Wednesday, January 11, 2012

As I ponder faith and life today, I find that there are many ways in which I often miss the opportunity to deepen my personal knowledge of God.  Often I understand this knowledge in the context of a relationship with the Living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Yet, it is easy to confuse the substance of life and managing all of the activities of work, family and everything else that we do, with being a follower of Jesus.
            As a follower of Jesus, is there really that much different about me and those who are not followers of Jesus in contemporary North American culture?  At present you might assume that I am a follower of Jesus because the pull over sweatshirt that I’m wearing bears the name of the last theological educational institution I attended.  Yet, such a thing does not ensure that I am a follower of Jesus.  I have checked in on four square several times at “First Church of the Brethren” but that again just notes my geography, not how I live.
            Perhaps this would be valuable window into my life, and yet I get my energy from the same provider as my non-Christian neighbors, I get my internet and in home entertainment from the same sources as my non-Christian neighbors, I get my groceries from the same stores as my non-Christian neighbors, and drive cars very similar to my non-Christian neighbors.  Perhaps it is seen in my language, but that does not bear a remarkable difference either, especially from my neighbors who are observant Jews, or Muslims for that fact.  Some of my atheist neighbors have very strong codes of person morality and speak much like a conservative follower of Jesus.
            In truth Jesus never said it would be by such things that people would know that we are his followers, Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).  It is by our love for each other that people outside of the church will know that we are followers of Jesus.  I am further reminded that Jesus included at the table of his fellowship Judas.  Not only did he include the one who would betray him, Jesus had Judas participate in the initiation of the Eucharist.  I am struck by this, Jesus did not exclude from his fellowship one who was about to betray him to death. 
            Yet, we are so quick to exclude people from our fellowship.  We tend to do it in passive aggressive ways in the Anabaptist tradition, especially where we have given up any notion of adhering to the practices of Matthew 18, and bringing matters to the church body for discipline.  So, we exclude and shun not by decree from the church, but by not talking to each other and allowing hurts and insults to be forced under a thin layer of peaceable behavior that hides our anger, fear, rage and pain, and we misname cowardly hostility for peace and unity.  In the mean while, we fracture the body of Christ into smaller and smaller shards until all that is left is insignificant and sickly remnants of a once vital and healthy church.  We do this at the level of the local congregation, the church just down the street and we do it on denominational levels as well. 
            At times it seems that the reformation has left the protestant world nothing but smaller and smaller groups of people fighting over an ever decreasing population of those interested in church.  Perhaps the day has come for the artificial divisions of denominations to cease, and for a true catholic church emerge?   As I watch my own denomination slowly destroy itself in internal conflict over whatever seems to be the latest issues in popular culture, I wonder how much longer it can survive.  I would not be shocked to see it disappear at some point in my lifetime.  My heart hearts as I see this, and I come back time and again to the reality that the problems are centered not in conflicts between liberals and conservatives but rather in the reality that many of us simply do not know Jesus as we profess to know him.  Our families, our communities, and our churches suffer because we have allowed our lives in faith to be shallow and anemic.  And yet, this pietistic impulse to individual faithfulness is part of the problem, we are not the church by ourselves.  We need to be not only in fellowship with other believers but we need to be committed to Christ and to each other.  I will offer this simple challenge, make it a point to pray and read scripture with one other believer this week, and every week of the coming year and see how you life changes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the Church we are often, especially, in the Free Church Tradition, pulled by the call of sola scriptura. A call back to the Bible, the touch stone as it often seems of the reformation. Yet, in our desire to return to the pure traditions of the scriptures, and especially for those of the Church of the Brethren, to return to the traditions of the early Church, those who had walked with Jesus, to recapture the wonder, the power and the purity of the purity of the church before it became corrupted by the influence of the world.
       The impulse toward purity and renewal is a wonderful and beautiful expression of devotion to Christ and his Church. Yet, at the same time it is easy for this impulse to drive into person areas of temptation or vulnerability. The Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch trails originate in this impulse for purity, but something went wrong. Often these purges of the church seem to grow from a righteous impulse toward purity, but it become corrupted along the way, this is clearly an extreme form of this corruption, but it happens at a personal level as well when pious well meaning followers of Jesus strive toward purity and end up in their own personal witch trial or inquisition.
