do?

I hope you’ll join us this Sunday at 8:30, 9:45 or 11 in the sanctuary or 10:50 in Wesley Hall!

In Christ,

Sam
Photo by Arran Bee via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Worship and Music Ministry Update

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Annual Conference
As you may have heard in church on Sunday, this year, our adult choir has the honor of participating at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 at St. Luke’s UMC (222 NW 15th St. OKC).  For this service, we’ll be teaming up with the choir of St. Luke’s, along with an orchestra, to present three stirring anthems: “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Hallelujah” from Handel’s oratorio, Messiah.  You are cordially invited to this powerful service, though you’ll want to arrive early for a good seat and parking spot.

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Children’s Choir Recap
Last Wednesday, children participating in our choir program were treated to an ice cream party to celebrate the end of another successful season!  Over the past year, nearly fifty children have participated in one of three choirs and we look forward to that number growing even more next year!  Stay tuned for fall registration information soon, but in the meantime, start thinking of friends, family and neighbors who might benefit from this unique ministry.  Remember, you need not be a member of our church to participate.

Worship This Sunday
We celebrated Pentecost last Sunday in festive form!  However, we have one more liturgical “celebration” before our long summer season starts, and that is Holy Trinity Sunday, which we will commemorate this Sunday.  Trinity Sunday is one of the few festivals that is not directly tied to a Biblical event, like Christ’s birth at Christmas, or the Holy Spirit’s descent on Pentecost.  Yet, it is an important day when we reflect on the mysteries of God and how God uses a variety of expressions to work within our church and world.  Also, as is customary to do on Trinity Sunday, we’ll have the opportunity to sing the Te Deum, which is one of the oldest hymns of praise in Christendom.  Be sure to join us!  

Trinity Sunday

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This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday immediately following Pentecost where we examine and celebrate the place, presence, and power of the Holy Trinity in our faith.  For some, the intellectual exercise of trying to grasp the relational nature of the Trinity through the three persons of God is spiritually enriching.  For others, the Trinity is simply semantics.

It’s hard to wander into sermons concerning the Trinity without unintentionally wading into heresy.  The early church mothers and fathers fought theologically over how to explain the Trinity.  Words such as perichoresis, divinization, filioque, homoiousia, and homoousia were thrown around with excommunications.  In the modern church, you may have heard the Trinity described through the imagery of the water cycle of ice, water, and vapor.  Another descriptor you may have heard is the three-leaf clover.  All of these analogies work on capturing the essence and function of the Trinity, bringing the infinite into the finite.

While I never want to minimize the importance of what the Trinity is and the intellectual rigor of our faith, sometimes we can turn to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:3 where he says, “‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  When it comes to the Trinity, learning to be comfortable in the ambiguity is necessary.  So on Sunday, instead of thinking about what the Trinity is and how the Trinity co-exists, we are going to look at why the Trinity is important to our lives as followers of Jesus.

My prayer for this week is that you all lean into our God who desires to be known by us, for us to know the comprehensive love and grace that washes over us.  Some of us relate to God through the understanding of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and some experience the holy as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  However you connect with God, my hope is that this Sunday helps you know that through the Triquetra, we are not alone.

Blessings unto you all!

Pastor Trey

Worship and Music Ministry Update

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Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries
andrew@fumcedmond.org

Save the Date!
On Sunday, June 24 at 4:00, the adult choir and handbell choir will be teaming up to present a hymn festival, entitled: “With One Voice, A Celebration of Hymnody Through the Ages.”  This unique service will trace the development of hymns from the earliest chants to ecumenical favorites of today.  A church-wide dinner, hosted by the Missions Committee will follow in the gym.  Be sure to make plans now to join us!  

Annual Conference
Annual Conference will take place Tuesday, May 29—Thursday May 31 in Oklahoma City and our church will be well represented!  Our adult choir will be teaming up with the choir from St. Luke’s to sing for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00, at St. Luke’s Church.  This service is open to the public and you are invited to attend.  Finally, on Thursday, May 31, our own Rebecca Ahlgrim will be giving the opening prayer at the Worship Service of Sending Forth at the OCU Freede Center.  We look forward to this annual event celebrating the mission and ministry of our regional church!

