Letter to the Congregations: 3rd June 2023
Our Dear Brethren,
The stones were smooth and slippery under the soles of my shoes. I stepped from one to the other as the cool water of the creek rushed by, covering over most of the stones that made up my path. I had walked this creek many times, spending summers with my siblings and neighborhood friends and cousins cooling off in its mountain fed spring waters. In most places further up, the current of the creek was easily passable walking along the gravel bed, but in places where the water level was higher and the waters moves more swiftly, it was more advantageous to try and cross to the other side on the stones that are scattered along the creek bed.
My right foot extended out towards the middle of the creek. I managed to step on the edge of a stone that looked steady, but under my weight the stone rolled and my foot dipped into the water. Quickly, I pulled my foot out of the water, stumbled back, and my left foot went right into the water also. After the initial shock of the ice cold water in my shoes, I felt refreshed, but I knew that walking home with wet shoes would not be comfortable.
There are many treacherous paths we walk in life. In moments of misstep we find that we suffer the consequences (sometimes painful ones) and can look back and see where we should have walked instead. When we take steps on unstable ground, situations that are morally questionable, we run the risk of slipping and falling. When it comes to stepping stones in the middle of a swiftly moving creek, we can't always see if the stone is on stable ground or not. But in our spiritual lives we have a guide to finding firm steps to walk on.
"Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). This testing involves comparing things to the word of God before we try them, not necessarily blindly trying everything that comes across our path. In my case, I might have been better able to cross the creek if I had taken the time to test the stones before stepping on them, I wouldn't have gotten my shoes wet.
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25). If the foundation of our thoughts, words, and habits is Jesus Christ, the Rock, then our steps will be stable and our path will be clear. When I walked back across the creek I only stepped on the stones that I knew were firmly settled and not too slick. I didn't have to test each step any longer because I'd already don't that.
"Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway" (Psalm 85:13). When we follow after Jesus Christ, applying His instructions and examples to our lives, we can be sure that we are being prepared for walking in the Kingdom of God. This life for us is about preparing for that coming Kingdom. We have the opportunity for growth if we are willing to apply the lessons we learn and build on the foundation of the life and sacrifice of our elder Brother.
Our love is with you,
Pastor, United Church of God
NYC, NJ, CT, Malawi, Zimbabwe