This is the third reflection I have written and for some reason the most difficult.
In the past when I was asked to write a reflection it seemed I always had a theme or idea that I wanted to write about. This time nothing, and the more effort I put into it the more distant the words and ideas became. I imagine those who know me probably feel this is normal operating procedure for me.
At first, I was feeling guilty and lacking because I didn’t have anything deep, profound or earth shattering to share. However, the more I thought about this dilemma the more I realized there were lots of thoughts, ideas, and worries that have been rattling around in my head. It’s not that I have been totally mentally empty.
There is Covid, the war in the Ukraine, the stock market, all the physical problems of those around me, hoping for new members at church (hopefully younger with children), what news channel should I watch, or should I watch any news at all, who should I vote for, how should the church spend its budget, what friends have I been neglecting, and why is my spiritual life not more robust and stronger. Like I said, my mind hasn’t been totally inactive but as far as reflections, not much I want to think about let alone write about.
Do you remember those pads that you scribbled on with the plastic pencil, and when you were done you lifted the plastic front page and everything was gone and you could start over? So that is how I’m going to approach this reflection, with a clean slate. How many times have we read or heard challenging words or ideas about our faith and tried to make them our own without really owning them? What ideas can I own for me?
The only idea I need is that the gospel is Jesus plus nothing. I know that I don’t have to do a thing to receive or earn this gospel, but tell me why do I always think I have to do something to keep it or improve on it. It doesn’t matter if I sing one song or ten songs in church, if I listen to our pastors preach for 10 minutes or one hour (hope Father Dale isn’t reading this), how much I volunteer at church, how much I give, or how much I screw up. We are not only saved by the gospel but we grow by the gospel. The gospel shows us that we don’t need to make ourselves lovable to God, He loves us just as we are.
With my clean slate I am now going to try to focus on the words of the songs that we sing in church and I am now going to try and hear the words that God is speaking through our pastor. I am going to try to spend time with God just as I spend time with friends over coffee, sharing thoughts, fears, problems, joy and laughter.
I know a reflection is often looking back at the past, but for me right now I’m raising the plastic page and trying to eliminate all the clutter and baggage of the past that can so easily control us. It feels good to have a clean slate. Now I need to let go and forget about all the clutter, because God already has. This is what I am going to try do, and then own it for my life.
Jesus plus nothing. Even though He can do it without us, He is always there for us. I can’t improve on the gospel, I don’t deserve it, but I do need it.
It’s funny but after writing all this, all the worries and stresses that I talked about before don’t seem so significant. I don’t know how many read these reflections, but perhaps it should be required of all our members to write their own personal reflection to help us examine our faith and then own it.
Jesus plus nothing, what a concept!