The Upper Room Devotion for Thursday, June 22, 2023, was written by Jason Kook of North Carolina.
18 You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 NRSV
Most of us can remember “helping” our parents when we were children. For me, helping usually consisted of my holding a tool while my father worked nearby. Sometimes I’d get to turn a wrench or finish pounding a nail, but my father could easily have done those tasks without me. Eventually I realized that this time spent helping my father was an opportunity for me to learn and practice skills that I would one day teach my children. I think that Jesus was doing the same thing with his disciples in Gethsemane. “Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation” Matthew 26:41 NRSV” Jesus says to them after they’ve fallen asleep.
Jesus is not asking them to do this for his own benefit but for theirs. Just as my father used my help to teach me the things I would need to know as I grew into adulthood, God invites us to participate in serving the world. Whether through prayer and worship, caring for the poor, looking out for those who are alone, or providing for those without housing, God uses these opportunities to shape us into mature disciples. God includes us not because the job can’t be done without our help, but because God has chosen to involve all of us in the work of the kingdom.
I remember fondly the times my daughter has helped me with a task. Whether it was helping with dinner, changing a lightbulb, or replacing vestments, the time was more important than the activity itself. Throughout scripture, we find Jesus genuinely connecting with others, letting them know he sees them and values who they are. Our emphasis for 2023 is to Connect with people within our respective spheres of influence. Connecting with people requires us to be intentional about developing a relationship where they are valued and heard. When we take time to engage with other’s we demonstrate their importance to us and to God. I invite you to connect with someone in your sphere of influence, to hear their story, and begin building a new friendship.
Almighty God, thank you for involving us in your work in the world. Help us to see opportunities each day to love you and serve our neighbors. Amen. - Jason Kook