Jesus Sees You

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 13:10-17.

Earlier this week I taught a yoga class that included a student with a broken big toe. He was anxious – to participate, to not harm his toe further, to not be a distraction to the other students, and to feel like he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish by the end of class.

The good news about yoga is that every pose – every.single.pose. – can be modified to each individual student. Poses can increase in challenge or comfort. Poses can be completed standing, kneeling, or sitting. So no poses on your feet – no problem.

He did not leave. He did not sit out. He practiced.

He did not feel cast to the side. He felt seen. He felt heard. He felt comforted. He felt accomplished. He felt included.

Before leaving class he thanked me for taking such special care of him in class and then asked me to suggest what other classes he might take that would accommodate and guide him through his recovery. I shared with him that it would be the pleasure of any teacher in the studio to lead him through a class at his ability level. It is on the teacher to meet the students where they are, to listen, to guide, and, most of all, to see.

When I feel seen, my self worth soars. When I feel seen, I am affirmed that I matter and that my contributions matter. And that feeling motivates me to see and affirm others.

As we head into the Fall months at Tuskawilla UMC we will have increased opportunities to see and connect with folks in our church family as well as see and connect with folks in our community. I love to watch our church during the Greeting Time on Sundays…I am convinced that our church family would greet one another for at least 20 minutes if we did not draw the congregation’s attention forward in the service. No one stands alone. No one is without a hand to shake or a smile to receive. It is truly extraordinary to behold and warms my heart so. We take time to see one another every Sunday. We take time to see one another as Jesus sees us.

In that same spirit I look forward to seeing our Bible Study groups resume, to seeing Scout Troops return to our campus, to seeing our Morningsong Worship Service begin on Sunday, September 11 at 8:30am, and yes, even to seeing the arrival of our little orange friends because their presence means we will soon see many of our community members on the church campus. I celebrate how our church sees both the Class Athlete Afterschool Program and the students of the Arbor School of Central Florida and has welcomed them to meet on our campus. I am amazed by the number of families our Friday Afternoon Food Bank sees and serves twice a month; their commitment to nourish the body and the soul is deeply inspiring.

The Tuskawilla Family understands well what it means to see one another and to meet our neighbors where they are. Through our ministries and witness we comfort and we challenge; we see, hear, and include God’s people. Through this behavior we add our hands to building God’s Kingdom.

Jesus sees us. When we serve one another well, we serve him well and he is so pleased.

Prayer: “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.”* Amen.

*”Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 420.

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Barnyard Brawl

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 25:31-46

This past week I had the privilege to attend the Imprint Retreat that the Florida Annual Conference of The UMC hosts at one of our conference camp and retreat centers annually. This retreat experience is unique in that it focuses on social justice issues and engages middle schoolers and high schoolers in dialogue about these issues. This year’s theme was “Love is…” Together with 550+ students and adult leaders we learned that we accomplish more through conversation together than through tugging ourselves apart, that open mindedness helps foster community, and while physical, emotional, and mental borders scar our lands, God calls us to love and in so doing we tear down these borders, heal the scars, and build up people.

Following worship on Saturday evening each church (I was in attendance with Andrew’s youth group) was dismissed to our church meeting place to create an artistic reflection of the night’s message. Together our group constructed ribbon chandeliers. On one side of the ribbons we were invited to write a confession – a moment where we have failed at tearing down the borders, healing the scars, and building up people – and on the other side we were invited to write a hope or dream for the church.

The church I serve is in a suburban area. Weekly if not daily I drive through suburban and urban areas and the number of persons experiencing homelessness is on the rise. These persons ask for money on the corners of busy intersections, strolling through traffic, approaching people at gas stations or in parking lots. The need continues to grow.

I do not usually give money to these persons when I pass them because I do not have a practice of keeping cash on my person. I give to my church and I know that the money I give to my church is being stewarded to care for all of God’s people as God leads us. Knowing that I give to the church comforts me when I see these neighbors experiencing homelessness.

But…recently I have noticed that I am choosing not even to acknowledge these folks as I pass them. I look across the street. I gaze down at my lap. I close my eyes behind my sunglasses. I scroll through my phone. I do not acknowledge them. I choose not to acknowledge them. Is this because I am using my giving to the church as a crutch? “Oh I give to the church so I can just look at the church, which is comfortable for me and pleasant and known and not visibly in pain?” What in the world am I doing? Or more importantly and appropriately, what in the world am I not doing?

I made my confession. I confessed hiding behind the church and not looking into the sadness of the world. I confessed not seeing my Christ in the hurt of my neighbors. Gazing into the need gives the need a face – humanizes it – so that it is not so easily forgotten, not so easily overlooked. Forgive me, Lord.

I turned the ribbon over and wrote out my dream for the church…a dream that is wide enough to include all God’s people with positions to lead and serve and be seen and heard in the church. A way for this dream to come to fruition is by people looking into the eyes of others – all others – beholding Christ within them, and becoming a neighbor. This is the first step to tearing down borders, healing scars, and becoming the beloved community.

Jesus said, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-36). Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for you looked at me. You looked at me in the faces of my sisters and brothers in need. You looked at me.

Send me, Lord. To see. To serve.

Prayer: “Lead us forward into freedom; from despair your world release, that redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace. Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase, fear will die and hope increase.  You, Creator God, have written your great name on humankind; for our growing in your likeness bring the life of Christ to mind, that by our response and service earth its destiny may find, earth its destiny may find.”* Amen.

*”For the Healing of the Nations,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 428.