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We Are Family

September 23, 2018

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he has taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Genesis 2: 18, 22).

I come from a large family.  My mother was one of nine children who lived to adulthood, and my father was one of six who lived to adulthood—many of whom had large families.  In doing some genealogy research, our son, Peter happened upon a genealogical wizard in my mother’s extended family.  He had painstakingly researched our family, obtaining birth certificates, marriage certificates, baptism records, and a host of other records, which he translated from their original Russian and Polish.  In the process, he traced our family tree back many generations to eighteenth century Eastern Europe, and discovered a number of relatives we did not know existed.

Family is important. If we didn’t know that already, the Scripture texts for next Sunday remind us of that fact.[1]  All of the texts refer to the creation—when God created the family who would become Jesus’ ancestors when he walked the earth.  In Genesis we read “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.’ . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he has taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Genesis 2: 18, 22).

The family was created by God, and a good family life is a blessing.  Faith helps us overcome the inevitable challeges that arise in every family.  The psalmist tells us that living a godly life increases the likelihood of family harmony: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord” (Psalm 128: 3-4).  Because to err is to be human, no family is perfect.  But having God to rely on helps family members through tough times, and adds depth to our joy as well.

Mark’s gospel recounts a discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees regarding the genesis of the family: “Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will be come one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh’” (Mark 10: 6-8).  In the context of all of the Scripture texts for Sunday, the gospel message comes across loud and clear:  God created and blessed the family unit.  He allowed his son to be born in a human family. When you join the family of God, you are joining a world-wide family of believers.  You will never be alone.  When you come face to face with your ancestors in heaven, you will meet many who lived and died before records were kept by Ancestry.com.   You will be surrounded by and bask in the love of your own family and in the love of others in the faith.

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers of the creation: “What is man and woman that you bother with them; why take a second look their way? You made them not quite as high as angels, bright with Eden’s dawn light; then you put them in charge of your entire handcrafted world” (Hebrews 2: 6-8a, The Message).

And yet, Jesus came to join our human family, which was made “not quite as high as angels.”  Jesus, part of the Trinity, lowered himself to become a man—less than an angel.  The text goes on to confirm that because Jesus shares a common human bloodline with us, “Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them [us] as family, saying, ‘I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you . . . Again he puts himself in the same family circle . . . “(Hebrews 2: 11-13, The Message).  When you join the family of God, the Father is your father, and Jesus is your brother.  You are included in a very special family circle.

The Scripture texts bring together God’s creation and his blessing of the individual family unit. God’s love of the human race is evident by the fact that he allowed Jesus to become one of us.  Jesus joined the human family.  It is wonderful to be blessed by sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, children and grandchildren.  But remember that you are also part of the family of God.  Jesus is not only the second person of the Godhead, but he is also walked in your shoes as a human being.  Family members sacrifice their time, money, and other resources to nurture and to help each other.  Jesus sacrificed his life for his family—for you and for me.

Jesus is family.  Call him.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Genesis 2: 18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2: 1-18; Mark 10: 2-16.

The Plot Thickens

September 17, 2018

“Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.”  Psalm 54: 2-3.

All of the themes in great literature are found in the Bible—love, lust, betrayal, jealousy, greed, pride, murder, etc.  These themes are present in mysteries as well.  I have been an aficionado of mysteries my whole life.  I started devouring Nancy Drew mysteries in third grade and graduated to Sherlock Holmes in middle school.  Later, I broadened my mystery reading to G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown and other mystery writers.

In this week’s Scripture texts[1]the plot thickens for three Biblical heroes—including Jesus, the divine Superhero.  Even though murder plots are revealed against our three heroes, we know that they all ultimately prevail.

King Saul led the way in the plot to kill David, but others joined in the hunt for his blood: “Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.  Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.  Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.  Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them” (Psalm 54: 1-5).  Through the grace of God, David was spared from death at the hands of these murderous thugs and he continued to turn to God for help and protection throughout his life.

