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Life together

by davesandel on January 22nd, 2021

Friday, January 22, 2022                     (today’s lectionary)

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Life together

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted, and they came to him.

Father Brad Karelious traveled to Germany in 1980, planning to visit churches and campus ministries in both East and West. What he found surprised him. In the midst of oppressive East German anti-Christian policies, with little money dedicated to renovation or even keeping the doors open, the Church flourished. Many students waited outside church doors until they could get in. Their excitement to see an American from California knew no bounds, and questions were honest, skeptical and curious. The students wanted to know more about everything, especially about the Bible and about Jesus. But one student summed up their difficult situation, “When I graduate, I will have to make a decision. If I want to have a good position, I cannot be a visible active Christian.” Still, this student would not give up the joyful habit of meeting together to spur each other on to love and good deeds.

In West Germany, on the other hand, few people of any age attended church. Sermons were mostly philosophical lectures rather than exhortations. Pastors had well-stocked libraries and were paid handsomely out of the 9% give to the church from every tax bill paid by every West German. Since this took the place of personal giving, very few parishioners tithed. Personal sacrifice seemed minimal, and personal commitment seemed the same.

Kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth and justice shall look down from heaven.

As you know, in our culture (not just American) we grow up and away from each other very quickly. From conception we crave touch and affection from others, and only in small ways must that craving be curbed. But we curb it instead in big ways and tall ways, and so in just a few years we have turned away from each other and toward ourselves.

Karelious wrote that “the church is most strongly felt in a situation that is a struggle for survival, where the cost of discipleship is experienced with intensity.” When there is persecution from the outside, those inside come together, hold hands, and curl up together to stay warm and perhaps even safe. Instead of turning away from each other, they pray and touch, touch and pray. Our need for touch never goes away.

This is the covenant I will establish, says the Lord. All shall know me from least to greatest. I will put my laws in your minds and I will write them upon your hearts. I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And I will forgive your wrongdoing and remember your sins no more.

I accept your gift, Lord, but then it isn’t long until I take your gift for granted, and it isn’t long again before I simply stop listening to your law, whether in my mind or written on my heart. My evildoing increases, and soon the consequence of my sin wrecks my life.

Show us, O Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation.

Thank you, God, for remembering my sins no more. Hold me, soften my self-protective crust, renew my desire to touch and be touched, to love and be loved. Change my heart, O God.

(Hebrews 8, Psalm 85, Mark 3)

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