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May 2010 Sermons:
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

"A New Commandent" — May 2
"Becoming One"
— May 16
"This Is It!"
— May 23
"Finding God in Every Circumstance" — May 30

“A New Commandment”
May 2, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

John 13:31-35

(Pastor holds up framed puzzle of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”) I’m sure you will recognize this. It’s the "Last Supper," the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci. Ever since early March, it’s been mounted on the wall in our Sunday school room. It’s not the original painting, of course. If it were, we would have to charge admission to our church every day of the week. We might even have to repave the back parking lot.

This jigsaw puzzle has five thousand tiny pieces—or, to be exact, four thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine pieces and two silver medallions. And it’s not ours; we just have it on display until Memorial Day. The puzzle was finished and framed by one of our members, Janine Hartman. It took her a year and a half to put it together! There will be an article on Janine and her puzzle in the May newsletter.

This puzzle is a perfect illustration for today’s gospel story. It’s a snapshot of what has happened to Jesus’ disciples in the fifteen or twenty minutes before that story takes place. Judas, who has decided to betray Jesus, is getting ready to leave the table. The course of history has been set now. Judas is leaving the upper room, to turn Jesus in. Jesus’ crucifixion is going to happen. At this point, Jesus changes the rules. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another," He tells the disciples. Jesus isn’t making a suggestion. He uses the word, “commandment.”

What’s new about Jesus’ commandment to love? Isn’t there a commandment in the Old Testament to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Yes, it’s there in Deuteronomy, and Jesus grew up with that commandment. From His childhood, He knew the laws of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

What makes the love commandment of the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of John, new, is that it gives us a new example. Jesus says, “Love as I have loved you.” He’s saying that all Christians should love to the point of laying down our lives for others. We have to give love again and again, until it hurts, for the people of Christ.

Language tells you a lot about a culture. We use the word, “love,” pretty often. The fact that we talk about it, doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about love. The Inuit people of North America, whom we once called Eskimos, have twelve different words for snow. Snow is important to people of the Arctic Circle. When they talk about snow, each kind has a different word: Wet snow, icy snow, powdery snow, dirty snow. The ancient Greeks had five words for love, and they all mean completely different aspects of love. But we use just one word for love in the English language.

Love is so hard sometimes. This story is about one of those times. The disciples sitting around the table, at the Last Supper, are about to have a rude awakening. Judas, a man they have loved, and whom they still love, is going to betray them all. Jesus knows He needs to give the remaining eleven disciples a final word, while they are breaking bread together. He will only be with them a little while longer. He’s just told them the terrible truth about Judas. Now, Jesus is telling them to love one another the way Jesus has loved them, for the rest of their lives. That upper room is almost electrically charged, the disciples are in so much shock, as they hear Jesus’ words. Their stress level is probably a 9.5 on a scale of ten.

Jesus wants their love for one another to be a model for outsiders to see. How well does our congregation show its love? I think we do a better job of loving one another than our schools and workplaces do! When our daughter, Laura, was little, we wanted her to go to a nursery school where the teachers would show her how people who love each other, work together. I made an appointment and took her to the nearest nursery school for a visit. The teachers argued loudly in the office, over who would get stuck with giving us a tour. We heard every word those teachers said. That was the model of love our daughter would have seen every day. I took Laura home and we never went back there again.

It’s more difficult to love those we know, than it is to love strangers. Why? Because, those we know well, we relate to on a daily basis, on their good days and their bad days. Obviously, those nursery school teachers had personality quirks that rubbed each other the wrong way. Don’t we all? Our homes and workplaces almost never have perfect harmony. In the faith community we have to remember, however that outsiders are watching. They will want to be a part of us when they see us showing unconditional love for each other in the toughest times. It might be a struggle, but it’s what Jesus expects.

Jesus is saying three things about love in John 13. First, he is saying that love is a commandment, not an option. Today, we have too many options. That can be worse than not enough options! Our love for our church should take precedence over everything else. I know that’s a strong statement, but Jesus commands full commitment from us, and nothing less.

Families have so many decisions to make about the activities of their children. Dance lessons, practices, games, birthday parties and school events, and many of them are on Sunday mornings! This means tough choices. Love is not something we do when it seems convenient. Jesus expects us to love each other, even when it’s painful.

