July 25, 2022
Reflections – Stovepipes
Are we living and worshipping in our own stovepipes? Last Sunday afternoon I was at an assisted living facility with my 100-year mother-in-law. We were listening to a video-based worship service from a Church of Christ in San Antonio. I became acutely aware that two doors down the hallway a group of Catholics were listening to a similar video feed from the local Catholic church’s Sunday Mass. Then, there was another close relative who was sitting alone at home and oriented to yet another Christian group.
What struck me as exceedingly sad is that each of these would eagerly acknowledge their commitment to what Jesus taught as the two great commandments, i.e. to love God and to love one another. But here they were, tied to their particular “tribe” in what the corporate world would call individual “stovepipes”. Seldom do they interact with other “believers” with whom they may have more in common than they realize.
Dr. Bill Love once wrote a book he titled, “The Core Gospel”. In it, he dissected many sermons that had been given over the years and analyzed how many times his perception of “the core gospel” had been presented, versus what we might identify as the less important aspects of our faith. The “core” seems not to have ranked very high in frequency of presentation. I am wondering today if something similar could be said of the greatest two commandments of Jesus. How prominent are they in our daily lives? If anything, they should draw not only strangers but also fellow believers closer together, not into isolation.
That thought led me to ponder a few of Jesus’ teachings in John 14. For example, “He who has seen me has seen the Father…he who believes in me will also do the works that I do…if a man loves me he will keep my word…” I am wondering what it means to “see Jesus”. Does it mean perceiving a relatively small, dark-skinned Jewish carpenter turned itinerant rabbi? Or does “seeing Jesus” really mean seeing his life, what he did, how he treated others, and how he gave his life for others”?
Perhaps at the core, we see the Son of God in the daily life that Jesus led. If that is the case we are called to imitate, no – more than imitate – to be Jesus in today’s world. By loving God and loving our neighbor, our lives become inseparably one with Jesus who said in John 14:23, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
The Apostle Paul followed up with similar words in his epistle to the Colossians. He prayed that their hearts would be encouraged as they were knit together in love. After other words of encouragement, he wrote, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col 3:14).
So, this week let us focus on living the two great commandments. Consider extending love not only to those we might identify as the “lost” but also to those of our neighbors who are living and worshiping in their own proverbial stovepipes. Who knows but we may even be called to step outside of our own secure chimney!
Blessings and peace,
Disclaimer statement: Please note that the opinions expressed herein are those of the Chaplain alone and are based on his personal understanding of scripture and how God works in our lives.
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