“I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can we find anyone else like this?

Genesis 41:37-45

“Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” This is a question that is asked in the Genesis passage we read earlier this morning. This passage was asked about a young man, Joseph form Canaan….. an Egyptian prisoner. This week, however, I found myself asking a similar question. “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?”

You see, this past week I had the joy of traveling in the church van to North Carolina for a week of service with some of our wonderful youth. When Nick invited me to chaperone the trip I was ecstatic about the opportunity to go to the Hinton Rural Life center. As a youth, I had taken a few trips to Hinton and had the opportunity of serving individuals in rural North Carolina so I was excited about sharing this experience with some of our youth. We left the church about 9:00 last Sunday, arriving at Hinton about 3:00 in the afternoon.

It was during our orientation meeting that I realized I would not be working with any of our youth at the work site during the week. At first I was a little bummed about our group splitting up, but I soon realized the wonderful opportunity each of us had been given. Following dinner that evening I met my group for the first time. This was an eclectic group of teenagers ranging in age from 12 to 17. One 14 year old guy name Wesley automatically stuck out. He was what I assumed to be your typical run of the mill 14 year old boy. As we sat in our meeting to plan our goals for the upcoming week he had the typical “I am way too cool to be here” expression on his face. He crossed his arms as the rested on his chest and informed all of us that he was only reason he was here was that his mom made him come.

As we sat in our meeting the only thought that went through my head was “oh great, this young guy is going to be really fun.” If only I had known then that he would be such a joy. At this meeting we learned that we woluld be working for the Farmer family. Both the husband and the wife have been physically disabled for quite awhile. Often they have their granddaughter, Emma, who stays with them while her mother works. Our Hinton staff leader told us that Emma would quickly become one of our best friends so we all looked forward to meeting the whole family but especially this little girl.

The next morning we all loaded up the van. Wesley was very quite, sitting near the back of the van. For the entire 20 minuet ride from the camp to home where we would be working he did not say much. The day progressed and Wesley did the work that was asked of him. He painted a large portion of the porch and started to open up a bit to some of his teammates.

Around about 11:00 am, the family arrived at the house. Mrs. Farmer had been visiting the doctor and on their way back to their home they decided to pick up… guess who…that precious little girl Emma.

For whatever reason Emma became fascinated with Wesley. She kept calling him her best friend and asking her best friend to push her in the swing. When he would go back to painting the porch, she would yell, “Hey Best friend, Where are you going? Come push me some more!” This phrase would often be followed by a “plllllllleeeeeaaaasssseee…” At one point I looked at Wesley and said, “hey just go play with her, we are ok painting without you.” Wesley and Emma became close friends.

I quickly realized that Wesley was very gifted in working with children. He entertained Emma for four days. When she would ask him questions, he would work with her to figure out the answer. She continued to refer to Wesley as her best friend. The residents of the home on which we were working noticed Wesley’s ease with playing with their granddaughter. They asked him if he had siblings, he responded that he did have younger siblings. Wesley took pride in his ministry with little girl in North Carolina. He knew that by serving her, he was serving the Lord. When we looked at our team, looked at our project, and got to know the family to whom we were called to serve. It was obvious that when we asked “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” Wesley was the young man filled with the spirit of God to serve a precious child of God.

The Genesis text we read earlier continues our journey with a similar young man who had gifts and talents that were quite surprising. It was almost unheard of for a young boy from Canaan, an Egyptian prisoner, to have the amount of power that we see Joseph hold. But he had a special ability, the power to dream dreams and see visions. These dreams had the ability to for see a famine that would have the potential to devastate Egyptian society. When pharaoh asked “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” Joseph was his guy. Joseph’s talent, inspired by the Almighty, Given by the Lord, lead an entire society through a time of turmoil, tragedy, and devastation.

But the talents that god gives us do not always lead to our own personal success. Lets step back a few chapters and remember the first dream that Joseph had. His first dream in Genesis 37 made is brothers angry with him. They were “filled with jealousy.” I am sure the conversations between his siblings went something like this. “Who does he think he is?” He thinks we will bow to him? Well, Joseph another thing coming if he thinks we will bow down before him! We will show him!” And show him they did. They sold their brother, their own flesh and blood into slavery. They lied to their father about Joseph’s fate. They did away with him so that they would no longer have to hear about the power that Joseph would one day hold.

But God had a different plan for Joseph….A plan that would reveal the Lord to the Egyptians people. God planed for Joseph to be an representative… a person that would help out the Egyptians and give glory to the Lord God. And so pharaoh asked, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” When the pharaoh asked this question, God allowed Joseph to be available to respond “Here I am, Send me!”

All of us have unique gifts that are given to us by our Lord. Paul articulates this well when he writes to those in Corinth saying, “There are varieties of Gifts but the same spirit, and there are varieties of services but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” And it is true each of us have our own unique gift to offer in service to God’ people and this community of faith.

Some of us are gifted in praising our Lord through song, that is not one of my gifts. Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” Some of us are gifted with the ability to care for others… calling those who are ill, visiting those who are homebound. Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” Some of us are gifted with hospitality by welcoming new individuals and families into this community of faith. By calling those who visit us for worship and following up with them. Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” Some of us are gifted in caring for the poor in our community… dedicating hours and hours on end to Habitat for Humanity or Rebuilding Together. Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” Some of us volunteer hours on end cooking meals for times of fellowship, planning Vacation Bible School, leading Habits groups, or sewing clothes for the United Methodist Children’s homes. Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” And some of us, like my new friend Wesley, are gifted with the passion, desire and ability to teach the children and youth among us. And once again we ask, Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?”

Each of us has been given a unique gift or ability with which to serve God’s kingdom, but we have to be willing to serve God and our neighbor. We have to be willing to respond to God’s call on our own lives. We have to be willing to care for our neighbor, spread the good news with our friend, and worship the living God as a people dedicated to serve the “Lord our God will all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind.” Our final hymn this morning asks us all if we are “able” to use the gifts that our Creator has given us. The answer is yes, we are all able. Joseph was able, Wesley was able, we are all able but the question is are we willing. Are we willing to sacrifice our own success, are we willing to sacrifice our time, and are we willing to serve God? Are we willing? Are we willing to do what it takes to make this community of faith as strong as it can be. Are we willing to use our gifts for the betterment of Prattville? Are we willing to allow the Lord God Almighty to work in and through us as we seek to be a people that serve God and our neighbor? Are we willing?

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