Jeremiah preached under Judah’s last five kings.  The nation was on a descent to destruction, which ended in its capture by Babylon in 586 B.C.   Jeremiah’s warnings and pleas to the people to return to God fell on deaf ears.  The Lord told Jeremiah that some people from his hometown had hatched a plot to kill him because of his preaching.  Their motivations to kill him included greed (his preaching hurt the idol-makers’ businesses); politics; religion; and hatred for showing them that they were wrong.  Jeremiah turns to God and pleads with him: “But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause”(Jeremiah 11: 20).  God rescued him and Jeremiah lived.  Even though other murderous schemes and persecutions followed,  Jeremiah was faithful to the end. He is a great example of courage in the face of injustice and opposition.

In this week’s Gospel text, Mark records that Jesus told his disciples of the plot to kill him for the second time: “He said to them, ’The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it”  (Mark 9: 31-32).  Maybe they didn’t pose any follow-up questions because Jesus scolded them the first time he told them.  More likely, they didn’t ask questions because they were too caught up in their own selfish ambitions to begin to comprehend what he was saying: “’What were you arguing about on the road?’  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all’” (Mark 9: 33-35).  Clearly, they still did not understand the sacrifices ahead.  And while Jesus continues to try to get through to them, they argued about who should be Vice-President and Secretary of State when Jesus comes to power.

James warns against such selfish ambition: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:14-17). Remember Jesus’ instruction to be a servant to those who cross your path.

As plots thicken in your life—when temptations, ambitions, jealousies, and betrayals swirl around you–follow David’s, Jeremiah’s, and Jesus’ examples.  Turn to God and  confess your sins.  Look to him for comfort, refuge, and protection against those who are threatening to harm you.  Look to the one who can protect you from life’s vicissitudes.  Fall into Jesus’ arms when you are being pursued. Whatever happens, he will be with you.  He is your fortress and rock.  And a mighty fortress he is.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Jeremiah 11: 18-20; Psalm 54; James 3:13-4: 10; Mark 9: 30-37.

Help My Unbelief

September 10, 2018

’Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9: 23-24).

Frances (“Fanny”) Crosby, was perhaps the most prolific American hymn writer.  She was blind her entire life.  She was inspired to write Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior after speaking at a Manhattan prison in 1868 where she heard some prisoners plead for the Lord not to pass them by.  The fragments of the lyrics from the hymn that generally come to my mind in the middle of the night are: “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry . . . help my unbelief. . . Do not pass me by . . .”

I thought of this hymn as I meditated on the Scripture texts for next Sunday.[1]  The texts emphasize that we must rely on God throughout our entire lives. After we receive the gift of faith, we’re not done.  The necessity to rely on God every day is a theme throughout Scripture and throughout Sunday’s texts.

When Jesus and his disciples encounter a man whose son is possessed, the disciples are not able to heal him.  The father appealed to Jesus, who told him “’Everything is possible for him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9: 23-24).  The father instinctively understood that even though he believed, there was a residue of unbelief in his soul that he needed Jesus’ help in overcoming.  We need to rely constantly on the Savior to overcome any amount of unbelief that undermines our faith and daily reliance on God.  This was a lesson that the disciples had not yet learned.

After Jesus healed the boy, the disciples privately asked Jesus “’Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer’” (Mark 9: 28-29).  He was telling them two things: first, this was a difficult case, and second, that complete reliance and dependence on God through prayer is the key that opens the door for miracles to occur in our lives.

James echoes this theme in his discourse on taming the tongue when he writes “No man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Every day we must rely completely on God to move us closer to him in the faith.  Only with God’s help can we begin to exercise control over our gossipy, unkind, and angry words.

Isaiah confirms the necessity of turning to God daily for sustenance and help: “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning . . . The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.  Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced” (Excerpts, Isaiah 50: 4-7).

Finally, the psalmist sings that we must turn to God throughout our lives: “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live . . . The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me” (Psalm 116: 1-2; 5-6).

