I remember the chocolate pies my Aunt Eunice made—six inches tall, rich and delectable. I also remember the mud pies my brother and I made. Once, we tasted them, choking and spitting as we ran to find a hose to rinse the taste out of our mouths.
Like pies, there is a big difference between real relationships and those based on pretense. None of us care to admit how often we find ourselves pretending. Instead of enjoying depth and authenticity soaked in the love of Jesus, we’ve become skilled at playacting. We keep going, hoping our mud pies will magically transform into real chocolate.
Help from the Master Baker Thankfully, we have a baker who helps us. His recipe? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” -John 13:35. Even more powerful instructions are in Jesus’ final words to his disciples the night before he was crucified:
“My prayer...that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” - John 17:20-23
Our Unity is Our Testimony We are called to oneness, to unity. If we allow divisions to come between us or, if in our apathy, we simply fall away from each other, then our testimony to the world around us is invalidated. What we have to offer is as appealing as mud pie—fun to play with but no thanks. When we are one in Christ and with one another in him, then the world will know that Jesus is real and that he is with us.
Oneness Takes Work How do we as a Church function as one? In the words of pastor and author, Tony Evans, “We don’t. He does—both in us and through us.” As humans, we seem to be naturally prone to strife and division. But Jesus will do the work of oneness in us and through us when we turn fully to him. Oneness takes commitment and work. It means that we meet often together and don’t give up when we are bored, when things seem shallow or the style is not what we like. It means that we love by sharing our resources and giving to others in need (1 John 3:18). That is our testimony.
Opportunities for Unity Thankfully, God has blessed us with warm loving fellowship at SMC. The way I see people caring for one another is truly evident of the abiding love of Jesus. Our relationships are not based on pretense. Our goal of practicing meaningful and genuine relationships is evident as we continue to press into our vision focus—Strengthening Meaningful Connections with Christ, Church and Community. As we commit to grow in love for one another, we know it takes work - to confront each other (face to face), work out our differences, encourage one another and look for Spirit given opportunities to grow toward one another instead of further apart. Opportunities abound with Sunday school, Table Church, small groups, fellowship and service. Let us approach these areas with renewed hope and commitment praying,
Lord, take us deeper. Lead us into the oneness that you have with the Father. Teach us to truly love one another. Make us a community that speaks loudly to the world about who you are!
Tim Bentch, Lead Pastor
Seeing God's Smile
Last week after Pastor John and I had shared our prayer concerns with one another, John prayed that I would see God’s smile beaming at me. I was struck by his prayer and it has stayed with me ever since. When I lift my inner eyes to the Lord in prayer do I see his smile? I realized that mostly I do not. My feelings of disappointment in myself tend to create a lens that changes God’s smile into a gaze of indifference or a frown. But, the scriptures say that God delights in us (Psalm 18:19 ESV). That delight surely includes a beaming smile of love towards us.
Just as my parent’s beaming smiles greeted me every morning, so God’s radiant smile greets me as well - and it makes no difference how successful I’ve been or haven’t been in my spiritual life.
In the past week, my world seems brighter. As I come downstairs for my morning coffee, I remind myself that God is smiling and I start to perk up even before my first sip of morning brew. Throughout the day when I start to feel down, discouraged or indifferent, I raise my inner eyes to gaze into the radiant smile of God - his smile of favor, unconditional acceptance, desire for relationship, approval.
This morning, I asked Susan Freeman how how she has experienced God this week. She replied, “I sit in the sun and I feel its warmth and I know that it is God smiling on his creation.” It was beautiful to hear this message repeated and confirmed to me! May we all know God’s smile upon us!
Tim Bentch, Lead Pastor