If last week was "for the birds"** when we explored The Third Article of the Apostles' Creed, this Sunday as we finish up our Apostles in August preaching series, is "for the dogs". The picture above is my dog Zoey. She, along with my other dog Dobby , is a source of unconditional love and joy. These "dog days of summer" I am attempting to behave a little more like my dogs.
They rest when are tired. They eat when hungry. They don't rush around trying to get stuff done. They enjoy just hanging out. Dogs are so good at living in the moment. They are faithful. They need consistent guidance and training. They are loyal. They can get spooked and become fearful. Dogs have taught me a lot over the years -not only about dogs, but also about myself. Dogs have really good hearing. This coming Sunday August 29, 2021 we will hear in worship a reading from James 1.in which the writer instructs, "be doers of the word, and not merely hearers". For five weeks we will hear readings from James and offer opportunities to "do". The book of James is a good accompaniment to Service in September (a four-week focus on being of service as part of the Christian walk of life).
This journey of faith is one in which we are invited over and over again to let in the amazing gift of God's love for us. We get to encourage one another to do that. We seek ways to be fueled by the Holy Spirt. We get to model this for one another. We take to heart that the witness of Jesus' life, death and resurrection is a gift we are sent out into the world to share.
We share this responsibility as apostles. We rely upon the power of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves; to save us. We ask for guidance in ways of living that will deepen our trust and experience of God.
So back to dogs.... we get to listen, we get to practice faithfulness and obedience. We rest when needed. We also listen and learn as we are given instructions. We trust the One who gave to us the Great Commandment and the Great Commission . Over the years I have heard some folks lament- "If only the bible told us what to do". Read it. Pray using scripture. Study it. There is a lot there. Ask, seek, listen, do as instructed- we have been given brains and hearts and hands, all to use for the good of our neighbor and to the glory of God. And sometimes we fall prey to living in a dog-eat-dog world, justifying our lack of learning, growing, trying out things because "you can't teach an old dog a new trick".
In The Third Article of the Apostles' Creed the line, "I believe in the holy catholic church" has been a stumbling block for some. Instead of an understanding of "catholic" to mean universal, it was misinterpreted as connected to the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity. The "holy catholic church" means to trust in all the parts of the whole community of faith drawn together- all the parts brought together.
Here is where we have some troubles with a different "dog"- becoming dogmatic (dogmatic defined as opinionated, unwilling to consider another point of view, arrogant and argumentative). A sad part of our faith history is that Christians have "fought like cats and dogs" with one another over a need to be right. As summer ends and our Apostles in August preaching series finishes- I invite you to let that dog go.
There is an important distinction between sharing our faith and forcing it upon another. As apostles sent out to share the good news, we freely share what we have freely received. In these last dog days of summer let "sleeping dogs lie". Instead of being arrogant, argumentative and unwilling to consider another point of view, let's leave any and all judging to God.
As apostles will you join me as we seek to let go and let God be the one large and in charge? Over the next five weeks as we explore the book of James together lets listen deeply for directions and then be "doers of the word. There is a lot going on in our world and in our lives and so it's also important that we make the time to rest. And if you want your dog to take a "cat nap" here is a song I came upon that is supposed to help dogs relax. Perhaps it could be relaxing for you as well. As I finish writing this post both dogs are now peacefully sleeping right next to me.
**check out the YouTube video of last Sunday's worship with an invitation to "choose a bird"