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Message for Sunday 1 September 2019: “Life Guidance”

Today’s message from Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 offers timeless life guidance. Start with love, which entails behavior as basic as hospitality and as intense as empathy, a feeling so deep that you vicariously participate in other peoples’ struggles. Empathy entails more than simply acknowledging suffering and includes almost experiencing it for yourself.

Hebrews makes this point about empathy: “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (Hebrews 13:3). There’s nothing about whether the people in prison deserve to be there because it doesn’t matter. The fundamental need for compassion requires that people of faith act compassionately regardless of a person’s guilt. The oft-quoted phrase of “Let them rot in prison” is not the attitude that God wants, certainly not from people of faith who have received God’s forgiveness.

Next in Hebrews is marriage fidelity, a controversial yet vital topic. Statistics point to how common are betrayal and other varieties of destructive behaviors. With about half of all marriages ending in divorce, life’s road is strewn with shattered lives and broken dreams. Marriage fidelity can help encourage people to work things out, to invest in what they have rather than to destroy without first trying to make it work. True, some relationships are toxic and must be terminated because of threats to life and liberty. As always, it takes two committed partners to make a great relationship and one partner can’t hold things together if the other is determined to break-away.

Throughout history people have struggled to keep the “till death do we part” of their wedding vows. Of the vast repertoire of reasons for marriage dissolution one involves unjustly placing the burden on one human being to make the other happy. No one else can make you happy if you haven’t already chosen to be. When a marriage is going well there’s the blessing of togetherness as two consenting adults celebrate depths of physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy. There’s no need for clandestine encounters, which promise a tantalizing novelty but which ultimately destroy. Better is it to cultivate healthy relationships with those in whom you’ve already invested, maturing together in a manner that both sustains and seasons life.

The next topic in Hebrews is that of avoiding greed, something as relevant as ever in a materialistic culture. The advice here is wonderfully nuanced as it encourages you to be content with what you have. “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have . . .” (Hebrews 13:5a). This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t grow onwards and upwards, but that you should be thankful. Being content doesn’t mean being finished because it proposes that God and gratitude fulfill you rather than goods and greed. The relentless pursuit of money is a living hell, one people impose upon themselves. Being satisfied with who and what you are involves a knowledge of and commitment to transforming spirituality (and not simply going through the repetitive motions of mere religion and ritual).

You’re more likely to grow when you realize that power and purse can’t substitute for a life guided by principles and purpose. God designed humans to be fulfilled as they pursue the path of life and light, a way of living that integrates a person with God spirit-to-spirit. This further means that a process of receiving and sharing love comes in a certain order. First there’s following God and then the blessings are released which overflow and satisfy. Impatience and distractions can confuse order, which undermines the process. Then when things go wrong the pain often feels worse.

Hebrews next offers advice about faith vitality, which helps avoid fear paralysis and soul sickness. With God’s help you can find ways to manage anxieties, worries and concerns. Otherwise, you’ll risk fleeing life rather than embracing it. Life is never easy, but it will be more difficult if you allow unhealthy thinking and behavior to control your destiny. At all costs avoid the unholy trinity of fear, ignorance and anger, which conspire to arouse prejudice and hatred. God understands your struggles because it’s easy to describe a problem but far more difficult to live the solution.

Finally, Hebrews suggests that there are role models, albeit imperfect, that can inspire your toward a more healthy spiritual life. It’s not about simply looking to celebrities and superstars because they may distract you because of their fame and fortune. The greater task is to live what you say you believe, which results in a life of integrity and authenticity. The source of the principles you cherish isn’t as important as the principles themselves. The bottom-line is that truth can be found in many sources so look around and find whatever inspires and sustains your spiritual health and holistic wellbeing.

Far more challenging than finding the truth is living it. As best you can, avoid people and situations that drain you and leave your body, mind or spirit wounded. Think and live well as you continue your magnificent faith journey. God bless you as you receive and share God’s love and truth. As you embrace life guidance, such as the book of Hebrews encourages, you will achieve a wonderful life for which there is no substitute.

 –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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