Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing devotions based on the United Methodist membership vows, where we pledge to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This week’s focus is PRESENCE.
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had reclined again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, slaves are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
One of the challenges of being present to others is having the discipline to do so even when we are feeling stressed, anxious, tired, or afraid.
I can’t imagine a more extreme example of this than what Jesus experienced in the Upper Room on the night he was betrayed. The gospels make it clear that Jesus knew what was about to happen. Most of us in this situation of fear would probably retreat into ourselves, turning away from others.
But Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, he turned toward others – and not just to seek their reassurance, pity, or encouragement. He turned toward them in love, going so far as to wash their feet as a sign of his commitment to serve them to the end. And, the way John tells the story, Jesus’ actions were not limited to the eleven who remained loyal to him. They also included the one who betrayed him.
Most of us, when we are stressed and anxious, have a hard time even speaking civilly to the people closest to us. We become so focused on ourselves we forget others have feelings. And heaven forbid that in those moments someone we care about has a need that requires our attention – because when we’re off in our own little worlds, we’re no good to anybody.
To be present for someone else, to be able to get beyond ourselves and our own worries to genuinely love, care and serve another, is a tremendous gift. It requires self-control and self-discipline, and above all, the deep faith that in those moments, our own anxieties will be cared for by a Savior who loves us more deeply than we can imagine. Trusting God’s presence allows us to be present to others, no matter the circumstance.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How do you know that you’re stressed to the point where you are at risk of losing perspective and retreating into your own problems? Is there a certain sensation you begin to feel in your body? Or do you generally not notice until someone close to you points it out (maybe because you’ve gotten snippy with them)? Today, if you feel yourself pulling back from people, take a moment to regain perspective. Offer a prayer as a way of putting your problems into God’s capable hands. And then try to re-engage with the people in front of you to see if it doesn’t go better.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to draw inspiration from your example in the Upper Room. Give us faith that we can entrust everything we are stressed and fearful about to your care, so that we can be present to love and serve the people in our lives as you have called us to do. Amen.