Pause for thought
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It is my privilege on many Sundays to close out our worship service with a benediction.

Knowing that this is so I will try to find the overarching theme of the service, taking into account the words of scripture used, the words of the songs and hymns used in congregational singing, the offerings of praise from our choir, band, and others, and the sermon preached by our leader.

On a recent Sunday, I felt led to quote some words which are usually known as “The Prayer of St. Francis” although they are not found in his writings and were not known before about 1912!

Nevertheless, the words are poignant and meaningful and they fit the tone of our worship on that particular day.

Here they are:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much Seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

I have probably known and could recite these words for most of my life. I have enjoyed both singing and playing beautiful musical arrangements of them. I find them moving to listen to. But what struck me as I recited them that particular Sunday was the parallel to scripture I knew from Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

In a flash, I realized that the negative circumstances of everyday life — hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, sadness — can be neutralized by the expression of the fruits of the spirit that Paul outlines. It is as if the antidote to the poisonous atmosphere in our society is embodied in the actions of individual believers living in accordance with God’s will expressed through his Holy Spirit.

In 1915, Patrick Geddes, a Scottish biologist, sociologist, and pioneer of urban planning, coined the slogan, “Think globally, act locally” which has been adopted by many organizations seeking to change our world for the better. I think this is the principle embodied in the St. Francis Prayer.

If I want world peace, I should be a peacemaker in my local neighborhood. If I want to combat hatred in the Middle East, I need to sow love in my community. If I am disturbed by the litigious fever in my nation, I need to bring pardon when wronged in minor things.

You will note what Jesus said about his followers:

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13-14 NLT

Please note the tense of the verbs — you are — not you might be, or you could be, or you will be, salt and light in this world. By being a follower of Jesus we immediately become the antidote to the poisons and pollutions present in our environment.

The second part of the prayer echoes the words of Jesus to his disciples, including us,

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” Mark 8:35 NLT

I have been involved in many discussions with people asking how it is that a God of love does not intervene to alleviate the suffering in this world caused by man’s inhumanity to man. My answer is always that God does intervene. He does so through His followers who are empowered by His Holy Spirit.

I am reminded of a poem by Annie Johnson Flint:

Christ has no hands but our hands To do His work today; He has no feet but our feet To lead men in His way; He has no tongues but our tongues To tell men how He died; He has no help but our help To bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible The careless world will read; We are the sinner's Gospel, We are the scoffer's creed; We are the Lord's last message, Given in deed and word; What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy With work other than His? What if our feet are walking Where sin's allurement is? What if our tongues are speaking Of things His lips would spurn? How can we hope to help Him And hasten His return?

Like the boy throwing starfish back into the ocean — “I can’t save all of them, but I made a difference to that one” — we can make a difference to this world by sowing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, pardon, faith, hope, and light.

Let’s get busy making a difference in this world. Think globally, but act locally! Be the antidote to poison and pollution! Jesus is counting on us!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at