Reflection for Sunday – March 27, 2022
Readings: Joshua 5: 9a, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21; Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino
The other night, on the nightly news, Judy Woodruff was interviewing the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States. She was so inspiring! Revealing an understanding of our world and its conflicts. Passionately advocating for her people. Yet, at the same time, carefully trying not to say anything that would hurt them at this most difficult juncture. How impressive!
Today we are ambassadors, too, according to Paul. Ambassadors for Christ! Can you imagine being interviewed, just as she was? Proclaiming our love for Christ, beyond all measure? Carefully just focusing on this One we serve above all else?
How could I do this? How could I best express everything it means to me to represent Christ, without focusing on myself? It occurred to me that I might tell a few stories of some people I have known. People who have indeed become ambassadors for Christ, simply by the way they lived their lives.
I dug deep, then, back in time to when I was a brand new high school history teacher. I was young. Inexperienced. And sorely lacking in self-confidence. At the same time, I loved the “kids.” And the subject matter. But I kept wondering: was I doing well enough? Then, about a month into the school year, the department chairman said this: “I have a sub for you tomorrow, so we can visit a teacher in the Middle School.” She was known to be a highly respected teacher. So, the next morning, off we went. On the way back to school, he asked, “What did you think?” I replied, “Oh, she’s a fine teacher!” Then he said, “I hope you saw that you are every bit as good as she is.” Wow! Surely he was an ambassador for Christ, a messenger of encouragement, strength, and confidence.
Years later, another friend came to mind. Middle-aged now, she comes into church, week in and week out, on her walker, with an assistant always nearby. For she has cystic fibrosis. Yet, from the very beginning, her parents treated her as though she were perfectly healthy, like all her younger siblings. Providing the care she needed without coddling her. Never diminishing her in any way. So it was that she has grown strong, capable of following her aspirations. Going to college. And, in time, finally, landing a good job at Wegman’s, where she has worked now for the past 30 years. While it’s not easy to understand every word she speaks, she makes her Christ-like values and wisdom well known. Surely, she’s an ambassador for Christ: confident, caring, and capable of following her God-given path in life.
Then there’s a former neighbor, who just died at age 91. Outgoing, very successful at Xerox in sales management, he also continually supported young and struggling small business owners. Collected and lavished gifts at Christmas time on Sister Grace Miller’s ministry with those who are perpetually “down and out.” All this, and much more, without calling attention to himself. Surely, he was an ambassador for Christ, though he’d be hard pressed to agree with that. But it occurred to me that he might have said: “Pay attention to what you see. And do the best you can to support, encourage, and assist those who need your help the most.”
Finally, what might the family of the “Prodigal Son” teach us about becoming ambassadors for Christ? How about the father, the “prodigal” father: lavish, even wasteful, in his love. Never giving up on the son who drifted away … wasted all his resources… before finally returning home as the place of last resort. Will this father’s totally unconditional, warm and welcoming embrace change his son’s life beyond measure, from inside out? And what about the older son? The one who’s stayed, laboring long and hard. The one who’s nursed a pebble-sized grudge into a very hard boulder of gigantic proportions. What will it take for him to let go of his pain? His self-righteousness? His accusations of unfairness? What will it take for him to genuinely welcome his brother home? For him to let go of the past and forgive in the present? For him to become an ambassador for Christ? And for any of us who can readily identify with him?
What does it mean to be an ambassador for Christ? Our responses vary. But this is always true: it will take our desire to become such an ambassador, continually rooted in God’s undeserved mercy and love.