Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 11, Wednesday of Week Two of Advent

“Write this to the angel of the church in Ephesus: These are the words of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven gold lampstands:  I know your works, your labor, and your endurance. I also know that you don’t put up with those who are evil. You have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars. You have shown endurance and put up with a lot for my name’s sake, and you haven’t gotten tired.  But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first.  (Revelation 2: 1-4)

I've done a few 100 mile rides on my bicycle. I've also gone through some rough stretches in churches that I've belonged to over the years. Both of experiences have been real grinds at time. The work get hard. Muscles get taunt. Patience becomes strained. Grinding out the hard miles, especially going up hill has taken me right to the brink on an occasion or two.  One of my spinning instructors is now teaching me how to train at a heart rate that is hard work but not so hard that I don't get too tired too quickly. I've got a couple of mentors in the Episcopal Church who help me to think about preaching and teaching with endurance and perseverance in mind. My bicycling informs my vocation and vice verse. Both disciplines require a lot of work; testing things out, remaining steadfast in prayer and hope. 

Church of Mary - Ephesus (5th Century CE)
John's words for the Church in Ephesus remind me this afternoon why I put in all of those miles in and out of the saddle and pulpit.


Love of other people. Love of the life God has given me; the life I'm entrusted with here in the middle of a very cold December. That's the same love I seek when I was out bicycling for 50 + miles on a warm day to support ECSF's compassionate Gospel-based work. I wonder now if those of us who are grinding it out in churches and fitness centers around The Church don't need to slow down just a mile per hour or two. Perhaps we (I) should think back upon why we're (I'm) so busily putting together Christmas programs? Why are we (I) scrambling to figure out how to get more people to come to church? Why are we (I)  working so hard to make so many things happen in so little time. Is it because of our (my) own sense of accomplishment? Is it our American culture prodding us (me) to be more productive, more successful?

Maybe it's time to return back to the love that we had when we first encountered Christ. I wonder if it's so important to get up at 5:00 AM to get to the gym or stay at the church till 9:00 PM at night if those behaviors aren't somehow deeply and richly connected to God's love for me and my love for God.

I can't speak for others....but tonight, I'm going to heed John's words to the Ephesians and think about my first loves and how the most important things I love aren't about me or how hard I work. Such perseverance is great and laudable but without love, deep faithful love in God and God's love for all of us -- what's the point?

Blessings Along The Way, Jim+

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