By: Rev Ed Schneider
When I was a small boy, I was fascinated by a story that I heard in my Sunday school class. Even to this day, the story rings in my ears with a message of continual interest. It was the story of Abraham and how he was a “friend of God.” For those of you who may require a little help in locating where the above story is taken from, you will find a reference of this divinely inspired friendship in the New Testament book entitled James. In the second chapter of James, verses 22-24 (CEV) it says,
Now you see how Abraham’s faith and deeds worked together. He proved that his faith was real by what he did. This is what the Scriptures mean by saying, ‘Abraham had faith in God, and God was pleased with him.’ That’s how Abraham became God’s friend. You can now see that we please God by what we do and not only by what we believe
I still have a vivid memory of sitting in that classroom where Mrs. Peterson reminded us of the basic understandings of the “things of God” – subjects such as loving your neighbor, hard work produces positive results, or miracles aren’t just for Bible characters. They are for each one of us. I suppose the best part of the Sunday morning gatherings was not only Mrs. Peterson’s loving and welcoming demeanor, but it was the fellowship, friendships and those incredibly tasty donuts.
Skip forward several years. It’s 1977 and I am in my second year of college. I am out with some new classmates at a local bad restaurant. We found ourselves discussing the world as we were experiencing it at that moment. At the table were seated five people, one black female from Milwaukee; one white guy from Minneapolis; one Japanese female from Osaka; a feisty redheaded guy from Florida; and myself. While we were in the midst of talking about some Supreme Court ruling concerning abortion rights in Missouri, one of the black female’s friends came to the table and started to interject a few opinions. During this added interchange there was a moment where the two friends exchanged a whispered message. The redheaded guy from Florida asked, “What was that about?” With an exaggerated smile on her face she replied, “Don’t worry about it. It was just a ‘black thing’.” We all chuckled and continued our conversation. A few seconds later, the waiter came up to the table and with the intention of not disturbing the passionate conversation taking place, leaned over and quietly whispered to the girl from Osaka, asking her if she wanted some milk for her coffee. She quietly whispered back, “Yes, please.” Naturally, we all wanted to know what she had said. She told us, “Don’t worry about it. It was just a ‘dairy thing’.” We all howled with laughter.
I wonder if Abraham sometimes felt a little like the young women from Milwaukee and Osaka while he was wandering around the desert. My imagination could easily be convinced that he must have stopped during his travels and interacted with those around him. As they wandered through hundreds and hundreds of miles…and tribe after tribe….it must have seemed strange for he and his wife to be living by a completely different set of languages, cultures, and assumptive expectations. I wonder whether he was ever tempted to say to those confused people around him when they questioned his actions, motives, language or demeanor, “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a ‘God thing’.”
Imagine what it must have been like to leave all that you have ever known to travel a new road, learn a new way of thinking, experience a new way of expressing faithfulness while dramatically altering what, who, and how worshipping a deity would be demonstrated. Abraham, a friend of God, started something that has quite literally changed the face of the worldview of the who, what, where and why of God. There had to be times where there could be no other answer he could supply to folks around him other than, “It’s just a ‘God thing’.”
In my Sunday school lessons concerning Abraham I was constantly reminded how his faithfulness was shown every day. We were told of his willingness to follow something he could not physically see. We were told that to be a friend of God we must pay close attention to the lessons of Abraham’s life. As a pastor of more than 30 years, I am still reminding folks of Abraham’s life. I still wonder how many of us can honestly say to others that we are a friend of God? I wonder how many of us can even understand what it is like to be so in tune with the will of God that we can clearly say to the world around us that our actions, our language, our demeanor or our faith in something we cannot see is a God thing? On occasion, I check into the lives of both my Sunday school classmates as well as my college friends. With no exceptions, the ones who have continued down the road toward an authentic and ever increasing friendship with God have accomplished much in their lives. They have become lawyers, community leaders, doctors, ministers, teachers, family matriarchs and patriarchs. All have successfully raised children into productive and happy adults. What is absolutely apparent in their collective lives is;
- Their willingness to follow the path prescribed by God’s word.
- They have been enthusiastic in their faithful witness to the world around them that God is real and still active.
- They have walked by faith and not by sight.
- They have eagerly wanted to learn more and more with a thirst that can only be described as unquenchable.
- They have honored others in their walk with God.
- They have prayed for others and have contributed to the support of those who could not help themselves.
- They have passionately searched out ways and means to demonstrate their faith.
In short, they have intentionally and sincerely reached out to God and the world around them, showing their friendship with the Creator of all that is known and unknown. Here is a remarkably important question to ponder.
Isn’t it amazing and curious that as Sunday school attendance has shrunk, so has our culture’s attentiveness to God Almighty?
Isn’t it also amazing and equally curious how being connected to God can provide a journey so fulfilling, so empowering, so stimulating that life never seems to end its joyous opportunity’s to grow and share the goodness of God’s grace? Imagine that! It all started at Sunday school, with Mrs. Peterson’s lessons on Abraham and a few doughnuts. Have you been the Sunday school lately?