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Pushing Through…

January 14, 2017

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Denise and I went snowshoeing on a trail that we hadn’t been on since this past summer. Needless to say, the trail looked a bit different and wasn’t as easy to traverse. However, as we saw this young doe out of the corner of our eyes across the river, ease of movement took on a whole different meaning. When we first spied her, she was on the other side of the frozen water of Mills Creek in the Rocky Mountain National Park. She went down the bank and across the ice and snow before climbing the bank on our side of the creek in the brush.

Once she made it across she had to jump/plow/bound through the chest deep snow until she made it to relatively bare ground where she could graze.

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I am always amazed to watch our non-human neighbors when we walk or hike or simply are in a place where they acknowledge us and co-exist with us. All of a sudden, the struggles we had traversing the snow path where non-snowshoe wearing hikers had made sink holes we had to avoid didn’t seem so bad after all. This young doe reminded me that sometimes you just have to push through the deep stuff to get where you need to be!

This picture also reminds me of the passage from Philippians Chapter Three, verse three, which says: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” While Paul is writing about pressing on towards the goal of the upward call of Christ, I believe these words ring true as we seek to live the life which Christ has called us to live. It is about far more than seeking salvation, it is about living the life to which we are called to live. That call is to, in the words of Jesus (and Deuteronomy and Leviticus) love God and love neighbor. It is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God as Micah calls us to do. So, just as the doe pushes through the snow to get to the food she needs, so too we need to push through the muck and the mire of this world to do what we are called to be and do!

Tomorrow morning at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies, we will ordain and install our new Ruling Elders and Deacons. Each one has been called by God through the voice of the church to serve God in this particular place and time. Our Deacons often find themselves serving the community during difficult times of tragedy and loss. They are the ones who provide the hospitality for families following the death of a loved one. They often provide meals to those who are home-bound and recovering from surgeries or serious illnesses. Our Ruling Elders not only manage the day-to-day ministries of the church, they also ensure that our mission is carried out while making sure that the facilities are kept in shape for the many groups inside and outside of the church who use them. They are also responsible for the important responsibility of being good stewards of the gifts and offerings which our members and friends put in the offering plate each Sunday.

It isn’t only the Ruling Elders and Deacons who are called to serve the Lord in this particular time and place though. Each person who claims to be a Christ-follower is also called to serve all of God’s children using the gifts and the talents which God has given them. Mind you, this task isn’t always easy. I can tell you from personal experience that it can be difficult. During the past almost thirty years of ordained ministry, there have been many times when I have felt like the poor doe pushing through the chest deep snow towards higher ground!

Isn’t it interesting that on the Sunday when we ordain our new Elders and Deacons that the two Scripture readings from the Lectionary are Psalm 40:1-11 (which is about God pulling the psalmist out of the mire and calling us to do God’s work) and John 1:29-38 (where John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God and the first disciples are called to follow Jesus)? We are called with a purpose and given responsibility for sharing the Good News with our words and through our actions.

In Psalm 40:3-5 we read the following: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods. You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.”

I want to focus on verse five for a moment. “Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.” The Psalmist seems to be saying at first glance that it isn’t possible, in the words of the New Living Translation, “to recite all God’s wonderful deeds” for the Psalmist would “never come to the end of them.” So what does one do if they cannot possibly list all of the wondrous deeds of the Lord? Do they give up? If God has been at work in your life and you are having a hard time sharing just how God has been at work, do you give up? Or if you are struggling to see where God is at work in your life, do you give up?

I can tell you, personally, on both accounts that it is easy to give up. At various times in my life when I have found myself in the muck, the mire, and the pit of despair, it has been tempting to quit. Yet at about the time I am ready to hang it up, there is a gentle or, not so gentle nudging from the Lord (your Padre is, after all sometimes stubborn!) to keep on sharing the Good News by my words and my actions.

In John’s Gospel, the disciples were called by Jesus to serve. John the Baptist had been called and he encouraged his followers to serve Jesus as they had served him. They would have to push through the muck and the mire at times, but they were encouraged to press on towards the goal as Paul said.

Dear reader, you may find yourself in the midst of the pit of despair or a swamp of your own making. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the world and a mess that is not of your own making. You may be tempted to go deep within the cave of your own heart on a permanent retreat. The Psalmist closes the passage for Sunday with this line: “Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.” (verse 11) The Psalmist also said in verse 8: “I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”

And what are those instructions? You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And you are also called to love your neighbor as yourself. God will give you the strength to push through the muck and the mire. God will give you the strength to push forward when the snow is chest deep like the doe I met this afternoon.

May each of us, dear reader, find the strength to push through with the message of God’s love for ALL people! A message not of condemnation or hatred, but of love! Will you join me?

From → Scripture Study

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