Worship & Music Ministry Update
Transitions are all around us this month.  Scores of students in our church are graduating, the weather is getting warmer, and we as a church now enter the summer season.  Liturgically, we mark this transition—the end of Easter (yes, we were still celebrating that up until last Sunday!) and the beginning of Ordinary Time—with a celebration called Pentecost, which we will observe this Sunday.  Those of you with a keen eye will notice a few things will have changed in the sanctuary on Sunday: the white Easter cross will be gone, the Paschal Candle by the Baptismal Font will no longer burn, and our beautiful white altar cloth (called a parament) will be replaced with red paraments adorning the pulpit and lectern.  On Pentecost, we celebrate the Spirit descending on those early Christians as recorded in the Book of Acts.  Red symbolically reminds us of that first Pentecost and that the Holy Spirit is still moving and working through the church to transform the world.  I hope you’ll join us this Sunday for this important day!

 

New Wesley Foundation Director

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New UCo Wesley Foundation Director
We are excited that our youth intern, Michaela Drain will be taking on a new role at Edmond First as the UCO Wesley Foundation Director. From her experience as an RA to what she’s learned and provided as our youth intern, Michaela has demonstrated the ability and know-how to effectively engage with college students. Read more about her below!

A life-long Methodist, Michaela is from Del City, OK, and has served as the youth Assistant at our church for about three years. While at UCO, she was also a Resident Assistant on campus for about three years. In addition to her work at our church, she has honed her ministry assisting skills as a Chaplain Assistant in the Oklahoma National Guard.
 
Michaela feels called to show others the hope and healing found in Christand accomplishes this by building a close Christian community wherever she goes. She uses her organization skills, combined with her love of game and mission work to help others experience God’s kingdom in the hopes that they will find their call.

What if You Threw a Party and Nobody Came?

 Eeyore as depicted by Disney is one of the saddest characters written for children. I try not to emulate him too often!

Eeyore as depicted by Disney is one
of the saddest characters written for children.
I try not to emulate him too often!

There are tons of sad stories online about inviting people to help celebrate a birthday and no one shows up.  It is a social scene that causes anxiety – after all, no one wants to live in isolation from friends.


Some of the reactions are chastising to those that didn’t come.  I don’t think a nice application of guilt will solve the friendship problem.  Others seek to commiserate with an online community that will give sympathetic anecdotes of similar circumstance.

There are also usually helpful people that give out advice such as: if you are throwing a party, you should make sure you have some guarantees – people you are sure will show up – before you send out invitations.  These should be contacted ahead of time.  While this is sound advice, I’m not sure people who’ve felt abandoned by their friends are ready to hear it.

As we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday, it is the birth of the church.  We remember that Pentecost was the beginning of the gift of the Holy Spirit among the faithful who heard the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ.  It was marked by the baptism of those who came to believe that day.

The church has gone through many changes since that time.  Not all of them have been successful.  I have tried various ministry ventures in my career and some of them have not survived.  There are times we’ve prepared and hoped and prayed and found the turnout was not quite what we expected.  While disappointing, this is not the end of the line.  We continue to strive for a way of communicating the good news that will be effective for a new generation.

This particular year is the 50th anniversary of The United Methodist Church (when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church combined).  Some would point to the overall numbers in the United States now in comparison to when it started and declare that this has not been the success for which we had hoped.  I would say that we have done a good job of trying to adjust a very large organization of people to a new time.  While the overall numbers may not be up, there are many fresh and faithful expressions throughout the denomination that are very effective in reaching new people.  I believe First United Methodist Church of Edmond is one of them.

This Sunday, we will explore Ezekiel 37:1-14 which is the story of the dry bones that come to life.  This is a reminder that the people of God have previously felt that their brightest times were behind them.  God takes a longer view of working with us!  I hope you’ll join us as we celebrate the birthday of the church this Sunday.  And we would like to count on you being one of our guarantees!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.
Image used under the terms of fair use.

 

We need host families!

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This summer our church is hosting Voyage Day Camp on our campus.  We are excited to partner with Oklahoma United Methodist Camps to offer an exciting  daycamp for families in our area.  We are looking for host homes to house 3 or more college students from June 2- June 9th.  We need enough host homes for 15 staff members (usually 5 homes depending on how many staff members each home can house). Each home should be willing to take a minimum of 3 staff.
 
