millers

Rob & Rayonna Miller

Walking into my favorite coffee hangout place in Lititz I noticed that one of the employees was leaving the store. She looked upset. No wonder. She had a sling over her shoulder and seemed to be in a lot of pain. I tried to say something but she was having none of it.

A few days later she saw me in the store and apologized for being “rude” to me. I knew that, like me, she rode a motorcycle and I had heard in that previous exchange the clang of metal and the crushing of bones. I had been there. The canticle of a cracked clavicle. Ouch! She was trying to come back to work too soon. My gesture of mercy came at the wrong time. Even compassion has to be timed right!

“No need to apologize,” I said, then I was right back to the business of mercy. “Is there anything I can do to help?” She said, “Not really.” I asked where the bike was. She said, “Still in the parking lot of Rita’s ice cream. They’ve been nice enough to let me park there. I don’t have a way to get it to my house.”

Long story short. I offered to help. She said, “Are you sure? How?” I said, “Don’t worry. I have friends in low places.” One phone call was all it took and early Saturday morning, the very next day, my friend David Rice joined me in the parking lot of Rita’s ice cream. He brought his trailer and we loaded the little blue Kawasaki into it. Mission accomplished.

My friend was totally flabbergasted that I would offer to help. “So, you have friends in low places, uh?”, she would say later. And I explained it to her. I don’t have a lot of friends in high places, unless of course you’re talking about the Big Guy way up in heaven’s penthouse. But I have lots of friends in ‘low places.’ The ones who get under the hood of cars, get their hands dirty with oil, climb roofs, enter crevasses, bake a million cookies, due the heavy lifting, hold babies, cry with strangers, etc., etc. These friends, as far as I am concerned, give me reasons not to lose hope in humanity.

Rob Miller is one of those friends in “low places.” He drives a truck for a milk company. He was one of my go-to persons when I lived in Ohio and we had to put our hands to the plow on behalf of “the least of these.” I saw this man show up after a hard shift at work and help load trucks with food destined to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I saw this man in action in Africa — holding little baby orphans and crying over the deplorable conditions under which they lived. I was there when he got underneath cars of people he didn’t know to provide free oil change to people in our community. And the best part — Rob never cared about receiving praise. He always pointed back to Jesus. He was a “friend in low places” who also would rather not be seen. (The invisible friend in low places, who could ask for more? Thanks, Rob!)

Then Rob married Rayonna, another long time friend whose heart bursts generosity with every throbbing artery. Now I knew Rob was doomed. I mean in a good way. In a “watch out NASA, train your satellites. There will be an explosive combustion of compassion visible from outer space at 40.720200 latitude and -81.874237 longitude” kind of way.

Rob and Rayonna prayed that this Christmas more than ever their hearts would reflect the eternal values of God’s Kingdom, not the ephemeral value of material things. I will let Rayonna tell the rest of the story from here. Don’t quit now. Your heart is about to be warmed in a strange way:

This is the story of Cheri and her “friends in low places.”

“I met Cheri through my friend Kelly. I friend-requested her on FB, not knowing what to expect. I learned quickly that Cheri is a single mom with a very, very full plate, raising three boys on her own.

One day I asked Cheri what I could specifically pray for her. She laughed and said, “Pray for a van.” You see, her 18 year old son has a condition that in the event he would have an episode in the car, it could become very dangerous for Cheri driving. I know she thought I was completely crazy but I started praying. I prayed for a van for her but more importantly I prayed that Cheri would see and feel the love Jesus has for her.

About three weeks after I started praying for her, Rob and I were hanging out with some friends. I picked up my phone and my friend Kim had texted me, “Hey, do you know anyone who could be blessed with a mini van?” Seriously, I almost fainted.

I told Kim my story and she explained that her friends were buying a new van and rather than trade theirs in, they wanted to bless someone.

After weeks of praying that God would orchestrate the delivery of the van, and that His will would be done, yesterday it happened.

cheri-vancheri-ohio-dmv

But the story does not end there. Another one of my besties, Lena, texted me the night before and asked me, as she often does, “Tell me the best part of your day.” I explained to her, in confidence, what was about to happen. Lena, who owns her own clothing line wanted in on it. She wanted to deck Cheri out in some new clothes and jewelry. Also, our friend, Barb, didn’t hesitate to jump on board to offer Cheri a whole new look. I emailed Mark at Pro-Touch, in Wooster, and he offered to do a complete detailing on the van, inside and out!

