Message from the Pastor

Rev. Sundar SamuelS

Dear Members and friends,

It is hard to believe looking at the green grass, beautiful budding flowers and green trees that the ankle deep snow slush and the howling and biting wintry winds have gone from our lives for another season! The sun is shining warm and days are getting longer and people are out of their winter hibernation taking walks, and outdoor sporting activities are happening all over the place. What a beautiful time for us to breathe fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun and even enjoy our cooking grills!!

In the Christian Church we have also moved from Eastertide to Kingdom time. Our altar paraments say it all, from Advent-Blue, to Lent-Purple, to Easter-White, to Pentecost-Red, to Trinity-White and now Kingdom-Green! (Whew!).

Kingdom-Green is the Ordinary Time for Christian disciples where we are called to live out our Christian faith in daily ordinary-routine times.

During these ordinary times many of us dream of visiting exotic places. Maybe we’d like to see the magnificent castles or cathedrals of Europe, or the unparalleled beauty of Hawaii (in spite of flowing molten lava). Or perhaps the mysterious orient, with its unique culture. When we’re there, we might even start dreaming about what it would be like to live there permanently. Would it be as beautiful or as impressive if I saw it every day, or would I begin to take it for granted, just as I do my present surroundings?

A scribe hearing Jesus describe the two great commandments of loving God and loving neighbor, said to him, “’You are right, Teacher; you have...’ spoken the truth that loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself is indeed ‘much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’” ‘When Jesus saw that [this scribe] answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”’ (NRSV, Mark 12)

What did Jesus mean by that? We know that the kingdom was at the very center of Jesus’ teaching, because so many of his parables are about this kingdom. But nowhere in scripture is the kingdom defined. We know that it has to do with the reign of God in human hearts. But what does that mean?

Is it possible that the kingdom of God is not so much a place as it is a state of mind? This makes sense, doesn’t it? The kingdom of God is not something that we enter. The kingdom of God enters us. Jesus told this scribe that he was not far from the kingdom of God. The scribe had indeed found the key to harmonious living in this world and the next: Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself.

Want to live a truly fulfilled life? Some people think you must have just the right job in order to live a fulfilled life. Others think it comes from having just the right marriage. Some seek fulfillment in their relationships with their children. All of these things are important. But what if you have a bad job? What if you have a bad marriage? What if your children hate you? Is your life over? No, not if you love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself, it’s really very simple.

The truth is that God gives us an amazing amount of freedom. Our lives are pretty much what we have made of them. Sure, some of us had lucky breaks along the way-some good breaks, some bad breaks—but mostly the choices we made were the determining factors in our successes or failures. Some people are uncomfortable with that idea. They want God to look after every detail.

Steven Wrage, a professor teaching American politics in Singapore, wrote about his experience in Singaporean society. One day two Singaporean police officers knocked at the door and told him politely but firmly that his Fern was a public danger. Evidently, his over-watering had left standing water in the flowerpot. Pregnant mosquitoes thrive on standing water, and mosquitoes can spread dengue hemorrhagic fever. So the extra water in the flowerpot created a health hazard to the neighborhood. Steven quickly emptied out the extra water. As he did so, he marveled at Singapore’s social policies. He had watered the Fern a little over an hour ago. Evidently, one of his neighbors had reported him to the police. This episode sounds very foreign to us mind-your-own-business Americans, but it demonstrates one way that another country maintains social order and harmony at all times. How would you like to live under such restrictions? Some of us would be in trouble for something just about all the time. That’s how many Christians view their relationship with God. God determines when a patrolman on the interstate will write a speeding ticket. God determines whether I get to play golf this afternoon or whether or not I will win the lottery. Poor God-- gets the blame for all our misfortunes? No wonder it’s difficult for us to love God.

Here is how God works. God is always there when we call upon God to give us strength for the journey, to heal our hurts and refresh our spirits, but for the most part God allows us to make of our lives what we will, be it a mess or a masterpiece. God is not a policeman, a matchmaker, or a meteorologist. But God is the best friend you will ever have. Relax and love God for who God is.

And love your neighbor as you love yourself. It’s assumed that you love yourself. Except, we know now that this is not always the case. Some people loathe themselves and are, as a result, unable to love others. That’s extremely sad, but it happens.

These are the keys to living in the kingdom of God. The Bible is our travel brochure. The price of the voyage is simply to love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself. But you knew that all along, didn’t you? Sometimes we need to be reminded.

I do thank God for my citizenship. I am thankful for my citizenship in this country, but I am even more thankful for my citizenship in the kingdom of God.

“You are not far from the kingdom,” Jesus told the scribe. I suspect that most of us are in that state. We’re still standing just outside. But it takes only a baby step for admittance. Love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

 

Peace and joy,

Pastor Sundar