Doug, a servant of the Almighty, called by God to be a disciple, through whom we have received grace, to the church and congregation of God on the web, to those sanctified by their philanthropy, to all God's beloved: Grace to you and peace I give you from God.
Blessed are you! For the grace of God pours forth upon you, enriching and strengthening your love and kindness that you may, in like fashion, encourage and support one another, thereby multiplying the gifts you have received while I have been absent from you in my epistles. You have never been far from my thoughts, often standing as examples of God's divine creation, as I toil elsewhere to spread those seeds of the Almighty's grace upon the parched soils of this land.
I have, however, noticed, when viewed from afar, a disquieting and uneasy sensation growing in me, reminding me to presume your innocence in what I observe, knowing you as I do to be true to your faith. As humans who err or become distracted, wandering near the edges of the path we have set ourselves upon, we might occasionally take a brief step just off the line of our intent. Our path is tight and narrow, making it understandable to let one foot fall off the narrow line. Our intent and desire is to see the next step return to the fine and delicate way. With all we try to do, it is no wonder we cannot walk the tightrope without any missteps.
Please remember, my love and admiration for your efforts are not conditional. The Almighty and ever loving God emboldens me to instill in you what gifts I can, that you may better live in the manner we have set for ourselves. It is this love for you I must remind you of our foundation. Even more than simply our foundation, but the whole of our fellowship and gift we offer up to that which created us and all around. Without us conscientiously adhering to our faith, it is easy to, with ongoing distractions, follow one slight misstep with another, then another - walking further from the path of our intent.
The tenets of our faith are but two: clearly defined and simply stated. They produce the narrowest of paths. This is our path and the burden to walk it we put upon ourselves and no others. It is not a privilege or an honor. Instead, it is the result of understanding God's desire for us and our acceptance to honor the Almighty. Regularly reminding ourselves of our foundation aids our efforts of avoiding distractions and accidental wandering.
Jesus referenced Hillel when he spoke the first and most important tenet of our faith, namely to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. The path it defines limits us in our day-to-day behavior for it demands of us to see everything from the creator's perspective and appreciate the desirable and undesirable equally. What God creates, we must love. It takes effort to appreciate all of the creator's work, particularly what wars against our personal desires. Nonetheless, this is the greatest and most vital of tenets.
But today, I am called to talk in detail of the other tenet of our faith, for it draws our path more narrowly - love unconditionally. Jesus called all others "your neighbor". He did not limit your neighbor to being those in your religious neighborhood or any other restriction to neighbor. Instead, taking what his audience would consider the most extreme, showed the proper application of love to one another. Pushing beyond cultural, religious, and social boundaries, Jesus applauds the actions of a samaritan, someone his audience found vile and despised, who stretches forth a helping hand to give aid and comfort. When the samaritan left, he provided coin to a caretaker to cover the ongoing needs of the person and would pay any additional expense on their return. In this way, Jesus defined neighbor to include any and all and our love must extend beyond the here and now. In like manner, the second tenet of our faith says to love unconditionally. For this, I tell you, Jesus taught that upon these two commandments hangs all the laws and the Prophets. He echoed Hillel who concluded "What you find hateful do not do to another. This is the whole of the law. Everything else is commentary."
Thus our path is narrowed. To love unconditionally demands of us to love those who hate us, to gently go out of our way to care for their safety and well being. More than that, we, like the good samaritan, when we must leave, ensure others are provided to continue the care.
It is our second of two tenets which often causes our missteps off the thread-thin path we choose to travel. Keep faith, make every effort, remember God gave us free will and with it our imperfections. The creator loves us and knows we are not perfect. Honest efforts regularly applied is our goal for our path is difficult.
Praise and glory be to our creator who loves and cherishes the created, giving revelations to the mystery and gospel for us to grow. May we endeavor to live our lives according to the two tenets or our faith that we may, in so doing, glorify the Lord our God. Amen.