Monday, May 31, 2010

Spirituaal renewal Weekend.

Memorial Day Weekend I was the preacher/spiritual director for a Renewal weekend at Good Shepherd Episcopal church in Hayesville NC. I preached Friday night, led a three hour retreat on Saturday morning and preached on Sunday. I based my work on Acts 2:42 and called it "Simply Church." I have posted the Sermons from Friday and Sunday and the teaching notes from Saturday morning in order so that you can, if you wish, read from Friday through Sunday. The song leader wwas Fran McKendree, of the 70's folk-rock group Mckendree Spring. Look him up; he's doing some amazing stuff with worship music. Delmer

Apostles' Teaching

Friday Night: "Devoted to the Apostles' Teaching"

Texts: Acts 2:36-47

I used to work at Hinton Center, traveling around the country consulting with churches and ministries; from Seattle and Southern California in the West to New York and Florida in the East and most points in between.

Much of the time I worked at Hinton my son Joseph was in Hayesville High School where he played on the basketball team.

As much as possible I planned my travels around being home for his games. Not all, but most.

Then, during his senior year things got complicated as they made a run through the playoffs to the state championship.

I did the best I could but the weather intruded and game schedules were changed and I was in a bit of a mess.

Go to Indianapolis to a meeting with our major donor or go to regionals? I rearranged trips and rebooked flights and made all the games, but I was worn out and fretted - too much strain and anxiety and long drives and red-eye flights and sleeping in airports and really bad food, etc, etc.

So it happened that in the midst of all this I found myself in the Charlotte airport awaiting a delayed flight to Asheville so I could then drive home at 2 AM across Chunky Gal in the fog,

YES, I was having myself a little pity party. I just sat in a corner and moped and complained to God - WHY ME, O LORD, WHY ME!

When I finally got on that little commuter plane, I crammed myself into the little seat and found myself sitting next to a well-dressed young man - who was slightly inebriated and smelt of alcohol - and he wanted to talk!


Since I am constitutionally and professionally incapable of lying, when he asked me what I did, I told him.

When people discover that you are a clergyperson - 2 or 3 predictable things can happen.

Some ask you the unanswerable questions they have been thinking about since junior high catechism class.

Others clam up and ignore you - either out of fear or distaste,

And a few start a free counseling/confessional session. This was a confessional session.

When he heard I was a Lutheran Pastor, he visibly sobered up and said, "I'm Episcopalian myself; basically the same thing isn't it? So you're a priest?" I nodded. Then he launched into this story,

Three years ago, I was a physical therapist in Dalton, GA.

I was engaged to be married to a young woman. The future looked good.

One night my girlfriend went to the grocery store after work - about 10 PM.

She never came home.

A man who had been out of prison for 3 weeks abducted her in the parking lot - he brutalized her, then he murdered her and left her body in the woods.

I was in Hagerstown Maryland on business this morning.

I got a cell call from the man who would have been my father-in-law.

He told me they sentenced my her killer to death today.

For three years I thought this day would bring closure and healing to me.

But, I just feel empty inside.

If that man had not done what he did, I would be going home to my wife, probably my child, tonight.

Instead, I'm going home to an empty apartment and a goldfish.

Dr. Chilton, those young pastors you work with - tell them to be gentle with the people in the church.

Most of them are carrying a world of hurt - a load of pain and confusion they never prepared for or expected.

Be gentle with them; help them get on with life, for God's sake.

And then our plane landed and I hugged him there on the tarmac and we went our separate ways.

As I drove home through the mountains, I found myself singing an old Methodist Hymn,

When the storms of life are raging, stand by me. (2x)
When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me. (Charles Albert Tindley, 1906, United Methodist Hymnal, #512)

Ever since I sat on that plane listening to that young man, a question has haunted me:

How can one build a life that will stand in the storm?

My teaching and preaching for this Spiritual Renewal Weekend are an attempt to answer that question from a Gospel perspective.

We will look at it from the personal point-of-view: answering the biblical question:
"Brothers and Sisters, what should we do?" verse 37.

We will also look at it from a congregational point of view, answering the question: What is the church called to do and be in the world?

Last Sunday was Pentecost, a celebration of the birth of the church, of the coming upon the church of tongues of fire and mighty winds driving the huddled and hidden disciples out of their cramped upper room into God's wide open but crowded streets.

Out in those streets, Peter was given of God a sermon to preach, a sermon that summarized the Gospela sermon that shouted to the rooftops that the same Jesus whom they had crucified was indeed God's promised savior, and that He was risen from the dead and that he was sitting at God's right hand and that the Holy Spirit promised by Joel had just come upon all of them and that it was the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the God of Noah and Moses and King David and the God of all the prophets who was calling THEM, EACH OF THEM, ALL OF THEM to repentance and new life and then the people said,

Brothers and Sisters, what should we do?

This is where our Scripture lesson begins:

Those who believed were baptized and those who were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit
and . . . . then what?

Those who believed and were baptized naturally gathered together. But for what purpose, to what end? Why church?

Through the years there have been a variety of answers to that question of Why Church?

And many of those answers seem to stray far from what God had in mind.

The church was created by God for a two simple purposes:

1) To be a community in which Christians are strengthened in their faith, and

2) To be a servant community; a body of people who work together to heal the world in God's name and with God's help and under God's direction.

Verse 42 summarizes this very well: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

As you know, I do a lot of church consulting. Frequently a church council or committee will say "what we need to do is"

Is could be, "start a contemporary service."
Or "Open a homeless shelter."
Or "have a better youth group."
Or "go knock on doors inviting people to church."
Or any of a number of other good ideas,


It is when we lose sight of our true purpose as the Body of Christ in the world that we begin to go off on congregational tangents, chasing after something to do that will make us feel important and relevant and Godly, but on our terms, not God's.

Our Call is the same as the call to the church at Pentecost;We are called to repent and be baptized.
As individuals and as a church.

This is the point at which my good Baptist friends can point an accusing finger and say, "See, see, that baptizing babies stuff has got it all out of order. It says repent and be baptized. How can a baby repent?"

And we have to concede that they have a point, if this were a one and done deal, but for us, repenting and baptismal living are a lifelong experience.

We do not divide the world into the saved and the unsaved, or into saints and sinners.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "The line between good and evil runs right down the middle of every human heart."

We find ourselves each day in need of repentance, in need of looking deeply into the mirror of God's word and recognizing our all too frequent failure to be the people God made us capable of being.

And when that hard, stern, unflinching glare of the Law has driven us to our knees, then we need to hear the word of Grace that comes to us in our baptism.

It is when we realize that we are no more deserving of God's Love than the thief who died on the Cross with Christ, then we can hear the words Jesus spoke to him as spoken to us, "This day you will be with me in paradise."

We who cross ourselves do it not in memory of the fact that Christ died on the cross, we cross ourselves in memory of the fact that he died there for us, for you and for me.

We cross ourselves, and in so doing we trace the cross the minister, the priest, the pastor marked on our forehead with the words, "Delmer Lowell Chilton, child of God, you are marked with the cross of Christ forever."

To repent and be baptized is the meaning of our lives, everyday of our lives, living each day "out of the cradle, endlessly rocking," between saint and sinner, faith and doubt, hope and despair.

No one can walk this walk alone. Everybody needs somebody, a lot of somebodies, in order to make it through life with one's soul somewhat intact.

Which is, of course, where the church comes in.

The Church is that place, those people, that community whose only purpose in the world is helping people live from the cradle to the grave as people of faith.

We have no other reason for being.

The Lutheran Augsburg Confession defines the church as "where the word is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered."

The 39 Articles of Religion of the Anglican tradition says the same thing in almost the same words. "a congregation . . . where the pure word of God is preached and, the sacraments be duly ministered."

Word: Holy Bible read and preached and taught and studied and sung.

Word: Holy Bible, struggled over, wrestled with, not just alone, but in a community of other readers and strugglers and wrestlers.

When Acts 2:42 says, "they devoted themselves to the Apostle's teaching . . ." it is not referring to a slavish devotion to a wooden orthodoxy.

NO. It means they were hungry to know more, they were committed to gathering in community to seek out God's will and way for their lives.

They were disciples who came together to learn from one another what it meant to be a follower of the Way, the way of Jesus Christ.

Some years ago, I was pastor of a church in Nashville. A big mega-church put out a bumper sticker that said, THE BIBLE SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT, THAT SETTLES IT.

The Jewish Synagogue down the street made one that said, THE BIBLE SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT. CAN WE TALK?

That's the spirit I'm talking about; the spirit of trusting in God's ongoing voice in the community of the faithful, calling us ever back to the Word and forward in the Spirit, convicting us of our sin
and washing away our guilt, showing us the malnutrition of the soul to be had in material things and feeding us at the altar on God's own flesh and blood.

We are called this day, as individuals and as a community of faith, to devote ourselves anew to the Apostles' teaching., to bow down before God and ask, "What should we do?"

We are called repent, to turn, to go in a new direction, the direction of following Christ to the Cross with our whole hearts and our entire spirits.

We are called this day to our baptism, to remember that though we be sinners, we are healed, forgiven, redeemed, beloved, sinners who are also baptized children of the Living God.

And we are also called this day to remember that above all else, beyond all else, this place, this community, this church, this Good Shepherd is to be a place where people find a help in their wounded walk through life.

A place where people like my young friend on the plane can find comfort in their sorrow, a place where weary souls can find rest, a place where people burdened by guilt and remorse
can find relief, a place where grateful people can shout out their joy, a place where confused people can ask their questions,

Are you ready to commit yourself to doing whatever is necessary to make sure Good Shepherd is such a place? Are you ready to take a good hard look at your life and repent and return to your baptism? Are you ready to devote yourself to the Apostles' teaching?

Amen and amen.

Of Prayer and Fellowship

Saturday Morning:
Acts 2: 36-47

Some years ago I preached on this text at the congregation I served for almost ten years in Nashville, TN.

After service, at the coffee hour, one of the parishioners, a very active church person and someone I counted as a friend came over to me and said,

I'm really disturbed by that lesson from Acts that you read. That's sounds like Communism. I don't believe in Communism. I can't believe there's Communism in the Bible. Is that one of those new translations or something?

I don't know exactly what I said except that we continued to talk about it and struggle with it together. She stayed in the church and later served as the Lutheran equivalent of Senior Warden.

As I think back on the encounter by the coffee pot, I'm not sure whether that story is about Lutheran ignorance of the Bible or about America's intense distrust of Communism or about America's equally intense idealization of individualism.

I suspect it's about a little bit of all three.

We in America have become more and more individualistic and concerned only about ourselves and at the same time less and less concerned about others and the public welfare. Two quick Illustrations to make my point:

1) Bp. Gordy - Memorial Day Meditation : commuter plane from South Bend to Chicago; Man in exit row, "I don't know about you, but if anything happens, I 'm outta here. The Hell with everybody else."

2) Texas textbook controversy: Social Studies text: A good candidate for public office is one who "takes responsibility for the common good." School Board Member - "That Common good idea just leads to Communism. We need to let the individual be free."

Now, we should not be surprised that such thinking bleeds over into the realm of church, religion, spirituality.

It seems to me that many people who say that they are "spiritual but not religious," or "I like Jesus but not the church," are exhibiting a serious degree of this intense individualism.

Not, even though I am an Assistant to the Bishop, I have to admit that I like Jesus better than I like the church sometimes, but that's not really the point.

To be Christian requires that we be in and of the church, whether we like it or not.

What good is it to commit yourself to high-minded goals like the love of all humanity if you can't be bothered to do the hard work of struggling to get along with the ordinary, ornery, sinful human beings who share the pew with you on Sundays?

That's like saying I believe in the sanctity of marriage but I can't be bothered with the hard work and compromise and emotional turmoil of being in relationship with an actual human being.

It is the very nature of Christianity that it is a communal experience and knows nothing of individual spirituality or salvation.

This is shown to us by the language of the texts we examine in various ways today.

First the one I just read: Acts 2:36-47 (reread and comment).

They, all, every one of you. "promise is to you and your children and to all who are far off.

Verse 44 KEY - together - all things in common

Verse 46 - together

Important - plural you - English has no proper plural YOU and until teachers talk us out of it, we all try to invent one: Ya'll, youse guys, you'ns, others? One I don't get is "All ya'll," seems a bit redundant. Anyway, the yous in this acts text are "ya'll" (read with ya'lls")

This also is important in the text we will read later, the Lord's prayer, Matthew's version in chapter 6, beginning with verse 5.

Jesus instructions about prayer are plural instructions, about praying in community, and even when we pray in private, should pray communally, thus the Lord's Prayer, notice:

Our Father; United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon, in his book on the Lord's Prayer notes:

"In this prayer we are taught to pray, not as individuals, but as the church. The "our" reminds us that we cannot pray without friends. The habits that the prayer forms can be acquired only through friendship with others that makes possible our friendship with God." (Lord Teach Us, The Lord's Prayer and the Christian Life, p. 25)

The fact that this model prayer is about life and love in community is further revealed to us by the fact that it calls upon us to do something that can only be done in Community, to forgive and be forgiven.

There is occasional discussion about the language: sins, trespasses, debts; all of which is not as important as the fact that none of it can happen in isolation: forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

GK Chesterton said, In one place Jesus tells us to love our enemies; in another place he admonishes us to love our neighbors; this is because, generally speaking, they are the same people.

C.S. Lewis said many times that he didn't much like going to church. In particular he didn't like hymns, and most of his fellow church members were not people he would have naturally been friends with.

But being in church with them and praying with and for them made him love them even if he did not naturally like them. Receiving care from them when he was in trouble and learning to care about their troubles that were very different than his led him to a deeper understanding of who he was and how much Christ loved all of us. (In "God in the Dock," Essay 4, p. 61)

Ultimately, the church is a school for the soul, a laboratory where we learn to genuinely practice the virtues that the Gospel calls us to.

The word translated FELLOWSHIP in our text is KOINONIA in the Greek, which can also be translated COMMUNION.

Not the communion like the bread and wine of the Eucharist but the Communion like when we talk about the Anglican Communion, or sing about the "mystic, sweet, communion" we have with Jesus.

What the newly baptized devoted themselves to was not "Hail fellow well met, fellowship of like minded people who share a keen interest in a similar sort of spirituality.

Their devotion was to a new community that was called together by the Holy Spirit and was held together by the bond they shared in Christ.


Breaking of the Bread

SUNDAY, MAY 30, 2010
Holy Trinity Sunday
"The Breaking of the Bread"

The English writer GK Chesterton was a famously eccentric man, full of wisdom and silliness in almost equal measure.

He wrote wonderful mystery novels, and magazine articles and books about Christianity.

He also weighed over 300 pounds and wandered about London in the early 20th century wearing a cape and a broad brimmed hat and carrying a cane.

He once sent a telegram to his wife that said, "I am at Trafalgar Square. Where am I supposed to be?"

Someone once asked him the old party question; "If you were stranded on a deserted island for a year, what one book would you want with you?" expecting, I'm sure, some variation on KJV, Shakespeare, BCP, etc.

Chesterton said, "If I were stranded on a deserted island I think I should like to have a Guide to Practical Shipbuilding." (P. Yancey, Soul Survivor, p.45)

The preaching and teaching for this Spiritual Renewal Weekend have focused on being a guide to practical church building, an encouragement toward being the sort of community that recognizes as its primary purpose the care and feeding of souls.

To that end we have focused on a theme of being "Simply Church," building on the words of ACTS 2:42 "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."

Friday night we dealt with devotion to Apostles' teaching as a life time commitment to living in and struggling with God's word in community, yesterday at Hinton Center we talked about and prayed about the interplay of prayer and community and how you really can't have one without another.

This morning we will address what the breaking of the bread means for us, both as an image of Communion and as a call to love and serve the world.

Pray with me please: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine, Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. Amen (United Methodist Hymnal, p.10)

Those words come from the standard United Methodist Eucharistic prayer.