      We tend to assume that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all knowledge, and this is indeed a reality of the Christian life. Yet, being lead into all knowledge is different than being given all knowledge. Jesus lead the disciples followed, Moses lead the Israelites, the Israelites followed. The disciples needed to pay attention to heir leader, as did the Israelites. Following takes conscience effort and attention, if the leader goes one direction that the followers another, there is a problem. Sometimes those problems emerge simply because we do not pay attention with any great regularity.
      At times we don’t want to do the hard work of following. Following is hard work. Something as simple as preparing for a Bible Study means that I need to spend time in prayer, but I also need to spend time with the text of scripture as well as the doing honest research and adequate preparation. Jesus said come follow me, he didn’t say he would bring the Limo give us a ride, he said follow. As we follow Jesus and engage the scriptures, one thing becomes very apparent. It is easy to read our own culture and history into the text, and so we have many problems that emerge in interpretation and application because we haven’t done the hard work of following Jesus, of reading the scripture, exploring the history, the language and the context in which it was first spoken.
      We often read our own context directly into the passages that read. So as we read the gospel accounts of Jesus birth we often will make assumptions based not on good following, and good research but on the many Christmas pageants we have seen and participated in over the years of our Christian life. Consider if you will, the Christmas pageant has Jesus born in a barn, with no one by Joseph and Mary, then after Jesus is born the Shepherds and the Magi make an appearance. However, how many of us would let a young couple give birth in our garage and not help them out in some fashion. And, if the account of Matthew is correct, the Magi arrive and ask King Herod about he new king, and he has all male children two and under killed in Bethlehem. How many of us would let that same young couple live in the garage for two years?
       We mash the stories together, and never stop to think about them in any significant fashion, how can that be following Jesus. We can’t follow the Holy Spirit into all knowledge if we are off doing something else, creating our own story for example. Step into the story of Christmas, read the stories, and engage them, not just the pageant script, but the story itself. Read a decent commentary, explore the history a bit, find out about how people lived in the first century and engage your God given gift of the mind and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into a deeper relationship with the Christ this Christmas Season.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Acts 2:14-47

A sermon preached by Kevin Derr at Philadelphia First Church of the Brethren on January 25, 2009.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Enter the wild

What will the future of the church in North America be? Will we follow the path so sadly blazed by the church in Europe? Will we become only a footnote in the history that is yet to be written?
How long will it be until local municipalities will be taxing church buildings, and ministry facilities. Consider health care costs that increase and school boards struggling to find additional revenue sources without raising taxes, what will happen to churches in this case. How long until churches no longer have non-profit status? While many of these scenarios may seem off in the distant future, they are not so far off to think we can ignore them. As the church continues to be pushed to the side of the public square, we will have fewer and fewer ways to help shape the cultural conversation of our time. The pressures on the church are not only external, but also internal.
The pressures stressing the church abound. We are increasingly assailed by busy schedules, and demands on our time. We are connected all the time via the web, mobile phones and wireless devices, and yet people are lonely and our communities are increasingly disconnected. I am convinced that in the Body of Christ we have some answers for these pressures on our lives, but do we want to hear what the spirit has to say? In this time of excess activity, the church seems to be offering only more and more activity for an already complex and busy schedule. In many churches activities are divided into age brackets and families are scattered for purpose of ministry. Is the answer to waning church attendance more activity? Do people of faith need more to do? Will increasing our schedules fill the void that is there in our hearts, that whisper that says, “There is more to life than this!”
Yet, many followers of Jesus seem to posses a shallow faith. Walk through just about any store selling Christian books and see how much is, for lack of a better term fluff, more activity and less deepening of our relationship with Christ Jesus. We can observe, in those same stores, the marketing of the faith, copywrited and protected intellectual property of individual members of the Body of Christ, but not the collective property of the body of Christ. Does something seem amiss? What if Matthew, Mark, Luke John or Paul would have protected their intellectual property?
