Walking Our Faith: Falling in love again (column)
September 22, 2017
As I drove over Swan Mountain Road, my spirits soared. It was a glorious autumn day, sunlight causing the surface of Dillon Reservoir to shimmer like diamonds, sailboats enjoyed perhaps their last sojourn of the season, while cyclists rode the trails, and leaf peepers strolled along the shore. In our own way, we each enjoyed the beauty of this autumn day.
As my car followed the road into the valley, my heart turned toward my faith. Recently, I'd realized I was more in love with my Catholic faith than I had been when I first joined the church over 30 years ago. From the solemnity of Holy Communion, to the silence of adoration, yes, even to the awkward conversations during confession, I savored the depth of my love for the sacraments of Catholicism, and I wished that everyone could have this experience.
Then, I felt a check in my spirit. A voice in my head said, it wasn't my place to make that decision. The real goal of walking our faith was that we each seek a deeper relationship with God, through Jesus, and that as my relationship had evolved over time, everyone's relationship must evolve at a pace that is set between that person and God.
As I began to digest this thought, it was time for me to turn into my destination, the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon.
Pastor Liliana reminded us that we may have differences between our churches, and perhaps some of those differences will never be overcome, but greater than those, is the Love which unites us.
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I was there to attend a Lutheran-Catholic Prayer Service commemorating the Reformation of 1517, hosted by Reverend Liliana Stahlberg, pastor of Lord of the Mountains and Father Michael Glenn, pastor of the Catholic Parish of Summit County, assisted by other representatives from the Lutheran and Catholic churches in our area.
In the sanctuary, to my left were seated a Catholic and a Lutheran and to my right a leader of the Jewish community. However, the breakdown of the audience by faith was superseded by the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the church. God united us in purpose. There were readings and song and prayer, but most memorable were the brief homilies by Father Michael and Pastor Liliana.
In his homily, Father Michael shared that as a young man he'd experienced his first Bible studies at a Protestant church and was taught to pray deeply by a woman of the Pentecostal faith. He encouraged us to remember Jesus urging his disciples to remain united, through the love of God: "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing … As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." (John 15: 5,7)
Pastor Liliana reminded us that we may have differences between our churches, and perhaps some of those differences will never be overcome, but greater than those, is the Love which unites us. Our love for Jesus Christ, and our calling to love one another. Jesus said we must: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands." (Matthew 22:36-38) Pastor Liliana shared that Lord of the Mountains regularly opens its church space to Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim faith communities to hold their services. A beautiful example of living this commandment of Christ.
The term "Reformation" has very different meanings depending on your perspective. I would like us to consider this definition: reform, to repair or create something new. We cannot and would not want to go back and change the past. Many good things came from the Reformation. Like the branch and the vine, I believe we create a stronger bond and a stronger relationship using the example of God's love for us, we are always loved, where we are. That is the first step in building bridges and communities.
When I open my heart to people of other faiths, I let them see God at work in my very imperfect life. In turn, I see God at work in theirs. Together, we work to build a community where we live Christ's command each day: "Love one another, as I have loved you." Let's turn to the one father of us all and bless his name through our love and our good work. In this way, we are reformed as God would want us to be.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths
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