I spent most of last week up in Tahoe at a Pastor’s Well Being retreat. We enjoyed the beauty of Lake Tahoe, had spiritual direction, worshipped together and took some classes. I even got to see the eclipse through a welder’s mask. Amazing! One of my classes was on being resilient. I was surprised when this professional coach started us out with defining our personal values as the foundation of resilience. So I want to share this exercise with you. You have the handout in your bulletin with many values listed. It is also up on the screen. As you read over the list, think about what each one means to you. There is also space for you to add your own values to the list. I am going to give you a couple minutes to choose your top ten values. Put a check next to those.
Now I want you to put a star next to your top eight. Hopefully you are simply refining your list. If you have not added any values, but feel like one is missing, now would be the time to add it on your list. Of the eight you have, some of your values might be ideals you hold or what you aspire to, more than guiding principles for your life. So I want you to choose five values that operate in your life. Values that guide who you are. Please circle your top five. Now looking at your five, I want you to choose your top two values in your life and write them across the top of the page.
How was that? Was it hard narrowing it down to two? Several people at my retreat said once they had chosen their two it felt like a relief to not have to carry all of them. They found freedom in the clarity. How about you? I was surprised that faith which was one of my final two, I had to add to the list. I was also surprised that people’s final two were not even on my top 10. I guess I believed that my values align with those around me. Yet when we are out of alignment with our values, we are in conflict and we experience that as stress. But when we know our values, things become clearer. Roy Disney once said, “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.”
Now both of our passages have values woven through them. The two that jumped out at me were integrity and love. Both were on our original list. Both were also on my list of five as well. So these are values that are often treasured.
Let’s start with integrity. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It can also reflect the state of being whole and undivided. Yet did you notice the psalmist said, “I walk in MY integrity.” We all want to be whole as individuals. Yet what one person claims as their integrity can be very different than what other people claim. Our nation’s back and forth, and violent exchanges about freedom of speech is just one such example. I am sure people on both sides of those demonstrations are walking in their own integrity, creating violence in their wake. But God calls us to a moral integrity. A way of living our life that is based in the Judeo-Christian values and mores that support those around us.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door. He was protesting the indulgences of the church; the ways people could get around right behavior, get around having integrity, by offering money to the church. This sparked the split of the Catholic church. Amazingly, this year reformed churches joined with the Catholic Church to adopt the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. No longer are we fighting over how one is justified, something that wars were once fought over. Pope Francis said he hoped this step would “mark a new stage of fellowship and cooperation in the service of justice and peace in our human family” (Christian Century 8/2/17, p. 12). We are building an integrity of faith as we search for the things that unite us rather than what divides us.
This weekend we are united in honoring the value of work as we celebrate Labor Day. We recall those who have made our nation what it is today: the steel workers, entrepreneurs, slaves, teachers, postal carriers, and computer programmers. We claim God’s favor for every job well done, knowing that it is with all of us working as community that our nation gets stronger.
In Romans, Paul seeks to unite us in the value of love. Making the case for love, he offers 23 imperatives to help us understand right worship, which is the context of this passage. We are to have mutual affection, honor, hope, compassion, harmony and prayer. We certainly want more of that these days. When we show these qualities of love in worship then we are more likely to demonstrate them with our neighbors. It is like we are strengthening our muscle of love, every time we are in worship sharing love. When we hold fast to what is good we are lifting weights making us stronger in God’s goodness. I would say that communion is like sprints giving us that extra bust of God’s love as we celebrate God’s holy presence. Love, the value of love, does not just happen. It needs to be fostered, it needs to have a foundation in the sacrificial love of Jesus dying for us on the cross. We come to church each week to be reminded of that love, to bear witness to God’s love in Jesus. Love that places the other first and sees what is noble in the sight of all.
I would argue that love is not only in the context of worship, but also the context of life. Let me ask you, did love show up on one of your lists? (10, 8, 5, 2) Raise your hand.
Love is what we are, what we value and who Christ is calling us to be.
Love is what brought the incarnational reality of Jesus to our hearts.
Love is what allows for God to show tremendous mercy and forgive all that we have done. The times when integrity did not prevail and our human side did. Standing in grace we have compassion to share God’s love with others. Because God’s grace is the source of human integrity. It is not our will that gives us integrity, it is God’s Grace. God’s grace is what helps us to live into the people we can only imagine.
The people of integrity, love and faithfulness.
Hurricane Harvey has broken our hearts with the devastating flooding. We ache for the mother who lost her life but was able to get her 3-year-old daughter to safety. We have all seen the daring rescues of ordinary folk saving neighbors on their boats, or the helicopters lifting people from harm’s way. Houstonians are just now seeing their homes for the first time after being evacuated. Integrity means a just response. Love means we offer our compassion. We extend hospitality to strangers who are drowning in disbelief and confusion. Who have had their lives washed away and can only find respite in the mutual affection of others.
They are hungry and we feed them, they are thirsty and we give them something to drink. If you would like to contribute to this effort, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is one way you can help. Write your check to St. Andrew and put PDA in the memo and we will send your love to the people needing it most. Then you will be part of the solution when we overcome the evil of flooding, displacement, family separation, and loss with the goodness of God. You will show your true values and help other people to be resilient in their greatest time of need. Amen.