Abundance and Blessings

-by Brice Jenkins-

Photo Credits: Brice Jenkins Pictured: Job, Reuben P. and Norman Shawchuck. "A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants." Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1983.

Photo Credits: Brice Jenkins
Pictured: Job, Reuben P. and Norman Shawchuck. “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.” Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1983.

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!

 

 

Returning to Highlands

–by Brice Jenkins–

Photo Credits: Emily Wilmarth

Photo Credits: Emily Wilmarth

Sunday, June 14th was “Heritage Sunday,” marking a point in the year when we celebrated the homecoming of many church members to the Highlands area for the summer season.  This day got me thinking: What does returning to Highlands mean to me? Though I lived in Highlands year-round for about a decade, I myself have been a seasonal resident during the past five years, returning to this area either for holidays or summers while in college.

While making the return trip home from Princeton in mid-May, I can honestly say that I felt a great sense of comfort when I finally saw the mountains on the horizon.  Highlands is such a special town; and though we all recognize that the mild summers are great (they definitely beat the heat and humidity in New Jersey!), I think there is something much more powerful about this area.  From the top of Sunset Rock, we can witness a grand display of God’s creation. Whether taking a stroll down Main Street, eating at one of the local restaurants, or shopping in one of the many stores, there is a feeling of warmth and safety that this town gives us.  Whatever reason we are here, it seems we can always find a little piece of mind when in Highlands. Personally, when I am back home it usually means that I am free from the stress of academia, at least for a few months.

This type of refuge from the hustle and bustle of life is special. Whether it is through the hospitality of friends and family, the display of God’s awesome creation, or a simple gesture of kindness towards a stranger, these are all manifestations of God’s character and presence; they reflect, in some small way, the grace and love that God showed us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Such experiences can also help us reflect upon the ultimate message of love and reconciliation that is in the Gospel. As Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (NRSV).  Not only does God offer us true peace through Christ, but we are promised “eternal comfort” as well.  Revelation 21:4 gives us a glimpse of this comfort: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” What a message of hope!

Thus I think Highlands, with its many splendors, can be a place where we experience God, his blessings, and call to serve. Not only can we praise God for his blessings of temporal comfort that we experience in Highlands, but we can actively reflect upon the magnitude of God’s grace and the eternal comfort we will experience due to Christ’s atonement for our sin. While Christ is the light through whom we are given true peace, we as Christ’s followers can actively shine that light to other people through our hospitality, friendliness, humility, and forgiveness.  That character, I believe, is essential to Highlands and is what makes returning to this town so special.  Let us keep that spirit alive and bring glory to God all the while!

 

Church Blog

Welcome to the FPC Highlands Blog!  Whether it is a copy of a recent sermon, an announcement concerning upcoming events, or a weekly devotional about a particular idea relevant to the life of FPCH, you can find it here!  Please check back for regular updates, and we hope that you will benefit and learn from this space.