By the time you read this I will be back in the Ozarks and well into my regular routine. It has been a long week and a half visiting my hometown and my sisters and extended family, while trying to sort through all of Mom and Dad’s things still stored in the basement. Oh, the memories! Oh, the laughter! Oh, the exhaustion!
I wrote last week about a family gathering at my cousin Kathy’s house. This week’s treat was a Women of Purpose retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with my sisters and three cousins. The worship was amazing, the speakers inspiring, and the fellowship remarkable. The featured speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs, author of the Bad Girls of the Bible series, shared a few examples from her book Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible. If you ever have a chance to see Liz, make sure you do. She is extremely funny, tremendously witty, and once she gets you laughing, you can be sure she’ll touch your heart with God’s Word. Can’t get to see her? Get one of her books. Better yet, I’m hoping to order some of her videotapes and maybe we’ll have her for a few nights at Ebenezer.
I’ve been gone from the church for two weeks and wanted to thank the Rev. Syd Smith for filling in. I can’t wait, however, to get back to my church family next Sunday. Missed you all!
The retreat this weekend was sponsored by the Pennsylvania-Delaware District of the Assemblies of God. This is my “home” district, as I attended an A/G church in Pittsburgh before I moved to Missouri. As I walked through the hallway, I looked at every face, trying to see if I recognized anyone. Perhaps I would see someone from before I moved to Missouri, or maybe I would see someone who had graduated from one of my alma maters in Springfield and was now ministering in the Penn-Del District.
As I moved through the crowds, I realized how very few people I did actually know. Besides the five people I came with, I saw no one who looked familiar. Some people had similar features, maybe a hairstyle I recognized, but when I looked at the whole picture, we were strangers. They were scurrying to find their seats, to shop at the many vendor tables, to get to their hotel rooms or restaurant tables. They knew nothing about me, and I knew nothing at all about them. All the ladies were friendly, but we were still unacquainted.
I thought for a few moments about that feeling of not mattering to anyone else, and I thought for a while about the many people in this world who have no one to care for them, no one to consider them, no one to make them feel important. Maybe it is because they are new to the community or away from home that they feel alone. Perhaps, as happened with my grandmother, all of her friends and peers had already passed on and, although she had her children and grandchildren, she felt lonely because of the absence of her friends. It is even possible that a person could have no family members left at all, no one to care for him, to check up on him, no one to even care.
How many people do we pass by each day with a smile and a glance, but nothing more? How many people do you see in a day without even a glancing thought concerning their lives or situations? And just how many people do you sit with in church each week, shake hands and greet, sing with, but about whom you know nothing at all? You see, there are people in each of our lives each and every day who are walking around, sometimes hurting badly, who are in need of a friend, or even just a smile and an encouraging word.
People come into our churches looking for someone, somehow, to tell them that there is a reason to go on, that there is a reason to continue living. We smile and welcome them and invite them back but then go our own ways, leaving them where they began, wondering if anyone cares that they even exist. Then, when we hear on the “party line” that they are divorcing, or leaving town, or even that they attempted to hurt themselves, we are surprised. Friends, God expects more of us.
When you read the New Testament, you will quickly find out that it was the duty of every believer to minister to others, not just the pastor and elders/deacons. We are each responsible to seek out the hurting, the lonely, the needy, and so on. This Sunday, look around the congregation, then step out of your comfort zone and greet someone you haven’t met before. Is there someone in your congregation who mostly sits alone, whose story you haven’t learned? Invite someone to lunch and learn about them.
I received an e-mail about a high school athlete who stopped to help a student from another social group who had dropped his books. Although very different, they became friends and remained so throughout high school. The second young man was nominated as commencement speaker, and at graduation he related how one day, back in high school, he had decided that life was not worth living. He had cleaned out his locker and was carrying all of his things back home when he dropped everything. In that moment the athlete came to his rescue and helped him pick up his things, and through the friendship that developed, he found purpose in his life. The athlete’s outreach had saved his life.
You never know when something you say or do, a hand outstretched or a kind word will make the ultimate difference in a person’s life. We all need someone to care for us, to encourage us, and someone to remind us that we are loved by a God who chose us before time began. Knowing everything we would do, God still send His Son to die for us as a sacrifice, so we could be reunited with the One who created us. Consider these words from Hebrews:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:23-25).
If you happen to be the person I have been talking about, you are depressed, lonely, wondering why you even carry on, please come to church this week. If we are disobedient to our assignment to reach out to you, corner one of us. I’d love to hear from you. Please don’t sit alone and fret. You have a purpose in your life. Come to church and find your purpose. We’re waiting.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church