The great American poet, Emily Dickinson, tells about an incident that took place after her father died.
Her father was laid out in the parlor. That evening, after all the mourners had left, she watched as her brother walked over to the casket. He didn't know she was there. He leaned over and kissed his father on the forehead. "There," her brother said to their father, "I did something in death you would never allow me to do in life."
Miss Dickinson lived her adult life as a recluse. She wrote constantly but she did not publish. She stored her poems in boxes in her cupboard. It was only after her death that her younger sister discovered 1,800 poems she had written. She had them published. It was only when they were read by others that Miss Dickinson was recognized as a great American poet. Before that they were just words on pieces of paper stored away. To recognize her as a great American poet took the writer and the reader. It took a relationship.
Nothing really has meaning until it touches others. We write a brilliant article. Its value is in being read. A soloist must have an audience. A speaker must have people to hear him.
We sometimes forget our religion is a religion of relationships. The purpose of religion is not to set up some theological rules, approved by our denomination and preached about by our clergy, and see if we can jump over them before we die.
The purpose of religion is to believe God sees tremendous potential in us. God created us in his image. Therefore the purpose of religion is to help us live lives imitating him.
The language of the Bible is always father, mother, sister, brother, friend. The language of the Bible is not to make rules but to "Love God with all of your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself." Love is relationships with God and our neighbors. It's difficult to believe the person who lives with hate, bitterness and intolerance seeping out of his personality really believes in God, no matter how often he is seen in church
To be real, religion must stand the same test as everything else. It has value only as it touches people. Religion is meant to be a guide. With our society moving more and more in an impersonal direction, the church must remain a stronghold, defending the right to love and be loved.
The church should remind us we have an obligation to love and be concerned about all of his children. The church should be a safe island in this world of confusion.
In the book, Young Man Luther, the author wrote we must have islands of "self-sufficient order where sensible people manage to live relatively lusty and decent lives." A place where they can be "as moral as they can be, as free as they may be, and as masterly as they can be."
In everything we do we need to look beyond our immediate action and ask, "How will this touch people?" This is the level that gives meaning to our work and to our lives.
This week's question: In the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai, the agreement was broken almost immediately afterward by the Israelites. What did they do that was an infringement of the covenant?
(Robert E. Lind is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)