Secondly, Jesus tells us to "love as he has loved us." His commandment to love comes right at the time of Judas’ betrayal. The love that Jesus commands is the direct opposite of betrayal. Judas has chosen to leave Jesus and the disciples. He has made his decision not to love.

Unconditional love is the opposite of betrayal. Jesus proved His love for us by sacrificing His life. His love is a gift we have never earned, nor will we ever earn.

Third, the love Jesus commanded is an infinite resource. It comes from God and it will never end. Love is not something we have to stock up on, like jars of instant coffee. Jesus has commanded us to share God’s love—always, not just when we have enough time to give some love to somebody.

An ethics professor at Princeton Theological Seminary asked for volunteers from his class for an extra assignment. They didn’t realize it, but it was an experiment in social behavior. Fifteen students showed up to participate. He divided the group into three equal groups. Then, he told the first group of five to go immediately across the campus to a certain spot. He said that, if they didn’t get there in fifteen minutes, their grade in his class would go down a few points. A minute or two later he instructed the second group to walk across the campus to the same spot. This group was given forty-five minutes to get there, with no threat to their grades if they didn’t show up on time. After that group left, he instructed the third group to go across the campus to that spot too; but they were given three hours to get there.

Unknown to any of these students, the teacher gotten three actors, to disguise themselves as poor people. He told them to lie on the ground, injured, along the way to the students’ destination. The first one they met covered his head with his hands and moaned loudly, as though he were in great pain. The second actor, a little bit further along the way, was lying face down as if unconscious. The third actor pretended he was having an epileptic seizure. You know what the ethics professor discovered? Not a single student in the first group stopped for any of the people in distress, and only two of the second group stopped, but all five of the third group stopped. And these were seminary students— most of them, future pastors. More than half of them ignored three people in pain. What does this tell us? When we’re busy, stopping to listen to other people, and to love them, isn’t our highest priority. We focus on getting our work done, or getting home, or getting ahead. And believe me, that’s true at Princeton Seminary, too.

Jesus’ followers really needed a new commandment to inspire them. We do, too. Loving discipleship is our job. I can’t say it better than Jesus did. The world will know that we are His, by the way we show our love for one another.

Let us pray. O God of love and grace, you have commanded us to love one another. Forgive us, we pray, for our unwillingness to love with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Transform your church into the image of your redeeming grace, we pray. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

John 13:34a.
Deuteronomy 6:5.
Stephen Farris, “Preaching the Lesson—John 13:31-35,
This is a brief summary of a story Malcolm Gladwell tells, in The Tipping Point (Boston: Little, Brown, 2000).


“Becoming One”
May 16, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

John 17:20-26

The seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John isn’t a lighthearted scripture reading. Far from it! It’s one very long prayer. If you have a Bible that shows Jesus’ own words in red letters, this chapter is printed entirely in red — except for the first verse. That verse begins, "After Jesus had spoken these words, He looked up to Heaven and said.." It’s one of His last prayers, on the way to the cross! Jesus is about to face the worst ordeal of His life.

John, chapter seventeen, ought to be called "The Lord's Prayer." The prayer we say together every week and call “The Lord's Prayer” might better be called the Disciples’ Prayer. Jesus wrote the Lord’s Prayer for His followers to say. This is Jesus' very own private prayer. This isn’t the public Jesus here. The disciples overhear His prayer, and so do we.

Would you say that America is a “Christian nation”? My mother insists that it is. It was a Christian nation, when I was in high school, at least in my part of the country. I remember when the words, “under God,” were put into the Pledge of Allegiance—right after I had learned it the old way! But it’s hard for me to see us as a Christian nation now, unless I’m standing at the check-out counter at Hackman’s. Jesus’ name gets said in vain all the time-- sometimes even by us! Most public high schools don’t have baccalaureate services any more. But we still hear people praying Christian prayers all around us. We say prayers before big games. Each piece of paper money has a little prayer on it, reminding us that we trust in God. Many of us have prayed for convenient parking spaces when it’s raining or snowing. Parking prayers might be heartfelt, but they’re pretty superficial.

