2900 County Barn Rd. Naples, Fl. 34112

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I was reminded of the song from Bon Jovi, “You Give Love a Bad Name.” The song is about romantic love. What I am talking about is the love that is rooted and grounded in God. One of the expressions for God that is well known is simply, God is love. From there everything flows outward to each and every person who believes in God and lives to the best of their ability doing God’s work and will in their lives.

Sadly we are all human. Humans fail, some would call it sin and through the process of forgiveness people can move on gaining new insight and perspective recognizing where they went wrong and start over again with the grace and love of God.

In the news recently the love of God is getting a bad name from two primary sources. The scandals of abuse that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church give God’s love a bad name. Hopefully the Catholic Church will take appropriate action so this no longer happens. The scale of this abuse is still unknown and unless the church takes a serious inward look and makes changes, the abuse will still occur.

The second source giving God’s love a bad name is the evangelical end of the Protestant Church in this country. Several well-known leaders have cozied up to the current administration to get their agenda pushed through the political process. They have forgotten the basic elements of Christianity in their pursuit of power. The individuals who have cozied up to the political leaders are all millionaire pastors, kind of an oxymoron.

They forget what happened to Jesus. He was killed by the dominant political power of the day, the Roman Empire. Jesus said in the course of his trial that his kingdom was not of this world. Jesus also reached out to the population that the dominant society shunned. He reached out to the least and the lost, not the mighty and powerful. Through his life and work he did attract people that were in positions of power but the majority of his followers came from the ordinary population.

The power of Jesus is love finding its root and strength in God. When that is forgotten by anyone who calls themselves a Christian the result is giving God’s love a bad name. Not only in their particular sphere of influence but it gives the whole of Christianity a bad name.

Don’t give love a bad name.

We had the opportunity to visit the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone on vacation earlier this month. We did a fair amount of hiking during the visit as well as viewing many of the photo op places in the parks. One of the things that happens in a national park is you meet people from all over the world not just people from this country. Walking on a trail or stopping to admire the beauty of nature you often speak to those on the trail or next to you. Sometimes English is not their primary language. It doesn’t matter everyone is there for the beauty of nature. You can’t make the assumption that because a person has the same skin tone as you that they speak the same language. We encountered a number of Europeans on the trip. Their heritage is similar to ours but they do not speak the language we do. One does not have to go to a national park to experience this, just go to Naples Pier and sit there for a while.

The point is we look only at the surface of another person all too often and judge them by skin color, language, dress or any number of other things. When we find ourselves doing that it is an ‘ism’ at work in us. If we look at skin color and judge a person, it is racism. One of the blessings of being in a national park is that the ‘isms’ we often see and feel are not as evident because we are there as tourists admiring the beauty of the parks.

Racism is the most prevalent ‘ism’ in the news today. In many ways it seems as though we are going backwards in our acceptance of the ‘other.’ The other is to be feared. Sadly those feelings seem to ebb and flow throughout human history. Someone is always in fear of the ‘other.’ Racism and humanity’s other ‘isms’ have been and are a part of who we are as humans. Every so often racism rears its ugly head in what we think are new ways. But if we look at human history, there is nothing new under the sun.

The one who gave us the example of how to live as humans is Jesus. He reached out to the ‘other’ all the time. The people that society shunned at the time of Jesus, he reached out to and broke the social barriers of the day. In essence that is what we see happening on the news today as people try to counter racism with love for another.

A long time ago I tutored children after school. One girl I tutored was in first grade. I would go their home and tutor after supper. The family was from Puerto Rico. As the time to end the tutoring came the family said to me that I was the first person who came into their home in the six years they had lived there who treated them normally. That just saddened me. But how often do we look at a person and judge them because they are different than us? The answer is all too often. Learn from Jesus, we are all made in the image and likeness of God regardless what country of origin we come from, the color of our skin or any else that we may see as different. If we continue to learn to love the other as Jesus did, this world will be a better place.

Those two words are important to our health and well-being.  Yet a lot of times we neglect them.  In our fast paced society we don’t take time to rest.  The desire to do more, be active is a symbol and symptom of our society.  We do not take enough time to rest even though Jesus tells us to.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  If you notice he is actually not saying rest but where to find rest.  We find our rest in him.  Which leads us to, how do we find rest in Jesus?  The best way is to set aside some time in the day to sit in prayer and meditate on God.  The first thought to this idea may be, “I don’t have the time!”  That, my friend, is the very problem.  We think we have to always be doing something.  We are not called human doings, we are called human beings.  To be with Christ is to find rest in his presence.  Rest and pray.  Three simple words that we can incorporate into our lives on a daily basis to become more healthy, more compassionate, more loving and more like Christ.

All we have is today.  Let’s make the best of it.  One scripture verse that has this theme is, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Most of the time we think all is well.  Depending on the day we seem to either worry or look forward to the tomorrows we take for granted.

We got word over the weekend of a colleague who was in an automobile accident.  Her husband died as a result of that accident the following day.  For those of us in this denomination in Florida, it has shocked us.  It is one of those events that cause us to think that we may not have tomorrow.  By the grace of God we are given one day and it is today.  AA and other twelve step programs use the slogan, ‘one day at a time.’  If that person makes it through the day without picking up a drink or drug, it is a great day. 

Let us live for today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.  Today is a great day!

Much has been said recently about privilege, especially white privilege.  As a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant heterosexual male I fit the stereotype of one who has the opportunity to experience that privilege.  I don’t get the looks in stores or other places I go that some people of color have experienced in their lives.  People like me can go blindly through life not realizing how privileged we are or we can be aware of it and act accordingly.  I have also been in a country where I experienced for a brief time what it is like to not speak the language and look different than everyone else.  It helped me to understand what any immigrant group or group that is not Anglo face as they try to live in these United States.

People that look different are often singled out as a threat of one form or another.  It is not only a problem in this country today but is a problem of humanity.  It seems that someone always has to be on top of the hill.  That means that another group is below them.

Jesus however teaches us differently.  As the Gospel stories tell us he often sought out the marginalized of his society, much to the anger of those in power.  If we call ourselves Christians, then we should look on anyone as a treasured child of God, no different than ourselves.  It is that simple.

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MAYFLOWER CONGREGATIONAL UCC

2900 County Barn Rd 
Naples, Florida 34112

Office Hours: 
8:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mon - Fri.

Sunday Worship 9:30
            Refreshments 10:30

Church Phone: 239-775-0055
Fax Number: 239-775-3253

Pastor Alan's Cell: 239-227-8500

office@mayflowernaples.com
pastor@mayflowernaples.com

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