Sermoncitos, a family tradition


Circles of Influence

When we moved to Texas, our high school daughter said she felt like she was in a bubble looking out at the world. Her circle of friends was gone, and she rejected all those who would reach out to her. She even rejected us, and left us with no option but to leave the door open and love her. Years later this strategy paid off and now she calls us every day expressing gratitude and love to us. Now she reaches out to others in love, blessing the lives of many.

He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
"Outwitted" an Epigram by Edwin Markham, 1852-1940

Isaiah describes God as one who draws a circle to take us in: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). Jesus was often criticized for who he associated with, but he kept expanding his circle to include the neglected of his region and beyond. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10: 16).

We can choose each day who to include in our circle. Jesus returned to his “own country” to teach, “and they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:57, 58). Some chose to reject him, others chose to take him in. When he heard of the death of John the Baptist, “...he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, [thousands] followed him on foot out of the cities” (Matthew 14:13).

We can choose each day how to react to our trials. Two years ago I was assigned to the Lupton Branch of the church and my circle expanded and dozens of people included me in their circle. When the arsonist burned down our meeting house, the church members in Gallup took us in. Some in Lupton decided to wait for a new building rather than following us to a “place apart”. Now that our new building is nearly ready, we expect that many will come and see whether any good thing can come out of Lupton (John 1:46). “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Lupton’s trial by fire is not just a trial of faith, but a test of each person’s ability to take in others in during a time of great need.

When the fire destroyed a place of worship for one group, did those of other groups consider their grief? When the new building becomes available will the community come together to encourage the members? Will the members reach out to all those in need, members or not? Will brothers forgive one another? Will each accept a responsibility to be of service?

What happens to anyone affects us all. Can we, like Jesus, show empathy to our families as well as to those who are different from us? “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). To be a fellow citizen is to draw your circle to let others in, and reach out to include others through your interest and service.

Teach me, Father, how to be
Kind and patient as a tree.
Joyfully the crickets croon
Under the shady oak at noon;
Beetle, on his mission bent,
Tarries in that cooling tent.
Let me, also, cheer a spot,
Hidden field or garden grot-
Place where passing souls can rest
On the way and be their best.
from “A Prayer” by Edwin Markham, 1852-1940