Compare our casual prayers to John 17. This prayer is very serious! It’s hard to imagine a deeper level of prayer than this. Jesus is about to be rejected and then crucified. His sad little band of disciples is sure to be persecuted after He’s gone, and Jesus knows it. Already, they’re starting to jump ship. He’s been telling them that three days after He is killed He will return. He’s been telling them He will then go to be with God and that God will send the Spirit to help them. We know that Jesus will die a horrible death—and yet, listen to the words of His prayer. He is praying for His friends, not for Himself. Let’s face it, our prayers tend to be for ourselves and for people close to us. But Jesus prays for other people—even the same people who will betray Him in a matter of hours.

Would you understand what was going on, if you were there in that upper room with Him? It’s no wonder that His disciples don’t get it. Imagine that you are with the people whom you love most, and those people love you. You know that you will be separated soon. You are saying goodbye. You are in a state of shock. None of this is real to you at all.

Jesus’ prayer of promise and comfort is a prayer for us, too. When He speaks to His heavenly Father, He makes two very important requests. One is that His friends will know God. Another is that they will stay together. To know God is really what eternal life is, Jesus is saying. Unfortunately, we imagine eternal life as something that happens only after we die. To Jesus, eternal life isn’t just about life after death, even though that’s part of it. In this prayer, He says that eternal life is being in relationship with God. We can experience eternal life here and now. Living in a good relationship with God and with one another—that is eternal life.

There is a second theme in Jesus’ prayer, and it’s so important that Jesus mentions it three times. Jesus prays that His friends will stay together. Jesus reminds us again and again that we are not alone. We were created by God to live with one another. No part of creation is autonomous! We are all connected.

As modern science has studied the mysteries of the building blocks of life, one thing that we have discovered is that all of creation is basically the same. This robe I am wearing, and this big Bible, and my hands, and my shoes, all of these are made of atoms and molecules. They are the same stuff! They look different, only because the building blocks are arranged differently.

All of nature, and every living creature, is tied together as one. Let’s take something as simple as our clothes. Where did the clothes you have on, come from? Are they cotton? If so, then they were grown from seeds. Who planted the seeds? Who picked the cotton? Are your slacks made of polyester? Then it came from petroleum products. What ancient fossils, deep inside the earth, made the oil? How many people have touched your clothes? Who wove the materials? Who designed the machines that wove them? Or did someone who loves you, sew, or knit, or weave what you are wearing? Who imagined the colors and created the designs? Someone sewed your shirt and jacket and pants. Someone folded your clothes. If they weren’t homemade, someone inspected them. You know that little slip of paper in your pocket, the one that has a number on it? That number is a person. A person, or several people, packed your clothes for shipping. Several people hung them on racks at the store. Maybe somebody gave your jacket to you as a gift. Or maybe someone even wore it before you did. So are your clothes really yours? And only yours?

Our bodies don’t belong just to us, either. I came from my parents and they came from their parents, and they came from THEIR parents. We are all connected in so many ways. Jesus tells us that to live in this world, in ways that respect creation, is to know God, and to know God is to have eternal life.

When Jesus prays for us there are at least two things He wants. He wants us to have eternal life by knowing God. He also wants us to live in community as one. He even says, "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word." That’s us. He’s praying that the way we live, as His disciples, will glorify God. No matter what happens, God loves us and we are not alone. In one way, Jesus’ prayer has been answered, because we are here worshiping Him today. Aren’t you thankful He hasn’t left us on our own? We aren’t perfect, nobody is. But we’re here to carry on His mission. The church is the best place to learn how. We might even consider our church a “school of prayer.”

What does carrying on for Jesus, look like? After the Second World War, the townspeople of one bombed-out city in England wanted to restore a statue of Jesus that had symbolized Christ's help and guidance for many generations. It had stood in the city square with hands outstretched. The words carved on the pedestal of that statue read: "Come to me." Artists and sculptors worked for months to put Jesus back together. But not enough fragments from the statue could be found in the rubble to reconstruct Jesus’ hands. Finally someone suggested, "The sculptors can make new hands." The townspeople talked it over. They prayed about it. Then they decided to reject the proposal. "Leave the statue without hands!" the people decided. Today Christ stands in the town square without hands. The words carved on the new pedestal read: "Christ has no hands but ours."

