A Lifetime of Service

Romans 12:13 – “Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.”

     Gustavo Parajón (1935-2011) could have been a successful medical doctor in the United States.  Instead, accompanied by his young bride, he chose to return to Nicaragua to serve the people of his home country. 

     During his lifetime, he was many things to many people.  He was a medical doctor who launched a campaign to rid his country of many common diseases.  Following the massive 1972 earthquake that crumbled Managua, Nicaragua, Gustavo gathered church leaders and together they developed a program that would have a deep and lasting impact on the poor of their country.  After the earthquake, First Baptist Church of Managua found itself without a pastor; Gustavo filled the vacancy.  During Nicaragua’s civil unrest (1978-1989) he visited insurgents and Government leaders alike to promote peace; always traveling without bodyguards.  During the armed conflict in Nicaragua, the Parajón family welcomed refugees into their home from either side of their nation’s conflict.

     His legacy is that of a medical doctor, an American Baptist missionary, a pastor, a peace maker and community organizer.  President Jimmy Carter once nominated Gustavo Parajón for the Nobel Peace Prize and he was awarded the Francisco Morazán Medallion by the Central American Parliament.

     Gustavo rarely spoke of his accomplishments and when he did he downplayed them.  Once, while being interviewed on television in London, the interviewer turned towards the live audience and said, “It’s difficult to interview the most humble man in the world.”

     It is appropriate that a book has been written about his life and his service to God.  ‘Healing the World: Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking Pioneer’, co-authored by Daniel Buttry and Dámaris Albuquerque, was released on January 24th of this year.

Serve Others

Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

     During the months that several of our congregation was working with Pastor Dick Sipe, to seek God’s path for our church, we resolved that we are to serve others.  Pastor Jim’s January 22nd message affirmed that servanthood is a characteristic of a Christian heart.

     Our human nature often hinders our serving.  Too often we think that we need to do something huge for others while failing to recognize that God is in the small things also. 

     Have you ever sat and listened to someone going through trials?  In these moments your presence was serving them.

     Have you ever gone beyond what someone asked you to do simply because you knew it would be helpful?  Your efforts were serving them.

     Have you ever found someone struggling to carry a load. to large to be handled well. and offered to carry part of their burden?  Again, you were serving them.

     Have you ever prayed for someone in need?  You were indeed serving them.

     “And so I know that day is lost wherein I failed to lend a helping hand to some wayfaring friend.”  – Edith V. Bradt,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hebrews 12:14 – Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

   Today our nation remembers Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was an American Baptist minister and also a prominent figure during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  

   I think it is fitting that we take a few moments to recall a handful of quotes from his many speeches.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Strength to Love, 1963

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

From a sermon delivered in Selma, Alabama, 1965.

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Strength to Love, 1963.

Be Resolute!

Colossians 3:12-13,  “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other’ as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

   The following is largely attributed to having been said by John Wesley although sources that discuss John Wesley argue that he never actually said this.  Still, the words are a guide for Christian behavior.

              Do all the good you can,

              by all the means you can,

              to all the people you can,

              in all the places you can,

              as long as ever you can.

   As we enter the new year perhaps this statement should be our resolve as we seek to bring new disciples before our Lord and Savior.

The Christ Candle

John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

     Christmas Eve was this past Saturday and with it the conclusion of the Advent season.  On Christmas Eve the Christ Candle of the Advent Wreath was illuminated.  The five candles of the Advent Wreath represent Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ Jesus.

     The Christ Candle sits in the middle of the Advent Wreath.  It is fitting as Christ is also the center of our Christian faith.  Without Christ in the middle of our lives we would be unable to fully appreciate the meaning of the other four candles of Advent.  The warm glow of the five candles should also remind us that Christ is the Light of the World.

     As we move beyond the Christmas season, and longing for remaining Christ centered, I conclude with this chorus of ‘Day by Day’, from the musical ‘Godspell’.

Day by day,

Day by day,

Oh, Dear Lord,

Three things I pray,

To see thee more clearly,

Love thee more dearly,

Follow thee more nearly,

Day by Day

LOVE

1st Corinthians 13:13,  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

      The fourth candle on the Advent Wreath is the Love Candle.  Paul’s words, as found in First Corinthians 13, describe love wonderfully.

1st Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.