Being in northern Michigan makes me appreciate the small town, more rural atmosphere. You walk into a store and run into someone you know. Generally, people around here are eager to assist and offer a friendly smile. There’s a kind of pace where there seems to be enough time – ample time to say hello, to listen to how someone is doing and to offer words of encouragement.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Rome, wanted to encourage the members of the congregation there. Here is what he said early in the letter:
“For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some
spiritual gift to strengthen you- or rather so that we may be
mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
(Romans 1:11-12 NRSV)
Paul was eager to share his gifts with the church and was also willing to be encouraged by the faithful – to “mutually encourage” one another. I believe that encouraging one another in the faith is one of the most important gifts we share in our day-to-day interactions. The cantankerous society in which we live can pit people against each other politically. Workers in businesses may find that the only encouragement they receive is the admonishment to work harder no matter the toll. Just today I pulled in front of Shop-N-Save to let my mother, who has been ill but is on the mend, get out of the car to get some medication. A driver of a pickup behind me honked to urge me out of the way. It reminded me about how often we are given the opportunity to respond differently. On a personal level, I experience much encouragement from members and friends of this church. Lately I have been the recipient of hugs, notes of support and words of grace. In some conversations, you have told me about times that I was able to offer support to you. That is the meaning of mutually encouraging each other. All over this church, and beyond, I see Christian love and listening being offered. To know that we are held in the gracious care of a sovereign God gives all of us encouragement. But sometimes it’s important for the love of Christ to have flesh on it. Human to human. Hand to hand. Heart to heart. You will surely have encounters this week where you will be called upon to offer encouragement. Sometimes the needs of our families rise to the top. The opportunity may also arise in a random conversation with a person at the airport or in the checkout line. The Apostle Paul longed to see the people of the church in Rome strengthened with spiritual gifts. What spiritual gifts do you long to offer? If you think you don’t have any spiritual gifts, listening attentively is a great one to practice. Other gifts you might offer are these: a simple smile, a hand with a heavy load, a “thinking of you” note or email, an invitation to a meal, the offering of prayer, an invitation to pick up someone for church, a peaceful response to an agitated person, or a “cuppa joe” with a new acquaintance. Pay attention to the ways you are encouraged by others, as well as the ways that you offer it in return.
Have a joyous Eastertide in service to our Risen Lord!
Rev. Anne C. Hébert