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Who Are You Owin’? (8)

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 BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

Who Are You Owin’?

DISCLAIMER: My blog posts will be about gratitude. Gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation do not come naturally to me, but there are so many people that I owe so much to. People who invested in me, who spent time with me, who pursued me, and who shaped me. Some were intentional, others were unintentional, and others were just being themselves. So, my blog posts will be about people who have made me who I am today. People I am “owin’” for making me, well, Owen. Disclaimer: I am not a writer and I’m not an aspiring writer. So, if my writing is “offensive,” either because of structure or grammar or both, please forgive me.

My mum

     I call her Mum not because I am trying to be pretentious, but because I never lost that part of my British heritage. There is also something about the way it sounds that I really like, it's nostalgic in some way, perhaps even regal. In the UK they refer to Queen Elizabeth as the “Royal Mum.” There is something familiar, comforting, truly motherly about “mum.” For me “mum” carries a breeze of nostalgia. The breeze that blows through your memory when I hear that name carries you back to being 10 years old and playing outside on a late summer evening and my mother calling from the front door to my brother and me, “Boys, it’s time to come in now and get ready for bed.” And we reply in unison, “Ok, Mum.”

     I remember one time after we had lived in the US for a few months, and I had started making friends, my mum began telling me something and I said, “Ok mom.” She furrowed her brow and said, “Mom! Mawm! You will call me Mum.” And Mum it has been ever since.

     The story I want to share with you about my mum illustrates something I have encountered over and over again with her. It is her compassion for the unlovely.

     When I was growing up, our home was open to lots of people. We would have a family over for lunch most Sundays after church. We regularly had missionaries, visiting pastors, friends, and friends of friends stay with us.

     My mum has the gift of hospitality, but more importantly, she has the gift of seeing people, especially people that others don’t see, and welcoming them.

     Many Sunday afternoons when I was a little boy of perhaps five or six, there would be a knock on the door by a neighborhood boy named Brian. Upon opening the door, Brian would ask if he could come in, and my mum would greet him with a smile, welcome him in, lead him to the living room, take out a puzzle, and get him a snack. Brian would do the same puzzle every time he came to our house. It was a puzzle of all the characters from Disney’s Robin Hood (if I remember correctly). I don’t remember how long it took him, but he would do the puzzle, eat his snack, get up, thank my mum, and leave.

     I found out years later that Brian was in his late teens, and my mum was friends with his mum. Brian had down syndrome and a significant cognitive disability. Brian loved my mum and he loved to come over on Sunday afternoons to put that puzzle together, have a snack, and be loved.

     My mum saw Brian as an image-bearer of the Creator, worthy of time, love, and a snack. I have watched my mum do that for many, many people over the years. People that many others have overlooked, my mum has taken in and shown dignity toward. I believe she does that because she sees people as God sees people.

     My favorite story about Jesus is when he was being pulled on by the crowd and demanded upon by everyone. He walked among them, not 3 inches above the ground, disenfranchised from their needs, or disconnected from who He saw. He walked among them as one of them. Seeing them, knowing them, feeling them, loving them. The Bible says that Jesus saw the crowd; loud, obnoxious, pulsing with self-interest, broken, dirty, desperate. And He saw them with compassion because He knew they were “helpless and harassed.” Of course, that is not only a description of the thronging crowd, but also a description of us as well. He moved toward that crowd, just as He moved and moves toward us.

     My mum knows Jesus. He met her many years ago in her “helplessness and harassment” and comforted her, healed her, and saved her. He also gave her His eyes to see people as He sees people. Not as projects or problems, but as precious.

     I like to think that my mum has given me a lot of my finer features. My great head of hair, my ability to give a backhanded compliment, my athletic prowess, and, I hope, I have my mum’s eyes for the helpless and the harassed, because I know who gave her those eyes.

     I am, without a doubt, owin’ my mum, and Owen because of my mum.

     Who are you ownin’?

What Easter Means to God

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

    “What does Easter mean to God?”  Does that question sound odd to you?  We are well-trained to ask the far less important question, “What does Easter mean to you?”  In an interview in World Magazine, the highly respected PBS journalist Bill Moyers was once asked, “Do you believe that the resurrection actually happened?”  Moyers answered, “You can't take the resurrection by fact - you have to take it on faith.  You appropriate the story for what it means to you and what it says to you. . .. If it means something to you, that's very important… Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, and all these years since - my faith is based on my experience.  This includes being taught to learn, thinking, reading the Bible critically from a historical and journalistic standpoint - I, like you, spend a lot of time reading my Bible - and it can't be justified by any of those measures.  It is part of my story and is therefore a necessary part of my faith, but I wouldn't dare suggest it is essential to anybody's faith who doesn't have my experience.”  Let me interpret Moyers’ doublespeak for you:  He was saying that the resurrection probably didn’t happen, but it doesn’t really matter if it did or not.  As long as I find some meaning in the myth of the resurrection, then it’s important to me.  According to Moyers, any value in the story of the empty tomb comes from the importance that I attach to it.

            Compare Moyers’ perspective to that of the Apostle Paul.  In Romans 1, Paul says that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, whose coming was prophesied beforehand by the prophets, who was descended from King David according to the flesh, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power…by His resurrection from the dead.”  He is saying that the one true God of the universe made it clear to us that Jesus was His unique, only begotten Son by raising Him from the dead.  The empty tomb was proof that all of Jesus’ claims to be fully God and fully man were true, and it proved that He is the ultimate revelation of who God is (Hebrews 1:1-3). 

             Much more than that, Paul goes on to say in the rest of the book of Romans that the resurrection was our proof that God accepted the death of His perfect Son on the cross as a payment for the penalty that our sins deserved – “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  If Jesus had remained dead in His tomb, it would have shown that His claims to be God and His claims to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” were all false, that He had been a sinner like us and died for His own sins.  In I Corinthians 15, Paul says that if Christ is not risen from the dead, then our faith in Christ is in vain and we are still accountable to God for all our sins.  “But,” Paul joyously declares, “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

             Easter means to me what God told me that it means – because Christ is risen from the dead, I too will live with Him for all eternity.  I am saved by grace through faith.  The interview with Moyers ended with this sad statement from Moyers:  “I am not a Christian because I can't do what Jesus asks.  But, I care deeply about that figure.  He has instructed my faith; He looms large in my life.  But I can't do what He asks me to do, so I can't legitimately claim to be a Christian.”  None of us can do what Jesus asks – that’s why He had to die for us, and to be raised for our justification.