If there is no more than just a quick baptism after a sinners prayer, I do not want to have part of such a faith. I want more, I want the life of the spirit, I want the deep connection with my God, I want the tongues, the flames and full life in Christ. If you are honest with yourself, don’t you want more than just a superficial faith? Don’t you want to be enlivened by the Holy Spirit of God, don’t you want to live that life of faith that burns so brightly that nothing else can stand in its presence. Don’t you want the courage of the martyrs of the early church who faced death and sang to the Lord God praises for being counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Doesn’t your heart yearn for that wild, uncivilized, undomesticated bliss of a deep and powerful relationship with the Living God?
My heart, that deepest part of me, tells me there is more, that there is something beyond what I have found, that if I am willing to take the next step of faith that God will open to me even more. I suppose that this is the point where I have to be willing to allow the Spirit of God to continue my own transformation, my life being reformed by the hand of God to reflect the life of Jesus. It is also this point where I want to cling to my own agenda, to change the things about me that I want changed, and to keep those things that I like. It is the time when I must cast down more idols, more of my selfish pagan tendencies, like gluttony, lust, avarice, selfishness, pride, vainglory and the rest of those personal idols that keep us from growing into a deeper relationship with the Almighty. There is no real mystery about how to grow in faith. We like to cloak it in mystery because if we don’t know, how can we be responsible for the that transformation that never happened? So, we can contend with God that it was beyond us to understand. God will not allow such a ruse to stop our growth, he calls us to account and will not allow us to hide behind professed ignorance.
The truth is we all know the next step, we are just fearful of what we may have to let go. The next step for each of us is different because we are all in different stages of our growth in faith, however, the primary block to growth is always our own selfishness. This is what I want! Is our creed, but the question we need to be asking is, “What does God want?” “When what does God want?” becomes our creed, our lives will change. And the remarkable thing is that those longings of our hearts will be answered, the desires of our hearts will be achieved not by what we do, but by what God does in us.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

As I reflect on the recent immigration issues facing the United States I realize that there are other immigration issues that are even more pressing. People are leaving the church at a great rate, in my denomination we have lost over thirty percent of our membership in the last thirty years. If you project that kind of loss the denomination is in trouble. Where are these people immigrating to, where are they keeping their citizenship?
One must at some point consider their allegiance, is it to a specific denomination or is it to Christ Jesus and his Kingdom? I realize in my life that I am an Anabaptist with strong Pietistic leanings, while that may not be true for much of my denomination any longer, from my experience many of us have left the Pietism generations ago. Yet, while reading Protestant Spiritual Traditions by Frank Senn I realized just how strongly those pietistic stands of spirituality wound through my life. One of the troubling elements in Pietistic spirituality is for isolation and a distrust of any human institution. This is often balanced by the Anabaptist concern for community. Oddly, I find both of this conflict in much of my private spiritual life. It would be nice if I could blame the drop in denominational membership on a resurgence of pietistic spirituality in my denomination, but is most surely not the case. So, I still need to ask the question, where are those who used to be in church?
An even more pressing question arises as we consider the future. We, as a denomination and a congregation, are unable to rely on biological evangelism (members having children) because the birth rate in North America has dropped, this is true in the church and outside the church. This leaves us with a few options, we wait for new people to just show up at our church doors, which does happen from time to time, or we go and seek out people to be part of our fellowship. However, Evangelism has been a difficult idea for my denomination. At points we suffer from a lack of knowledge, just simply knowing how to go about introducing people to Christ Jesus and his Church. At some points we are fearful, fearful of rejection and the loss of control that can happen when new people come into the mix.
I am increasingly convinced that the greatest problem is shallow faith. We have not been formed by Christ. In this case we are much like illegal immigrants, we have found our way into the Kingdom of God, but we have never become citizens. I do not mean to suggest that people have not had genuine conversion experiences, nor do I doubt that people are committed to what they understand to be Christ and his Church. Admittedly, many people know of Jesus, the scriptures and his church, and we know the word and the motions to the songs, but we don’t really understand the meaning. We are like people reading a language we don’t speak, we can pronounce the words, but we don’t really know what they mean. Thus we have found our way into the kingdom, and we have had some assimilation, but we have missed the meaning.
We have found our way in the door, but still have not been fully integrated into the whole, or better yet, we have not ourselves adjusted to the culture of Christ Jesus and his Kingdom. To put this in other language, we are lacking good Spiritual formation in our churches. Spiritual formation begins before conversion and continues until death, sadly many people look at conversion as the goal, but it is really only the starting point, the point of embarkation for a life changing journey that takes us ultimately to the New Jerusalem. There was a sense that something good was happening with the emphases on discipleship and spiritual disciplines in recent decades. Sadly, much of the focus of the discipleship was really on learning ones way around a particular church of theological system. At the same time there was the renewal of the practice of spiritual disciplines, but sadly, and even from my own experience much of the work went into the disciplines themselves and there was little work toward putting it all together. The disciplines became a an end in and of itself, a skill or behavior to master and then to move on to something else. There seemed to be little work being done to connect the discipline to the goal of being transformed to reflect the image of Christ Jesus. If good spiritual formation does not become part of the life of the modern North American church we will see the church continue to be moved to the side the public square. And this is as it should be, if we have nothing more to offer than superficial Christianity and tepid followers of Jesus, we should be excluded from the conversation because at this point we will only become a tool for whoever is in political power and we will be used by those who can draw us into their camp. Rather than being a source for change and growth in our culture we will be a small party who tags along trying to force our understanding on the nation and the world.
I for one would much rather see us transforming the nation and the world, not through legislation but through spiritual formation. At the end of the day, the best meaning theocratic approach to government will become oppressive and focused on the particulars a few people. I want to see communities transformed, lives changed, families strengthened and hearts drawn to Christ Jesus, but that will only happen if we who are left in the church will be transformed ourselves, and become full citizens of the Kingdom of God, rather than illegal sneaking in to enjoy the benefits of citizenship without going through the process of become men and women of God.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Today was a day like many others, much of in good, not much terribly difficult. I am impressed with the level we have been able to keep the realities of life at arms length. We have all the modern conveniences and we minimize the pain and we go to great efforts to keep any pain from our person, and at the same time we invite voyeuristic pain via the evening news, the paper and the Internet.

We have worried about what we will eat and wear, how we will look to others and we have not worried much about seeking after the Kingdom of God or his righteousness. It is as if we have constructed a world where we do not need God, we do not need anyone to give to us all these things, the things that the Pagans run after, and yet we run after them. In our vain attempt to seize upon the elusive elixir of life, it is before us, we only have to put out our hands and take hold of Christ Jesus and the eternal life we seek is there, present and available.

I see these tendencies not primarily in others, but in myself. I see the tendency to love sin, to relish in the secrets that I would not want others to know. I know it has no place in my life, and yet it lurks just beyond my ability to remove it. That is after all the point of a savior isn't it. We don't need Jesus to do for us what we are perfectly capable, rather we need him to do what is beyond our ability, to put that sin behind us, to forgive us, and to bring to us true life. Some days I know well what Paul speaks of when he speaks of the struggle to do the right and loving the wrong.

I know that my life is not defined by my victories, but by the victories that Christ has won in my life, on those days when the shadow seemed to be stronger than the light, but in the end the light has shown into the darkness of my life and Christ is the Victor. My ransom paid, my liberation won, my savior has turned the tide of battle that would have overwhelmed my soul and taken me down a path of sin and death. Today, was not that day. It was only a skirmish, and my past experience with my Savior and my ever-present companion his Spirit was all that was needed to send the shadows away, the light of his Son continues to shine.

Monday, April 03, 2006

What is the role of Scripture in the life of the believer and in the life of the Church, the body of Christ? What authority does the scripture have for ordering our life and our faith? Is it a collection of pious sayings, is it God’s message to humanity, is it a record of God’s interaction with his people? These questions are central to the way one faith will develop and mature. If we see Scripture only as a pious collection of sayings, then it will only be formative when we think that the sayings are of value. However, if Scripture is a rule for life and faith in both the believer and the church, then it will be significantly formative, even in those places where we find Scripture to be uncomfortable and even painful.
