Grace United Church of Christ

Skip over navigation to main content.

Pastor’s Corner

Sometimes life overwhelms, regardless of who you are or where you live. I’ve read two novels this year set in India, by Salman Rushdie and Rohinton Minstry, and then this past week I encountered a report on the increase of suicide in the United States. In many places in our world people suffer miserably beneath the crushing weight of poverty. In our own country people continue to take their own lives, with feelings of social isolation very often a significant contributing factor, even as social media cast a wider net.

Many atheists point to the state of the world as an important reason for choosing not to believe in a Supreme Being. Look at our world, after all, with its endless human anguish and despair. I, too, look around me sometimes and suspect that suffering may be the only common denominator among all people. We can all agree on the reality and universality of human suffering. Perhaps the main difference between people of faith and people of no faith centers upon where we find God in the midst of all this pain.

Non-believers assert that no loving god could be responsible for the mess that exists in our world. Or they claim that a less than loving god long ago abandoned humankind to its own depravity. Many people of faith, on the other hand, find God present in the midst of human suffering. The atheist Malcolm Muggeridge famously converted to Christianity after visiting the Missionaries of Charity and Mother Theresa in Calcutta, when he noted that humanists do not run leprosariums.

Christians believe that God comes to humankind in the person of Jesus. And we recognize from the gospel accounts that Jesus identifies most strongly with the oppressed, neglected, and forgotten of the world. And Jesus teaches that in a God-centered world we are to deny ourselves, to sell our possessions and give to the poor, and to clothe, feed, and shelter those who need it. That we Christians tend to do these things poorly takes nothing away from the radical nature of these teachings. To follow God’s way runs contrary to the way the world functions.

Whether or not humanity could unite to correct the many troubles we cause remains a moot point, since no reason exists to believe it will ever happen. Indeed, humanity remains mired as it always has been in sorrowful conditions of conflict, war, and appalling inequality, despite whatever wonders it has achieved. Our greatest scientific and technological advances do little to alleviate our universal suffering, the result more than anything else of our continued moral failings.

Regardless of the sad state of affairs we see surrounding us, God continues to task believers around the world with living against prevailing social currents. We are to sacrifice and to strive to make the world a better place. In part, we do this, even when we don’t do it well, because we hold dearly to a hope that sometimes feels hard to carry. We see the state of the world as clearly as anyone else, but we trust in God’s promise that things will not always be as bleak as they are now.

Many faiths contend that an end time, or time of fulfillment, awaits, a time when God will exert more control over the world to right its many wrongs. Jesus says of this time that “the first will be last and the last will be first,” a time of accounting we await, however tenuously.

About Rev. Dave Bowles

Rev. Dave Bowles and family

Pastor Dave grew up in the Seattle area and also has roots in Utah, where his father’s family were Mormon pioneers, and where he went to school at the University of Utah. He came to ministry later in life, and came to Pennsylvania in pursuit of God’s call to ministry. Pastor Dave received his Master of Divinity degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary in 2007. As an intern or a pastor, he has served in the chaplain’s office at Elizabethtown College, at Hamilton Park United Church of Christ in Lancaster, at Trinity UCC in Gettysburg, and at the United Church of Kanab-Fredonia in rural Utah, before being called to serve Grace UCC. He has also completed five units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), including a year-long residency as a chaplain at York Hospital.

Pastor Dave lives in Middletown with his wife, Ruth, and their three young children, Esperanza, Mateo, and Carlos. About his service at Grace UCC, Pastor Dave says, “Our faith community understands its Christian mission in much the same way as the UCC denomination. We believe that God extends grace to all of us, not for anything we do, but freely, as a gift. We believe that God is dynamic and involved in our lives, and continues to speak to us today through the Bible. As disciples of Christ, we feel God’s presence in our lives. We seek to respond to God’s love by being agents of blessing in God’s world, and by meeting visitors and strangers alike with compassionate hospitality.”

Return to top.