Two weeks ago, we began a worship series based on the three rules John Wesley gave his Methodist societies to help them live out Jesus’s instruction to “’love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “love your neighbor as yourself.’” In the first rule, “ Do No Harm,” Wesley taught that we must respond to the aggression and violence that is often directed at us in life in a loving way. For it is only in a response of love – which he labeled as “Do No Harm” – that everyone in an aggressive or violent situation (including the aggressor) can end up better off. That rule was not an original creation of Wesley, however, but his adaptation of Jesus’ teaching that “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also, and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat give, give them your cloak as well, and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”
In the book Blueprint for Discipleship, Kevin Watson tells how his church sent a group on a mission trip to Mexico. Since their project was to build a house, they got local lumber yards to donate construction materials. As they were loading the trailer to go, a church member pulled into the parking lot with a used bicycle. Not willing to cause a scene by denying the gift, they threw it in trailer, and headed off. In Mexico, they took the bike out of the trailer, put it in the room where they would sleep at night, and launched into their project. Toward the end of their time in Mexico, they remembered the bike. Knowing they couldn’t go home without giving it away, they began to worry. “After all,” they thought, “who would want a beat up old bike?”
Years ago, I bought a television at Sears that was marked down because it was a display model. Since it was technically new, it still carried a full warranty. But since it wasn’t new “in the box,” it didn’t travel home in a box. Nor did it come with packing materials or an instruction manual. But with the sale price being that good, we didn’t mind. At first. since we had no instruction manual, we set it up on our own. For most of the setup process that didn’t matter. But then we ran into a problem getting the Comcast remote to turn the television on and off – which we would have been able to do if we only had the 5 digit code in the instruction manual. For the next week, we therefore had to use the television remote to turn the television on and off, and the Comcast remote to do everything else.
Every summer, Pennsbury Manor borrows the platform we use for activities in Fellowship Hall as the stage for a naturalization ceremony. That ceremony is not a stand alone event, however, but was preceded by a long journey. The persons who become citizens on that stage had to first learn our nation’s history, how our government works, and what it means to be a citizen. Then they had to be tested on their knowledge. Those that passed were then allowed to step onto that stage to become a citizen. In addition to that event not being a stand alone occurrence, but the last event in a series of events, I would posit that it was also not the end of the journey.
Each day this past week, the children who attended Vacation Bible School learned the fact that “life is wild” but “God is good.” As they did so, they heard Bible stories about just how good God is, and made crafts to remind them of God’s goodness. They played games, ate snacks, and (as you heard) sang songs. Since the images for this year’s theme were some of the wild animals of Africa, I was reminded of a group of Christians who went on an African safari.