There is lots in a name. We talk a lot about "branding" these days. We want our "brand" to be clear to others. We want the words used to describe us, to be true to who we are and what we are about.
A fellow minister and colleague sent me an email about the whole issue of how "evangelicals" are perceived, and how, nationally they have been co-opted from their theological and spiritual commitment, to an identification with the "religious right" in politics. The issue behind the issue seems to be an anger about our president and who he is and what he stands for.
That seems to me to be not a fruitful pursuit, politics generally being too delicate, deep, and difficult for most of us to handle.
Rather, it seems to me our joy should be to be known as those who love Jesus. Those, who are Jesus people who love Him above all else, and follow Him, and serve him.
Being on the journey with Jesus means we've watched Him, and heard Him, and love Who He is, and that He comes from God the Father Who sent Him into the world to show us the Father's love, and to know the Father's welcome, and His call to all of us who are His children to come Home to Him. And, in the meantime to be about the work of HIs Kingdom, and planting, and establishing wherever we go, and in all relationships we may have. We're to be His people - acting as He acts, speaking as He speaks, and loving as He loves.
We're to be bearers of His spirit, conveyors of His heart. In other words "Spirit People" in the world. People filled with the Holy Spirit, which has been sent by Jesus into the world to be the power for all our ministry.
To be Jesus' People of the Spirit should be an honor for us and an identification we are eager to claim, defend, and promote - for the good of the world, and God's Kingdom everywhere.
"Home Alone" is usually recognized in our culture as a child in the family "Home Alone" probably for the first time.
It's a cold, dark October night, and I am Home Alone, somewhat to my surprise. I'm not a kid. I have things to do. I've even done a couple of those things, assigned by Molly. Like phoning back two friends who've called wanting to "get together." I love that. Catching up. Confessing what's in my mind and on my heart these days. Talking about life with dear friends I care about. Sharing possibly the news of the day, but, more like the news of my own concerns and inner thoughts.
As I saw Molly off with our Tamsie to be at our Artie's MASTERWORKS East Ridge High School Bel Canto Choral Concert in far-off Woodbury, I thought of how much we take for granted when we send our dear ones off into the night - even for just a few hours. That they'll be safe. That, of course, they'll return. But all kinds of dangerous possibilities are out there.
I concluded I must not surround my Molly and our Tamsie with fearful thoughts, but rather with call to my Lord to send Holy Angels to accompany them on their way, to protect them, and guide them, and bless the concert to which they go, and to bring them home, safely, and happy.
I waited up for Molly's return. She was lovely, and impressed, and full of good news of magnificent music these high school students had sung so well.
A little, important lesson for me, about when I am alone, and when my nearest and dearest are not at my side.
I confessed to Molly my loneliness at being "home alone." Her quiet, loving, yet slightly rueful answer was, "I spent many nights like that over the years." I confessed how sorry I was that that was true, that I had failed to order my busy ministerial life in a way that made a higher priority of time at home with my family. She does not begrudge me that, but let me know she had made important sacrifices for the ministry we chose together to do.
Twenty-four years after our parish life together, I can take great joy in these years of reconciliation work together in Africa, in which our ministry was shared and in which she made such huge contributions by her strong and quiet leadership as we were together.
How late we learn the deep and real things of our life together. Our constant repentance and forgiving is so important to our life of awareness and keeping up with those who mean so much to us.
It's October now. The cold winds have come - both in Minnesota and New Hampshire.
Molly and I are "safe home" in our 800 sq ft apartment. The heat comes on. Our evening meal is prepared. Our cars are under shelter. We are under shelter.
But, our dear daughter is in New Hampshire. "It's so different," she says. "The air is chilled. We have a fire in the fireplace each night. All is quiet - on the lake. In the rivers. Only one beaver swims the river. And no people about. The boats are in. The docks are up. All so still."
This year our children will "close the camp." They will arrange the last things. Not just trapping the last mice, and locking the last door. But arranging all to be "put away." The paddle boards of summer fun. The canoe to the garage for winter - preceded by the racing shell. The dock, too, must find its resting place. Pipes need to be emptied, and heat turned off.
