I have come to sense in recent months that America's felt sense of division and hurt and alienation from each other is not so much a political, social, or cultural issue, but is a faith matter.
We are taught basic truths, even important Biblical commands and insights, but we are pressed by America's enchantment with multi-culturalism as a call to be fair to all, and the value of equality, that has led us away from deeper matters of living a moral life, of aspiring to God's call to love, and so to care about people without diminishing the purity of our own deepest commitments.
We've felt we have to give up the distinctives of our faith - like Jesus' call to love and follow Him alone, above all others, to be absolute in our highest loyalty. In seeking a gentler, kinder expression of our ultimates, we have lost sight of what we had in our purer sense of "my utmost for His highest." We have given up our quest for the ultimate, in our putting in their place secondary values.
We have lost our distinctives, and so have lost the power and pull, and attractiveness of the purer faith we embraced as children.
So, in real ways have not "kept the faith," but have let it go, little by little, amounting to a kind of squandering of the precious thing we had - in favor of a blandness that has become a good feeling, centering on human relationships, forsaking the radical commitment demanded by the call of Jesus, and the utter commitment to another in marriage, or the loyalty to children.
We need to look again at what it means to "keep the faith" - which means living the faith radically - and seeing all other loyalties through the prism of our highest call.
It's a day for visions. Politicians have their visions. Protestors in the street have their visions. Underneath rumbles a rising anger that our newly-elected president has the wrong vision. That he is leading us into chaos and international conflicts.
What is being disturbed is a secular humanism come down from the Enlightenment, that sees humankind as sufficient for all things, that emphasizes the rights of individuals with each us the center of our universe. So, what I want for me is best. It's a morality of my own.
More and more, we have separated ourselves from the great carrying institutions. Particularly of the church. The idea of following the will of someone outside ourselves, who claims our utter loyalty, our absolute obedience and devotion.
We who are Christians seem to have forgotten the call to the Lord who tasks everything. Who says, "I have a new commandment for you: love one another." And then says, "I have called you friends...you are my friends if you obey me. And remember, you didn't choose Me, I chose you." He calls us to live out His Way, and His Will--not ours.
His demand seems impossible. And yet, it is the way of freedom and utter obedience to Him that frees us from all the lesser loyalties of the world. He promises power to us, if we follow Him. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life...and the truth will make you free."
His wonderful invitation to us is to live a PILGRIM LIFE with HIM. To be His followers. To go on the great journey of life with Him. To follow Him where He leads us to be, in the best sense, a Pilgrim, a journeyer, a follower. And particularly in our day, Pilgrim people - out on the adventure of life with Jesus. To take chances with Him. To take risks. To choose the humble way. To follow when He leads - remembering our lives are in His hands. That He is in charge. That He knows the way and will show it to us. And that we don't need to be afraid.
It is an exciting commitment. It's a brave way to live - for His highway, of serving. A life for others, not us.
Written on Super Bowl Sunday
I sit in our small living room, looking through glass doors, past our little balcony, across the rooftops of the retirement village where we have chosen to live out our days.
Many balconies look down into the familiar courtyard below where water of our artificial stream lies frozen in the February cold. Snow lies white in patches, bare ground signaling the possibility of spring ahead. Our skyline is of peaked roofs above stacks of balconied apartments like our own, where other seniors are napping, or reading, or watching the prelude to the evening's Super Bowl. The sky, filled with sun when I arrived home from church, seems softer now, with clouds, as afternoon comes on. Molly, having fed me eggs and bacon, toast and coffee, rests, to rise vigorous later.
I think of the town and life I've left behind, after all these years. Precious people seem far away. And Sunday afternoon is like my remembered childhood, wistful, a little sad, lonely perhaps.
I just miss people today: my dear brother, and two sisters, long gone.. but I, still alive, filled with wonder at that fact, knowing for sure it means there is yet more I am meant to do - or rather be - in these years, so different from the last 25, and the 40 before those, and the schoolboy years of study, and rowing on New England rivers, against MIT, and BU, and Princeton and Pennsylvania, and Cornell and the Navy. A long boyhood of growing up.
Other friends are out there. I treasure the times we talk, and write, and I remember parts of the great journey I had with them - the journey with Jesus - that took us so many places: canoeing in the Boundary Waters, riding west for a few hours of prayer with Sioux friends at Cheyenne River, or the "woods Indians" up north, or long ago a pilgrimage to New England or Old England. Or study times around early morning restaurant tables, with Bibles open and prayers round the room.
They were adventures of the heart - and still are, for us. So many of these faces I saw today, at church. The very church we built together, also long ago. They have wrinkles, as I do, but they smile at me. Some, walking by me from receiving communion up front, touch my shoulder or grab my hand, just to say, "I'm with you, Arthur. I still love you." What riches in that, that fulfill my life.
These are what I want to remember when a Sunday takes me back and "the lonely comes down." The adventures that were. The Great Adventure it all was. And is still. And will be tomorrow, when Monday comes.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES