I get several emails each day that are designed to keep my 74-year-old mind active. In one day, I received three that really made me think. The good thing about these is that they allowed me to compose this entry in my mind, while driving to New Jersey for the funeral of a dear friend.
The first was a tweet about the opening of the Episcopal Council and the words of the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. He spoke of the Jesus Movement. In simple terms, if we think back to the 1950s or 1970s, we remember that the Jesus Movement was begun due to the realization that the youth will not come to church on their own; the church must go out to get them. I think we have forgotten to do this. In our rush to create a better mission for our churches, which includes outreach to those in need, we have allowed our youth and young adults to slip between the cracks.
We are so involved in assuring that our children get a good college education, designed so that they can get a well-paying job, that we forgot to introduce our children to things that matter most. My thought is not to diminish this effort for success, but to supplement it. We have not introduced a strong faith to our children. Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into the world to bring the good news to all of the people, to go into the word to share the Good News of God and Jesus Christ. We are too enveloped in the desire to be money rich that we forget the truly important goals in our lives. We also were trained to succeed, sometimes disregarding the spiritual costs.
The second thought-provoker of the day was the email offering the Bible passage of the day to assist in my meditation. From Psalms 105 “Sing to God; sing praises to the Lord; dwell on all his wondrous works!” I wondered what the message from God was for me this day. Two thoughts with identical messages were blaring at me from my computer. I am not one to stand on a corner and shout out my religion to the world; nor, am I one to proselytize every chance I get.
When I was a senior in high school in New Jersey, my Sunday School teacher asked the four boys in my class to select a passage from the Bible and adopt is as a code to live by. After much agony, and a great deal of procrastination, I selected the passage after the Sermon on The Mount in Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” The final verse is the one of most importance to me. I have always tried to treat people as my closest brothers and sisters:
I believe that my second career in education is perfect for me to perform this promise. With the two emails of the day and my adherence to Matthew 5:16, I know that God was telling me to increase my efforts to do good things for people. And so, I attended the funeral, met people I have not seen in years, met new people, and doubled-down on my efforts to treat them as close family. Jesus reminds us that the second greatest commandment it to love people as we love ourselves. That is quite a mission for a life. That is a very difficult mission in life. Instead of swearing at the driver who cut us off on the highway, we have to accept him as a child of god. The same for the person pushing her shopping cart filled with her life, wearing a heavy parka on a 90-degree day. She is a child a God in need, yet we pass her by shaking our heads.
So, what about the third email: this came from Dictionary.com. I subscribe to their word of the day. That word was paroxysm: an episode of acute awareness. My paroxysmal moment occurred in the sanctuary several weeks ago, when I was engulfed in a euphoric aura of chills and perspiration at the same time. I felt a three-decades long burden of grief, anger, and severe back pain lift from my body, allowing me to stand up straight for the first time in several months. The almost permanent slope to my shoulders virtually disappeared. The next morning when I awoke, I no longer felt the need to walk with the canes that had been by permanent companions for years.
Wondrous is the word I use to describe the mental progress I investigated while driving to the funeral in New Jersey. Refreshing! Meditative! Perplexing! I don’t pretend to understand my paroxysmal moment. It will take a while. This paroxysmal moment has been several months in length; but that is less than a split second of God’s time.
Tell me your paroxysmal moment. I would love to hear from you.
Russ Carter, July 21, 2017