Thursday, June 19, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I can still see him standing on the top step outside a dusty little church, the color of sand, on the edge of the desert. His name was Moses and his church, which he served as pastor, stood in a town in eastern Ethiopia.
Moses challenges me, makes me feel ashamed at times … and invites me into the deep waters of the grace of Jesus Christ. It has been nearly 15 years since my one meeting with him, but he haunts me.
He stood on the top step with his arms spread, his soul open, his words pouring out the hope of the wounded hearts of those inside the church who were singing and praising God louder and with greater joy than do most of us.
“Don’t forget us, he cried out, repeating the words several times as we walked to our jeep for our next visit. Don’t forget us.” Wounds and fear drip from those words, his face etched with bitter experiences of hatred and rejection.
Moses was the pastor of a little band of Christians in this town dominated by a group of Muslims and their oppressive clergy. Moses' congregation members were rejected, discriminated against, spit at, denied jobs or fired. Their shops were avoided in the markets. In a hundred small and oppressive ways, they were reminded they were outcasts, stupid and unacceptable because they believed in Jesus.
And every week, Moses would lead their songs and preach trying to lift wounded spirits let they lose themselves and forget they are each of immense value to God, each loved and treasured, each bearing a treasure--the Spirit of the living Jesus, a spirit of love and grace, beauty and joy.
He reminded them they were not what other people said they were. And he told to forgive as Christ forgives them, to seek peace, even when others refused the peace they offered, always offering praise and prayers to God.
Moses face showed the toil and strain of being faithful to Jesus in a difficult place.
His beseeching arms raise a challenging question: Have we ever given ourselves so much to Jesus and the mission of his kingdom that we have suffered for it? Have we ever surrendered to him so much that we are faithful despite the critical opinions or rejection of others?
Everyday we are challenged to ask ourselves: Where can I surrender to Jesus? How can I give myself to seek God’s kingdom, to reveal the God’s mercy and justice? How might I see every encounter with family, friends, even difficult co-workers as an opportunity to live Christ’s love?
As much as Moses challenges me, he also invites me into deep waters of grace and joy.
In his life, and in Jesus words I hear a deep and persistent voice: "Do not be afraid."
Do not be afraid when people call you names or think you strange because you love Jesus and seek to know and live out his mercy..
Do not be afraid to if they think you strange because you pray.
Do not be afraid to give generously to the poor, to your church and it’s mission of serving and witnessing to Jesus.
Have no fear … no fear of anything, not illness or even death, not financial hardship or the next stage of life whatever it is.
Have no fear for God knows every sparrow and finch and cardinal that settles on my backyard feeder to eat. They delight my eye and lift my heart. Each of them sings its song, cries out its call, telling me that my life, too, rests in the arms of God’s eternal love that treasures every sparrow … and me.
There is a connection between knowing this joy and giving ourselves to Jesus. The more we surrender our hearts and lives to him, the more we come to depend on his care … and the more we feel the love who holds us.
Moses knows. So do I.
Pr. David L. Miller