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR IN A HOST FAMILY?
   • Our staff will love that each family is unique. We’re looking for families that will invite us into their real lives (the kitchen doesn’t have to be spotless and your pets don’t have to be perfect).
   • Willing to provide a place of rest and encouragement for the staff.
   • Sleeping space in bedrooms or finished basements. We want to get as many staff off the floor as possible during our summer travels.
   • Housing from Saturday evening arrival on June 2 through the following Saturday morning departure on June 9th.
   • Families who can provide dinner on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. In general, staff will return to host homes by 5:30 pm on those evenings.
   • Breakfast daily—Staff will need to eat breakfast before arriving on site at 7 am.  We realize mornings are crazy (and our staff get up early) so please provide something quick and simple for breakfast. Cereal, bagels, fruit, etc. are great options and can be left accessible if you are not around (or not quite out of bed!)

If you are interested in being a host home, please email megan@fumcedmond,org to fill out the host home questionnaire.

Worship and Music Ministry Update

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worship and Music Ministry Update
Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries
andrew@fumcedmond.org

As the academic year comes to a close, so too does the choir season (well, most of the choirs… the adult choir will be singing in worship throughout June).  This Sunday, you’ll want to join us for worship to hear the Encore Choir wrap up their season at the 8:30 service while all three children’s choirs will conclude their year by singing at the 11:00 service!  When you consider that the 9:45 & 10:50 services will both feature leadership by their respective ensembles, that amounts to six different choirs/ensembles participating at four distinct services.  Needless to say, we’re blessed to have an active and growing church that takes worship seriously!

Before we partake in this Sunday’s musical feast, I wanted to recognize a few folks who have offered invaluable help to make this season a success.  Kay Pitt has helped organize music and while providing valuable assistance and feedback throughout the year for the Encore Choir.  Karen Hudgens has creatively led the Cherub Choir (our youngest group) week after week.  One need only hear them sing once to realize that they are well trained and are already comfortable lifting their voices in worship!  Finally, Mary Beth & Molly Singleton, both gifted music educators, faithfully assist me with the Choristers and Cherub choirs.  Simply put, I have no idea how I’d be able to keep so many kids in line and active without Molly & Mary Beth!    

Our music ministry at FUMC strives to provide opportunities for everyone, regardless of age or skill level, to sing praises to God.  With that in mind, it’s time for you to contemplate joining us in the fall!

Whoever Does Not Have the Son of God Does Not Have Life

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Today’s title is straight out of the lectionary.   1 John 5:9-13 is the Epistle reading for Sunday and verse 12 makes this definitive statement.

John is not beating around the bush here.  He is telling it like it is.

Truth and lies are important themes that run throughout the letter and we see it in this reading.  It seems rather bold to say that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you are calling God a liar but that is what John says in verse 10.

If you combine that with the title, it seems to draw a line in the sand between believers and non-believers.

This is written to the faithful for assurance in their faith as verse 13 attests.  But the faithful know the whole story – or at least we should.

In our soundbite culture of 140 characters or less, it becomes too easy to pick out verses like these in order to browbeat someone who doesn’t believe the way we do.

Yet, John’s letter is richer than merely today’s reading and as the faithful, we should take these verses in context with the entire work.

In the second chapter, verse six states that those who claim to abide in Christ “ought to walk just as he walked.”  Of course, Jesus walked in humility and pulled the outside in and sometimes pushed the inside out.  He turned the world upside down and he was willing to die to do so.  If we are dividing the lines so easily between believer and non-believer in order to hold the latter in disdain, the irony is that we are no longer walking as Jesus walked.

John’s letter also identifies God as love in the fourth chapter.  As we understand spirituality in broader terms than today’s verses indicate, John states clearly in verse 16, “those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”  Even atheists have loving relationships.  Does this mean they approach God as they exemplify love even though they would not name it as such?

If we understand spirituality in this larger sense, we could say that God is most clearly seen when love is on display.  So in this sense, if the Son of God is also understood by love as we see his love for us, then when we do not love, we do not have life as today’s verse states.

Loving seems to make up life as this epistle defines it.  Those who are not loving are not in Christ.  This seems to be the true meaning of today’s reading whether someone professes faith in Jesus or not.  As those who look through the lens of Christ, we are free to define the world as we see it.

The faithful abide in God and so we start all conversations concerning truth with love.  This is not a sappy, undefined love but one that is sacrificial and challenging.  It is difficult but when it is realized, we see that eternity has already begun.

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.
Photo by philippe leroyer via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.