Image by Thang Nguyen from Nottingham, United Kingdom (135209) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia
By now you have heard of our 2018 Stewardship Appeal: Welcoming All—Growing, Engaging, Building. It’s our focused effort to propel our mission into 2018 through shared generosity. We are asking for a lot… hoping you will earnestly evaluate your life and your commitments for continued alignment with God’s work through Grace. A stewardship appeal further binds us together.
It’s that binding in grace through Jesus which draws me to an unlikely image… training a canine pet.
I’m an abject failure at dog obedience training.
Lifetime Training Track Record – 0-6
As a teenager I attempted with my mother to raise a German Shepherd. This was the third dog ‘raised’ under my tutelage. How come our dog Lady didn’t behave like Rin Tin Tin? After Lady knocked over a precious vase, she was consigned to an outside pen. When a four foot fence wouldn’t contain her, we added four more feet.
Lady jumped over the first fence and climbed over the second. Neighbors knew our phone number by heart. After these same neighbors could no longer handle nights made sleepless from Lady’s incessant barking, we gave her to the Asheville Police Department.
Lady needed to get out of our jail. I failed with three other dogs after that. We survived each other largely due to their temperaments.
A Raleigh neighbor trained a Golden Retriever he named Trapper. Leashed to his master the young Trapper learned to successfully walk around the block. The two were in step with each other. As an adult dog Trapper strode next to his master gripping that leash in his teeth. He didn’t need to be restrained. A darting rabbit or squirrel would not send Trapper in pursuit. This canine willingly walked beside his master. The leash was just a connection point between master and dog.
It was a beautiful thing to witness. The dog preferred to please its master. He wanted to follow his every stride.
Martin Luther defined Christian freedom this way:
“A Christian is perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
(Treatise on Christian Liberty)
A Call to Christian Freedom
What a rich understanding of our place in this world. We know we don’t have to walk beneath another; we choose that path. It should never be forced on us. There may be nothing worse than a collar choking you into submission. Constraint does not beget willing service. There may be nothing more beautiful than a servant who in freedom grips the leash in his/her mouth.
You do not have to give anything to support Christ’s work thru Grace Church. There is no leash pulling on you. This appeal is a call to Christian freedom!
Seeking the Fullness of Life in Christ,
David A. Sloop, Interim Pastor
Whenever the month of July comes around, our thoughts certainly go to the Fourth of July and our appreciation to our ancestors for bravely establishing the foundation upon which our nation has been built for these 240 years. We also remember the countless number of brave individuals over the decades who have placed their lives on the line, as well as those who have given their lives, to preserve the freedoms and rights for their generation and the generations to come. We owe them our gratitude, our respect, and our commitment to continue living by the principles of justice and freedom established so long ago.
As Christians we are also aware of God’s call to be faithful to the Gospel and to our call as Christ’s disciples, both in our communities and in our world. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, proclaimed
For freedom Christ has set us free
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
As a dual citizen, both a Jew and a Roman, Paul lived within the laws of both nations. As a follower of Christ, Paul also knew that he must never relinquish the law of love to which Christ had called him. Following Christ allowed him to make some tough decisions in his life and in his ministry, even though doing so brought him into conflict with powerful forces that took issue with where he stood. Martin Luther later took similar stands, based upon his knowledge of the scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Both placed the will of God above all else.
Whenever we are faced with making decisions in matters of conscience, let us also remember that we, too, are citizens of two kingdoms while we live on this earth. Therefore, as ones whose lives are guided by God’s Holy Spirit, let us also remember these words of Paul: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another….let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”
Yours in Christ,