Cheri had no idea. I told her I had a little Christmas present to drop off to her to make sure she was home.

Not only did God answer our prayer for a van, a really nice one, completely free of any payments for her, she also got to see Jesus in action.

cheri-farmhouse-frockscheri-friend-1cheri-friend-2

I picked her up, we headed to the title office, another friend covered all the fees and yet another covered insurance. Then down to the salon, Cheri hadn’t had her hair cut in five years (that’s what happens when you put others before yourself!) Finally, off to Farmhouse Frocks for her pick of fabulous clothes and a photo shoot. Cheri came home with new hair, make up, jewelry, hair products, clothes, a new van for her family and most importantly several new friends.” (Rayonna Miller, published with permission.)cheri-friend-3

Rayonna goes on to say that Cheri was able to clearly see that God is still in the business of doing miracles today. And may I add something? Cheri also experienced firsthand how God blesses Christ’s other friends through our “friends in low places.”

cheri-rayonna

Rob and Rayonna would be terribly embarrassed to be thought of as some kind of heroes. They would just say that they are mere instruments in God’s hands, doing the best they can to live like Christ in a world where pain often cries out on our streets. They would say they often get things wrong, but like those Japanese dolls that never stay down, they always get up and try again. And if I had to guess, I would say that if there is a “secret” is that they are always up to to engage in some kind of a “spur of the moment” conspiracy of kindness, a la Proverbs 14:22 (“devise to do good.”) They plunge into it with gusto and trust God with the results. And the world is much better for people like them.

cheri

The “New” Cheri

My guess is that every follower of Christ has the potential of being a “friend in low places” to someone. This time of the year, more than any other, is the ideal time to do something tangible, acting like the hands and feet of Jesus to someone in need. And the reason to do it shouldn’t be solely because people are in need; it should be first and foremost because we love Jesus and are indebted to Him — and He expects us to live this way. No other motivation needed.

“… and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10).

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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God’s assessment of people and situations often is diametrically opposed to ours. Of John, for example, it was said: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” (Luke 1:14-15).

Now, if you are John’s parents, maybe you’re thinking: “Prodigious child, learns to walk before 7 months, speaks six languages by grade 8, star of the football team, yearly gold medal in math and speech meets, consistent champion in the science fair, number 1 in his class in High School, class valedictorian in college, Harvard-educated brain surgeon, a successful practice, married to a beautiful woman, three children, all the while providing for you through your old age.”

Instead, what they got was more like: “Fiercely independent boy, keeps running away to the desert, anti-social, leaves home at an early age to live out in the wilderness, eccentric dresser, likes to eat insects with honey, comes out to the city to infuriate the reigning monarch, preaches about an utopian kingdom, calls religious people dangerous serpents, runs around with another dreamer called Jesus, ends up with his head on a silver platter because he had a run in with the wrong woman.”

What joy is there in any of this? How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and fail to discern danger in the form of a powerful woman? And “great in the sight. of the Lord?” No way!

But that’s only because we don’t get God. The joy was in the fact that 400 years of silence had been broken. God had spoken again and the message was about the fulfillment of the promise regarding the coming of the Messiah! This was joyful news indeed!

One of the marks of the Holy Spirit upon John’s ministry, by the way, is exactly that after perceiving danger, he did not back away from calling people to repentance, which was the mission he received from God (see Luke 1:16). Throughout the history of the Church people who spoke righteousness have often lost their lives. Or positions. Or power. Or prestige. Or money. But when they are filled with the Spirit, they are as unmoved as John was. John was a preacher of righteousness and repentance, something not too many people are willing to sign up for. John didn’t. He was chosen.

And for the record, John was great “in the sight of God.” That was the only examiner he needed to please. Yes, he lost his life at the hand of a cowardly man and in a violent way, but God didn’t just say, “Great job, John.” He said, “You are great.” Hearing that makes it all worth losing one’s head any day.

May God grant us all the ability to see things from His perspective and to live in light of that insight. Zechariah and Elizabeth did. So did John.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA


In studying for the sermon this week I was reminded that one of the pictures the biblical writers paint to depict darkness is that of a night without the possibility of dawn. 

The picture is cogent, especially considering that these ancient texts were written before the invention of artificial light, the time when people had to rely entirely on the light provided by the sun. For them, the idea of not seeing the sun for a prolonged period of time could be terrifying, in addition to being impractical, since it would incapacitate people from engaging in even the most trivial of tasks. 

