Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
I’ve run away a lot. When I was real young my parents told me “no” all the time. So one day, I ran away and moved into the bushes next to the garage. In high school my brother and I got in a fight at youth group. Embarrassed, and confident that my pastor and parents were going to kill me, I ran away. I ended up walking the streets of Jamestown, NY all night. As my high school career came to a close, my girlfriend and I had plans to attend college together. We broke up. I ran away. I felt a call to be a pastor when I was in the fourth grade. I ran away. I felt it again in high school. I ran away. It hit me ferociously in college. I still ran away.
I run away a lot.
One of my favorite cartoons features Linus from Peanuts. He says, “No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.”
Linus is right. We can run away from virtually everything. And we do.
The phone rings and we hit the red dot and not the green.
We cross the street to avoid our neighbor.
We change the channel; we turn our eyes.
We hide from a coworker at work.
We ignore the cries of the poor and impoverished.
We distance ourselves from oppression and corruption.
We stay clear of reality; we shirk responsibility.
We run away a lot.
I should help them, we think. And then we don’t. I should call them… tomorrow, we promise ourselves knowing full well that we won’t. We put off being our best self until a future date. We keep our feet moving at all times, so we can avoid the most basic truths that confront us when we’re still. We run. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re running to things, but the fact is we’re often running away.
While reading scripture yesterday a verse from Psalm 119 jumped off the page at me. “I will run the way of your commandments, for you increase my heart’s capacity (Psalm 119:32).”
As I meditated on this verse I found myself condemned. I felt condemned because I know that most of the time the sinner in me seeks to increase my heart’s capacity by running AWAY from God’s commandments and not THE WAY of them. I listen to the voices of this world that call me from God – the false idols that offer empty promises of freedom and happiness. I run away from God’s commands.
Jesus commands us: Love your neighbor as yourself. Give to everyone who begs of you. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Do not judge.
Moses says: don’t kill, don’t lie, honor God, honor your parents, don’t covet your neighbors’ belongings.
These are simple commandments which scripture bids us to run THE WAY of. And yet, so often we find ourselves running away. Running away from love and toward hate. Running away from honor and towards degradation. Running away from selflessness and towards self-centeredness.
We run away a lot and not the Way.
As an expert at running away I can tell you this. It’s not fun. It often leaves us drained and diminished. We find ourselves perplexed, pooped and pathetic. We end up exhausted, confused, and lost.
Running the Way according to scripture has the opposite affect. Here the Psalmist says we find our heart’s capacity increasing. We find love, joy, hope, and peace increasing. In running toward the Way we find ourselves enlivened, restored, and nourished.
Life in the bushes next to your garage is not blessed. Walking the streets all night is not fun. Living in fear, uncertainty, turmoil, exhaustion and angst is not how you were created to thrive. And so…
May you find yourself running the Way and not away. May you boldly face that which God has set before you. Embrace God’s commands and find God embracing you. Run God’s Way and find your heart’s capacity increasing.
In the Way,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.