And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Today’s devotional has been prepared by Rev. Mark D. Roberts and can be found by clicking this link: https://depree.org/pay-attention-to-what-people-need-from-you/
When I was in graduate school, I served as a Teaching Fellow in a variety of undergraduate courses. In this role, I had a section of students with whom I met weekly and whose work I graded.
Most of my students were engaged and, if anything, over-eager. But one year I had a student who was a slacker, or in the language of the NRSV, an “idler.” He attended my section meeting sporadically and when he did, he seemed distracted. I was pretty sure he wasn’t doing any of the required reading. Then, when his first paper was due, he failed to turn it in. He didn’t even bother to explain why.
This particular student, I’ll call him Brian, was a big guy, a member of Harvard’s football team. I must confess that the combination of his poor performance and his being a football player led me to come up with a story that explained his sorry attitude. In my scenario, Brian didn’t really care about my class or even about learning. He got into Harvard because he was great on the football field and he was planning to graduate with as little effort as possible.
After Brian failed to turn in his first paper, I asked him to meet with me individually. When he showed up at my office, I was ready to read him the riot act. I was going to tell him how irresponsible he was. I was going to threaten to fail him if he didn’t improve. I had my admonishing speech all ready to go. “Admonish the idlers,” right?
But, before I gave my speech, I paused to ask Brian if there was any reason for his poor performance in my section. He looked at me with sad, tired eyes, saying nothing for a long time. Finally, he said, “Yes, there is a reason. I probably should have told you sooner. My mom is dying of cancer. She has only a few weeks to live. I’ve been going home as much as I can, trying to spend time with her. I’m failing all of my classes because, even when I’m on campus, I just don’t have the energy to work. I apologize, Mr. Roberts.” As I listened to Brian’s story, I sensed that it was completely true. I was stunned. I was saddened. I felt deep empathy, in part because at that time my dad was struggling with cancer that eventually took his life. I saw Brian, not as a slacker, but as a fellow human being who was carrying a heavy load of grief and fear.
In that moment I also had to repent of my former attitude. I felt ashamed about the assumptions I had made and the prejudices that warped my judgment. I was so, so glad that I asked Brian what was happening before blasting him with my admonishing speech.
Indeed, Brian’s mother did die during that semester. But he and I worked out a way for him to complete the course satisfactorily. I had the opportunity to show my concern for him during this painful time of life.
When I read 1 Thessalonians 5:14, I’m reminded of my experience with Brian. I was ready to admonish him as an idler when, in fact, he was a faint-hearted man in need of encouragement and a weak man in need of help. If I had not paid attention to what he needed and deserved from me, I would have treated him unjustly and without love.
I’m sure there have been times in my life when I have misjudged people and their motivations. But ever since that experience with Brian, I have tried to discover what people need from me. This requires paying attention, asking questions, listening sensitively, and being patient. Sometimes a word of admonishment is appropriate. At other times, encouragement and help are what’s needed.
No matter the context, whether in your workplace or your home, whether you’re at church or in the local market, let me urge you to use your mind and heart to discern where people are and what they truly need. Ask the Lord for help and follow the guidance of the Spirit.
Dr. June’s Recital
Dr. June will perform a piano recital on October 30th at 3 pm in our sanctuary. All are invited to join us in the church sanctuary as we listen to Dr. June’s beautiful musical performance. There will be light refreshments after the recital in Fellowship Hall.
Passing Out Halloween Candy
We need a few volunteers to be a friendly face for our church by helping pass out candy on Halloween (anytime between 4-8) outside the church front lawn. If you’re interested, please notify Pastor Chris.
Operation Christmas Child
Our annual Operation Christmas Child outreach event is quickly approaching. During the coming weeks, our church is gathering supplies to ensure families in need have presents on Christmas Day. There are two ways you can contribute to this important cause: You can pick up gifts and supplies and drop them off at the back of the sanctuary (click the link to see what items OCC is looking for).
You can donate, and the church will purchase gifts on your behalf. You can make the check out to Flemington UMC and put “Operation Christmas Child” in the memo.
After service on Sunday, Nov 20th, we will be packaging all of the gifts and
Information Session: One Leadership Council
Almost two years ago, our church transitioned to a new administrative model called the One Leader Council. Since then, we know that many of you have had important questions about the one leadership board and why our church switched to it. After church on Sunday, November 13th, Pastor Chris will give a presentation to explain this model and answer any questions you might have about it. The presentation will take place in Fellowship Hall.
Brainstorming Bicentennial Logo
Our bicentennial committee is looking to create a logo for our 200th anniversary and could use your help! If you have ideas of what an inspiring logo might look like or an actual design, please feel free to share those with Bruce or Beth LaPenta.
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