Gracious Lord, we remember how you said you would be present with us to the close of the age. We remember how you prayed that we might become one with you , and with one another. Help us to realize your presence with us. May we come alive in you - and you in us - through the power and love of Christ's Spirit. AMEN.


John 17:1.

Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 306.

This illustration is suggested by a sermon preached by the Reverend Andrew Walton at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church,
Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2004.

William H. Willimon, “Praying Like Jesus,” Pulpit Resource, April-May-June 2010, 34.

Robert Schuller, Getting Through the Going-Through Stage (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986), 55.


“This Is It!”
May 23, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

Acts 2:1-21.

We Presbyterian pastors learn to speak theology talk, so we can pass our ordination exams. That’s not always a good thing. We get used to throwing around words like “sanctification” and “eschatology.” Sometimes, when we preach, the theological language in our sermons prevents the congregation from hearing the Spirit in what we’re saying.

Have you ever heard the word, “pneumatology?” You won’t find it in most dictionaries. I hadn’t heard of “pneumatology” until I was 58 years old. Before I became a pastor, I would have guessed that word referred to the study of lung diseases. But “pneumatology” isn’t a medical term. It means “the study of the Holy Spirit.” Seminaries teach pastors to talk in a way that most people can’t understand. That’s a shame! Young people are the only ones brave enough to tell me when they don’t get what I’m saying. I realized this when I started teaching confirmation classes. I was using theological words pretty often. One of the confirmands asked me to start speaking English!

Theology is a fascinating subject. But words like “pneumatology” turn people off. Middle school students have helped me to keep it simple. Each time I teach a confirmation class, I find myself learning even more than they do. And I learn about theology from them, not just about dirt bikes and the Jonas Brothers. This year’s class has been a very special group! I feel sad that today is our last time together.

Pentecost is the day in the church year when we take a good look at the way we talk about our faith. We might be preventing people from understanding the stories of Jesus. It’s the job of the church to be sure everybody hears the good news. The Holy Spirit comes along at Pentecost to remind us that the language we Christians use for God shouldn’t get in the way of the Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit is the great communicator of our faith.

The followers of Jesus were together at the Jerusalem Temple on Pentecost, after He had ascended to heaven. In the first century, the nation of Israel observed Pentecost as one of its three biggest festival days. It was always celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. And today, we celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter. Every year, Jews came to the Temple from Cappadocia, and Phyrigia, and Pamphylia, and Libya, and all those other countries that Autumn did such a good job of pronouncing! Because they lived hundreds of miles from each other, these people communicated in dozens of languages. What was it like to overhear all their conversations? It must have been like those times when we have waited in line with our children or grandchildren at Disney World and heard people speaking French, Japanese, German, Spanish and Swahili all around us.

On the Day of Pentecost, as the followers of Jesus gathered together in the Temple, they heard the rush of a violent wind. And as they looked around, they saw tongues of flame appearing over each person's head. Wind and flame are the symbols of the Holy Spirit. When people from Libya and Pamphylia started speaking, they were amazed to discover that they could understand each other.

Compare the story of the birth of Christianity to the story of the Tower of Babel. God was angry at the people who tried to make a name for themselves by building the biggest tower in the world. God overturned that project by confusing all the people’s languages so nobody could understand anyone else. The story of the coming of the Holy Spirit is the opposite of the Tower of Babel story.

The coming of the Spirit attracted plenty of attention. A crowd gathered quickly in the Temple at Jerusalem. Some people didn’t get what was going on. A few bystanders heard the hubbub, and they sneered, “These people are filled with new wine.” But the miracle of Pentecost was that so many strangers could understand. On the birthday of the church, three thousand pilgrims became Christians. When was the last time any Presbyterian church got three thousand members in one day? And yet, every person on the face of the earth needs to hear about Jesus. Our job is to communicate that message. We can’t communicate it unless we feel the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit connects us to God and to each person. It breaks down barriers. It’s like heaven breaking into our lives! The Holy Spirit is passionate and powerful, but not genteel. It makes me remember some radio ads we heard in the New York area, in the 1970’s. They advertised a chain of electronics stores called Crazy Eddie’s. Crazy Eddie ads were definitely not holy, and they certainly weren’t genteel. But they were so spirited, and made such an impression on me, that I can remember every word of each ad! Sale prices for stereos at Crazy Eddie’s were supposed to rot your socks and to make your brains fall out! Jesus’ disciples hadn’t expected to encounter a supernatural force, almost strong enough to make their brains fall out! It certainly shook Peter up, but it was a good thing for him. He had been a fisherman, not a public speaker. But he was transformed by the Spirit into a good speaker that day! On Pentecost, Peter preached the first Christian sermon after Jesus’ crucifixion. And he did very well!

