PASTOR’S CORNER: Brad Bennett, First United Methodist Church, Liberal
Our state song is, “Home On The Range.” In my earlier years, whenever our family would travel across the Kansas state line, my mom would break out singing this song with everyone joining her. I’m guessing you know the words, so please join me singing:
“Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam, Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, And the skies are not cloudy all day. Home, home on the range, Where the deer and the antelope play! Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, And the skies are not cloudy all day.”
This song is meant to encourage Kansans, even in the midst of really harsh and trying times - in those days of pioneers on the plains. I’m encouraged that my ancestors who lived into this hope and this faith in Stephens and Seward counties in times that were often described and defined by words of discouragement.
The Scriptures are drenching with encouragement. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). I’m encouraged by these verses from a prophet writing a book filled with weeping and wailing to God for every imaginable difficulty of life in ancient times of the people of God. No wonder the book is called, Lamentations!
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians (2:1-4), “Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy . . ..
How will Christ’s followers complete Paul’s joy or how will they (and we) experience encouragement? “By thinking the same way, having the same love, being united and agreeing with each other.”
How will they (and we) live this love? Paul writes this key, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves . . . watch out for what is better for others.”
I encourage you to share this word of encouragement with other people.
After Jesus had been raised from the dead (Easter - resurrection), Jesus appeared to faithful followers in order to continue instructing and inspiring them in the truth of his resurrection. Jesus’ followers had been gathering behind locked doors and encouraging one another while discerning what they would do next after Jesus’ death. This is when Jesus steps into their lives again - to encourage them to keep living into his faith. Jesus came right through those locked doors to breathe the peace of God’s sacred Spirit on them.
Sometime before his crucifixion, Jesus appointed Peter as the “rock” through whom Jesus would form Christ’s church. Peter was the person sent to oversee other faithful followers who were also sent to do and say as Jesus had taught them. Together with God’s sacred Spirit, Christ’s church moved forward.
Peter’s first letter is addressed to “God’s chosen strangers” who were being sent to vast regions of the known world. These were gatherings of Jesus’ followers now living in Asia and Asia Minor, which encompasses the third largest land-mass of our tiny island home called earth.
Peter wrote, “You now rejoice in this hope, even if it’s necessary for you to be distressed for a short time by various trials. This is necessary so that your faith may be found genuine” (5:6).
Obviously, Jesus inspired Peter’s words that were meant to be encouragement to Jesus’ followers to keep their living faith alive; even while they faced extraordinary challenges. Peter was encouraging these early followers of the Christ to live with confident hope in God’s unmerited gift of love with the certainty of resurrection now.
I pray you hear and share this encouragement for all people living in the midst of all sorts of uncertainties. It is a wonderful world when people are living that dream, “where seldom is heard a discouraging word.” I am living proof of encouragement from people in my life and I pray God’s sacred Spirit helps me to encourage others. How about you?!
That’s the timeless certainty and beauty and wonder in the Scriptures.