My apologies for the lack of devotions these last couple of mornings. Pastoral duties sometimes become demanding, making it difficult to find time to write something thoughtful.
Now is a good time to mention that Methodist Life welcomes submissions from new writers and artists. We tend to work from the daily lectionary readings, but I personally deviate from those texts from time to time, and submissions do not have to be built around them. As editor, all I ask is that you represent traditional Christianity well while not minding some editing when necessary. If you want to submit something, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For your consideration today, I offer you an article I wrote for the Jonesborough Herald and Tribune while pastor of Fairview United Methodist Church more than a decade ago.
Heart Wide Open
By Chuck Griffin
How open are you to God’s influence?
Most of us who call ourselves Christian would like to think we are very open. And indeed, a lot of Christians allow God to influence them in ways that change their lives dramatically.
Often, you run into Christians who have given up careers and financial security to serve God.
Occasionally, you meet people who for long periods of time give up the comfort and familiarity of home to serve others in far-away places. For example, I once met a missionary who had gone to Papua New Guinea as a young woman in the early 1970s. She had felt God calling her to translate the New Testament for a tribe of people who speak an obscure language.
By 2005, she had finished the work. I met her while she was in Kentucky, a much older woman saying a last good-bye to her relatives. She loved the tribal people so much that she had decided to live with them the rest of her life.
Rarely, you meet people who face death to follow God’s lead. Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, falls in this category.
Stoning was the punishment of the day for a poor, unwed pregnant girl, which is how her neighbors would have viewed Mary. To follow God while facing such dire circumstances required a heart wide open to God’s influence.
God chose Mary, it seems, because she had the right soul for the job. She was young, perhaps as young as 14, but Scripture records in the first chapter of Luke her remarkable understanding of the meaning of Christ’s coming.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant,” Mary said. She was rejoicing with her much older cousin Elizabeth, who carried in her womb John the Baptist, the prophet who would announce the coming of Jesus’ ministry in adulthood.
As Mary continued in her rejoicing, she laid out the radical mission of Christ. He brings mercy to those who believe and follow God. He scatters the proud. He brings down the powerful. He lifts up the lowly and the hungry. He does all of this as a fulfillment of a promise made to the world through Abraham long ago.
And of course, we now understand that Jesus grew up to accomplish this radical realignment of power through his death on the cross, a sacrifice designed to break the grip of sin.
Governments and armies still seem to have power, but none can help you establish a relationship with God. At best, they can keep the relationship freely available.
If you believe, really believe, in the saving work of Christ, it becomes more difficult each day to see your place in the world in secular ways. How open are you to God’s influence?
The answer has a lot to do with how much of this world you’re willing to risk while knowing a better world is guaranteed.