FAMILY ~ Ministry of All Believers

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 4:1-16.

My friend Dan Dixon has the keenest ability to send me cards that 100% describe how I am feeling at the present moment. My most recent installment looks like…

 

IMG_0107

This.

I think it should be titled, “Sarah Miller: This Moment In Time.”

The inside of the card reads, “Ever have one of those days?” And underneath those words Dan kindly wrote, “Yes, we do! Yes, we all have!”

How wonderful it is to be reminded that I am not alone in this life and that I have a great friend that will send me a picture of a soaked cat to lift my spirits.

In the card Dan thanked me for all the ways we stay connected as colleagues as well as friends. We share resources, we ask advice, we laugh, we vent, we sit in silence, we complain about all the things we should have been taught at Candler, and through talk, text, and/or email, we offer “towels” to one another on the days we are utterly soaked.

Dan has the incredible gift of speaking truth in love – “Sarah, you are doing a little too much right now.” “Sarah, listen to your committee members on this.” “Sarah, let that go.” “Sarah, forgive yourself.”

In her book Altar in the World Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “The hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self – to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, enroll, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it.”*

Through the relationship we share, Dan and I are able to be brought out of ourselves – and most importantly, brought out of the stories that we tell ourselves that are not a true reflection of our actual selves – so we can love and nurture, so we can struggle with growth and grapple with fear, and so we can try on the rawness of vulnerability and realize that we can live with that rawness for just a few moments longer than we did the last time.

Barbara Brown Taylor observes that we are all born with “instinctive care” – that innate knowledge to do whatever we need to do to care for ourselves. To love the neighbor as the self requires that we apply that same sort of instinctive care to someone else, that we do whatever is needed to care for another. Barbara Brown Taylor says, “to become that person, even for a moment, is to understand what it means to die to your self. This can be as frightening as it is liberating. It may be the only real spiritual discipline there is.”*

When we apply instinctive care to one another in community we experience unity. We share our joys and sorrows in community. We do not walk alone; we walk with others. We share one another’s burdens and we work together to lighten those loads. We offer affirmation, we ask questions, we seek and share forgiveness. This is what it means to be in relationship with one another. This is at the core of our ministry to one another as believers – caring for one another, which leads us to caring for all, as Christ cares for us.

Is there someone in your life presently that relates to or resembles my above “moment in time?” How might you reach out to them, and in so doing, instinctively care for them as you would for yourself? Consider how your actions will draw the two of you closer together. And imagine what our world would be like if we all genuinely and diligently answered our calls to to this sort of care.

Prayer: “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”** Amen.

*Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, 93.

**”Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” The United Methodist Hymnal 557.

 

Advertisements

Seven Questions of Faith: What Matters Most?

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 12:28-34

Have you ever watched a reunion between family members or close friends? The likes of a person or group being surprised by the return of a loved one at a football game or running across an airport terminal to embrace?

I experienced one of those moments this past week. A mother and dear friend from Andrew’s last church invited us to attend the Hillsong United concert with her, another parent from the youth program, and 25 or so of our former students. The students – they didn’t know we were coming. So as we gathered outside the CFE Arena at UCF one student after the next came out of the parking lot, identified the agreed upon meeting spot, and upon seeing us, ran as fast as they could to embrace each of us as hard as they could. One of the girls even ran towards us while wearing an air-cast on her foot! We love and admire your enthusiasm, Kelli, but we want your foot to heal!!

Each embrace restored my soul. Each embrace filled my cup. Each embrace reminded me what matters most.

Relationships. Caring relationships.

Some of my most formative relationships growing up and continuing to today are are with my youth group leaders. These folks are some of the first people outside of my family that saw me for me. They identified my gifts. They nurtured my call. They encouraged my curiosity and wondering about the mystery of God.

I am so grateful for these relationships. Because of them I looked forward – and look forward! – to sharing these kind of relationships with young adults. God made an impression on me through the hands of my counsellors and I am humbled by the opportunities to make God’s impressions on the young men and women I serve.

In our Scripture passage this week Jesus identifies how we are to act in the – in our – ultimate caring relationship – by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. And then Jesus instructs us in how we are to make impressions on one another – by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

We are so loved by God. God’s love shapes us. God’s hands by way of God’s love are literally all over us. God is constantly running towards us, reuniting with us, and welcoming us home. Whether we have moved away from God or God has moved and asks us to follow, whole and holy relationship with God remains our goal. And we grow in whole and holy relationship with God by leaning into and modeling whole and holy relationships with our neighbors.

I believe that each time we participate in a reunion with a loved one – whether we have been apart for a day, a decade, or what feels like a decade – when we feel that embrace, when we fill our cups, we feel God’s loving impression upon us through the hands of our neighbors. Sharing God’s loving impression with others draws us deeper into relationship with one another and with God, which truly centers us on what matters most.

Prayer: “I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet. I love to tell the story, for some have never heard the message of salvation from God’s own holy Word. I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.”* Amen.

*”I Love to Tell the Story,” The United Methodist Hymnal 156.