God Never Said That: It Doesn’t Matter What You Do

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 8:4 and Revelation 3:14-22.

This week while serving as the Middle School Worship Leader at the Warren Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park I have had the privilege of reconnecting with one of my former youth that is now an amazing young adult leader. Her name is Greer.

I met Greer as a ninth grader in my small group at St. Luke’s UMC Orlando. She was bold and opinionated. And her favorite word was annoying! I walked with Greer through highs and lows. We shared many conversations about work ethic, goals, fears, dreams, and sun screen. We talked about the presence of God. We talked about the absence of God. We asked tough questions. We sought tough answers. In many ways we grew up together.

Some of my most formative relationships growing up were with my youth counselors. As I think back to those conversations, I am amazed to realize that those conversations I participated in fifteen years ago are the same conversations I shared with Greer five years ago are the same conversations I am overhearing Greer share with campers this week.

This behavior – this kind of investment and care for our sisters and brothers in Christ that are coming after us – it is learned. Someone has to teach us. Someone has to share with us. Then we share and teach this behavior to others. And God’s gift of discipleship lives on.

As I see all of the campers, counselors, camp staff, and adult volunteers this week I am filled again with hope for the church. I am filled with assurance that what I do – how I serve, how I lead, how I study, how I engage in relationships and behaviors – matters. What I do is an example for others, for good or for ill, for sickness or for health. And when I look into the eyes of these middle school campers – these 11 to 13 year olds – I want them to know what a life lived in fun and faith looks like. I want them to know that a life of fun and faith exists and that it is available to them! I want them to know that they can choose a life of faith and be fulfilled.

But it is one thing to say it. And it is another thing to see it.

My youth counselors lived what they said. I strive to live what I say. And I am humbled to see the fruit of those seeds in my youth…like what I see in Greer. What she does for the Kingdom matters…and the fact that God made a way for me to be a part and a continuing part of Greer’s story is amazing.

I give thanks for those that taught me the importance of investing in people – that taught me the importance of discipleship. I will continue to live in response to those gifts. I will invest in others.

They matter. You matter.

And what we do matters.

Prayer: “Lord whose love through humble service bore the weight of human need, who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed: we your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart. Consecrating to your purpose every gift that you impart. Called by worship to your service, forth in your dear name we go to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show; hope and health, good will and comfort, counsel, aid, and peace we give, that your servants, Lord, in freedom may your mercy know, and live.”* Amen.

*”Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service,” The United Methodist Hymnal 581.

 

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FAMILY ~ First Things First

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Joshua 24:14-28

On December 23, 2006 Rev. Dr. Robert Gibbs said these words to Andrew and me, “The marriage of Andrew and Sarah unites their families and creates a new one. They ask for your blessing.”* Surrounded by our families of origin, our church family, and our family of peers, we received their blessing.

It was and remains an incredible way that we started our marriage and family together. That day we made a covenant with God and with one another through the reading of Scripture, the joining of hands, the exchanging of vows, and the giving and receiving of rings. There were over 400 witnesses to our union…over 400 family and friends that covenanted to support us, nurture us, and hold us accountable as we continued our lives together.

Andrew and I have known since the moment we started dating that our individual faiths and our faith as a couple would be primary in our relationship. We met at church. We started dating after a mission trip. And I confess that I snuck in my first kiss with him at the corner of the chancel in our home church.

Our individual faiths and faith as a couple were essential in discerning our calls to full-time Christian service. Our families raised us in the church and as young adults we spent as much time as we could at church. We majored in religion as undergraduates. We completed our Master of Divinity degrees. We launched our vocations as United Methodist Clergy. We have planned Bible studies, prepared sermons, written devotions, prayed prayers, and done all the forms…we think…and because I said that I am sure someone is now scheming up a new one!

Since I spend most of my days completing tasks that contribute to my life of professional faith I sometimes neglect the development of my own relationship with God. While I am called to prepare and study and write as that is my job and charge from the Florida United Methodist Bishop, the time allotted towards professional faith development does not always doubly count towards my personal faith development. Then add to this equation that all this preparing and planning and praying is being done by two pastors in the same house every single week!

We do professional faith development quite well…but sometimes professional faith development keeps the first thing from being first.

What is the first thing? Our growth in faith with God as individuals and as a family.

Joshua charges the Israelites with this question, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” To whom will you be devoted? With whom will you grow in relationship? Whom will you seek? As individuals Andrew and I answered, “God, the Holy One of Israel.” As a couple we answer, “God, the Holy One of Israel.” And when we are not doing that, when we are not making the investment in our personal faith development, oh it is so evident. And it is not pretty.

Our faith feeds and informs who we are; when we cut ourselves off from that source, we are not who God created us to be, alone or together.

Joshua confronts the people about worshipping idols and instructs them that in choosing to serve and seek the Lord they must bury those idols. I would not call myself an idolator or idol worshipper, but when I allow something else to take the place of my growth and faith in relationship with God, I stand guilty of my sin. I stand in need of repentance. I stand as someone looking for a hand to hold as I move forward and return to the way of keeping the first thing first, for myself and for my marriage.

I am so thankful for the many hands Andrew and I have to hold – from our families, our church families then and now, and from our family of peers that continues to grow. All of these witnesses encourage and hold us accountable in keeping the first thing first. All of these witnesses are blessings on our journey. We are thankful to serve our God alongside you.

Prayer: “I know not how this saving faith to me he did impart, nor how believing in his word wrought peace within my heart. I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing us of sin, revealing Jesus through the word, creating faith in him. But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”** Amen.

*”A Service of Christian Marriage,” The United Methodist Hymnal 865.

**”I Know Whom I have Believed,” The United Methodist Hymnal 714.