The Presbyterians say it this way: "As this bread is Christ's body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world." (Book of Common Worship, various places)

This morning we will explore the relationship between calling this bread on this table the Body of Christ

and calling these people gathered in this room (that would be us, you and me) the Body of Christ;

and the fact that the Body of Christ was broken on the cross for us,

and the Body of Christ is broken on the table for us,

and we, the Body of Christ,

are then called to be broken and sent out in service to the world.

We begin with the Bible, with our reading from Romans, particularly the first two verses:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand. . ."


This is the golden thread, the recurring theme, he constant refrain that runs through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

God has chosen us, all of us, to be God's beloved people.

God, in an act of creation like the creation of the world itself, spoke this relationship of Grace and Love into being.

God said, "I WILL be your God, and you WILL be my people." And it was so.

Have you seen the billboards with cute little quotes signed God? I saw the funniest one I've ever seen somewhere in TN. "Don't make me come down there!" - God

I don't know who pays for those ads or who writes them, but I realized that on this one they have missed the point.

The ad echoes the parent who threatens punishment if the kids don't straighten up and fly right.

It implies that when God comes "down here," it's going to get ugly.

The fact is, our inability to live up to our end of the divine covenant of Grace has already prompted God to come "down here," and in the long run, that was a good thing. Not so good for Jesus, but good for us.

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus happened because God refused to give up on us.

The Christ event created a new covenant of Grace, for a new agreement of love, a New Testament signed in the blood of the Cross, as Paul says in Romans:Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand."

From the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples

and threw them out to witness in the streets,

and three thousand repented and were baptized,

God's people have been bound together in communities known as churches.

And from the very beginning two things were very clear:

1) The church does not create itself; Rather the church is created by God the Holy Spirit which, in Luther's words in the Small Catechism: "calls, gathers, enlightens and empowers" us for ministry, and 2) When they gathered, they "broke bread."

It is when we come to the table that a lot of images erupt and compete for space in awareness.

Jesus holding up bread and proclaiming "this is my body," and then feeding it to his disciples.

Paul referring to the church, the covenant community as "the body of Christ."

Jesus' body broken and bleeding on the cross for us, for the world.

Jesus saying that when we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, when we do these things for the least of these, we have done it for him.

When we roll all that up together in our hearts and mull it over in our minds, we come out knowing that the breaking of the bread is more than a fellowship meal shared amongst like-minded religious folk who like each other.

It's also more than a weekly reminder of our individual and personal salvation and relationship of love and forgiveness with God in Christ.

Eucharist, Communion, the breaking of the bread, is when everything about our faith and life comes together and comes alive.

It is when we receive into ourselves the bread and wine that are most aware of God's Grace in Christ.

It is when we receive the sacrifice and love Jesus poured out on the cross for us.

It is when we receive the sweet healing of the Holy Spirit poured out for us at Pentecost.

It is when that same spirits pulls together into a communion community as the body of Christ.

So that when we rise from this table as the body of Christ in the world,the Spirit then sends us out from the breaking of the bread to be broken in service to the world.

Let us pray: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.

Amen and amen

Friday, May 14, 2010

Easter 7; May 16, 2010

EASTER 7, May 16, 2010

Texts: Acts 16:6-10; Revelation 22:12-17, 20; John 17:20-26

A sermon preached at Christ Lutheran Church, Nashville TN.

"Simon Says" is one of my favorite kids' games. It's a very simple game.
One person is Simon and everyone else lines up and Simon calls out instructions and the kids try to obey them:

Simons says - take three giant steps;
Simons says - hop on one foot;
Simon says - scratch your nose.

Now here's the fun part; you can only do those things preceded by the words Simon says. If the leader says "pat your tummy" without first saying "Simon says," and you pat your tummy, you're out! Last one standing wins.

In our first lesson, Paul and Barnabas play "Simon Says" with God. It would take a little while to explain the geography, but the short form is Paul and Barnabas kept running into closed doors when they tried to go North to preach. God kept saying, "You're out. I didn't say Simon Says!"

Why did Paul and Barnabas keep going the wrong way before they went the right way? Why did they keep bumping into closed doors before they found one that was open?

