I am encouraged by your presence, and I pray today you will have a rich encounter with Jesus, that you will be encouraged and strengthened in your faith.
There are many turning points in our lives and people who walked with us through them. Those moments and people are part of the story of how we ended up here in this place at this time.
As I reflect on the turning points in my life, my grandmother comes to mind. I called her grandmommie shortened to Gramma as I got older. In Highschool like most teenagers, I was in the midst of an identity crisis, and I had very little sense of direction. I also struggled with dyslexia which made the academic aspect of high school extremely challenging. I was embarrassed that I didn’t read as fast as others, and being called on in class was particularly stressful. Finally, I decided I wasn’t smart enough and pretty much gave up. I got lazy and neglected school.
Gramma, a retired teacher, saw something in me I didn’t see. She saw potential; she saw a future I couldn’t. She knew things I didn’t know. She had skills to teach me to help me cope with the learning disability that educators didn’t understand well at the time. She didn’t let me be lazy. She helped me see where my efforts and commitment were lacking. Gramma was my tutor, my encourager, and my guide. With her encouragement, I made a deeper commitment to my life. I went to college because she helped me see the person she saw in me and taught me how to live into it. Who I was; evolved into who I would become. I was the same, but then again, I wasn’t the same at all. Her love transformed me. She was my bridge.
The book of Malachi forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Malachi could see both the past and the future. He saw the priest’s laziness and lack of commitment to God and worship. He saw the people of God as disillusioned, prideful, and disobedient. But he also saw the promise of the coming of the Messiah and how he would heal and mend those who came to Him. The breach was not irreparable, and God’s first message through Malachi was, “I have loved you. I am coming. Prepare the way. Commit to me as I have committed to you.
There are times in our lives that bridge where we have been and where we are going. It can be challenging to see these bridges. Sometimes, we can see them but are unwilling to cross. When we lose our commitment to God and ourselves, we cannot see what we cannot see. I believe God puts people in our path to help us. He gives us moments that refine us into his vision for us if we don’t shy away. In Genesis, he creates all things and declares them good. As we move through the Old Testament, goodness never leaves, but it is tarnished by laziness and lack of effort to live into being the people God wants us to be.
“In the reading we hear the question who can endure the day of his coming who can stand?” Jesus will be like a fuller’s soap. The fullers job is to clean and whiten cloth. It is soaked in soap and beaten to remove impurities, and the end product is beautiful and valuable. But the fabric must submit to the process.
There were many frustrating moments as I learned new ways to study and process information. But I knew my Gramma loved me, and I trusted her. So I met her commitment and made an effort to change and learn what she was teaching me.
As I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I hear a great deal of love in his words. Paul is grateful for the relationships he has; he feels held. He recognizes the goodness of the people yet understands the continual need to show them how to live successful mature Christian lives. He was committed to them and prayed that they would have more love, knowledge, and insight.
This love and encouragement will help them become the people God created them to be. He had confidence that the future would be promising because he recognized commitment in them.
Love is the first ingredient in this recipe for success. Love dissolves bitterness; love breaks barriers; love inspires. With love, we feel safe to go into those problematic places to push ourselves harder to do the work needed to become the people we are called to be. He didn’t teach them what to do and what not to do. Instead, he taught them about the love of Jesus, the power of that love, and how to let it work in us to develop our character. As our character is strengthened, we are more willing to be disciplined, be obedient and make good decisions. When loved, we feel safe enough to see the things about ourselves that we cannot see and strong enough to make the changes we need to make.
Who you are and who you will become is dependent on letting others teach you and help you while allowing the process of refining moments to do the work of transformation.
In the gospel lesson, we are given a gift of Old Testament scripture within New testament scripture, another bridge.
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Mark 1:3-5 NRSV
God commits to you, loving you perfectly and completely, guarding, guiding, and giving through others. Allow God’s love to restore you, refine you, and bring you to the place of repentance and preparation so that all you offer is as beautiful as you are.
In Creation, you were made, precious, and good. In the love of Jesus, you are made complete and beautiful.
What is your commitment to living into this beauty?
What is your commitment to loving others into theirs?
We are in a transitional time of our lives. We are being refined and called to prepare. You all are an integral part of the bridge between who I am and who I am to become. In these last two years of deacon school, you have been my guard, my guide, and you have given me much encouragement and strength in my commitment. You have been Jesus to me. I thank my God every time I remember you.
The Scripture Readings