Ask Jesus to help your unbelief.  If you look to God daily, he will not ignore you.  Jesus does not pass by those who turn to him in prayer on a consistent basis. Ask him to help you with doubts, fears, stubbornness pride, anger, and anything else that separates you from God   Turn to him daily to help your unbelief. When you do, you will grow in faith and reliance on God.  He will not pass you by.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are: Isaiah 50: 4-10; Psalm 116: 1-9; James 3: 1-12; Mark 9: 14-29.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

September 2, 2018

“. . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”  James 2:4

I thought of Aretha Franklin, who recently passed away, and her rendition of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, a song written by Otis Redding, when I read this week’s Scripture lessons.[1]  Everyone wants to be respected—the young, the old, the middle-aged, the in-between, people of different genders, ethnicities, religions, skin colors, etc. James tells us that respecting others comes down to the following “royal” law (aka the Golden Rule): “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers’” (James 2: 8-9).

Because human beings inhabit the earth, discrimination has always been present.  The Bible, while railing against discrimination in both the Old and the New Testaments, documents many instances of discrimination from the beginning of time through the years after Jesus’ death.  The fledgling church that arose after the resurrection was not exempt from allegations of discrimination.  Luke recounts that the Greek-speaking believers complained that their widows were being discriminated against in the distribution of food by Hebrew-speaking believers (Acts 6:1).  Jewish believers assumed that Jesus was their Messiah only—that Gentiles were not included in God’s plan of salvation (Romans 1:16; Acts 14: 27; Acts 15:5).

Discrimination was rampant in the first century, and still rears its ugly head today. William Wilberforce was instrumental in the nineteenth century in the movement to stop the slave trade because of the Christian mandate to treat all people equally.  In the twentieth century, many predominately Christians nations formed an alliance to band together to stop Hitler, but not before he killed six million Jews.  Just over 25 years ago Serbia tried to “ethnically cleanse” the Bosnian territory by removing and killing Bosnian Muslims.

As Christians, we are required to treat others as we want to be treated.  During Jesus’ ministry many Jews rejected the inclusion of Gentiles in Jesus’ ministry—yet Mark recalls an incident when Jesus healed a Gentile woman’s daughter (Mark 7: 24-29).  James emphasized that showing favoritism to some people over others is forbidden: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes . . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2: 1-4).

God views all people as equals.  Here are a few examples from Scripture teaching us to treat everyone equally: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image’ . . . So God created male and female he created them”(Excerpts from Genesis 1: 26-27); “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the almighty and awesome God, who is not partial. . .”(Deuteronomy 10:17); “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”(Galatians 3:28).

Because we live among sinful human beings, discrimination has not been eradicated over the last two thousand years.  To the victims of discrimination and to all with “fearful hearts,” Isaiah encourages us to “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, and he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you” (Isaiah 35:4).  There will be divine payback for injustices—whether it is meted out by an employer who sets things right, a governmental agency, a court, a nations, or by God’s ultimate judgment.

The psalmist reminds us to praise God under all circumstances.  Praising God takes us out of our current woes and helps us focus on God, our strength and our refuge: “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free, . . . the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . . the Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow . . .” (Psalm 146: 7-9).

Just remember to give others a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T—to treat them as you want to be treated. If most people followed that simple rule, it would go a long way to overcoming prejudices.

Respect. Practice it.  Today.

Diane Cieslikowski  Reagan

 

 

[1]The Scripture texts for Sunday, September 9, 2018, are Isaiah 35: 4-7; Psalm 146; James 2: 1-10, 14-19; Mark 7: 24-37.

Armor All

August 27, 2018

Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Ephesians 6:13.

Armor All is a line of products used to clean and protect cars—inside and out—to “prevent cracking, fading, discoloration, and premature aging.”  The product promises to protect your car from harmful elements such as ultraviolet rays and oxidation.  In addition to protecting our property, we work hard to protect our bodies from the effects of ultraviolet rays and aging.  We exercise.  We try to follow a healthy diet.  We apply potions to our faces to prevent cracking (wrinkles) and discoloration.

If only there was a salve to protect our faith from the onslaughts of daily life.  But wait—this week’s Scripture texts give us the formula.[1]  There are things we can do to prevent fissures in our faith journey. God has given us the tools to keep our faith fresh and new and to protect ourselves from the evil surrounding us.

