Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Allowing One's Light to Shine

"Wow! Look at my picture," Eddie said with a huge smile on his face. "It's really good!" he continued to exclaim as his feet shifted five steps back in order for his eyes to have a better view.

Eddie, a member of our church, was beholding his own work. He's been given a rather remarkable gift when it comes to drawing and painting, and he has often shared this gift with our community. 

I'll always cherish one Lenten season when our congregation was worshipping in a rented theatre across the street. Void of windows, especially the colorful stained glass kind, I invited Eddie to create a picture to accompany the sermon each week. For each of those six Monday mornings, Eddie would come to my office. I would read him the Gospel lesson to be proclaimed. Eddie would ask a few questions, "What does the devil look like?" or "How do I draw temptation?" He then would go home and return the next day with a colorful creation to be placed on our makeshift altar. He returned during that first week of Lent with a drawing that showed Jesus being tempted in the wilderness with such perfection that my words struggled to match it or elaborate upon it. 

I'm not sure when Eddie created the picture that is now in my office waiting to be hung. It seems to have been a request by one of our members who then took it and had it custom framed. I've held it in my space for a bit because I love looking at it. But I also want to find the perfect place for it in our church building - a place where many people can appreciate it. 

It's Eddie's work. He spent hours creating the scene of the boats, water and fishermen. He knows the piece of art well as he poured life and love into it. But Eddie had not seen someone else pour love into his work or really appreciate it. Eddie saw his own gifts in a whole new way when someone else took the time to recognize his gifts by taking his work to a frame shop. 

I cannot help but to wonder if the task of helping one's gifts shine in new ways is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities of the church. One of our roles is to help people of all ages discover their gifts, encourage them to use their gifts in such a way that others are able to see their light, affirm them, and then watch as they discover a fuller sense of who they are and what they are capable of doing. In the words of Greg Jones, the former Dean of Duke Divinity School, we all need what he calls "holy friends." The church can cultivate such friendships as people point out the sins we have grown to love, name the gifts we have been afraid or unwilling to claim, and help people dream dreams they would never dream on their own.

Eddie's gifts have been showcased in a particular way for others to see when one of his pieces was framed for display. I saw other gifts showcased in a similar way on Sunday morning. Our congregation doesn't have a ministry intern this summer, something we have had in the previous few summers. As a result, a myriad of people have been helping with worship leadership. On this past Sunday morning, one person passionately led the call to worship and different prayers before inviting people to give, another person gathered with the children for a message designed just for them as he shared about his recent visit to Wesley's Chapel in London, another person described his first experience as a delegate to Annual Conference, and one person read the scripture lesson with power. Four individuals were given an opportunity to shine, and they brought their full selves for God and all in attendance to see. It was beautiful, and I have now seen gifts in some of them that I had never seen before. Even more, I now have the incredible joy of naming these gifts and extending additional invitations for them to use these gifts in a way that blesses our entire community.

Who first allowed you to use your gifts?
When did you first discover your particular talents?
What happened when other people started to affirm your gifts?

I pray our church will always be a place where people can step back and say, "Wow. I really do have something to offer this community and the wider world. Thank you, God, for this gift."

Who in your community has gifts that are ready to be placed on a lamp stand for all to see and behold?