I drove past this tree again this morning on the way to work and was reminded that you all had quite a storm in Elkhart while I was in California visiting my new grandson. One only has to drive around the city a bit to see a variety of trees with missing branches or that were felled or had their tops taken off. In fact, when Mike and arrived home the Sunday night after the storm, we saw the trees and the blinking clock lights on our appliances indicating a power outage and realized something big had gone through our city. We went across the street and knocked on our neighbor’s door. She smiled when she saw us and before we could ask, she said, “I’ll bet you’re wondering what happened here!” We were, indeed.
I find myself wondering today if anyone ever looks at the people of the church and asks, “What happened to these people that makes them so kind, or so loving, or so giving?” In the first century the people outside the Christian faith marveled at the love of Christian people. The Christians were known for being so loving toward one another and toward their neighbors that people asked, “What happened to them?” There were other things besides the love that marked the church as different and unusual as well. They were a very inclusive lot. People of different cultures and backgrounds came together to be God’s people. People of different classes made up the church which was highly unusual in the classed society of the first century. Men and women were both welcomed to be leaders in the church – unheard of! These people were different and they stood out as such!
What happened to them to make them so willing to be accepting and welcoming and loving? They had discovered that God loved them so much that God sent his only son to live among them, to teach them and to help them know God face to face. That God loved them so much that he was willing to let them reject him and put him on a cross. God let them try to kill him… and they succeeded. But God also loved them so much, that he raised Jesus up again and gave him back to them so they would understand how much God is willing to forgive. This God was willing to go to any length to reach us with his love. So how could those early Christians not respond with the same kind of love for their brothers and sisters in Christ and for their neighbors? And the people around them saw their love and asked, “What happened here? What happened to these people?” Those early Christians, by the way, were more than happy to explain.
I wonder if people look at we in the church these days and ask such questions. “What happened to these people to make them so kind and loving and giving?” I hope they see something in us that invokes such questions. And I hope we have the love and the courage to give words to the hope that is within us.
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