High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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14
Sep

Hand Prints and God's Love

Posted by on in Ministers’ Reflections
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For a lot of people, populist Christianity makes no sense, isn’t credible or relevant.  I think these folks have a point.  I don’t blame them for thinking so, especially if their source of information is primarily TV, radio, angry editorials, scathing social media posts, or some hapless simpleton blaming the recent hurricanes on God’s judgement against gays and lesbians—yes, that was really said.  And sadly, similar pronouncements continue to be voiced out-loud that are equally vitriolic and full of hate against “others”.  No wonder many steer away from church and Christianity. 

 

At times, it feels like an up-hill struggle to counter bad, fear-mongering, literalist and divisive theology with the wisdom and love that the Apostle Paul and the Gospels actually provide. When we read these sources carefully and broadly we soon realize that the message, when distilled to the essence, is one of compassion, inclusion, healing, justice, oneness, peace and non-violence.  For example, in God’s realm says Paul, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 28). Or consider Jesus’ words, you shall love your neighbour as yourself.  Here, Jesus is actually drawing on the much older and ancient wisdom of the Hebrew scriptures found in the book of Leviticus (In fact take a look a look at Leviticus 19: 9-18 in order to capture the deeper essence of what Jesus meant).

 

When I think of our/my Christian church, I think of an intentional community that chooses to follow in the way of Jesus.  In fact, those early followers of Jesus were known collectively as “The Way”.  This is before there was such thing as Christianity.  Our congregation is choosing this path.  We choose to be a community of faith where we practice the way of Jesus.  Sometimes we get it right.  Other times, we fail.  Choosing to live compassionately and inclusively takes practice, patience and prayer.  We don’t preach haranguing sermons about fear and hell.  We don’t believe getting to heaven is all about how good we have to be—because on our bad days, we fail at that too.  I don’t think that is what Jesus taught anyway.  He taught about God loving us first and about us loving ourselves and one another (and not just the people we know, but the stranger, the lost, and those suffering).  There’s nothing wishy-washy about that and, I would challenge anyone who dismisses the United Church because we “accept everyone” to seriously re-visit their theology.

 

Last Sunday, we stuck the words kindness, peace, joy, diversity, welcome, gentleness, patience, courage, goodness, love, giving, help, sharing, play, work and rest on to our church parking lot fence. These words are based on Paul’s list of attributes which he names as indicators of living in God’s presence (See Galatians 5:22).  And then, we each (with many colours!) put our hand prints around them.  My colour was turquoise.  As I squished the cool smooth paint between my hands and then pushed them against the fence boards, it felt like I was once again giving my ascent to following the way of Jesus.  And more importantly, we were all out there in the parking lot—young and old—coming alongside a creative expression of what it means to be a faithful people living in community choosing to follow the wisdom of our Judeo-Christian roots. 

 

At a deep place in my being, it felt very clear to me that this small artistic gesture had everything to do with the wisdom and way of Jesus and why I believe so strongly that those who have been put off by unflattering portrayals of Christianity, might want to draw upon their courage and try church with us.  At least come and look at our fence—it shows God’s unconditional love.  God knows, the world needs lots of that right now and all the helping hands it can get.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

(403) 652-3168

office@highriverunitedchurch.org

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