The Old Testament reading points us in the right direction: “Keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you” (Deuteronomy 4: 2b).  Moses cautions us against editing God’s laws: “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it. . . “(Deuteronomy 4: 2a).  God’s law is eternal. It does not change.  So the first line of defense in our arsenal is God’s law.  If we follow his law, we are on our way to circumventing many obstacles we encounter on our faith walk.

The psalmist confirms that following God’s law is the gateway to protecting ourselves and leading us in the right direction: “Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.  The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.  I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.  Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.  Direct my footsteps according to your word . . . Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts” (Psalm 119: 129-133).

Jesus shows us the elements that we need to protect ourselves against.  Unlike the UV rays and oxidation in the atmosphere that you protect your car from, the things that threaten our faith come from within: “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7: 15).  The threatening traits that we harbor within ourselves are many–jealousy, pride, arrogance, greed, lust, envy, anger, and ambition–to name a few.

The Armor All logo depicts a strongman with a helmet, breastplate, and shield.  He looks like he could take care of your worst enemy.  One wonders if the idea for the name of the product and the logo came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes . . . Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground . . . Stand firm, then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. . . take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6: 10-18).

God has given us defensive tools  (truth, righteousness, peace, and faith) as well as offensive weapons (the helmet of salvation and the Spirit).  The helmet of salvation is that sure knowledge and hope that we have in Christ Jesus—that he will one day carry us from this life to more life with him.

While reading this blog some of you have made a mental note to get to work on your car’s interior and exterior with Armor All or similar products.  Fine.  But don’t neglect to put on the armor that you need to protect yourself from the deadly rays of sin that can crack your faith, and make it fade ever so slightly every day, until God is a memory and is not a part of your everyday life.

Use the tools God has given you in your everyday struggles and in your battles with the powers of darkness that would destroy your faith and the Spirit within you.  Go into the battle of life with the confidence that God’s truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and the promise of salvation and the Spirit will keep you safe from any enemy you face.

Suit up.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for Sunday, September 2 are Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-9; Psalm 119: 129-136; Ephesians 6: 10-20; Mark 7:14: 23.

God Rules

August 20, 2018

Isaiah was right . . . ‘These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Mark 7: 6-8.

During our first wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii I found a heart-shaped stone while walking on the beach. I kept it and have used it as a paperweight all these years. Hearts made of stone are good for nothing more than a paperweight–and memories of a trip that was anything but made of stone.

In this week’s Old Testament lesson[1] Isaiah recounts God’s description of people whose hearts are made of stone: “These people they come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29: 13). He is talking about people who are merely going through the motions of worship. They are going to church and following man-made church rules, but their hearts are far away from God. They have no clue who God is. To them, religion is about rituals and rules, not about a relationship with God. It is about routine, not about the reality of the person of God—the holiness of God. We all fall into worship routines from time to time, but we need to guard against the hypocrisy of worshipping while our hearts and minds are elsewhere. Keep your heart soft and tender and open to God’s direction. Remember that God rules, not man: “Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing?’” (Isaiah 29: 16 b).

David echoes Isaiah’s account of God’s lament: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God . . . Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord . . . You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge” (Excerpts, Psalm 1-6). David describes the same people with hearts of stone described by Isaiah. There are many people in our culture with hearts of stone who “devour” people of faith “as though eating bread.” The fools described by David are found on every continent and in every age. His comments are timeless and classic. David’s observations do not leave the reader without hope. He reminds us that the Lord is our refuge. He encourages us to call on God. He is our refuge. God rules.

Mark’s gospel includes the story about Pharisees and other rule enforcers who criticized Jesus and his disciples for not following the ceremonial hand-washing ritual before eating: “’Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with unclean’ hands?’ Jesus replied “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7: 6-8).  Jesus’ criticism of the rule enforcers as hypocrites rings as true today as it did in Jesus’ day. We become hypocrites when we put more stock in man-made rules and rituals than in God’s love, mercy, and justice, and when we keep our hearts distant from God, emphasizing our virtues and others’ shortcomings.

