October 28th, 2020 (Wednesday Morning Devotion) Cathy Ward, Lay Leader
Good morning. My name is Cathy Ward, Lay Leader of CUMC Denton; bringing you our Wednesday Morning weekly devotion. Our CCLI number is 2734287.
Let us begin with a word of prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,
So many people need our prayers. When we turn on the TV or read the newspaper, we continue to see the rise in covid 19 cases and deaths.
God it can be so overwhelming. But you tell us not to be afraid, but to trust in you. As we examine our hearts, help us to turn away from our concerns and turn our heart, hands, and prayers toward the ones who are suffering from hunger, loneliness, loss of loved ones, sickness, and unemployment.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen
My devotion for today is titled “Friends Forever”
As a child I used to feel guilty about Christ’s command to love my neighbor. You see, I always thought that we were a very close loving family neighborhood where all the kids were comfortable visiting in each other’s home, that is except for one house. A house that I did not know even existed. You see, because of my parents, I had every excuse in the book for not loving my neighbors, but I couldn’t find an exception clause in the second-greatest commandment in the book of
Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 37-39. Listen to the words.
37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Beside our home was an old dirt road that led into the highway.
Down the dirt road were multiple homes of extended family members.
As long as we stayed on the dirt road, we were allowed to ride our bikes down as far as our Aunt’s house, but then we must turn around and come back. We were told we could not go any further.
Now I don’t know about you, but as a child, and especially when I was with my big sister, 16 months older than me, who was always testing me on things, dared me to ride on down the dirt road and see what was there beyond the trees. After days of arguing with my sister, myself and even God for disobeying my parents, brave Cathy road down the road to see what was there. And of course, my sister stayed back in case our parents or other family members showed up so she could whistle and warn me. I was so surprised to find a little white wooden house in the woods with children playing in the yard chasing each other. I felt my heart throbbing, I was so excited to think that there were other children in our neighborhood that I could play with.
I could not wait to tell my sister.
Weeks went by and my sister and I would hide in the field and watch the little white house and see who would come in and who would leave. Then one day, came the second test, of course from my sister, daring me to knock on the door. Well it was a Saturday morning and it looked like everyone was home. There was an old run-down car that sat in front of the house that a gentleman drove, I assumed to work during the week. I finally had the nerve to knock on the door with my sister watching out for me. Yeah right. I guess if I was dragged into the house only then would she run home and leave me. Much to my surprise a nice lady answered the door followed by 2 children at her coat-tail. She invited me in. After she found out my sister was hiding in the field, she invited her in also. They were just getting ready to sit down and eat and they invited us to lunch with them. Immediately I felt the warmth and compassion of this family. They were not a rich family; they did not even have a telephone to use in case of an emergency. They did not have fancy clothes or expensive furniture. But what I did see was a family that sat at the table together that would bless their food, a family that talked and laughed together, a loving and warm family, a family that was accepting of me and my sister, a family that went to church every Sunday even when they had to walk. My sister and I did not eat a full meal with them, but we did have a homemade biscuit and a glass of lemonade.
And so, the friendship began. Every Saturday we would meet the kids in the woods and hide our bikes and play games together until one day my Aunt found out what we were doing and told my Mom. Now my Mom kept our secret from my Dad so we would not get that spanking but made us promise not to go down there anymore.
As kids we cried and did not understand. We did not see this family as being any different than ours or our extended families. We did not see them as different because they were of color. What we saw were our friends,
Weeks and months went by and one day there was a knock on the door. It was the children’s Dad, Joe. My Dad was at work, so I hollered for my Mom. Joe wanted to use the telephone. He said his Dad was sick and he thought it was his heart. Mom invited him in and let him use the telephone. He offered to pay which Mom said no and told him he could use it anytime. I wanted to go to the house and take some flowers, but Mom would not let me. Grandpa died that day and they had a funeral at their home. Multiple cars went down that old dirt road that day. After everyone left, I went by myself into the woods and picked some wildflowers and took them to the house. I cried and hugged each one and told them I was sorry, but my parents would not let me come anymore, but I wanted them to know that they would always be my friends and hopefully, someday, we would cross paths again. Hopefully someday we would not look at each other as being different. Shortly, after Grand paw’s death, this family moved, and the little white house was empty.
Well that happened as I was at work one day as a nurse. I had gone in to change a dressing where my patient had surgery. She looked up at me and said you don’t remember me, do you? Then she said the words I said the last day I was crying at her doorstep when I let go of her hands. Friends Forever. What a reunion it was. I was so excited, blessed that God had put my friend back in my life even if years later. Blessed that I had no one that could tell me I could not talk, laugh, play with my friend who may be a different color than me, which I never saw as a child or now as an adult. All I see, is my friend, my sister in Christ. And thus, the relationship continues.
Jesus illustrates what it means to love your neighbor with a story we often call the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). He tells of a man on a journey who is robbed and beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. Along comes a priest, and then a Levite, both Jews who should know God’s laws, but they ignore the man and walk on by.
But then comes a Samaritan, a man who was from a different country and nationality than the Jews, and who was lowly and despised by them, yet this Samaritan helps the beaten man, bandages his wounds, takes him to an inn, and he pays out of his own pocket all the expenses for this man to become well.
Jesus says this what it means to love your neighbor – it is to show this kind of mercy, where we act in kindness and generosity to anyone in need without regard to who they are or what they deserve and regardless of the personal cost to ourselves.
Love for our neighbor manifests itself in the simple acts of generosity where we give from what we have to meet the needs of others.
Loving our neighbor means that we constantly search for ways to give from what we have to show mercy and kindness to others. In our pandemic world, this does not mean being careless, or not taking precautions. We can love our neighbors, wash our hands, practice social distancing, or stay home to avoid spreading the disease. For we are loving our neighbor when we honor stay-at-home orders and quarantines.
But other times, loving our neighbor may require sacrificing our own comfort for the sake of those who are suffering.
When we can learn to love all people, we will stop fighting and begin to demonstrate the peace, hope, and love that belong to us in Christ, even in the midst of panic and pandemic. Sometimes it may be like me as a little child, to knock upon the door and say the first Hello. Maybe you might need to be pushed a little, to get out of your comfort zone, maybe to be tested like me. You never know what you will find behind that door if you don’t make the first move. You may find a person who is suffering, a person who is hungry, a person who is sick, or you might just find someone who would like to have a friend that will just sit down and talk, listen, laugh and play. Popular culture often teaches to support others of similar viewpoints, interests, or beliefs. But Jesus' command challenges the cultural norm. For love shows no partiality
Don’t be so consumed in our fast-paced world, with your own agenda for the day, that you forget or overlook the need to open your heart for a neighbor.
Now hear our closing benediction.
As it was in the beginning it is now and ever shall be world without end Amen
May the Lord bless you today and the rest of this week.