Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28
1 Timothy 1: 12-17
Luke 15: 1–10
With the passing of our dear Hazel Monger, I am meditating on some of the characteristic things she would always say to me. At this moment, a few rise to the top— no doubt, others will surface as we miss her.
“One day at a time— you know that’s my favorite song.” Over the years that we’ve been friends, this has often morphed into “one hour at a time,” or “one minute at a time,” when in the midst of troubles and pains. During her last days, a weird old riddle haunted my thoughts: How do you eat an elephant? One fork-full at a time! Living one hundred and a half years is achieved by living each day in turn. Many of those days may seem awfully unpleasant or tedious, but that’s how it’s done. And there will be joys along the way as well.
“Hang in there!” Also its corollary: “I’m hangin’ in!” This raises thoughts of the strength which is required simply to go on living. During the last week or so, it was a marvel that Hazel’s heart kept beating and lungs kept breathing. But then I remember the times when hardly anyone would join me in visiting in the nursing homes or or Bible studies or people’s houses except— Hazel. She was tenaciously clinging to a life of worshiping and visiting and fellowshipping as much as she could, for as long as she could. She was hangin’ in.
Hazel has for some time held the status of Longest- Serving Church Member of Bethel. Now that description must be applied to others. May they Hang in there, and so may we all, One Day at a Time.
† † †
Our Homecoming celebration last Sunday brought in a slew of visitors of various descriptions. By my reckoning, the categories included these:
† people who used to attend Bethel but who now attend some other church
† people whose parents or grandparents currently attend or formerly attended Bethel
† folks from the community giving Bethel a try
I believe there’s something wrong with encouraging neighbors to change churches. If the Holy Spirit wants them to change churches, may they do so promptly. But if they have a place to belong, I say, encourage them to be faithful where they’re
planted. On the other hand, if someone has gone away and feels moved to come back, who are we to hinder God’s Spirit ? Then the question becomes, Are we prepared to extend God’s extravagant welcome to whomever God sends our way ?
† † †
Preparing for worship this coming Sunday, this week’s Scripture lessons set up a stark contrast between God’s tone in parts of the Old Testament and God’s tone as we may hear Him through the love of Jesus Christ. Listen to this (Psalm 14:1-3):
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.
The LORD looks down
from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
They have all gone astray,
they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good, no, not one.
And this (Jeremiah 4:22):
[Says the LORD: ]
“For My people are foolish,
they do not know Me;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good.”
Contrast with those the following, from 1 Timothy 1:12-14: I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He judged me faithful and appointed me to His service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
And from Luke 15:7, were Jesus says, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Spoiler alert!! There are only a handful of humans who have ever lived who fall into the category of righteous persons who need no repentance.
When I have to choose, I vote for the New Testament and the hopeful love of Jesus.