This month we are beginning a series about what we believe it takes to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We believe that followers of Jesus, sometimes called disciples, have experienced some degree of God’s love and power in their lives, and work towards living out that love in the world. We believe that people need to commit to live out their faith through prayer, presence, gifts, service, witness, and learning. We will address one of these elements each month, and this month I will talk about presence.
In some ways it seems very appropriate that we talk about presence during one our summer months as this is a season when people are more aware of options in how they spend their time. Presence is about how and where you spend your time and how focused you are in that time. This is not to say we are asking for all of your free time, but rather that you show up in person, engage in our work together, and live out your God given passions for Christ’s work in the world.
I can think of many times as a child that I went to church because my parents made me. I was present, but not really there. It wasn’t until I was older, and I discovered that I wanted to be with my church family, and that I had something to contribute, that I was fully present. I began by finding ways to help in worship and other events that happened within the church, and this was the primary function of that congregation. Since then, I have learned the joy of being active in the community of faith, not only for one another, but also for our neighbors.
You see, our vision for Madras UMC incorporates this sense of truly encouraging your full presence. The vision is “Growing in love through relationship with God, each other, and our neighbors.” We can’t grow in love unless we show up for God, each other, and our neighbors, and do so because we realize it makes us fulfilled and we have something to contribute.
It is truly a blessing to be present to one another and to our neighbors, and to suddenly realize that God is there in your midst. Let me share with you some of the ways that I and others in this congregation have found ways to deepen their faith through presence:
Go to worship weekly. Commit to go to worship most every week. When you are out of town, find a place near you to join in.
Volunteer. Look for a place to use your gifts in our ministries.
Lead. Claim ownership and leadership for a part of our life together, whether it is in a service ministry, a bible study, or worship.
Pray. I know we talked about prayer last week, but prayer can help you be present in spirit when you may otherwise grudgingly only show up in body.
Be present in the world. John Wesley famously quipped, “I look on all the world as my parish.” As you live in the world, be mindful that you are sent from this church to be Jesus’ disciples.
While it may sometimes be hard to define what being present really looks like, trust me that you will know it when you live it. Being present is about being fully alive as uniquely and wonderfully as God has desired for you to be.
I pray God’s blessings on you as we all “Grow in love through relationship with God, each other, and our neighbors.”
Peace and joy to you in Christ!
Pastor Dan Benson