The message today was taken from the scripture lessons: Acts 16:9-15, Ephesians 1:15-23 and John 14:23-29. The idea was based on the following title and the weekend we spent with our daughters. Enjoy!!
Christ’s Rightful Place
You may have heard me mention last week that James and I were going to Jamestown yesterday. I am starting to understand why I don’t want to leave the house after the first week in June. April and May are crazy, and I think this year has been way worse than past years. Our initial intent was to watch Paulina in their home track and field meet, but soon we also found out that Jaxon would also be competing in a wrestling competition in Jamestown. We were able to watch him from 9:30-10:30 then head up to the college to spend most of the day with Paulina.
There were a few parents and families at the college meet, but it was nothing like the parents at the wrestling match. Actually it started at the hotel at breakfast. We went up to Jamestown on Friday night, so we were eating at one of those hotel breakfast places in the morning. While James and Jaxon were standing in line waiting for the waffle machine to be available, I had time to watch one poor father trying to coax his son into eating something. I couldn’t quite tell if he was giving him medicine or if it was a piece of banana. I just kept hearing him beg the boy to eat this thing. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but he was saying, “Just try this one time, and I will never ask you anything again.” The kid was probably 8 or 9 years old. I just wanted to say, eat the stuff and get on with life, really this poor guy is in for a long life.
Later when Victoria showed up for breakfast with the two youngest, I mentioned it to her, and she shook her head. She admitted that her generation of parents has this idea that children should be asked to do things. Since opening a day care, she has been taking various day care classes and in one of her last sessions, she read an essay about telling children instead of asking them. Her example was, you are in the Dr office and the child needs his blood drawn, instead of asking if they could please sit still the parent says, you need to sit still for a bit because the nurse is going to take blood from you. The choices might be do you want the chair alone or my lap. Do you want the blue sticker or the red when you are finished? She has been using this on Jaxon, and though he was a bit upset about being told what to do, she said within a week, she has noticed the change in his behavior. Wow.
I sort of have to laugh about it. I think maybe that generation, at least in my house, gets the idea of giving choices because they didn’t have too many in their day. It was here is your breakfast, now eat. This is what you wear to school today. The choice is get dressed now or in the car, and Victoria specifically had at least one of those sessions. I also don’t remember sharing the television too often, so I can see where Victoria might have wanted to allow her son a bit more freedom.
Looking at those parents, I got to thinking about when James and I were first married, and we often went to church in Hull in his home church. It was interesting to see the way those families sat in church. It was quite different from the way I grew up. It our church a few of the younger couples sat together, but the older ones sat pretty strictly men on one side and women on the other and the children all in their particular Sunday School benches. Babies and children too young for Sunday School sat with their mothers. I don’t remember how my parents sat when I was old enough for Sunday School, but before that, we were in between them. I suppose to rein us in, to keep us in control. In James’ church the parents sat side by side and the children sat around them. I was told it was to show that the partnership of the couple was the center of the family, the children were the additions. I guess for those who put the children in the middle maybe that represented that the children were the center of the family. I am not sure on that, maybe it would be an interesting psychological study.
My point and question today is about the center or perhaps the focus. What is it that we focus on? What is the center of our family? What is the main focus or our main thought when we are in church, or when we are out and about for that matter? Certainly our livelihood needs to be somewhat of a focus or all that we have falls apart. So we do need to have at least some sort of “tend to our business” sort of focus. And our family both immediate and perhaps even extended needs to be there someplace near the top if not the top. But what else is there in terms of our focus? Is it friends, clubs, organizations, hobbies? What about Christ? Where do we fit Jesus, and what we are taught about him and by him into our lives?
The story from the book of Acts about the apostle Paul seems to be a little out of place in this message today. There is nothing really in that story about who is our focus, who is our center, or is there? Let’s take a closer look. This story happens after Paul and others were sent by the disciples to the area of the gentiles to spread the news about Jesus. During this trip Paul has a vision telling him to go to the area of Macedonia. He does this and ends up in the city Philippi. During this stay, Paul meets a God fearing woman named Lydia, who is a dealer in purple cloth, which is what that region is known for, and probably means she is a wealthy woman. When she hears about Jesus, she and her whole family, her whole household, which likely means all her servants and slaves too, were baptized and she invites Paul and those with him to come to her home to stay while they are in the city. She opens her home to those who brought the good news of Jesus to her life. She responds to the words of the apostles by accepting salvation by offering herself and her household to be baptized, and then she opens her home to the messengers who brought her this good news. Although she believed in God, she now knows the truth of salvation and she changes her focus; she opens her heart and home to allow the teachings of Jesus to be its center.
Our gospel lesson for today is a passage from John that Jesus told the disciples before he was crucified. He was telling them about how he was about to go away and the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. He also told them that for those who loved him, he would return to live with them, something we may think of as a future thing, but perhaps, we might realize more as a now thing if we really put our focus, on Christ as being the center of our lives. Jesus in this passage as he is talking to the disciples and telling them that he is going away says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.”
Somehow this sounds much like things we have talked about in bible study. The peace that Jesus gives probably won’t eliminate all the drama and tension and issues that come up in our lives, but with that peace, we have a different way of dealing with those things. With the peace of Christ our focus shifts. We come to the, “not my will but your will be done” type of attitude. We are no longer like the child who wants our own way at all times. As we tune into a loving relationship with Christ, we understand that God’s ways are not unreasonable demands from a dictatorial parent. Instead they are words and nudging and guidance from a point of complete and total love, a love that is so deep it was willing to offer an only begotten son in order to redeem us as an heir to eternity.
Just as parents want what is best for their children, so God wants what is best for us. Sometimes we just need to shift our focus to see what is important. It is when we have Christ as the center of our lives that we are able to embrace the peace that he offers us.
This week on Thursday is the day we celebrate the Ascension of Christ from this earth to join his father in heaven. On Ascension Day, Christ was given his rightful place as ruler of all just as is written in the scripture lesson we heard from Ephesians. According to the author that place is, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named not only in this age, but also in the age to come.” Christ’s rightful place is above all, and for us should be the center of our lives and our focus. And even though we won’t be having a special service on Thursday, we might just want to take a bit of time to think about what Jesus life and death and Ascension really means to our lives. Let’s go today with that attitude of Christ’s peace going with us. Amen.