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Live With Gentleness and Reverence…

May 20, 2017


A couple of weeks ago, while I was making a pastoral call at the Estes Park Police Department, I noticed that the Great Horned Owl family was back on the cliff behind the Police Department and Library. Last year, we watched as our Fish & Wildlife experts rescued one of the babies who had fallen from the nest/ledge. Under the watchful eye of Mama and Papa Owl, the rescuer gently netted and held the baby before putting it into one of the trees near the stream. This year, I didn’t see the same sort of drama, but I did see the watchful eye of Mama and Papa Owl as they cared for their two babies in the same nest area. As Mama gently fed her young, Papa kept a watchful eye from another point on the cliff.


It really is amazing to watch these creatures and be a part of their world! Just this evening we watched with delight as a visitor from Florida jumped out of his seat at The Barrel and took his camera to get pictures of the Elk herd which was headed down Moraine Avenue after crossing Elkhorn Avenue.  He came back with pictures and a grin as big as the Rockies spread across his face. Another example of the “pinch me, we get to live here” feeling we have every day!

I have lived in a good number of tourist destinations in my life (no, Grand Forks, North Dakota was not one of them and my hometown didn’t get the SPAM museum until long after I had moved away!) but nothing is quite like the experience of seeing our neighborhood and neighbors through the eyes of our guests when they visit. When I was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, the attraction for our guests was the Las Vegas Strip with its resorts and casinos. I would drop the guests off on the strip and tell them to call when they were finished and I would pick them up. The “luster” that was Vegas was nothing but a false front or veneer. I quickly tired of it and avoided it as much as I could.

Estes Park is a far different story. Denise and I often say that even though we have hundreds of pictures of the Elk who roam our neighborhood and the Rocky Mountain National Park, we still take pictures whenever the herd wanders through our neighborhood! We never tire of showing our neighborhood off to our guests and we never tire of experiencing the thrill of our little mountain town with them.

Why don’t we ever tire of it? I think part of the reason is that Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park offer us a sense of peace. When I look out the window of my office, I am overcome with a peaceful, easy feeling… Even when the streets are crowded with cars and pedestrian traffic, all I have to do is lift my eyes up to the mountains as the Psalmist says in Psalm 121 and I sense the presence of the One who is my helper and comforter.

So, Padre, what does this have to do with the Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter? It has to do with that peaceful, easy feeling (thank you, Eagles, for that lyric by the way!). As I reflected on the passage from 1 Peter 3, this phrase from verse 16 jumped out at me: “yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” Peter was talking to the readers of his letter about their witness. Even though he calls it their defense, he really meant their witness. Defense of your faith in those days really meant your confession of faith in a dialogue or, sometimes, debate with those who were not followers of the Way.

What I see happen all too often today though, is the polar opposite of what Peter was talking about. When people “share their faith” it is often wielded as a sharp sword or a club with the intention of beating somebody into submission or forcing them to submit or die. I can’t tell you how many times I cringed as I passed the street preachers in England as they shouted and spewed their so-called faith at the passers by. I often wondered how many people they turned away from Christ with such antics. Yes, I have also experienced the same thing here in the US with the same results for me.

There is an old saying that says: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I have often applied that to discussions surrounding the sharing of one’s faith. I remember teaching a class on Islam at the request of our Wing Commander at my deployed location (Southwest Asia). I was confronted one evening by a young Senior Airman. He was offensive to the point of being rude and disrespectful as he laid into me for teaching such “evil things” (his words) in the chapel. The Lieutenant Colonel side of me maintained calm on the outside and the Padre spoke as I countered his insolence and explained why we needed to understand the religious beliefs of our host country in order to better facilitate dialogue with them. If we are rude, obnoxious bullies, how can we possibly let the light of Christ shine through us? As he equated all of Islam with terror and hate, I thought of how his hate was showing a horrendous example of Jesus to others, including this Padre!

What was it that Jesus told the disciples in the Gospel reading for this Sunday? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) What were the commandments of Jesus? There were two of them: Love God with your entire being (heart, soul, mind, & strength) and Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Dear God, there is more than enough hatred, vitriol, and venom being spewed in this world. I cringe when I open up Facebook or turn on the evening news. I shudder when I open up the news app on my iPhone and see what is spewed. I weep as I read the comments filled with hatred and ignorance being spewed by many who say they are christians (lower case is intentional). My God, how many people do we turn away from Christ by our hate?

A friend of Denise’s grew up in Egypt and was a Muslim. He worked with Christians who didn’t spew venom or hate at their Muslim colleague. Instead, they acted in a Christ-like fashion in his presence and in the presence of others. As he watched them, he wanted to know what it was that made them act as they did. Love, compassion, understanding… those were the values which drew him to Christianity and it was their actions which drew him to the community where he eventually accepted Christ. He wasn’t beaten over the head with a LARGE Bible… he wasn’t yelled at and screamed at until he gave up and submitted out of fear… he was woo’d by God who spoke through the actions and the example of his co-workers.

Once again, I am drawn to the words of Peter… yet do it with gentleness and reverence… what if we who claim to be Christ followers acted and lived in such a way?

St Francis of Assisi was able to dialogue with  Islamic leader Sultan Malik Al-Kamil when he went to the holy land during the Fifth Crusade in 1219. Did he dialogue using fear and intimidation? Nope! It was the humble example which Francis offered that touched the soul of the Sultan. From the book “The Saint and the Sultan” comes this excerpt: LIn 1219, as the Fifth Crusade was being fought, Francis crossed enemy lines to gain an audience with Malik al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt. The two talked of war and peace and faith and when Francis returned home, he proposed that his Order of the Friars Minor live peaceably among the followers of Islam–a revolutionary call at a moment when Christendom pinned its hopes for converting Muslims on the battlefield.”

Will you join me, dear reader, in being such a radical example in this time of hatred, chaos, and darkness? With gentleness and reverence, may we share the love of Christ through our words and our deeds…

  1. Amen. Amen.

  2. Well said, Padre! This reminds me of a hymn (by Jars of Clay) we used to sing aeons ago that had these lines:

    “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
    We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
    And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
    And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
    They will know we are Christians by our love

    We will work with each other, we will work side by side
    We will work with each other, we will work side by side
    And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
    And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
    They will know we are Christians by our love

    By our love, by our love…”

    In showing love (care/compassion/consideration/kindness etc) to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to others, we reveal the living presence of Christ within. It’s one of the clearest signs of a changed mind, life and heart.

    Thank you for this needful word. Bless you, Brother Michael! ❤

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