Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.
It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.
As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.
Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.
This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.
Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.
I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly. I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!
Many of us are readying our homes and our tables for gatherings. Others of us are readying our suitcases for a journey home. Some of us are readying ourselves for the first holiday season without a loved one or the visit of bittersweet memories that come with this time of year. The holidays season comes with a lot of readying. A preparation for the mingling of interruptions and interactions that can leave us refreshed, exhausted, or a combination of both.
Most of us have ideas and expectations of what the holidays will be like. Agendas and schedules of places to go and people to see. Sometimes, the places and people can feel more like obligations. Obligations we check off on our holiday to-do lists rather than a genuine experience we enjoy. We often get caught up in the busyness and can lose sight of people and how our attitudes, influence, and interactions can leave a long lasting impressions on those around us. In all our preparing, we may forget to prepare and ready one of the most important things- our hearts.
To ready our hearts takes some intention. It takes practice and effort. It involves looking beyond ourselves, sacrificing our own agendas and viewing our obligations in a different light to be able to embrace interruptions and interactions with a heart ready to love.
In Acts 16, we find examples of how interruptions and interactions led to changed lives and hopeful futures. Paul and his companions were at the start of their second missionary journey and they had made a plan to go back to check on the churches they had previously planted.(Acts 15:36). But God had other plans for group (sound familiar?) and the Holy Spirit would not allow the men to enter places where they tried to go. Through dreams, visions, ships, and many miles of journey, they found themselves on the shore of Philippi.
While in Philippi, Paul and his friends were interrupted many times and had many different interactions with many different people. They met Lydia, an interaction God had planned in advance, a woman whose heart God had been preparing to hear Paul’s message. Not only did she end up believing in God but her whole household did too. (Acts 16:15) Lydia became the first Christian convert in Europe.
Shortly after the encounter with Lydia, Paul is interrupted several days by a slave who was possessed by a spirit. In his annoyance, he cast the spirit out of her (Acts 16:18.) This leads to this woman’s freedom but causes Paul and Silas to be bound by prison chains causing a chain reaction of encounters and interactions with prisoners and a jailer. After a powerful display of God’s power and the Lord’s word spoken, the jailer and his household came to believe in God. So many unplanned events, so many lives impressed upon, changed, and influenced by the time Paul and his companions spent with them.
I want to challenge us to be ready for interruptions and interactions in this season. What are people taking away from their interactions with us? What impressions does our lives leave on people? Our neighbors? Co-Workers? The checkout clerk at the store- a waitress?
As followers of Christ, we have a great opportunity to be different this season. To be a light for Jesus, to portray our Lord and Savior well. This is an opportunity to slow down, take time to be with people, to reflect love, hope, and kindness through our actions and responses. We want people to wonder and question where our light and love comes from. We want to be magnetic, drawing people to our tables and into our presence.
Here are a few things I will be working on to ready my heart for the interruptions and interactions of this season.
I will try to:
- QUIET myself and LISTEN (I will make rest and quiet time a priority, even if it is for short periods of time. I will turn my ears toward the Lord and listen to what God is putting on my heart.)
- GIVE UP my agenda (I will try to be realistic with my time and not overbook my family’s schedule. I will be ready for and expect interruptions. I will accept the fact that I will not be perfect but expect the blessings will far outweigh what I think I need to accomplish.)
- SPEND time with people
- TRUST the Lord has gone before and prepared hearts (This is so freeing!)
- OFFER hospitality in our presence and in our homes (Our presence can provide a place of emotional and spiritual renewal and hope. Ask the Lord for help in this area.)
With a ready heart, we can embrace the interruptions and interactions that lead to beautiful things which encourage a ripple effect of love and kindness. Unplanned events and interactions can leave lasting impression on other people and only the Lord knows where things can go from there.