The people will all be gone. No children here. No parents. No ever-present grandparents. The "Ossipee mode" shivers. People bundle up and prepare to leave for other places.
Faithful friends who have served our family for generations, are visitors. Our builder, from his wheelchair, after a new knee and multiple surgeries, and two years in hospital, says, in dismay, they say I have only six months to live. A tragic injustice. Kristen goes. And shares stories. And gives thanks. And prays.
A friend who walks the lonely road daily will meet her for lunch.
Two friends, hanging on, reach out from their home one lake away.
Two precious children, just married, will come for a week-end. Highlight of their unexpected, enduring September.
Like Molly and me, the cold helps you turn in upon yourselves. At the dinner table, around the fireplace. Mercifully, there's church, and seeing a few friends. They drive here and there. The roadsides start to flame, with the stunning colors of maples, the yellowing birches, the deep reds of oaks. And, close to the ground, bright sumac.
Time to go. The soul's good-bye. So much we learn about ourselves, and life, and the precious meaning of family, and faith, and the heavenly home that awaits.
The pundits of radio and television speculate that we are now at a great turning point in America's life. The apparent deep divide politically makes many skeptical that there is any way back to balance in our life, back to compromise, cooperation, civility, kindness, and grace.
An historian this Sunday evening reminds us that at Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration three major competing philosophies had won credence: Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, and Communism in Russia. They all had great appeal at the time, leading to political scares as various intellectual leaders confessed to having embraced communist ideals.
We are unclear about the spirit and truths that have given us democracy. What is clear historically is that our founding fathers were largely men of serious Christian faith, and that they recognized a distinctly Christian vision motivating the Pilgrim-Puritan generations just before them, and it was those Biblical visions that had fed their sense of purpose in the world of the new community they had been fashioning along the eastern seaboard towns and cities that had been growing there.
There was little talk of faith, or morality, or of God in the shouted slogans of the protests outside the Supreme Court last week, or outside Senator Collins of Maine's Washington office. Rather, their themes were immersed in the language of rights and defiance between the sexes in our country today.
A sexual revolution in the 1960's had undermined the traditions and institutions that gave a place for sexual life, and the bearing of children, and the creating of families in marriage, and marriage itself based in the life of the Church and the foundations of the Bible.
The great cry was for freedom as personal independence, even for "wife-swapping," and other forms of unfaithfulness in marriage. Sex was assumed to be an experience open to all people from their teens on. Along came the idea of consensual sex. The lines of forced sex blurred, and young people began to take what they could get.
Order was gone. Commitment was gone. Vows and promises meant less. Many decided not to marry at all. Until not only marriage began to topple, but other kinds of promises, and business went secular. The door opened wide for greed - and also for lust. Enter then Harvey Weinstein, and others to follow.
Our world now, in modern America, is one of who knows what is right or wrong? We hardly know what ethics or morality is.
The pathway back to order and decency, honor and faithfulness, is the same pathway Jesus offered when He invited young men on a beach to "COME, FOLLOW ME."
We will do well to think through the how of that, and for some, the why. Challenge the Church to do its work of showing us how, of bringing us into the disciples of life again, the way of faith again, the life of love again. The "HIGH WAY" - of integrity, and order, and honesty, and faithfulness.
It can be done. The Church can help. That's its work. To point out the life of love. Of sacrifice. The great Teacher is already there for us. He is JESUS - as modern a man as there ever was.
Over the summer there was a growing sense that the beautiful mountains that surround our beloved lake, and are the familiar trails I began climbing as a five-year-old and gradually reached out, through my teen-age years, and my adult years from my thirties to my 75th year, from nearby Whittier and Green Mountain, on to Chocorua's Piper Trail, and Weetamoo and the Brook Trial, to Washington's Huntington Ravine, and Tuckerman's Ravine, and Lion's Head and Crawford's Path and Ammonoosuc's Ravine, expanding into the full forty-six 4,000-footers in New Hampshire and the twelve of Maine and the seven of Vermont, were a kind of true "home to my heart." Their lovely, lonely trails beckoned me, and challenged me, and gave me "the far view" from so many spectacular vantage points. They gave me hours to think - about deep things of the world: theology, Jesus and His long journey, and human relationships and human history.
Some of the earliest walks were with my father - though the journey was not joy for him. Gradually I became the elder, the leader and guide, taking my growing children to the high places. And there, off an on, through several adult decades, long climbs with my brother the theologian, and our opportunity to say, on the trail, what we really thought about so much. And, for the last decades an occasional grown son or daughter. But, to the end, a faithful, eager dog- Schnitzel or Samson, succeeding Schmanzus, to Wonalancet, handsome, shepherding sheltie who walked many miles with me - as long as he could. Probably several times, saving my life.
So much of that was orchestrated, permitted, and encouraged by my Molly, who had climbed with me those few years before five children came and needed her at home.
The last climb, at 75 - inspired and encouraged by Tamsie, who was elsewhere on the mountain - took far too long, all day. And I knew it was the last high climb.
Somehow the lake was always part of those high ascents: our quiet place of sending and return, with memories of my parents, and my childhood, with sisters Betsy and Louise, and brother Lee.
My mother gave us a kind of theology of the maternal world, copying on a birchbark on the cupboard door behind her head at out gathering table, all those years of us growing. It was the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier's view of that whole sacred region, he called "The Lakeside."
"The shadows 'round the inland sea,
are deepening into night,
Slow, up the slopes of Ossipee,
they chase the lessening light.
Tired of the day's blinding heat,
I rest my languid eye.
Lake of the hills, where, cool and sweet,
thy sunset waters lie."
That sense, laid the groundwork and the deep-felt spirit of that mystic and mysterious place of beloved water, growing from New Hampshire sand beaches, up into the trails that headed for the sky. On those high places, and in the soft sands at sunset, we, like Whittier, "saw the face of God" and felt Him near, and knew we were in His world.
It was all foundational for me. And, for my children. And now their children.
So, when I must leave, at summer's end, there are always tears in my heart, for I know this was the great treasure given me, that became part of my soul.
This year, our once-small church, by its ministers and people and Jesus' heart and spirit life, and its natural serving ministry in a region of so many broken lives, seems somehow more, my own "home church" that I miss, like family, and that I pray, each fall, will be my place of return.
And yet, on a clear September day, out of the hills we drove, toward the sea, and old Portsmouth - town where I grew up and where Molly has determined we both shall lie in a small family plot in "The Proprietor's Cemetery," going back to the 1600's, where my father and mother and grandmother precede us. From there we took the C & J bus to Boston Logan Airport to lift later that day toward the westward sun, and the home God also gave us, where our children grew and five out of the six still live, and where return to the late chapter of our life in late-80's people, in a community called "covenant living" where we are bound by faith and committed to carers who shelter and feed us, and we from favorite chairs in our 800 sq ft apartment with a balcony, look into a courtyard of fountain and water with a lovely linden tree outside our window.
It's hard to come back, and yet we are grateful to be here - because of the simple size, and the few things. But also we rest here, as so many help us. And, we watch the people - old like ourselves - living often heroically, these years. Beloved names are spoken quietly in the hallway, of sweet people, dear people, who have "gone home," while we've been away. Impish, smiling Gee-Gee, while others have fallen and are under total care.
Molly moves about from one to another, greeting and touching them, our world that God has given us, and eat and talk and say "love" to each other.
We have a church here, which we served 32 exciting years, and we have still, a ministry here, of forgiveness and reconciliation. Others carry the great load, but we help with retreats, and see many who seek us out.
Is this home? Of course it is. Not the same as "Ossipee, my Ossipee, our mountain home that gave us birth..." But our home, near doctors, and hospitals, and a thousand friends who care.
They are all God-given, and He fills this place which we haunt, with His presence, and His love. And wonderfully - He gives us each other. The church we love here, grows again, and is in good hands. And all is set to help us have peace, and great joy.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES