GOOD MORNING,zzzzzzz. GOOD MORNING!
You can only imagine how good that feels! Boy do I miss you folks!
Good Morning indeed! For those of you who do not know me, I am John Stephenson. It is my honor and privilege to be a certified lay servant of the United Methodist Church and also a candidate to be a local Pastor in the UMC.
My hope is that all of you are doing well and will be able to hear me. This is my first live message since Covid-19 decided to come to town, so please bear with my technical team as they try to make me look good. Yes, my team is the one and only Miss Christie. What would I do without her? Just another lost soul I would be. Thank you, Lord!
Please raise your hands to the Lord and give thanks for this glorious day and the opportunity to praise Him and ALL of his children. Can we all say AMEN!
As you many of you know Pastor Lisa is tending to her husband Peter as he had surgery on his back on Wednesday. All of us are sending you both our prayers and our love. Peter, take it easy and get well. You have done so much for our Church and we are forever grateful.
Please pray with me. “Dear and gracious Lord, please hear our prayers and help us to hear and see each other. Show us again how your Son walked with ALL the people and heard them cry out for your Salvation. We have failed you in not listening to our brothers and sisters and walking with them in your Glory. We ask for their forgiveness and your mercy to rain down on ALL of us as we march together. Amen”
We are enduring some difficult times indeed. From a virus that has taken so many lives, to demonstrations around the world, we, God’s children, are asking and praying for his loving arms to embrace us all and ease the suffering of so many.
I chose a brief Scripture today. This is from Matthew 9:35-38. Lord, please bless this reading and all who are listening.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their Synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
This scripture speaks to all of us disciples. They were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. As I wrote this past week in our newsletter, the ship gets lost in the storm without a leader. Far too often especially these days we look to politicians to be leaders. They are not!
The greatest and only true leader is Jesus Christ! He rebelled, he marched and he taught so that we, his disciples, would lead and embrace each other for generations. Far too often we walk away from Him for our selfish, self-serving wants, while we ignore others crying out for the very same love and grace we take for granted. It is said that we need to see as Jesus saw and feel as Jesus felt so that we will do as Jesus did.
Jesus saw the people as distressed and dispirited. He saw them and heard them because he was with them. As technology invades our lives today it has become far too easy to not be with people. We need to hear everyone, to look into their eyes and to our hearts with compassion for each other. We need to see each other through the other persons lenses, not just our own. What I see through my eyes is determined by my experiences far too often. Although difficult, looking at the world through others eyes opens up the world, both good and bad. But very necessary to live as Jesus has asked us to do.
Phillip Keller writes, how sheep when they roll on to their backs cannot get back up. They are called cast down sheep. Left in this condition they will be helpless and vulnerable to predators and will die without help from a shepherd.
As I wrote this past week, we are to be the shepherds for each other. We are indeed the leaders. We cannot continue to pass on that responsibility. We made a deal with God, remember?
There is no doubt in my mind that we will have a cure for Corona virus in a relatively short time. Science and money will achieve great things when people of power want it to happen. There will be other viruses after this one and if we give science and doctors and nurses the resources we will be just fine.
But I am a little more concerned with this other virus that has been lingering in the human spirit for far too long. Money and science will not cure this one. Hearts will need to change. That is what we disciples are called to do. One heart at a time. One sheep at a time. We will over-come but continuing to ignore it will only do harm to God’s plan for us ALL.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that many years ago and still rings true today. There is song by Mandisa that you probably saw in my newsletter article this week. Listen to the song when you get time and read the words. It is titled, “Bleed the Same”. She asks in the song, if “we all bleed the same then why are we so divided? We are all more beautiful when we are together.” She is spot on with her words. The color of my skin has nothing to do with what is under my skin. My heart is under my skin and it is pumping the same blood as everyone else.
We are all immigrants. Unless you are a Native American we indeed all come from somewhere else. Our forefathers left foreign lands to free themselves from some form of tyranny and oppression. Over 600,000 men lost their lives fighting in the civil war. We were fighting over the right to own another human being. Think about that! The right to own another human being??
Thousands of men, women and children were put in chains and on boats to be brought to our very shores to be owned by other oppressors here in our country. Things have changed but they change far too slowly. Racism and hatred do not go away easily. It is engrained in the minds of generations of people reinforced by decades of ignorance. We call ourselves civilized and walk by our fellow sheep, lying on their backs asking for our help.
For the first time in the last twelve years, Christie will probably not be going to India this year. Because of Covid-19 and all of its devastation they, like so many others are struggling with sickness and deaths. Every year she leaves me for about a month to see her “family” in southern India. Over the years she has had an incredible effect on so many young girls in need of someone willing to see them and to hear them and to walk with them. There is little to no English spoken. And no, she doesn’t speak their language! Yet despite those barriers the girls and Christie have a bond of friendship and love for each other that makes me want to cry with joy sometimes. And the connections go even further than that…
When Christie was on her first trip with Angie, they met a young man from the local village who has since grown up, married and now has two young children of his own. They were both named after us. I have never even been to India. The love, grace and joy that my wife has in her heart for these people has built a bond that feels like family. I think I will need to take a trip to India and meet my namesake one of these days!
Have I stopped to help a lost and cast down sheep? The ugly truth is no. At least not often enough. There are opportunities every day for me and you to do just that. We don’t have to look far for that sheep. One of the benefits of Covid-19 being with us is that we have been given an abundance of time that we normally don’t give ourselves. The time to take a deep breath and look at the world, maybe a bit differently than before. As I walk everyday with my dog, Luka, I try to greet as many people as possible each day. I should not think that that is anything special but sadly it is different to my normal being. People are in need all around us. They need to be fed. They need to be comforted. They need to be acknowledged. None of us will be able to do this by ourselves. But we are not alone. We have each other, different in many ways but not all that different in our needs. All any of us need is love, grace, joy and peace that God has given freely to ALL OF US.
For a little humor, this is a story I read a few days ago and it is a great illustration for us to think about.
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood.
The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the washing outside.
“That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”
Her husband looked on, remaining silent.
Every time her neighbor hung her washing out to dry, the young woman made the same comments.
A month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?”
The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
And so it is with life… What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.
So don’t be too quick to judge others, especially if your perspective of life is clouded by anger, jealousy, negativity or unfulfilled desires.
“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”
— Jonathan Kestenbaum
As we go out into the mission field this week, look around with a new pair of lenses that might give you a new perspective and greater appreciation for the very lives we ALL have been given.
Remember we ALL BLEED THE SAME and we are all sheep.
Looking forward to the day when we can hug each other again!!!! GOD BLESS!