So, when Isaiah speaks (chapter 9) about people walking in darkness, he uses that picture, alluding to the kind of night with no sunrise in sight, but it’s only a picture. What’s behind the metaphor is the reference to a period of utter desolation resulting from punishment by God due to the apostasy and rebellion on the part of His people. The darkness in that case is so thick that no one can imagine cutting through it and emerging on the other side. It is truly a night without hope of rising.

In our lives we sometimes are afflicted by a thick cloud of dark matter that threatens to devour us. Whether it’s divine retribution or simply the burdens of humanity, there is no denying that in those times we feel that we are about to succumb under the weight of sorrow. For some, it is depression, something people in the 18th century called “melancholy.” For others, it is the loss of a loved one, the open wounds of sexual abuse, the sting of rejection, the dart of betrayal, the sharp fangs of estrangement or the revolt of injustice. 

Darkness comes in all shapes and shades. The only constant is our poor soul, breaking like the timber of a ship beaten by violent waves. Some people call this “the dark night of the soul,” but a friend prefers to call it a “funk.” I like “funk,” except it almost makes what I am describing here sound like a cool thing, which it could never be. 

I felt somewhat like that yesterday when I heard the news of what was then thought to be an “active shooter situation” on the campus of Ohio State University. Except, that’s not how I heard the news because when I saw it flash through my phone only one thing mattered to me — where exactly is my niece? Soon, I heard from my terrified sister that my niece, a graduate student at OSU, was holed up in a lab somewhere on campus. 

Though only a couple of hours went by, our vigil felt like a dark night with no end. I was at the dentist, being evaluated for an abscessed tooth, the only time in the last few days when I was able to forget the physical pain — and I was not even numbed. 

These are the times when more than ever you keep repeating in your head: “she’s going to be okay.” And you pray the most “selfish” prayers ever invented. You ask God to end the agony and you feel ashamed that when it’s all said and done and you are finally able to connect with your niece, her emotive tone intuits a gentle: “don’t forget to pray for those who were injured.” You are embarrassed because you almost forgot about “the others.” Like a camera zoomed in on the subject of your picture, you open the lens up and suddenly realize there are others there that you were blurring the whole time. It is then that you realize that love may not be blind but it is definitely nearsighted. 

That was yesterday. Today was a different kind of “funk.” I woke up to the news that a plane carrying an entire professional soccer team from Brazil had crashed near Medellín, Colombia. 

The story would have been tragic regardless, but this one hurts like no other because it appears to give ammunition to those who posit the existence of an anti-hero, kill-joy, sadistic kind of a god (small “g”). 

Here you have a team made up of a bunch of young men that this year had ascended to the first division, the elite of football in Brazil, for the first time ever, a small team from a small town whose stadium only seats about 20,000. Against all odds, they were runners up in the national league, going against some of the richest and most popular teams in the nation. Not only that, they managed to win against two of the toughest teams in Argentina to advance to the final game of the South American Cup, which was going to be played in two days in Colombia. To call them the “Cinderella” team would not even come close. They were the Cinderella, the Maria turned Mrs. Von Trapp, the David against Goliath and the Joanne of Ark (minus the butchering by the British), all combined into an epic story of meteoric rise to glory without any hint from anyone that this was about to happen. These guys make the Trump election a mere yawn. They were the real “November surprise.”

But in an instant their feat and their dreams met the unforgiving hardness of the cold mountain. The plane crashed and our hearts with it. Young men, they were, in the rush of triumph, dreaming of millions of dollars through contracts in Europe somewhere. Or maybe just of a quite life with family. Many of them left young children. One had just found out he was going to be a daddy a couple of days before he got on that plane. Perhaps some of them just wanted to live the moment and soon go back to enjoying their families again. They knew that glory is so ephemeral. But did they know to what degree?

Back to the sadistic “god” (small “g”) idea. Five people, apparently, were found alive. One was a goalie. His family got wind that he was alive, but later on they found out he died in the hospital. Another goalie had to have a leg amputated and a defense player suffered spinal injuries that may render him paraplegic for the rest of his life. These are just the stories I heard, the ones that were plastered in the headlines. I am not brave enough to read about the others’ personal stories right now, including the journalists and family members who were onboard. Will do that after the shock subsides some. 

