"To make God real; to change people's lives..."
This was the personal credo of Dr. Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976), a prominent London preacher of the mid-twentieth century. The words are significant because they are the sum of the religious environment I grew up with.
"God can be known intimately in Jesus Christ, and that relationship will change a person to the very core of their being." This was the underlying message of all that I was taught in that little church in the backwoods of southeastern Ohio where I was raised. It wasn't a message preached so much by the educated young clergy that were appointed to our parish, as much as it was the real life witness of the laity in that small congregation. These were people whose lives had been ruled by poverty and struggle. And yet they were able to transcend the present suffering and live each day in the light of God.
It seems so difficult at times to express that ethos today, living in the presence of God while the rest of the world demands our attention. And yet those people of my youth seemed to live it almost effortlessly. As if they were not in control, but rather someone greater was.
As I live out these final days of Lent, I wonder if we are able to live into this way of life? Are we able to experience that transporting love offered to all? Certainly our post-modern sensibilities make it difficult for us to accept what we see as the hand-out of grace. By accepting it and the relationship Jesus offers, we admit that we can do nothing for ourselves depending totally upon the mercy of God. And in the end, it takes us admitting that we are all on the welfare rolls of our Lord...standing at the foot of the Cross...