We never know where, or when, or how, the Spirit is going to move. Just like the wind, or like a hailstorm, it’s unpredictable. Opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit can be scary. We Presbyterians like to have frameworks to keep everything under control. That’s where we get our nickname, “the frozen chosen.” The Book of Order gives us rules for controlling conflict in churches. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet it causes conflict, more often than we would like to have it. Faithful believers, filled with the Spirit, may disagree on a complicated issue. They may both be right—in different ways. Conflict isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can help us grow.

The early Christian movement grew by leaps and bounds, not because they handed out free pens or set up their own page on Facebook. No, the early church grew so quickly because God gave it spiritual power. Early Christians had plenty of conflict—just read the letters of Paul to the Galatians and to the Corinthians.

On that day of Pentecost, the in-breaking of the Spirit was as powerful as a bottle of nitroglycerin. A force powerful enough to build cities and clear roads, compelled them to preach the Word. We can do the same — not with our own power, but with power that comes from God.

The Holy Spirit has a downside, too. What would we do if three thousand people came here to worship next Sunday? We would need to order fifteen hundred new copies of our hymnal. We’d have to put in extra rows of chairs, both upstairs and downstairs. We’d need a fancier sound system. Joanne would have to find a dozen communion servers on the first Sunday of each month. We might even need to install a freight elevator. But those are problems that the Holy Spirit would like us to have!

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we give you thanks, on this day of Pentecost, that you come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. You have breathed your power into everyone here today. We give thanks, that, in the power of the Spirit, you have brought us here to be your family and to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. AMEN


Perry H. Biddle, Preaching theLectionary—Year C (Westminster John Knox, 1991), 191.

Acts 2:2-3.

Kathleen Long Bostrom, For Everything, A Season (Louisville: Westminster John Know, 2005), 54-55.

Genesis 11:1-9, cited in N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part One (Westminster John Knox, 2008), 28.

Acts 2:17.

Acts 2:14-36.

Wright, 24.

This image comes from the writings of Justo Gonzalez.


“Finding God in Every Circumstance”
May 30, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

Romans 5:1-5.

Caring is a gift of God that can melt the hardest heart. I want to tell you a true baseball story from the summer of 1935. The legendary Babe Ruth was playing one of his last major league games. Ruth had been traded to the Boston Braves, and they were up against the Reds in Cincinnati. (The team was called the Cincinnati Red Legs then.) The Babe’s skills were in a sharp decline, and that game was one of his worst so far. He wasn’t throwing well at all. In one inning, his mistakes made most of the runs scored by Cincinnati possible. As the great Babe Ruth walked off the field after making a third out, he hung his head in embarrassment. A chorus of "boo’s" and catcalls followed Ruth to the dugout.

A little boy in the stands couldn’t bear to hear his hero booed at. He loved the Babe, no matter what! With tears streaming down his face, the boy jumped over the railing and threw his arms around the knees of his hero. Babe Ruth picked up the boy, hugged him, set him back on the ground and gently patted his head. The catcalls and the booing stopped. A hush fell over the park. The crowd was touched by the child’s love and concern for Ruth’s feelings.

Is it hard for you to believe in God’s love? We hear over and over again that God forgives us. But accepting the grace of God can be a difficult task. When we see the kindness of people like the little boy who showed his love for Babe Ruth, we understand it. But, in our reading from Romans, Paul is writing about Christ’s love for us in a more abstract way. He writes, "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

The Holy Spirit is tough to explain. That’s why you don’t hear many sermons about it. We can’t see the Spirit, nor can we understand how it works. And yet, we can feel it. The little boy who loved Babe Ruth threw his arms around him and Babe Ruth hugged him back. No words had to be said. That is the Holy Spirit.