Against the sadistic “god” (small “g”) idea. Two players were injured. They couldn’t fly with the rest of the team. They thought perhaps that they were missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead, they gained a lifetime. But, if you insist, you may question the goodness of this fortuitous event for it is also possible that they might live with “survivor’s guilt” for the rest of their lives. 
So we are left to wonder: what purpose do these tragedies serve? To remind us of the brevity of life? But this could be accomplished without the loss of life, I am sure. To bring some closer to God? I’m sure, but perhaps some didn’t want to get that close… yet. The reality is that with my feeble mind I can’t conceive a logical scenario that would justify these horrific events, but this does not mean that I am blaming God (capital “G”) nor that I am denying that there is a purpose in this kind of suffering. By faith, I must accept that there is but I can’t spell it right now. Perhaps later, but I may never truly know while sojourning here. So, I will choose to suspend judgment because though my last name is Trindade, I am pretty sure there is no vacancy in the Trinity. 

Ah, and I also know that despite all appearances no darkness remains forever. In Genesis 1, God pierced the darkness with His word, “Let there be light!” Going back to where I started, in Isaiah 9 the darkness is broken with the appearance of a “great light,” a reference to the coming of the Messiah. 
It was 9:10 pm EST in Lititz, PA, when I started writing this post. Just for kicks, I checked. It was: 

5:10 pm same day Fairbanks, Alaska 

1:10 pm next day in Melbourne, Australia 

5:10 am next day in Krasnodar, Russia

4:10 pm same day in Waimea, Hawaii

8:40 am next day in Yangon, Myanmar (yeah, they have that weird half an hour thing going on for them)

3:10 pm next day in South Pole, Antarctica

2:10 am next day in London

12:10 pm next day Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea…

I know that’s not profound, but as I looked at the list above a thought came to me: with the precision of a clock, light is piercing darkness somewhere in the world right now. And this happens every day, without us having to work for it. This tells me that despite the appearance, ultimately darkness cannot win. Some day the light of the Son of God will shine brightly on every corner of the universe and that is the hope that baby of Bethlehem brought the world on Christmas night. 

Sometimes, what helps me rise the next day after a day of tremendous sorrow is the thought that Christmas is happening in a symbolic way every time the glorious light of morning rises. It’s a perennial reminder that whether personally or cosmically the dark night of the soul will some day come to beautiful end, (capital “E.”)

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Jesus stunned His followers one day when He said, “Stop worrying about your life.” Right… The guys who were following Him — they were married men with families they had left behind in Nazareth. Some of them had abandoned their businesses and put their lives on hold — for the sake of a dream. They were living from hand to mouth, so worrying was their natural state, just like it is ours. How could Jesus, then, say, “Stop worrying?” There must be some compelling reasons why He would state that.

Jesus didn’t spell out the reasons why worrying is a bad idea, but we get some hints from the text. Here they are:

Worry is Irreverent

Being consumed by anxiety is a mark of faithlessness. Obsessing about food and clothing was something that people without God were in the habit of doing, so when you are beset by worries, you are essentially living like an atheist. Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.” This, of course, was not an invitation to idleness. The birds of the air still had to go after their food, but the point is that like the flowers and the grass, they fulfill their nature and God provides for them. In the same way, people who fulfill their nature, namely trusting God for their needs and pursuing work instead of idleness, will realize that God will not fail them.

Worry is Irrelevant

Worrying does not change things. Fixation with problems will never help solve them. In fact, it may make the problems worse. That was Jesus’ point when He asked rhetorically, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” In posing the question, Jesus was anticipating what modern scientists are telling us today. According to a recent study, even mild levels of psychological distress can increase the risk of death in a lot people. Most of us do not sign up for something that is patently irrelevant, but somehow we make an exception when it comes to worrying. It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Worry is Irresponsible

Instead of putting our energy into things that are constructive and lead to solutions, we end up getting paralyzed by our worries. We worry because we are not in control and when we think we are in control, we worry that we will lose control. Is there hope for us?

Yes, there is! The antidote to worrying is to concentrate on doing God’s will in all aspects of life. This decision to seek God first and occupy our minds with His priorities will free us up to lead a life that is characterized by positive action moving forward.

Worrying is irresponsible because it sucks the positive energy we need to put into the Kingdom work God desires to accomplish in and through us. A worrier can never be a warrior for God. He who is mastered by the cares of the world will never be free to share in the cares of the world’s Master. He will always be in the minor league when God always intended for Him to play with the “big boys.”