If we're honest, all of us will admit that we struggle and get confused in our efforts to understand the will of God. I imagine God gets a little flustered while trying to get through to us.

My old friend Tom Ridenhour, Jr. said to me one time, "Sure Moses saw the burning bush, but how many other signs did Moses miss before God got frustrated and set the woods on fire?"

Tom was kidding, but he had a point; the world is full of the signs of God's grace and will and we all too often miss them.

An important question for us today is WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR US TO HEAR GOD'S VOICE IN OUR LIVES?

What is it on the human side that blocks our channels of communication with God?

One problem is that we live very compartmentalized lives.

Parts of our lives are kept artificially separate from other parts; this is work; this is family; this is play; this is church.

If we only listen for God in that small section of our lives that we call Church or Religion or Spirituality; we're going to miss most of what God has to tell us.

Moses was herding sheep when he stumbled upon the Burning Bush. Not praying; working; attending to the family business.

The prophet Amos was tending sheep and trimming sycamore trees when God got hold of him and wouldn't let him go.

Jesus' disciples were called away from the midst of plying their trades. Leave your nets, close up the tax shop, put down that hammer; follow me.

Martha in her kitchen and the Woman at the well received a word of insight into their lives whilst going about their normal, hum-drum, daily chores.

God is no less active in the commonalities of our lives.

But, we must be looking, we must be listening. In Jesus' memorable phrase, we must "have eyes to see and ears to hear." We must pay attention to our lives in order to hear the voice of God within it.

The book of Hebrews begins with one of my favorite lines in the Bible, "in many and various ways God spoke . . ."

The United Church of Christ has picked up on this theme in recent years with their slogan; GOD IS STILL SPEAKING.

What they say is true, God is still speaking, in many and various ways, calling all of us into love and community.

Perhaps our biggest problem in communicating with God is not that we can't hear God; it's that what we hear displeases us.

Mark Twain once said that he had noticed that many people were upset about the parts of the Bible they didn't understand.

Twain said, "As for me, I am more disturbed by the parts I DO understand."
I get that.

Drop everything and follow me, turn the other cheek, sell all and give to the poor, love your enemies, love your neighbor, turn your backs on your family for the sake of the kingdom of God, these things disturb me. I had rather that Jesus had never said them.

But since I am convinced that he did say them, I must confess I have all too often dealt with these uncomfortable callings by pretending not to understand.

This is a technique perfected as a teenager.

One arrives home from school. There is a note on the table spelling out chores to be done. (I'm old, this is old school. These days the parent would text the list of chores, but you get the idea.)

One is unhappy; one had plans, important plans; which mostly consisted of lying around watching TV and talking on the phone to my friends. (Though I'm old, teenagers haven't changed much in 40 years.) What to do?

Well the answer was to do little, or as little as possible and then plead ignorance when Mama got home?

I didn't know if you meant weed the flower garden or the vegetable garden.

I couldn't find the gas can for the lawn-mower.

I didn't know how much detergent to use and I was afraid of messing up the clothes.

Mother was not amused. And I am fairly certain she was not fooled.

And I am fairly certain that God is neither fooled nor amused by our equally inept protestations of ignorance about what we have been called to do in the world.

It is only because we are loathe to obey that we pretend not to hear or to understand. It was only when Paul stopped trying to do things his own way; to follow his own desire to go North and preach in Asia, that God's way into Macedonia became clear and open to him.

A few years ago, Unitarian Minister Robert Fulghum had a best seller called "Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten."

His point was both simple and profound. It is in Kindergarten that we learn the basic principles of being a civil human being in a group. The groups we are in and the problems they face grow ever more complex, but the principles of civility never change.

In much the same way, we don't need special signs from God to know God's will and God's way for us in the world; it is both simple and profound.

As a Church, a community of Christ, we are called to "preach the word and administer the sacraments;" that is, to teach and live the reality of God's love in Christ with as many people as possible. That's it.

In the words of Jesus himself; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself."

That is it. That is our calling. And whatever we have to do to make that happen, that is God's will for our lives.

It is really not that hard to understand.
But it is, very, often, very hard to do.

Amen and amen.