Friday May 22, 2020
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and
conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
On Wednesday , I spoke about Jesus’ amazing prediction that his followers would do works ‘even greater’ than those Jesus did. This sounds impossible. But if we understand that ‘even greater’ refers to even more humble, even less self-centered, and even more caring about others, we have a direction to pursue.
About fifteen years ago, I attended a Saturday retreat during which we discussed the power of faith in God. The retreat was at the Forks UCC church in Stockertown, up Route 30 from Bethlehem. This church had a very large cemetery that was well tended and had a gazebo at its center. On a break between sessions, we attendees fanned out among the gravestones to meditate silently on the scripture about faithful prayers. It was a beautiful day and I made my way to the gazebo. As I stood, looking at it, I thought about Jesus saying that faith in God could move a mountain and throw it into the sea.
I then thought I would try a smaller task. Rather than move a mountain, I would try to move the gazebo. Just a little. Just enough to expand my faith so I could serve God better. I looked at the peaked roof of the gazebo, outlined by the blue sky, and asked God to move it. And then it moved! Not much. Just a smidgeon relative to the trees in the background. The foundation and grass around the gazebo appeared undisturbed. Had even the ground moved? Was I just seeing things? I wanted to be sure it had moved, so I changed my position and asked God to move the gazebo again. After a few moments it began to move again! The peak of the roof began to move slowly against the trees and clouds. It continued to move until suddenly I almost fell down.
In my concentration on the gazebo roof, I had begun to lean to my left without realizing it. Yes, the gazebo roof appeared to move relative to the trees and clouds because my vantage point moved as I leaned. I was so engrossed in the moment, I didn’t realize I was losing my balance.
I straightened up, hoping no one had seen me stumble, and laughed at my mistake. But then the Holy Spirit sent this insight. You can ‘move’ a gazebo or a house or a mountain just by moving where you look at it. Your eyes will make it seem to move as your position relative to it moves. In fact, how big something seems depends on how close we are to it.
Isn’t this true of our problems? Of our spiritual mountains? Of our attitudes?
Here is an application. At a recent 8X8 virtual bible study, a topic was how to love one’s enemies. This led to a discussion of what makes someone an enemy. At least some of making an enemy is inside our own heads. I’m not saying that, if we are being chased by someone with a knife, we should stop running and turn around and open our arms to give them a hug. But if someone is a competitor at work or just different from us, the jump to calling them an enemy is our own doing. Things of our own doing are things that faith and prayer can change. We may not be able to make them less competitive, but we can take the mountain of our ill will toward them and throw it into the sea.
Our first scripture from Ecclesiastes expands the truth about moving mountains. If we can move past a mountain of ill will, imagine if two people move past that mountain. They can encourage each other. They can double the number of prayers repenting and asking for forgiveness. Two people will see the same mountain move. And they can join forces to make the world better. Imagine three people joining together.
The second scripture from 1 Thessalonians encourages us by saying that God has not come with anger that we certainly deserve. Rather God has come to restore and save us. This is where the idea of throwing a mountain of ill will comes from. God throws ill will against us into the sea. With His help, so can we. In the space and time that sheltering in place gives us, let’s all move a mountain.
-Pastor Douglas Donigian
Stay in touch. Share your needs. Let us help. Amen.