Controlling our worries is a hard thing for the disciple to apply to his/her life, but we have no other choice. If we want to please God, we must choose to joyfully trust God first for everything in our lives. To fail to do so would be an anomaly for the true disciple. As the old theology professor, Henry Drummond, used to tell his students, “Do not trust Christianity unless you are willing to seek the kingdom of heaven first. I promise you a miserable existence if you seek it second.”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33).

Time to get our worries under control!

 

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

 

 

Hard to believe but I was in a church once where they read the name of the people who gave the biggest amount during the offering. Then they called a guy upfront and honored him for giving the biggest check of the night!

In Matthew 5:1-18, Jesus warns us against this perverse tendency we have to do things to be seen by others. He mentions three that deserve special attention. They are, in order, giving to the needy, praying, and fasting.

Today we may not have the practice of hiring a band to show off our brand of generosity, but do you ever brag about a good deed you did? Do you ever parade your piety? Jesus says that a good deed done to be seen by others is worthy of reward, but the reward is from men, not God.

The second practice, prayer, is even more challenging for us. Daniel prayed with his window open but it was not for show, it was more for a showdown. Do people today pray to impress others? Apparently yes. I was at a conference a couple of years ago in which a guy from Scotland went around offering long and elaborate “prophetic prayers” for all kinds of people. He spoke eloquently and everyone gravitated toward him because his prayers were “powerful.” I would say the church today needs “effective” prayers more than “powerful” prayers.

I have heard stories of people who accidentally walk in the middle of a private prayer and then they go on to repeat the words the person was praying in order to highlight how spiritual that individual is. Please do me a favor: If you ever walk into one of my prayers, leave immediately and don’t ever repeat the words you heard — you might be shocked at what you might hear me say. There is a reason only a few prayers in the Bible are quoted verbatim. Prayer is primarily a private conversation between the Creator and His creature. It’s not ever supposed to be a ritual in a spiritual pageant.

Fasting is being reinvented in our culture. The old costume is being replaced with trendy alternatives. One hears of a “social media fast” or a “caffeine fast.” We’ve turned fasting into fashion and what was supposed to be a spiritual exercise has turned into a self-improvement exercise. Instead of focusing on Deity, we focus on diet, and fasting turns even the most boring dude into some urbanite hipster, especially when he posts on Facebook that he’s going on a social media fast. Jesus would probably say, “Keep Calm and Just Do It.”

With all my sardonic reflections about these practices, I still find a deep sense of joy in reading this passage, and here’s where I find it: Jesus assures us that there is a reward when we engage in these activities, that is, when we do it for God. In other words, giving to the poor, praying and fasting always come with a reward — it’s only a question of who the rewarder is. Make sure your reward is from God and not the little man displaying your check to his congregation.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Writing about love in this age of “Trumpillary” would be like writing about the comforts of heaven while sitting amidst the fiery flames of hell.

The negativity and bitterness, the shouting and coarse language, the empty rhetoric and rancorous debate — these things have so much dominated the news cycle that one would almost be forced to conclude that this is just how “normal” people behave in this neo-Judges age when “every man and woman does what’s right in his/her eyes.”

But that conclusion would be wrong. This is not “normal.” We shouldn’t let this display of carnality and immaturity be the standard bearer of what we used to call “civil discourse.” Go ahead and say it: It is NOT okay to ascend to power by lying, cheating and trying to completely annihilate your opponent. The “take no prisoners” philosophy should have no room in the fabric of this country we love so much.

But when it comes to the individual souls, it is a different story. Our main duty as followers of Christ is to pray faithfully for Hillary, Trump and others like them.

Last night I heard Hillary say that in order to be saved you need both faith and good works. Wrong… She needs to understand “salvation by grace through faith.” A while back Trump said he didn’t need to ask God for forgiveness because he doesn’t make mistakes. Wrong… He needs to understand the meaning of “in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Many of Hillary’s and Trump’s positions simply outrage me, but as a follower of Christ I have no right to personally lash out against these two individuals. I have a duty to pray for them and ask God to transform their hearts so they can think and act like Jesus some day. And in that sense, my heart is so filled with love and compassion for them that it brings me to the point of tears. Yes, when did you cry last for the souls of people like Donald and Hillary?

