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Tabernacle United Methodist Church

Thursday's Thoughts
March 15, 2018

Somewhere in the depths of Facebook earlier today, I came across a photo of an array of pallets stacked with $100 bills. Beneath it, a question was posed: “If you were to receive this fortune, what would you do with it?” As someone who grew up, and has lived my entire life in modest means, it only took me a moment to respond... and I did so in print (or at least the e-version of print). I wrote: “I’d give it all away, every last cent. I’d feed hungry folks, treat sick ones, invent ways to include the ‘least, last, and lost of our world.’ I’d be sure that the marginalized were included, and that the broken-hearted were befriended.”

Others on the same page expressed a different level of fantasy (what Bonhoeffer called “wish/dream”).... they would quickly be buying some “3rd world country and building up a new America, with only folks like me in it!” Most would pay their bills, buy fabulous homes for their parents, families, and friends, set up educational foundations for their children, and throw lavish parties for others of like mind. Some would care for veterans and those often forgotten by everyone else. A few would build walls and erect defensive ramparts, while others would help the national infrastructure.... Just what would you do?

I don’t expect many (if any) “Like” responses from my posting, and at the same time, I do expect a bit of derision, if not outright expressions of hate for “wasting” such a magnificent resource on those who “don’t deserve it,” in their estimation. But you know, I seem to recall a phrase from Paul to one of the churches - probably the Corinthians - saying “The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Heaven’s not so much about the “stuff” as the miracles that are seen in the way we treat one another.

Come to think about it, I think I saw something miraculous this week... actually, I saw several things “out of the ordinary.” Last Sunday, I asked the range of our congregation’s three gatherings to help one of our folks with acquiring a replacement car for the one they’d been driving.... which was showing many of the signs of having come to the “finish line” of being worn out. Don’t know what I expected, exactly, but by the time the last person had left the building to go home last Sunday, I had been given nearly $850.00 in cash and checks. On Tuesday, I was given an additional three $20.00 bills. I asked again on Wednesday evening, and someone came to me afterwards and said, “I’ll give you $500.00 on Sunday,” and someone else dropped a check for $100.00 in my pocket. And there was someone else who promised another $500.00 and another matched it just today. Another couple said last Sunday, “If there’s any difference between what you get and what you need, let me know, and we’ll give it all to you.” All of it, plus the proceeds from last week’s Wednesday Night Fellowship Dinner, and a check from some friends who live well outside our area, went into the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund, and coupled with the trade-in and a significant additional contribution from the gift’s recipient, the car is on its way! It’s nothing new; nothing fancy; nothing flashy; just solid, dependable transportation for a family that covers a great many miles in the service of others. A few words warmed the hearts of the faithful, and in just a little while, they became a car for some folks whom we love.

You ever see a miracle? I saw our daughter’s first breath on an April morning 3-1/2 decades ago, and in a little while, witnessed her first smile, heard her first giggle, and our son’s, too. Miraculous! I’ve been there when others, well-loved, gracious, strong folks drew their last breath in this life, and were carried into the arms of God, their suffering over. It was a miracle, every time. I’ve seen sunrise over the Atlantic and set over the Pacific - miraculous! I’ve witnessed the gathering of the faithful in the sub-Saharan area of northern Ghana gather to sing and pray and give thanks over a morsel of bread and a few drops from the cup, saying to one another “The body of Christ.... the blood of Christ.... are given for you,” and the tears of joy just flowed. And I watched at the airport as those who, only a few days before, had been strangers.... and now they held onto one another as if their lives depended on their grasp. I’ve seen hearts broken and lives changed by a simple touch of divine grace. You’ve seen it, too, I’d like to imagine.

I believe with all my heart that sometimes God even calls, invites, and offers us to take up the opportunity to be vessels through which that kind of miraculous grace flows. All that’s required is the prayer that Isaiah offered in days long before Jesus. Do you remember what he said when God asked “Who will go for us?” Isaiah said simply, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.” It may sound like “Put a soup ladle in my hand,” or “Use my voice in the choir,” or “I’d be happy to talk with the children of our church’s household.... even though I may be stumped at some of their questions!” I’d like to think that some write and send cards to shut-ins (or to the pastor, like someone did for me last week!); or invite a newcomer to sit alongside them in worship; or look in on folks whose families may live at some distance; or take the initiative to read scripture and welcome folks to worship on Sunday mornings; or cook breakfast goodies for a “herd of folks” Sunday after Sunday.... just as a way of embodying the Isaiah-answer: “Here am I. Send me!” You know that’s miraculous, right?

Sometimes, you know, we get to observe those “everyday” miracles; sometimes we get to take part in them! Let me encourage you, in these fleeting, last days of Lent 2018, to take the risk of being an agent of God’s miraculous work in our world. Maybe it’ll be played out by offering a second “cheek” while the first is still stinging from the strike; maybe it’ll be in the taking of a risk of extending an invitation to worship or Wednesday Night Dinner. Maybe it’ll play out in some small, quiet expression of care offered to another who’s in one of those crises of life you know all too well. Maybe you’ll win the Lottery, and be faced with the awful crisis of “Now what do I do with pallets of money? What are my priorities and faith, really?”

Let me encourage you to take the hand of the Father in yours in the waning days of our time of preparation for Easter, and offer “Here I am; send me!” with all the courageous faith you can muster, and then be prepared to see something miraculous happen....

Grace and peace,

Jim Earley, Pastor

Response? Send me a note (RevsRUs@cox.net) or call the church (868-6842), or better yet, talk with me between Worship Services next Sunday!

Last update: March 17, 2018 9:56 PM