Yesterday in the sermon I told the story of the greeter at the gate of a large city, whose job it was to greet and advise every visitor entering the city.
The first man came up to the gate and asked, “What are the people in this city like?” The greeter, being a wise man asked, “What were the people like in the city you last visited?” The man answered, “they were rude, surly and unhelpful.” The greeter answered, “You will find them much the same here.”
A second man came up to the gate and asked the same question. Again the greeter asked about the people in the last town. The answer, “They were helpful, cheerful and co-operative.” The greeter answered, “you will find them much the same here.”
Isn’t that the truth. Angry, difficult people end up being lonely and bitter. Cheerful, thankful people will likely find themselves surrounded by many friends and enjoy many pursuits. In other words we reap what we sow. But it can also be said that we see what we expect. If we expect a problem in a situation, we can usually find them. If we expect people to be rude and disruptive then we will find people who fit that description.
What strikes me is that we can say all those same things about our view of God. We all know people who believe that God is angry, judgmental, vengeful and they want nothing to do with him. Yet we believe God to be loving, gracious and kind. It is all in how you look at it.
Now sometimes God has taken a few high handed tactics to get my attention and there have been times when he has hauled me up short because of my behavior. But then as a parent I have done the same thing with my daughter… it’s called I love you too much to let you continue on the path you are on.
What I think is truly the saddest thing about the church, however is that we can often appear to the outside world as rude, surly, unwelcoming. Heck, sometimes we aren’t even loving to one another. Is it any wonder that people are not attracted to our congregations?
I believe that it is imperative for all of us to so align ourselves with God’s will that we express his love in our words and actions. How we handle difficult situations speaks volumes about our relationship with God. We all have problems in our family lives, we know pain, disappointment and grief. Yet if we handle those situations with grace, hope and YES, even joy we speak volumes about the trust that we have in God’s providential care.
What I am discovering about my journey through life right now, with my professional disappointments and my family stressors, is that I have a choice about how I go about greeting each day and coping with each situation. I have chose to keep my relationship with God strong, and I am reaping the benefits of that decision and the behaviors that have resulted from it. In addition I have been blessed by a wonderful network of friends who have loved me and supported to me and listened to me when I needed to cry, but through it all I say God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.
When I enter the city, the church, the next alligator pit, whatever is next on my horizon, I will take with me the attitude that God is good, and that I will find people who love him and serve him, and who will be supportive, loving and gracious in our relationship with one another. Won’t I be disappointed and hurt? Perhaps. But more importantly I will continue to be blessed and loved and live in Grace. It just doesn’t get better than that. Thanks be to God