We've been in the John Wesley class for 26 years - all of our married life. A few times a year, we "socialize" during Sunday School. We used to always do it on the "5th Sunday," but over the years we've started doing it just a couple of times of year. We bring food to share and catch up on each other's lives. I had prepared a devotion for yesterday and we enjoyed visiting so much that we only did announcements and prayer requests. I used Max Lucado's Come Thirsty book and used some of his chapter straight out of the book. I give him credit!! Here is the devotion:
Open with prayer
Have you heard of the Christmas Shoe Box project? A friend of ours, Ann Caton, asked us to help fill shoe boxes one year when we were all in a disciple class together. We bought little toys from the dollar store or Walmart and socks and underwear. I think we bought a jump rope and some markers. The couriers who deliver these shoe boxes actually get teary eyed when they describe delivery day. The children are thrilled when they receive the brightly colored boxes. They hold them and ooh and aah over them. When they finally open them, their eyes grow wide at the toys – perhaps a slinky or a yo-yo or a tiny doll. The gift these children cherish the most is the letter. Tucked inside each box, occupying little space but bringing great joy and excitement, is a handwritten note. Lines form around a translator as one by one the notes are read. Dear Jose, My name is Matthew and I am in the fourth grade. Do you go to school? I play soccer. Do you? I have a cat and his name is Snuggles because he loves to be petted. I’ve heard that some of the children sleep with their notes, amazed that someone in a far away country is thinking about them.
Did you know that we are like those children? We actually have Christmas everyday. We are given a “box” filled with the work of Jesus – his death on the cross and his resurrection. In our box, we also find the energy of Jesus Christ himself. We can indeed do all things through Christ and his strength. It never ceases to amaze me. When I am using his strength, I have amazing energy. In our box, we also find the love of Christ and we realize that nothing can separate us – not even death – from Jesus.
Sometimes when the couriers pass out the shoe boxes to the children, the children think the box itself is the gift. Were no one to tell them, they might carry the box to their poor home, place it in an honored location and admire it and show it off, but never open it.
Once again, did you know that we sometimes do the same thing with our gift? Max Lucado says that we have a tendency to place Jesus on the mantel of our hearts. We respect him but we never completely open his gifts. Lucado goes on to say, “Jesus is so willing to enter your world. The hospital room? He goes there. Late night deadlines? He’ll stay up with you. Are you watching the slow death of someone you love? He’ll sit by your side every single minute."
Don’t make the mistake that the associates of Lawrence of Arabia made. He took them to Paris after World War 1. They had never seen such sights. But do you know what impressed them the most? The faucet in the bathtub of their hotel room. They turned it on and off, on and off, amazed that with a twist of the wrist they could have all the water they wanted. When the time came to leave Paris and return to the east, Lawrence found them in the bathroom with wrenches, trying to disconnect the spout. “We need faucets,” they said. “If we have them, we will have all the water we want.” They didn’t understand the role of the faucet. Spouts carry water, not produce it. Spigots are the tool, not the source.
Through what faucets has God poured his love into our life? How about this church? Or the church you grew up in? How about your spouse? How about your grandmother? God’s water passes through many faucets. I was thinking about all of the faucets in my life. The current ones, of course, are the easiest to name – Mark and his sweet mama. This church. Each one of you. My Emmaus walk. My kids. My friends who have gone on, Susan Peterson and Polly Allison. Thinking even further back – Mrs. Saulter, numerous youth Sunday School teachers, my youth choir director, my high school choral director, Inez Lane, my sister, Becky, who had to put up with me through the worst years of my life – my list could go on and on. God’s gift comes in many packages. The treasure is not just the package. Each person I named is a treasure in my life, but the true treasure is the giver Himself. The one who breathed that breath of life into each of those persons – Jesus Christ Himself. Over the course of my lifetime, some of the packages have been torn. Some have been destroyed. Some of my faucets have developed a clog. When that happened, my heart was heavy. Sometimes very heavy. But then I have always heard the voice of the living water – “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” God himself is the fountain of living water. We can thank God for the faucets. We can thank God for the boxes in which his gifts come. BUT we need to remember to open them and we need to read his love letter to us.
Dear Lisa – Dear Mark – Dear Gary – Dear Dona – Dear Liz – Dear Fred,
Are you thirsty? Come and drink. I am the one who comforts you. I delight in you and claim you as my own. I will never fail you or forsake you. Come and drink. I love you. Your father.
Let’s close with prayer.