The Letter to the Romans is one of the hardest books of the Bible to understand. Throughout this densely-written letter, Paul describes the love of God in Christ Jesus. He discusses concepts that are tough to get a handle on—like justification and grace. I read this scripture lesson, and I hear it in my mind, and still I wonder--how can I receive God’s love and how will I know if what I receive really IS God’s love?

I struggle with failure, guilt and fear. I believe God forgives me and I fully understand that Jesus has died for my sins. That’s called justification by grace, through faith. But the pain hangs on. Sometimes I wonder if I REALLY have God’s unconditional love. Why do we all have such a hard time with this concept? Is it because our parents or our teachers were demanding? Because they told us not to “fritter away” our time?

We think too much about how well we have done, or haven’t done. The spirit of God is not about numbers, achievements, awards, successes or even blessings. God loves you even if you weren’t an Eagle Scout. God even loves you if you weren’t in the National Honor Society! God loves you if you watched “Dancing with the Stars” while the dirty dishes sat in the sink. We want to have it all, and that means a lot of hard work. We live in a world that wants everything immediately. Spirit isn’t about achievement. It’s not even about not “frittering away” our time. It’s about being at peace with God, with our neighbors and with ourselves. Paul says, in the second verse of our reading from Romans, that we have obtained access to grace. This is Old Testament language from the Jerusalem temple. Paul is saying that the chosen people—and those people are us — get to be as close as we can possibly get, to God.

When I think of peace, I think of harmony and wholeness. To be at peace is to permit God’s spirit to be in control of our lives. To be at peace is to let God be God, even if we deal with the unthinkable on a daily basis. People around us are going through painful experiences we can barely imagine. Last Friday, I was sleeping in my bed when my cousin, in South Carolina, found her younger niece—also my cousin—had died an untimely death in her own living room.

A hospital can be a place of the unthinkable. Walk through the intensive care unit of a hospital and you will be reminded of how much pain there is in the Lehigh Valley. When Paul said that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope," he meant that we must live with patience. Peace doesn’t mean to be in a place where we don’t find people healthy at one moment and at death’s door, the next moment. Peace means to be in the midst of trouble — unthinkable trouble — and to be able to stay calm in your heart.

I used to get mad when my father said “calm down” to me when I was in high school—and wasn’t very calm about most things. Paul is telling us to calm down in this fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans, and to know that God loves us. The spiritual power to accept God’s gift of peace is contained in those two words my Dad always said to me: CALM DOWN! In other words, as Paul wrote, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ.”

My calendar was almost empty this week. Thank God for that! I was supposed to have had an easy five work days, with very few meetings. I started to find ways to fill up my calendar, but I’m so glad I didn’t try too hard. God was giving me a chance to calm down. Hearing of my cousin’s death was just one of several shocks I had last week. The last seven days have been quite a week for all of us!

Barbara Quigg, our Clerk of Session, wasn’t feeling well last Sunday morning. People in the choir noticed. They told her to take it easy. She still wasn’t feeling well after she got home from church. Her family took her to Lehigh Valley Hospital at Cedar Crest, where the medical team in the Emergency Room saved her life. If those good folks hadn’t paid attention, Barb might have tried to drive her car, alone, to Pottsville to attend a memorial service that afternoon. Thank heaven, she didn’t! God blesses us with love from the people around us. That’s one way—a big way — the grace of God shows itself.

As Paul said, "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." We don’t have to earn it. We don’t have to work for it. It’s free! Everyone can find the peace of God. We see and feel it every day, in acts of love. Spirit power is all around us! Relax, calm down, and receive God’s gift of grace.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we are afraid to suffer. We want to protect ourselves. But we know that pain can’t be avoided. Strengthen us to endure, O God. Help us to grow in your love and mercy. Give us hearts and spirits of courage, so that, having received your blessings, we will be able to offer healing and blessing to others. Keep us faithful and strong, for this we ask in Jesus’ name. AMEN


The following story first appeared in an article by Vance B. Mathis, published in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, September 18, 1992.

Romans 5:5.

N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part One (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 83.

Romans 5:3.


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