What a day. I’m in between things at the moment. Waiting for the next thing. But not waiting, filling the time. Using the time. We had men’s group this morning - way, way too early, frankly. But these guys like it. A small group of men who gather to share and listen and know each other a little bit more. To have the sense that they are not alone in the universe. I guess early morning is a good time for that.
Then I have a funeral this afternoon. A special woman, a part of the life of the church, fought cancer for a while, finally won. Yeah, I said won. By holding fast to her faith into eternity, I think she has won what most of us long for and pray for. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, wrote St. Paul. So, a celebration this afternoon, sad to be sure, sad for us who remain, who still run, who still fight, but a celebration nonetheless.
Then a few hours later, I turn back a few pages in the United Methodist Ritual book and perform a wedding. It has always fascinated me that the wedding and the funeral services sit side by side in my little book. Something theological about that. But I won’t go into it now. Maybe someday. Certainly Emily and Marco wouldn’t want a reflection on mortality this afternoon. They are thinking about eternity. They are thinking about love as an act of will, of life together, of hope and joy and facing the future hand in hand, which is the only way any of us can face the future. Holding on. To someone, to everyone, to the One who made us and the One who saves us and the One who sustains us. It is always better to go forward holding on, and not only to God. There are those around us who sustain us, who save us. There is a community, there are covenants made that make us who we are. So we go into the unknown confident in love, confident in hope, even when the way is clouded, even when the hands by which we hold on are numb and uncertain. We go on because of those who sustain us even when we don’t know it, or forget it, or take it for granted, or even try to deny it. But they are there, sustaining, praying, loving us. So we go on.
Woven into this busy day is a marker that startles me. My son, Rhys, who I sometimes still see as the sleepy eyed but curious tiny little bundle I received into my arms at Chicago O”Hare Airport, turns 21 today. Twenty-one! How in the world did that happen? Must be one of those time warp things we read about in the science fiction novels. That’s the only explanation. Otherwise it would mean admitting that I’m ... well, old.
In between all these things is my usual preparation for Sunday morning. Which is always both a physical and a spiritual process. Reading and writing, planning and organizing. But also praying and meditating, listening and wanting. Being present in this moment, in preparation for another moment, a worship moment the next day. Alive to the Spirit as much as I can be. Alive to the world in which the Spirit works and the community the Spirit shapes.
So...what a day!
Actually, its not a day, it’s a week. It’s a month. It’s a life, might as well admit it. It’s not just today, it’s every day. It’s not just me it’s you as well. We are all of us engaged in days like this; overwhelming days, head-spinning days, troubling days, exciting days. There are days we want to hold on to forever and days we want to see the back of as soon as possible, days we hope we never forget and days we don’t want to remember. Our lives are made up of days that make us wish for the boring, mundane, make no demand, just kind of drift along days that seem too few and far between.
So, what does our faith say we should do on those days? What does Jesus require of us on such days? What actions and what choices? What demons do we exorcize and what angels do we heed?
Actually, I’m beginning to suspect that maybe it isn’t so much the what, but the how that really matters. Don’t shoot me. I don’t mean, as some do, that there is no such thing as sin. Yes, there are always right things and wrong things to do. But I think when walking through this life, the wake we leave has less to do with the specific actions and more to do with the attitude we bring to those actions. The how seems to make more of an impact than the what. At least that’s what it seems to me Paul is saying in our text for this week.
Colossians 3:12-17 12 As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Clothe yourselves, writes Paul. Wrap yourselves in these things. Put on. He writes a lot about the discipline of making sure you are properly attired as a follower of Christ. You could argue, I suppose, that the list that he provides for us here is about doing, about actions. But I would argue that it is more about attitude. Take look at the words - compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. And then once he states them, lays them out for us, he then describes them again. Bear with one another, forgive one another, get over stuff, let it go.
Then comes the outer garment. Clothe yourself with love. No wait, “above all, clothe yourself with love.” Above all. The crown, the cap, the overcoat, the fur wrap, the orange jumpsuit, the helmet that you lead with, the walker that you ambulate with, the steel toed boots you work with, above all lead with love. A new commandment I give to you, love one another as I have loved you. He said that, Jesus. On his way out the door. Before climbing the hill and hoisting himself on the cross. Love one another. As I have loved. Above all.
So, whatever you do. Love is an act, certainly, but more than that it is an approach. It is an attitude. It is a way of being in the world. It is a uniform that we wear. See how those Christians love one another. That’s what folks are supposed to say about us. Not see how judgmental, not see how closed minded, not see how hard-hearted. But see how they love.
Whatever you do. Whatever. Not just the big stuff. Not just the planned and organized and mission and outreach stuff. But whatever you do. Not just the happy or sad ritual stuff, the weddings and funerals, the small group gatherings and the monumental birthday celebrations. But whatever.
Great word “whatever.” It can have all sorts of attitude if you want it to. My daughter Maddie can whatever with the best of them. Rhys does it with a sigh, La Donna with a raise eyebrow. Whatever. But when Paul says it here in Colossians it feels different. It doesn’t feel like a dismissal or a reprimand. No, it feels like an invitation. Like an opportunity. The door has been flung wide open. You don’t have to wonder if this little thing would matter all that much in the greater scheme of things. “Whatever” gives you permission to do it in love. You don’t have to feel as though your little moment won’t amount to anything in the face of a difficult moment. “Whatever” says that your love is just as transforming as anyone’s. It’s an invitation. To love. Or, as Paul says, to sing. Join in the song of loving. The song of praising. The song of thanksgiving. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God, because of the love in your heart.
And whatever you do ... do it with love like His. Whatever.