The Pharisees devised hundreds of petty rules that detracted from God’s holiness.  But we should look to Christ as our model of behavior. Love is always the overriding principle—love of God and love for each other. Paul uses the example of the love between a husband and wife to illustrate Christ’s love for his church and vice versa: “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5: 32-33). God’s rules are based on his love for us.

Keep stone hearts only as paperweights.  Keep your heart soft and tender toward God, as well as toward your spouse and others. Put the rule of love above all petty man-made rules.  Remember that God is love, and that he rules.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for this week are Isaiah 29: 11-19; Psalm 14; Ephesians 5: 22-33; Mark 7: 1-13.

Come Out of the Darkroom

August 14, 2018

Everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. That is why it is said: ‘Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Ephesians 5: 13-14[1]

My father was a gifted photographer. He joined the Navy when the United States entered the war after Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  The Navy trained him as a photographer, and he worked for the Pentagon during World War II in photographic reconnaissance. He became a commercial photographer after the war.  His black and white photographs were works of art. My brothers and I all spent time with him in his various darkrooms, watching him transform undeveloped film into images. After film is developed, the image can be seen on the film or printed on photographic paper. But the images must be born in darkness before they can come to light.

That is often the case in our lives. We must often stumble through darkness before we are led to the light. When we are in a completely dark room, we cannot see what is in the room. It is only when light is brought into the room that we become aware of our surroundings.   In the same way, God leads us to wisdom and to an understanding through his divine illumination in the Word and in his revelation in the dark places of our lives. Wisdom is often born in the darkness of suffering.

Father Robert Spitzer, whose physical world is perpetually dark because he is blind, calls suffering “the high point of wisdom.”[2] In Sunday’s Old Testament lesson, Solomon begins Chapter 9 of the book of Proverbs with this statement: “Wisdom has built her house: she has set up its seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1). What are the seven pillars? The seven pillars represent a complete and perfect wisdom. The number seven in the Bible represents completeness and perfection. Father Spitzer writes that we can be brought from suffering to completeness and perfection within the context of faith because God’s love is unconditional and his goal is to bring us to eternal life. We are brought to faith through God’s grace—Jesus’ death on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit.[3]

In teaching us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10), Solomon is not referring to the type of terror that grips us when disaster is about to befall. We do not shrink or cower from the Lord in dread. The fear Solomon is referring to is from the Hebrew word yirat, meaning a reverence or awe of the Lord (Yahweh). Reverence or an awe of God is the beginning of wisdom. It is that awe and confidence in his unconditional love that lifts us up before God to make us fearless in the face of life’s challenges. Before he died, Joshua told the people to “Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness (Joshua 24: 14). Solomon’s father, David, wrote: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34: 4). He goes on to tell us that while we all suffer during our lives, “The Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34: 17-18).

We don’t automatically step from the darkness of depression, despair, grief, and other dark places to a place of light and peace.   And even when we do emerge from a dark place, we know that it isn’t a permanent escape. As long as we have breath in our bodies, there will be setbacks. There will be struggles.

Our only hope to escape from the darkness is in God. When we are in awe of God, we begin to walk toward the light. God begins to illuminate a path out of the darkness through his Word, circumstances, medical professionals, and others along the way to help move us out of our own personal dark places.

Paul encourages us to live as “children of light”: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth). Find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5: 8-12).   When we walk with Christ, his light will shine on us and through us to others: “Everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. That is why it is said: ‘Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5: 13-14). When you walk in the light you become a beacon of light to lead others out of darkness.

We walk toward Jesus because we know that he wants only the best for us, he will see us through this life, and has prepared a place for us in heaven with him. We are on earth but a few short years compared to our forever life with God after we leave this “vale of tears.” Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6: 68-69).

To whom indeed. Where shall we go? There is only one answer to that question: come out of the darkroom and into the light. When you do, you will see the image of God stamped on your soul.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for Sunday are Proverbs 9: 1-10 or Joshua 24: 14-18; Psalm 34: 12-22; Ephesians 5: 6-21; John 6: 51-69.

[2] Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., The Light Shines On in the Darkness: Transforming Suffering Through Faith (2017) Ignatius Press, p. 23,

[3] Id, p. 24-25.