texts: Matt. 18:15-20, Rom. 13:8-14 title: together

I once had a black Labrador retriever named Buck. I say once because he now lives with my parents, as he has for the last seven years, in the mountains of North Georgia. Buck is a gentle, playful, loving dog without a mean bone in his body. And at 85 pounds, I believe he is one of the largest lap dogs known to humanity. However, Buck is also deathly afraid of lightening and thunder.

He wasn’t always this way. About three or four years ago, Buck was riding in a kennel in the back of my parents’ pickup truck when the truck was hit on the side by another car that recklessly pulled into traffic. He wasn’t physically hurt by the crash. However, from that day forward he has been mentally afraid of riding in the car, and of the noise and violence of thunderstorms.

Buck physically shakes when storm clouds produce their symphonies and light shows. His body trembles with fear; and I can only imagine the memories that these strange noises call up for him. One of the only comforts for Buck during these times is being near and physically touching my mom or dad. There is something about being in the presence of someone else that helps to calm his nerves and settle him down.

It is our ability to be present, as best we can, to one another that sustains us through violent and fearful times. When Katrina hit the Gulf shores of Mississippi and Louisiana last week, no one could have imagined the devastation and destruction.

Thousands upon thousands have been displaced, have lost friends and family members, have lost everything they worked for, lived with and some have even lost the people and things they loved.

Storms like Katrina bring up some of the most difficult questions in the lives of the faithful. Why do these disasters happen? Why would God allow this? What does it mean? They are good questions, all of them, but they are unanswerable unless you wish to play god.

As I thought about this disaster, I thought of three primary ways we could respond to disaster like this: we could respond with cynicism; we could respond out of fear; or we could respond with love. Either way, we are called to respond directly to the things that happen in our lifetimes. That is the crux of our Matthew passage.

We aren’t called to sit complacently and judge or gripe about what is happening around us. Whether personally or globally we aren’t to go behind people’s backs and speak ill of them.

No, we are held to a higher standard of direct love for God, ourselves, and one another. Out of our love for one another, we are to speak and act in a manner that directly deals with the person and action.

We see this example over and over again in the ministry of Christ, a caring confrontation with an offending person that dealt directly with a behavior or situation. Or let’s put it another way, if Jesus saw that something was amiss in your life, he would tell you about it, and he would tell you in a way that showed how much he cared and loved you. This is not a boot camp type confrontation, though he did shake things up a bit, but one that sought healing and wholeness in the process. Paul echoes this in his letter to the Romans as well. He believes the only thing we are to owe one another is love.

So, no doubt you have seen the devastation, the destruction, the loss of life and livelihood. We cannot go anywhere without being reminded of what has happened. While disasters like these are unexplainable, the response of the Body of Christ should not be.

There is to be no fear among us, there is to be no cynicism either. Our only way to respond to any event in our lives is to directly love and be present to those who are before us.

Whether it is care for a frightened dog, whether it is being present to someone who has lost a loved one, a livelihood or is just lost, whether it is responding to a disaster financially or through volunteering our time and talents. We can be sure that there is no better way, no better hope for humanity, no better life for God’s children than to directly love one another as best we can in every circumstance.

In a few moments we will partake of the Lord’s Supper, a time where all of the faithful from generations past and generations to come will sit at the table and share a meal together. I would ask that when you partake of the bread and cup, that you would remember your brothers and sisters all over the world who, for whatever reason, cannot do what you do today.

Remember, pray, and be present to how God calls you to respond this day to the grace and love that you have been given. Then, when the time is right, do what God asks, and go out and love.



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