Paul in writing to Timothy said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 TNIV). It is important that we keep in mind when Paul is writing. Paul is writing before the works of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are written and gathered as the four gospels of the church. So, what is Paul speaking of here when he says “All Scripture is God-breathed”? He is speaking of what Christians commonly know as the Old Testament, but what was for the early church the Holy Scripture. There is little doubt in Paul’s statement that the Old Testament is inspired or God-breathed. When Paul says that “All Scripture is God-breathed” the reference is to Genesis 2:7 “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (NIV). The implication is that Scripture is in some way living, not unlike the man some ways, but not like the man in other ways. How is Scripture like the man? Scripture is like the man in that it is a creation of the Lord God, and has within it the breath of life. Some would like to suggest that Paul was speaking of Jesus, the Christ, here. We could even consider John 1:1 in this light, yet this is tenuous at best. Paul is not speaking of the Word, but of the Scriptures or the Old Testament. John does provide a good point of connection though. Jesus speaking to Nicodemus says “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8 NIV). The Greek here for spirit or “pnuma”is used in three ways, as spirit, as wind and as breath. The creation of man, the origin of the scriptures and the conversion to following Jesus are tied in to one idea, one word spirt or breath. Yet, this convergence is not accidental, Jesus and Paul both have chosen these words for specific reasons. The creation of Adam, the writing of the Scriptures and new birth are all spirit filled events.
We modern or post-modern Anabaptists may have difficulty with the portions of the Old Testament, but is it wise to exclude the whole, because we have difficulty with a portion? What is it that causes difficulty for Anabaptists? Is it the command of God to kill and the violence
seen in Israel? Or is it because we have a tendency to be Christocentric (focused on Christ)? Our Christocentric nature is appropriate and it is a gift to the larger church. At times in our efforts to be Christ focused, we, at times, forget the remainder of the Trinity. The Father and the Holy Spirit, need to be remembered in our attempts to understand Scripture and our place in the world. It seems that at various points our desire to follow the example of Jesus, to turn the other cheek, to do no violence and to be peacemakers, cause us to forget or misplace the remainder of the Trinity. Historically the universal church has understood several models of atonement, and among these is Moral Influence Theory or the imitation of Jesus, and while this model is significant, it is not the only one, nor is it to be employed at the exclusion of the whole of the Trinity. I would argue that the Anabaptist tradition has much to offer the larger Christian community. We have unique and precious gifts to offer, but it is important to remember that these distinctive come not from our imagination but from the reading of Scripture.
As a people of faith we have understood the whole of Scripture both the New and the Old
Testament to be a witness to Christ Jesus, and that the Spirit is active in the reading of Scripture by God’s people. The result of this is that we often read both the history of the Church and Scripture thorough the lense of the person of Jesus. Such a practice is not only appropriate but it serves as helpful tool to keep the church from becoming enmeshed in the wrong agendas. Church of the Brethren theology has held from the outset, that new light is to be expected to come from the study of Scripture. It was this reason that the Church of the Brethren avoided creeds, or more appropriately stated that “we have no creed but the New Testament.” While they would have affirmed the creeds, they did not want to be limited by them. So, we are left with what really becomes a common experience that many of us share. We read a passage on numerous occasions but today, for reasons that we do not understand, we saw something we had never seen before, something new from God.
This experience is the active revelation of God to his people thorough the Holy Spirit
while we study the Scriptures. Clearly it is divine revelation, it may have been something revealed to many people of the ages, but to us it is a new insight from the Lord. It affirms that God continues to nurture his people as they study the Scriptures. If this were a function of our minds alone, we could learn to do this type of revelation reading at any point we desire, but it does not happen that way. God’s spirit filled people, reading God’s spirit filled word results in a new understanding of the Scriptures.
This is a good correction to our tendency the scriptures into a Pope of sorts. An
authority for us, so that we do not have to wrestle with the difficult issues of faith and life. Our paper pontiff allows us to hide behind Scripture and suggest that we have no say in the matter, or use scripture to subjugate others to our will. There are many that we employ, women should never teach men, women should wear prayer coverings, divorced men are not eligible for ministry, interracial marriages are forbidden, segregation, slavery, and many more.
