Our Sunday morning service was filled good spirit and amazing members of the Calvary community, including a personal Faith Journey from our guest, Rosie Thandu.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Even before the service began, people were scratching their heads about the rather odd addition to the Sanctuary. As my friend extended a welcome to the congregation gathered to celebrate the life of Earl, they couldn’t take their eyes off of the object on the altar behind the pastor. You see, Earl had a request related to one of his greatest passions. That is why the altar featured, in all of its glory, a full-size mounted Bass. This was not only the prized catch of a man with a passion for fishing. One of Earl’s final requests to his wife was that she ensure that his ashes be poured into that fish. It’s like the old saying, from ashes to ashes, bass to bass . . .
Before you judge Earl, may he rest in peace, know that he is not alone with unique memorial requests. Hunter S. Thompson insisted that his ashes be fired out from a canon atop a 153-foot tall tower he designed, as Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” played. For the right price, entrepreneurs can include your remains in a “memorial reef” in the sea, include them in a fireworks show, or even launch them into orbit in space.
How do you want to be remembered?
What are your greatest passions in life, and where does faith enter the mix?
Today we continue a series on the Fruit of the Spirit—what does faith look like when it comes to life? So far we have covered joy, peace, and patience, and discovered that each of them require some active effort of joining together as God’s community.
Today we consider goodness. The word good as we now tend to use it is not always the most descriptive word in the English language.
How was that taco? Good.
How was your day at school? Good.
Through the centuries, people have debated about the relation of the word good to God. Anatoly Liberman, Oxford Etymologist and author of Word Origins . . . And How We Know Them, assures us that there is the origin of the two words is not related.
Goodness, however, is a euphemism for God. “My goodness,” or “thank goodness,’ for instance, are often applied in place of the name of the divine.
Shakespeare and John Fletcher are credited with bringing the phrase “For Goodness Sake” into the common vernacular as a phrase referencing God. In Henry VIII, Act 3: For goodness’ sake, consider what you do, / How you may hurt yourself — ay, utterly / Grow from the King’s acquaintance, by this carriage.”
When Paul included the Geek term agathosune in Galatians, he was intentionally pointing to matters that initiate in God and require openness from us. That’s why these are called Fruit of the Spirit, not fruit of human labor that we did all on our own.
Today’s primary Scripture lesson from John 15 features Jesus not suggesting, but commanding, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). While that seems reasonable, he really throws down the gauntlet in verse 13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus isn’t just talking about letting our buddy sleep on our couch while he looks for his own place or letting our best friend have the Warriors or Opera ticket we really coveted. He is talking about extreme selflessness to all fellow travelers on spaceship Earth.
Laying down our life for others isn’t what we are raised to do.
Exhibiting goodness is counter-cultural.
Presbyterian churches, including this one, are often filled with type-A people who struggle with balance in life. We are taught from a very early age to prioritize extrinsic values, including just a few acronyms many of us obsess over: GPA, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, FICO.
In his new book, The Road to Character, frequent New York Times and NPR contributor David Brooks explores the tension between “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” (I highly recommend the book, but you can also check out his recent Times Op-Ed or watch a TED talk on the subject to hear more. Brooks’ Op-Ed begins with what I see as an excellent picture of goodness:
“About once a month, I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.”
Brooks admits his own struggle in pursuit of more résumé virtues than the lasting things that really matter. “I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.”
Our pursuit of the perfect résumé can suffocate our life if we allow it to. Sometimes we need reminders from others of what goodness looks like. Today it is my honor to introduce Rosie Thandu of Children of Grace Ministries in India. She knows a thing or two about wrestling with God’s call
Faith Journey, by Rosie Thandu
“Anand and I grew up in good Christian families in India. Work brought Anand to US and a year later I joined him after getting married. It was fun exploring the beautiful place, a land of opportunities, and abundance, a land where one could dream of visiting places,
getting a career, pursuing passion, a land millions dream to see. We were the only ones from our families, church and town to ever make it to America.
I pursued my education in CA and graduated with high honors in computer science. Anand was working in the IT field and had a well paid job; he had his MBA done in CA as well. While we were blessed to get an opportunity to study here, we could never forget the many poverty stricken children who never get to study. Keeping that in mind, we wanted to sponsor education to 5 kids in India, which further led a desire to build a house and provide food and shelter to them as well. We built a house, picked 5 needy children and sent them to school. We added more children as our friends and church got interested and we grew in increments of 5, 12,25 and 40 kids. We took several mission trips to India every other year.
By this time, we bought a house in US, finished our education, had very good jobs, had many friends in Church and were settled in life. I thought I could now travel and see places like Hawaii and New York. To my surprise, Anand said I think we should move back to India. I immediately said NO. I loved my life with dishwashers, washing machines, pre-cut vegetables, canned foods, my beautiful house, the weather, the status of women in this country and so on. In addition, we were the major source for the mission and believed if we were here in America, we could earn and help many more. This idea didn’t seem very good to our families or friends both here and in India either. They thought we were crazy to be leaving good jobs and insisted we needed to earn as we were young and decide to move later on.
We battled back and forth and prayed for a year. I kept praying “Lord, talk to Anand, let him change his mind.” God was silent.
We made the hard move back, the most painful thing to leave the good life. After we movedback for the first three months, kept crying that I want to go back to America.
Meanwhile God slowly unveiled the big picture, he showed that he truly cared and loved by addressing the things that mattered to me most. I got a job, I could work from home for a CA based company in San Ramon. It was a therapy for me to be connected to America and I never changed my computer clock from American time. But then working with the children, spending more time with them, connecting with them one on one, made us realize that they needed far more emotional and psychological help and love than just food, clothes and shelter. Started bonding with the kids and became their “mommy and daddy”. And that’s what all our 120 kids call us.
The children that came from troubled past, abandoned families, who have gone through physical abuse experienced starvation, rejection and who were programmed in their mind that they are no good and worthless have grown into confident, happy, healthy children who are excelling in their studies and are already standing out in the community. They have strong faith and we have several musicians, song-writers, prayer warriors and children who want to become pastors.
There is nothing in life we would rather be doing to be happy or content. We humbly thank God for choosing us to be able to bring smiles in these faces and create an army for the Lord. No greater joy than seeing children happy and watching God transform them in every way for his glory.