Midweek Musing for July 20 - Recognizing God
In the last few months as we have begun to get back into a more normal lifestyle, I have really enjoyed listening to people talk about going to reunions—both school and family ones. In fact, I think the pandemic has probably increased attendance at class reunions as we have learned how even things we once maligned (like having to go to a reunion) can be taken away from us so quickly.
Recently, I came across a story about some older men who gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their college graduation from an all-male college.
Naturally, all of them had changed in appearance over the years – they were grayer, heavier, balder, more wrinkled, and so on. (Thanks goodness none of this has happened to me!)
However, instead of providing name tags, as some reunions do, the master of ceremonies decided that it would be more fun to have each man stand up and come on stage in turn and have the others try to identify him using as a guide the pictures from their college yearbook which would be projected on a screen on the stge. As they proceeded, they were able to identify all but one man. Nothing in his present appearance gave him away.
Finally, the man said, “All right! I see that you do not remember me. Wait just a moment and I will give you a clue.”
With that, he stepped away from the microphone waved to a back table of the room and then greeted someone who came up on stage.
A good–looking young man now stood by his side.
“This,” he said, “is my son. Now do you know who I am?” Almost immediately most of the men in the room called out his name. The appearance of the son, who so very much resembled his father, enabled the other men to identity who he was.
Of course, beyond looks – hair color, eye color, complexion, etc—children also get a great deal of who they are as people from their parents.
While children do grow into their own unique personalities, much of who they are comes from the parents, family members, and friends who spent significant time raising them.
Even now with my children as grown adults I can hear them say something and think they sound just like their mom or grandmother.
Like it or not we can often learn a lot about those who raised a child simply by observing their children.
Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes…
When we declare that we are disciples of Jesus Christ we announce to the world that we are all children of God and as such in the words of Paul – “heirs to the kingdom.”
However, this comes with a responsibility—we need to live so that folks can recognize God by who we are and how we live and love and treat others.
Paul discussed this throughout his writings but does so perhaps most powerfully in Romans 12 which Eugene Peterson translates this way in The Message:
So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Folks, may we do all of this so that when folks observe our lives, they know whose child we really are!
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Alleluia Amen.