Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 22: Year 2
“I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience towards God and all people.” (Acts 24: 15 and 16)
This is the verse in Acts that I always try to remember and make known. Our life hope is on the resurrection, or, it should be. From what Paul says, the resurrection is not something earned. It’s going to happen to all people, the righteous and unrighteous alike, because we are God’s, and God wants to see us on our fateful day.
Eternal life, on the other hand, does not seem to always follow the resurrection. It appears that waking up before the throne doesn’t mean we live happily ever after. There is judgment. There is accountability. Paul, and maybe even a few of us, struggle to have a clear conscience towards God and all people.
A life of dedicated service to Christ will bring us eternal life, but it is not as something earned, rather, it is something asked for in prayer and supplication. And in receiving the grace of God, it brings about a life of dedicated service of its own accord. Believe it or not, it is freedom. There is a prayer that says, “O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom” (BCP 99). How about that? Serving God is perfect freedom! This only feels this way if we really live into the words, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
I have thought, since seminary, that the most important service I could provide a family is the burial service or funeral for a beloved relative. As Christians, we are an Easter people – a Resurrection people. We say things like, “he or she is in a better place now.” That might be true (or not), or he or she might not exist at all anymore. The alternative to eternal life is not death but non existence. Personally, I don’t believe a loving God would make us live at some post death level only to be in continual pain for all eternity. We either get our hearts right or cease to exist. But first there is our resurrection which we all must undergo. We have no choice.
So like Paul, we also must do our best to have a clear conscience towards God and all People. And my beloved, it must always be God first, and then, all people. The important piece here is “all” people. We can’t pick and choose. God loves all people. The only way you can clear your conscience is to try and love those that God loves; all people. There are people on this planet who will not get through your filter for one reason or another. So I say don’t filter people at all, let it go. As our Presiding Bishop (Michael Curry) says, “Just love.” It is not required that they love you back. God is looking at your personal effort and the hope –the eternal hope that is in you as you approach your day of unavoidable Resurrection. Love your conscience clear.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John