Our awareness of God inspires us to live now

12/18/2007

By the Rev. Elbrist Mason

Jan. 6
Inspired to Inquire
Purpose:
To respond to God’s favor by learning and by growing in our understanding of God, just as Jesus did.
Bible Lesson: Luke 2:41-52
Key verse: “(Jesus) said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” — Luke 2:49

Recently, a colleague in another denomination said, “One thing about the Methodists, you all are always learning something, you have a school for this or workshop for that.”

I laughed and said, “You are right, we are always being invited to learn something new about God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

In our lesson the purpose challenges us to learn and grow in our understanding of God just as Jesus did. Luke’s account of Jesus’ encounter in the temple with the elders and others was a moving experience for Jesus. He was in his father’s house and like most young people he did not see any issues with his new found friends, leaders and others. Jesus was just being himself.

Yet, his parents, like most of us parents, had an issue with him intentionally staying behind while they headed home. This was unsettling for them because Jesus was their child, and children should not go away without telling their parents, “Mom, Dad, I want to stay here at the temple for while with the elders.” His request probably would have been denied (especially in his day and time). However, Jesus, listening to the creator, did not ask but simply stayed. His learning of God had moved to another level and his parents were still bound in earthly thought about their son Jesus.

Imagine returning from your day and half journey to find your child in the midst of the elders and teachers. He is not just there looking, rather he is involved at such a level that all who were present were amazed at his understanding and astonished at what they saw. (Luke 2:46-47)

What about our understanding of our children and youth in our congregations today? Are we still trying to limit them to nice programs and games? If the answer is yes then we miss what Luke is sharing with us. Jesus had a need to move into a different relationship with God and also with his parents. Jesus answered his parents with a resounding set of questions.

“Why were you searching for me?”

Wow! How would you have answered? Like Jesus, would you have gone to the heart of the matter and just told them I have more (mature) important things to do, like being with the father.

His next question is even more staggering. “Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?” Jesus shares that something is different and new; I have changed and you should have known.

Our children and youth are moving in ways that we often are surprised by as they mature in the faith. Our prayer should be that they recognize the call of God in their lives and respond accordingly; and we too must be learners of God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus shows us that this new found moment with God may shake us as parents but the children and youth are comfortable with exploring the call of God in their lives, even when we do not understand what is happening.

Jesus reminds us that God is always calling us to maturity in our faith and relationship with God. Just like Jesus you and I are being called to stay awhile with God in God’s place even when everyone else has headed home.  

 

Jan. 13
Inspired to Love
Purpose:
To accept Jesus’ challenge to become like God by loving without condition even those we consider unlovable
Bible lesson: Luke 6:27-36
Key verse: “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” — Luke 6:35

“There is always something there to remind me,” this popular song reminds me of how; my mother (Roberta) use to share this text with me and my brother all the time. It usually followed a fight or scuffle with Douglas and Clyde, our best friends. The fight was about something that was meaningless but at the moment it was important and we usually vowed not to play together again. However, my mother would remind us that to be mad with someone was sinful, especially if they were people you loved. And just like clock work after her lecture and Douglas and Clyde’s mother’s lecture, we were back playing and loving one another and expecting nothing in return.

That was the easy part of the lesson with people we care about and love we can take the text and do well with it in terms of love and forgiveness. But what about those people we do not like or care about because of what they may do or have already done to us?

In our little community there was a family that I nor my brother nor our friends liked at all. We considered the kids in this group to be our enemies and we vowed to stick together against them. My mother would share the Luke text and especially Luke 6:32-34 about doing good to those you love. She would ask the same question what is it to do good, lend or care for people you love or like how hard that is.

But what about people you do not like or love, now here is where Jesus’ challenge really takes off and we are invited to live, love, care and be in a new way. Jesus is issuing a life challenge that is a process that will take you and me a life to engage and understand. Jesus essentially says love the unlovable now and in this place because God is also kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.

Wow! We are called to love in a way that is beyond us; we are to do something that we find hard that is to love those who hurt us. On the down side some people take this challenge to the extreme and put themselves down because they cannot be like Jesus in this call to love, care and lend to those who would destroy you for your attempt at being more like Jesus. 

Jesus’ life with the people in Luke’s gospel was about showing what is possible through God’s grace and mercy. We must come to God for this awesome power to love the unlovable. The text clearly shows that this kind of love is not from our own being but it is a gift from the most high God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

 

Jan. 20
Inspired to Pray
Purpose:
To discover that prayer is not a technique we learn but the bold and persistent way we respond to God’s grace
Bible Lesson: Luke 11:5-13
Key verse: “I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” — Luke 11:9

For me, prayer is the powerful presence and healing grace of God in our mist of time and space. A better understanding of how prayer is inspired and inspiration in our lives comes through in a story by a colleague.

The Rev. Annie Travis shared with me how she prayed at a local middle school for a general assembly. She prayed and shared with the children and was heading out to another task when a child came to her and told her that the prayer was good and had been helpful.

Travis had been doing what many of do daily without thinking how what we say or do in prayer affects us and those that hear our prayers. The child was inspired by her words to God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God’s grace upon the words brought the child to another place of presence with God. The child like many of the children in area has special needs in relationship to social, economic and political issues that affect how he lives, where he lives and what he can do yet in the midst of prayer he was made whole by the one who taught us to ask, search and knock.

Her prayer entered into this child’s life and gave him a new sense that everything would be alright in God’s will and ways. The Rev. James Cleveland wrote and performed a hit gospel song called Everything Will Be Alright the gist of the song is that through prayer God will make everything alright. In Cleveland’s song it is not about techniques that inspire people to prayer, rather it is knowing and believing that God will hear and answer our prayers. The child had demonstrated the text in action he simply believed that Rev. Travis’ prayer had made a difference in his young life.

Our purpose today has a part that says being inspired to pray is the bold and persistent way of responding to God’s grace. Wow! Bold and persistent are you like this in your prayer life? If you are that is wonderful because you have come to the understanding that God hears your needs but what if you have not gotten to this level yet?

I say praise God because it means you have something to spiritually work toward in your daily life. Prayer is the calling card to God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Jan. 27
Inspired to Trust
Purpose:
To conquer anxiety by realizing that our lives are not defined by our circumstances but God’s favor
Bible Lesson: Luke 12:22-34
Key verse: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” — Luke 12:22

In the midst of conflict, the one thing that is sure will be the lack of trust by people inside and outside of the faith community. Trust is hard to inspire in others unless there is a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Trusting that all will be well can only happen as a God thing. Jesus shares with the disciples and us that we should not worry about what could or should happen, rather we are to believe and trust that God has a plan and a pathway for our lives.

He (Jesus) uses the example of other members of God’s creation to show us that neither the birds nor the grass toil for anything. Yet, their needs are supplied to the smallest degree. Jesus says that God knows what we need, and that this should be a comfort of inspiration to us not to spend our time striving for things that God will provide for us, just because we are God’s creation. Instead we are invited to be inspired to a sense of striving for God’s Kingdom, and all these things will be given to us as well. Being inspired to trust also invites us not to be afraid of what will happen here and there, but to be assured that God finds pleasure in giving us the fruits of God’s Kingdom.

I want to be clear: Jesus was not denying the disciples or us that we have certain basic needs. Rather Jesus was offering the disciples and us not to let the needs of life become our anxieties and worry every hour on the hour. God’s providential care is the greater gift to us and our inspiration to in God’s awesomeness in creation. Since we cannot even add another minuet or second to our lives Jesus is saying “don’t worry, rather trust God’s grace and mercy.”

Circumstances and trails will come and we will have to do certain things here and there to stay afloat but the risen Savior is calling us to trust him that all things will be okay. While we do not control anything but ourselves; we need to be inspired by Jesus’ example of how to live for God’s Kingdom in this life and time right now.

Jesus’ example of living in God’s favor is to be attentive to the grace of the living God within people who are unlovable, non-caring, and sometimes just downright mean. It is also dealing with circumstances that you have no control over and yet be joyful because of God’s awesome love, power and presence. God’s favor is for those (you and I) who are willing to be defined by our relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The contrast is to be bound by our circumstances; if this is our choice then we become afraid and unable to see that God has already entered our lives with hope and peace.

Mason is a clergy member of the Mississippi Conference and serves as pastor of Brandon Trinity UMC. He is a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.