Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

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So loved …

love“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  [John 3:16-17]

Love is difficult. It is painful. Love often hurts the one who loves … but you wouldn’t want it any other way. Because that is part of what makes love so beautiful. It is the power behind those well-loved words of St. John “For God so loved the world …”

Yes, God the Father loves this world enough to give to the ungrateful, to supply the unthankful, and to bless those who will in turn horde and abuse, and complain that He hasn’t given enough.

God the Son loves this world enough to have lived and died for others – even those who mock and spit and hurl insults as His blood flows for them. He loved enough to be lifted up in public shame so no one else would have to.

God the Holy Spirit loves this world enough to limit himself to working through the Word and Sacraments for our surety, teaching and life of prayer. He loves enough to promise He will work through them, even when people would rather hear some other word (any other word), or ignore the plain words of their loving God.

God’s Love does not come easy. Indeed it comes at great cost to Him. But it comes precisely for that reason. God doesn’t do what He does to condemn the world. It stands condemned in its sin already. God does what He does to save the world through His Love. No matter what it costs.

And that is the kind of Love we Christians need to share. The love God shared first with us. In this world so quickly unraveling at the seams, and into lives being torn apart by the sin sweeping over them and our culture, we need to love as no one does anymore.

Our love must be ready to bear the cost of helping those in need, even those who do not appreciate the gift or thank the giver. Our love needs to be ready to stand firm and suffer for the right thing. To be made public a spectacle and the mockery of those who would sacrifice others to get their way. Our love must be willing to submit itself to the ways and means that God has provided, the truths that He has spoken. Content always and ever to teach, and pray, and hope in Christ.

Such a love is difficult. It is painful. It will cost those who love, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, for it is His way. And it is the kind of Love that will save this condemned world!


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Leaving a Trail

Those of you with weak stomachs put down your sandwich now.

From the news recently: “People leave a unique trail of germs”  WASHINGTON (Reuters) – People leave more than fingerprints when they touch stuff — they also deposit a tell-tale trail of germs that could help investigators solve crimes, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.  They were able to map a unique bacterial genetic signature left by nine different people, and said this germy DNA lasted though day-to-day temperature changes, humidity and sunlight. “Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind as we travel through our daily lives,” Noah Fierer, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder who led the study, said in a statement.

Researchers have been learning that people are colonized with billions of microbes, both inside and on the body. And studies have shown that these colonies are unique to the individual and even to the place on the body … The University of Colorado team had previously found that a typical person carries about 150 bacterial species on the hands, and that any two given people only share about 13 percent of these different species … And unlike non-native disease-causing germs, they are not dislodged by standard hygiene. “Palm surface bacterial communities recover within hours after hand washing,” the researchers wrote.

Do you still want that sandwich?  Are you looking at it a little differently?  How about the keyboard, the mouse, the doorknobs?  The hand extended in friendship?  This “germy” discovery is both interesting and a little disturbing … but is it really news?  Does it really change anything?

We all know that we leave a trail behind us for good or for ill.  We all know that our hands are tainted – stained – by our own particular sweat of sin and impurities.  There are some parts of our lives that go by relatively unscathed, but others that are continually sick and suffering.  And no matter how hard – how diligently – we try to scrub ourselves of it, the same sins just keep coming back.  And as so often happens, we can’t even see the trail we leave behind … at least not until it can be measured by its effect on others (parents of preschoolers going from one sickness to the next know what I mean!)

As much as we might hate to admit it, the trail of sin we leave behind us is one of the surest ways of knowing who we really are, and where we’ve truly had an impact. (As parents of preschoolers trying to un-learn certain of their own words and behaviours in their children can attest to!)

Yet consider another pair of sin-stained hands … the hands of Jesus.  Perfect, spotless, without sin or stain or impurity, they never-the-less bore the full colonization of this world’s sin and impurities.  Yet where our hands leave behind a trail of suffering and sorrow, His hands in bearing that suffering and sorrow upon the cross leave behind an all-together different tell-tale mark.  It can be seen in the hands and the lives of those who belong to Him.  For along with the bad that is often left in the long trail behind them there is also great good.  Tell-tale signs of a life not measured by the sin in it, but by the Saviour over it!

And again, it is a trail that we are not always able to see except long after the fact, in the effect it has had upon the lives of those whom we have touched.  The kind words, the prayers so freely offered, the moment of compassion, the act of forgiveness, the gifts of time and service … such are the life giving trail left behind by those whose lives have themselves been identified through the nail marked hands of Jesus.  And even more than our germy following, this mark of Jesus upon our lives is a trail that impossible to erase.