Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God….” (1 John 4:1)
Sometimes we think of having faith solely as seeing the goodness that is around us. That’s an important part of faith, certainly, because there is much that is good and unless we see that goodness it’s almost as if we keep ourselves apart from grace. Look for the good in life.
But not everything in life is good. It’s actually a pretty dangerous world. Rarely do we come upon a person or situation that is wholly evil but neither is any person or situation ever wholly good. People will manipulate us and take advantage of us. If we aren’t careful we can get hurt or even killed as we deal with the reality of life around us. When Jesus spoke about sending out his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel (10:16), he told them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, to beware of the people they would meet even as they tried to bring them to the faith. Jesus never overlooked the reality of sin in the world.
Caller ID and the national no-call-list have both cut down on the number of telemarketers it seems but still I occasionally answer the phone and hear a stranger ask, “How are you today?” “Not very good,” I’ve learned to tell them, “because salesmen like you keep calling me and bothering me.” I get a variety of responses to that but at least I have established a boundary of sorts. Skepticism helps protect us.
Our daily lives are full of situations which should lead us to ask whether this is from God or from somewhere else. We start the day waking up and sorting out what we are feeling as we face the new day. It’s funny how the slate is never exactly clean as we wake up. We carry things over from the days before, we have dreams that we remember and ones we don’t which affect us in some ways. There are various pains, griefs, joys, and excitements which we have to consider even before we reach the shower. Just figuring out how we are going to handle our day takes a lot of discernment.
Wisdom, in many ways, is cumulative. We learn lessons over time. Our mistakes are great teachers, if we will take time to reflect on them, and so are our successes. Amazingly God has provided us a mind and soul, intuition and instinct, which can help us decide which path to follow and when to get off a dangerous path when we have chosen unwisely.
Skepticism is one of the gifts God puts inside us. Granted, it is a gift that can be overused and if that is all I carry into a situation I am going to miss a lot of good in life. But if I don’t have any skepticism I’ll not make it through the day alive.
As Lent approaches we will hear of Jesus entering the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He pushes evil out and counters it with the good he already knows. But it seems like he learns something in that wilderness that carries him through the remainder of his ministry, through the suffering that he will undergo. He learns that in this very good world there is much evil, much that will negate the good unless we are aware of it and learn to deal with it. Jesus faces evil and carries away a faithful skepticism.
In the life of faith there must be room for sorting things out. We can’t simply say that everything is fine the way it is. Faith, before it acknowledges the truth that God provides for us all we ever need, must first discern the spirits. Like sheep learning the voice of the shepherd above the snarl of the wolf, we have to listen well. Goodness wins out over evil, that is the lesson of the cross and resurrection. And one way we participate in grace is to look for the dangers of the day. They are bigger than us and we cannot defeat the evil alone. But, as we listen, we find grace a faithful companion on our journey.
Part of Lent is recognizing that evil lurks around most every corner. But remarkably that leads us to see how the love of God in Christ redeems every evil we face. Not everything we face in the day is of God. But nothing we face is bigger than God.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Diocesan Convention Report
The Clergy and our 8 delegates (Richard Bradford, Kathryn Dailey, Charlie Harris, Marney Garzon, John Carter, Fred Tyson, Reggie Hamner, and Jimmy McLemore) attended Diocesan Convention on February 21-22 in Hoover. Candice Frazer and Jimmy McLemore were elected to serve as 2 of the 8 deputies from the diocese to General Convention next summer in Salt Lake City. Reggie Hamner was elected to the Disciplinary Board. Jimmy McLemore continues to serve as the President of the Standing Committee, the governing body of the diocese. So our parish is fully participating in the life of the diocese and the Episcopal Church and happy to do so. All the reports of the diocese can be seen in video format on the diocesan website: www.dioalg.org. Our convention operated this year in conversation rather than voting on resolutions and it was a refreshing time to be reminded of the great things going on in the Diocese of Alabama.
Longevity of Service
Much attention has been paid of late to those new to our staff who are making such a wonderful contribution to the life of St. John’s. Along with Joel, Daniel, Candice, Sarah, and Caitlin who are all newer, we celebrate some milestones with other staff members. On March 6, Mike Jarrell will celebrate his 35th anniversary at St. John’s! Congratulate him when you see him next and give thanks for him in your prayers. Also remember to give thanks for Fay Worrilow who has been our Parish Secretary for 21 years, Libby Poole who has served as our Financial Administrator for 17 years, Myron Smoke who has served on our maintenance staff for 17 years, Mary Parent who has served as our Housekeeper for 10 years, and Anne Tippett who has served as the Rector’s Assistant for 9 years. How fortunate I am to work with all these people and what a difference they make in our life together as a parish. RCW
Daylight Savings Time Begins Sunday March 9 – Set your Clocks AHEAD one hour.