-by Brice Jenkins-
For the past few weeks, Pastor Emily and I have met with the church leaders and the seminary intern over at Highlands United Methodist Church to discuss a section from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck. The book itself consists of weekly scripture readings, secondary texts, and hymns that can be used to structure one’s daily prayer time. Each section corresponds to a week in the liturgical calendar, and there are daily scripture readings and other writings that speak to that week’s particular theme. This is a really valuable resource; personally, I have really enjoyed using it as a structured format for my own prayer time!
Pastors Emily and I unfortunately could not meet with the UMC staff this past Tuesday. However, I wanted to write a brief devotional about this week’s theme, which is “God’s Abundant Provision.” The scripture readings for this week display God’s amazing grace, both in temporal and material blessings, but also in God’s giving of Christ, who became the means for our salvation. I find these texts to be a great source of comfort, because it is easy to forget that God does provide. Just having the ability to have food each day, a house to go home to, a community to fellowship with…these are all great blessings that extend from the amazing grace of God. I, like many, often take such things for granted because they become expected. But truly, just having the expectation that tomorrow will come is such an amazing proof of God’s continuing sustenance.
Yet I think God also gives us things that manifest themselves as unique spiritual truths later on, even though they might not seem like material or temporal blessings at the time. For example, as a rower in college, I struggled with the fact that the sport (being such a time consuming activity) took me away from time that I could be spending in the church. I had made practice and performance such priorities in my life time that I wondered if it was truly God’s will for me. Yet I realize now that God put me in rowing for a variety of reasons. Not only was God equipping me with experiences, skills, and connections that would become very useful—even comforting—as I started Seminary in a new area (especially Princeton; there is a very passionate rowing community there), but God was also instilling in me a sense of patience, resolve, and confidence that only a sport like rowing can show someone. Having the ability to stay physically healthy and find fellowship with others on the team were certainly blessings in and of themselves, but God was also giving me a spiritual insight that I did not realize or fully appreciate until later on.
But as one of my professors once said, “We are being equipped so that we can serve both God and others.” That, I believe, puts blessings into perspective. God does not grant us extra provisions because we have somehow found extra favor in God’s sight. Rather, like God says to Abraham in Genesis 12:2: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (NRSV; italics added). The expectation is that we use our blessings, both material and spiritual, to help and serve other people who need them too. Like Pastor Curtis said in his sermon last Sunday, we are people who feed hungry people. So I urge you today: reflect upon your blessings and see God’s presence in your life even when it feels like he is distant, and think of ways that you can use your skills and resources as means to bless and serve others!