I do not need to make a long list of these, but I will share one example with you. Popular Christianity will often read Matthew 18:20 as an excuse for poor attendance at times when the Body of Christ gathers for worship. We will say, “For where two or three come
together in my name, there I am with them.” So, we argue, if Jesus is there, two or three is all that is needed. So, a church of 100 people need not to have any concern because only a few people come to Bible Study, we are comforted by the fact that Jesus is there and that is sufficient. Yet, a close reading of the text of Matthew 18 will quickly display for us that this whole chapter is about church discipline, not a warm-fuzzy excuse text for poor attendance at worship.
Ultimately, the authority of Scripture is not bound up in what we as the Church say, but in what God has said. No amount of Church Councils and decisions will ever establish the authority of Scripture. The Church does not establish the authority of Scripture God does. We can wrangle and argue as much as we like, but in the end, what we decide matters little.
The clearest revelation of God that we have is seen in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word (John 1:1). All of Scripture ultimately points us to the realization that Jesus is Lord! This is the point of the message of God to all of humanity. And, as such, it becomes our guide for faith and life.
God’s revelation becomes clear as we understand more of who Jesus is, and what Jesus
was about in his mission. At the risk of overly reducing the matter, and making the task of understanding scripture seem trivial, I would ask you to consider a question that Jesus was asked.
Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:36-40). In a real way this short passage can serve as a tool for
understanding all of scripture, and its application for our lives. This is a powerful tool for comprehending God’s message to us. This idea was not original to Jesus, others said similar things in the time of Jesus. Yet, that does not change the impact and the purpose of this revelation of Jesus. Jesus tells us that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two specific
commandments, to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. What Jesus gives us here is a real and practical means to learn to understand Scripture. In this light, all scripture both the New and the Old Testaments, will point us to one of these two applications, to love God with all of our hearts, our souls and our minds or to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The authority of Scripture is not established to constrict the expression of the worship of God or in other terms to the love of God, by the people of God. Neither is the authority of Scripture established to tame the love of neighbor or enemy by the same people of God. In contrast, the authority of Scripture is established to show us the way to love and worship God and to love our neighbor and our enemy. At times the authority of scripture hijacked to keep women in prayer coverings and to keep men from having hair on their upper lip. Here in lies on of the real problems for modern Anabaptism, if we construe the purpose of scripture to keep us enmeshed in a cultural expression of a previous age, we will find scripture to be a painful task master. It will also cause us to be exceedingly irrelevant to the culture that we presently find ourselves.
Scripture can be used to do hateful, shameful, things to people, at times it has
been used to justify slavery, segregation, sexism, exploitation, racism and war. Yet, the authority of Scripture has also established genuine Christian community, true worship and an explosion of compassion for the neighbor. Both expressions claimed the authority of scripture to prove their point. One results in the oppression of the neighbor and worship that is devoid of integrity, only giving lip service to the Lord God. One real test of our claims for Biblical authority rests in the outcomes of our lives. In the end, you and I will follow some path, but have we entered through the narrow gate? If we consider our lives, we will see where we walk.
Jesus provided a simple means to understand Scripture, it will point us to love God with our whole being or it will tell us to love neighbor as ourselves. So, as we look what do we see? Does slavery honor God or love my neighbor? Who is welcome in our worship? What do our dogmatic statements say and who do they show love for, ourselves or for God?
Conversely, love of neighbor will see the naked clothed, the hungry feed, the homeless given rest, the prisoner set free, the blind given sight, the exploited see justice, the lonely find friendship. All of scripture works to this end. The question we are left with is, “Are we willing to read scripture in this light?” If the answer is no, our faith and our religion if will increasingly become human focused and self-centered. We will again fall prey to the sin of selfishness. This does not need to be our end, rather, if we are willing to engage the text of Scripture in light of Jesus’ instruction, we will find our faith and religion increasingly focused on God, in the fullness of the Trinity and on the outward missional care for those beyond the walls of our churches. As we are formed by the Word of God, by the Scriptures, we will see the driving points in our own lives reflect a love of God from our whole person, mind, heart, strength and soul and a love for our neighbor. Such a lifestyle will demand of us a great deal of growth and change, yet as a people formed by God’s hand is there anything that could be better?