First United Methodist Church

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News & Devotions

Devotion from Pastor Rachel (Oct. 8)

I remember a few years back being on a flight with a really funny flight stewardess. She was explaining all of the safety features that most people tune out these days because they know how to buckle their seatbelt, they understand the job of an exit row and they can follow the in-flight rules. She ended her spiel by making us all giggle when she said that, “In the case of a drop in cabin pressure, please put on your mask first before assisting your child.” Then she added, for extra effect, “If you have more than one child, pick your FAVORITE…”

What a silly concept…choosing my favorite child. I laughed when I heard her say that because at the time, we were only parents to Emmaline. Choosing our favorite child is easy when we only had one; for the first 28 months, Emmaline was our world. Everything revolved around her sleep schedule, her joys and sorrows and Ryan and I shared this new season of parenting really well. And then we became a family of four and the rules for the game changed indefinitely. I now loved Charlie as much as I loved Emmaline and I couldn’t imagine EVER having to choose between the two. Now at age 4 and 2, Emmaline wants more of my time and attention and so she often forces me to set boundaries of time with each. But as I think about their little lives and how my heart has burst open because they are mine, I could not, will not consider ever choosing a FAVORITE. Now there are moments (of course) where I enjoy my time with one more than the other, I’m allowed to say that, right? But ultimately, I desire that both of my children, Emmaline and Charlie will grow every day to know that they are EQUALLY loved, secure, significant and at peace.

This idea of CHOOSING YOUR FAVORITE has challenged me the more I grow in my faith and from a parenting perspective, it is impossible. But every day, we are shown two things and asked to choose. Especially right now, we are stuck in the middle of having to choose between one or the other. I’m not just talking about our Presidential candidates, but living day by day in this world of Black and White. I preached a sermon series on Adam Hamilton’s book, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, while serving my first church in Gainesville in the Spring of 2016. While that might have been a pertinent topic then, my guess is, four years later, the ability or the willingness to see Gray in a world of Black and White has become even more challenging. But Jesus was a “Gray” kind of guy, was he not? In the First Century world, there were a lot of Black and White perspectives, or far extremes. But somehow Jesus always found the balance; he always found the compromise. Even when backed into a corner by the Pharisees or the religious elite forcing him to choose this OR that, Jesus often times chose BOTH/AND.

We live in a world that asks you to pick your FAVORITE, but we follow a God incarnate who says that all are beloved and matter equally.

When you live in a world that is forcing you to take sides, for instance:
Democrat OR Republican
Traditional OR Progressive
Catholic OR Protestant
Virtual School OR In-Person School
Israel OR Palestine
Gators OR Seminoles (just kidding)…

How do you choose your favorite? How do you pick just ONE? Why is this all that we have to consider? This isn’t healthy and this isn’t right. You see, I believe God created us to be BOTH/AND kind of people with open hearts and willing minds to consider the GRAY, rather than the two extremes.

To quote Rev. Adam Hamilton from his book, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, chapter five says this:

“When we can hold together, in tension, the call to freedom that comes by grace and the call to holiness in seeking to live by the Spirit, we find the sweet spot- the perfect balance between grace and holiness- that allows our faith to soar.”

Said another way, Paul writes to the Galatians these words:

13-14 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:13-14 The Message

I invite you to tune out the language of choosing a Favorite, and instead invite you into a place of Freedom that sees the world through God’s eyes. A world not of extremes, or Favoritism, but full of children that are equally loved, valued and significant that we hope one day will be at peace.

Let it be so.