by Beth Kucera
Every once in a while, I take a turn at using my limited retail selling skills and work a day as a floor walker in the shop in which we sell antiques. It is an established antique store that contains a-little-bit-of-this-and-that. The shop owners like to have dealers staff the shop and I enjoy the odd day out to take my turn wandering from floor to floor to help customers, open display cases and wrap purchases as needed.
Recently while I was wandering around, a customer walked up to me and simply said, "Got any Jesus?"
That was it. I suppose being a preacher's kid and enthusiastic church volunteer—a more theologically based and creative answer should have immediately come to mind—instead I stared blankly and replied, "Pardon me?"
"Jesus, JESUS—you know THE Jesus—I buy vintage framed pictures of Jesus, the Last Supper or praying or in the boat with the big storm. You know, with his arms open, you know:
J-E-S-U-S.” The fellow was agitated and impatient.
"Yes, yes, I know Jesus, well, yes, let me show you what we have," I replied. He and I headed off to look at the shop's offerings.
What he was looking for and collects are those early 20th century framed prints that used to grace many homes and Sunday School rooms—the artist renditions of Jesus at the table with his disciples or Jesus alone in the garden or Jesus with arms outstretched surrounded by little lambs and smiling. All six-feet tall of handsomeness, complete with brown naturally wavy hair, (always shampooed I might add) and blue eyes and soft pastel robes. That Jesus. All the better if these depictions are in their original frames and in good condition, with no mildew marks and not faded from the sun. The shop had one framed print, even that wasn’t in the best condition.
My insistent customer looked at what we had for sale and said, No, no, I already have THAT Jesus. I am looking for the really unusual Jesus. "
Actually, if Beth’s customer had looked more carefully at Jesus in the boat in the big storm, he would have discovered THAT Jesus Christ, the son of God, whom even the wind and waves obeyed, a unique Savior we can trust with our very lives.
Every day begins with dawn, and every day is new and fresh, unlike any other day ever. "Dawn signals the start of something new. It's a natural theme for fall--the beginning of a school year and the end of summer.
But "dawn" also suggests all kinds of other new beginnings:
- The joy of a new year of serving in a ministry of the church.
- The beginning of our preaching series in Romans 8.
- The start-up of small groups, both new and those already established.
- The journey of refugees from homeland to alien land, where a new life awaits.
- The "safe family homes," where children can find the dawn of a home that is truly safe.
- For those who mourn, they might find themselves in a darkness before dawn. Yet with time, dawn does comes.
Just about a year ago at Connection Point, a new small group came together, clueless to what God had in store for group members. Here's their story.
Our small group had been meeting for a few weeks, when we planned to have breakfast with another couple in the group who loves coffee as much as we do.
We sent the cheerful email to confirm, “Looking forward to our breakfast.”
Then the reply came. Our friends had been up for two nights in a row dealing with their son and the police. Did we still want to come? Our reply, “Of course.”
Over great coffee and a simple breakfast, we talked, cried, laughed and prayed together. On that bright fall morning, it was as if Jesus had pushed us into the deep end with the single promise that he had not abandoned us.
Our small group is now coming up on its one-year anniversary. As we look back, I think most all of us would say, “Wow. What a year!” Considering that most of us didn’t know each other a year ago, we’ve waded through a lot together this year.
A partial list of the challenges/issues our small group and its families face include:
• Under-employment/job transition
• The death of a parent
• Felony crime
• Drug-related charge
• Psychological issues/illness
• Same-sex issues
• Marital discord and separation
• Working after decades as a homeschool mom
• Water, water, water everywhere, but must it be in the basement and the empty condo?
• Caring for a grandchild with disabilities
Did all that really happen? And in just one year? Yes, and our group isn’t even that big. All of that happened and for many of these areas, there is no end in sight. But guess what? He has not abandoned us. And we haven’t abandoned one another. Ours is not a group that expects special status as Christians. Life can be hard. But through everything, the even better truth is this: God is good. One of the ways we see the goodness of God is through this group of people, most of whom we barely knew just a year ago.
So if we’re not looking at all of this stuff, what is in our sight? Last year we read through 1 Peter. Our weekly look into God’s Word helped us to make the focus on God and not ourselves or our struggles. We didn’t ignore the struggles, but we didn’t let our group time get turned into a therapy session. Our focus was on the wonder of Jesus.
As we focused on Jesus, some of our best conversations were the ones with God. In those quiet moments after the prayer time had ended, there was a sweetness and awe that lingered as we realized that our hope wasn’t a vague “we just hope things turn out,” but a steadfast hope and confidence in Christ and the gospel.
Some people think College Church is “the perfect church with perfect people.” None of us is perfect, but all of us are deeply loved by our Savior. God has entrusted us with some precious people who are walking through tough times. It is our gift and our honor to share our own struggles with each other and to know that we care for one another. We want to please Christ and honor him through all of this.
May grace and peace be multiplied in us!
By the way, we have room for a few others to join us…if you’re up for a wild ride of trust. If not us, there are many other groups. Jump into the deep end—get connected to a small group.
There are a number of ways you can get connected to a small group. Go to the Small Groups Finder or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or attend this Sunday’s Connection Point event at 12:30 p.m. in the Commons.
"I arise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words." (Psalms 119:147)
"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard." (Isaiah 58:8)
Top photo: Dawn at the Amazon River
Bottom photo: Dawn at Bocachica Island (Colombia)
Photos by Lauren Januzik