Being the presence of Christ.

What a gift it is to have friends come and visit. We had a friend visit with us this past Sunday. His presence with us was a visible reminder that other people who live in other parts of the world experience life differently. Not only are their day-to-day lives different from ours, but also the challenges they face and the trials that they endure. Our friend’s retelling of the murder of his colleague poignantly underscored in a somber way those differences.

Our friend and his family spend most of their days in a place far different from our East Tennessee. Yet, we do share a common faith, a common experience of grace and redemption. Out of that experience of grace and redemption, we share a common calling. It is a calling to be the presence of Christ as we live out our lives. We are called by the profound act of love demonstrated to us and for us in the life, teachings and death of Jesus Christ. We are to extend grace as it has been extended to us, to give hope as it has been given to us, and to show mercy as it has been shown to us.

We share a common calling with those around the world who have heard the voice of the one who said to us “. . . come unto me and I will give you rest.” We are called by the same words: “Go ye into all the world,” “When you have done unto the least of these,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We are called with the same words to the same calling, though we are called to different tasks in different places.

Our friend will return next month to the place that God has called him and his family to serve. He goes with courage and great faith to do what God calls each of us to do, wherever we find ourselves, to be the presence of Christ. Even though we are surely called to be Christ to those around us wherever we are, we should not dismiss too easily the idea that God might very well have a task for us that would require no less courage, nor less faith, than that of our friend and his family as they return to the place they call home. May our prayers rise continually for their safety and well-being.

Last month, you brought to the altar over 500 pairs of shoes and offered them to the Lord. Those shoes were delivered to the Western Heights Baptist Center. They will be given to men and women, boys and girls who need them. They will be given as a tangible reminder that in the midst of their need, they are not alone in this world, but that Christ is with them. Giving shoes to protect the feet of the needy is being the presence of Christ.

This month is our Tennessee Partners in Missions offering as well as the month that we collect blankets for Lost Sheep Ministry for the homeless. The gift you give to the mission offering will be used by six ministries across the state as they seek to be the presence of Christ. The blankets will be given to homeless people in our city to warm them this winter. Again, participating in either or both of these offerings is a way that you are the presence of Christ in a world that longs for his grace and peace.

With courage and faith, let us be the presence of Christ together so that all may know the joy and hope that we have found in him.