Let me illustrate. There is nothing that comes even close to provoking more outrage in me than the issue of protecting the life of the unborn. When I hear Hillary talk about it, that’s the only time I would be tempted to smash my T.V. to pieces, if my wife would let me… And yet, even at that moment when something so raw wants to come out of me and do damage, I look at the human being making that statement and am filled with compassion for her — she’s been blinded and she needs to see the light. I have tears for the millions of little ones vanished by violence and I have tears for the millions of grownups who will appear before God one day and give an account for their actions. May God have mercy on them!

But remember: We too will give an account to God some day. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He didn’t give us an exception clause that would apply to certain people, like former Cleveland Brown’s owner Art Modell, for example!

Now, obviously, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will become best friends with these two. Neither does it mean that I have to agree with all or any of their ideas and policies. Quite the contrary; I must remain vigilant and speak out against ideas that are contrary to God’s standards, but I must be careful that in the process of doing it I don’t act uncharitably toward them or their supporters and thus become just like them. We are not called to hate, we are called to love. We must find a way to love even people like these two. And if I need to be convinced of that, all I have to do is to look at myself in the mirror and repeat after me: “God loved ME!!”

The only time that it would be okay not to love those who disagree with me and behave radically differently from me would be the time that God would cease to love me. But that, I know, is not going to happen, so I might as well start learning to love the unlovable. God did it with me. But this is only possible by divine enabling. We can’t do it on our own power.

Looking at the foot of the cross, Jesus saw his tormentors and forgave them. Lifting his eyes unto heaven, as the first stone hit his body, Stephen followed in Jesus’ footsteps and forgave the stone throwers. He also prayed for them. That was and is supposed to be the norm for the disciple of Christ, not the exception.

While we lament the loss of civil discourse and dread having to walk into the polling place with our hearts torn by the choices afforded us, one thing we must not do — we must not let bitterness steal the joy we have in Christ and we must never forget that the sovereign God is still large and in charge.

Let’s look to our standard bearer, the One who, according to Matthew, “… causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

And let’s remember that all of us, without exception, also had to be forgiven of something that would be enough to send us to hell. Come to think of it, my need for forgiveness does tend to emerge, like daily. Thank God for the reconciliation and restoration He provides us in Christ!

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Bill Burk, the man God used to bring my dad to Christ, used to employ a simple litmus test to determine if a man was truly interested in the Gospel or not. He would schedule a day to come and study the Bible with the man. On the appointed day, if the man was there waiting for him, he would take it as a sign of interest; if he was out tending his field or hunting his game, he would go on to the next house. End of conversation.

Bill was a big believer in the binding nature of words and in the fact that words truly reveal the intent of a person’s heart. And I know that approach worked well with my dad, who was somewhat methodical from the day I was aware of his existence. Not sure how well it would work with an illiterate fisherman who hadn’t even seen a calendar his whole life, let alone made an appointment with someone. But that’s for another day. One has somehow to prioritize feeding his family as well…

Bill’s practice derived from an application of Jesus’ words, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.'”

In this day and age when truth is like an endangered species, this is a great reminder to all of us. The religious leaders of the day had come up with all sorts of creative ways to get around the obligation of an oath. To speak in today’s terms, they could be seen with their fingers crossed, if the camera turned to show their backs, whenever they were promising to do something of significance. Their words became meaningless and they did all of this while sounding extremely pious.

In rebuking their misuse of oaths, Jesus reaffirmed the pervasive nature of God’s presence in all of our transactions, since He said that any kind of oath was ultimately invoking the Creator, because He owns everything. His rebuke also declared once and for all that the integrity of one’s inner being is infinitely more important than keeping appearance. One can get around promises in clever ways but one can never get clever enough to fool the Creator.

But instead of pondering the meaning of this teaching, we find ourselves arguing about whether Jesus was talking about taking an oath in a court of law, cursing or taking the Lord’s Name in vain — interesting topics, but not the subject of this text.

Here, Jesus is concerned with what we told our school teacher when we failed to bring our homework, after promising her “it will be done by tomorrow.” He wants to know if “the check is the mail” when we say it is. He cares about our failures to come to our kid’s soccer games, after we said you would be there for the umpteenth time. The applications are endless.

The world would be a better place even if only those who call themselves Christians spoke “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Jesus expected nothing less and nothing more from His disciples. And Bill Burk apparently understood that.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA