23 August 2016
Parable of the Jogging Muslims
Greetings Dear Reader,
I rarely have dreams that I would share with others. Most of the ones I remember are nightmares that I would not visit upon the unsuspecting. My dream last night, however, requires remembering and repeating.
So I offer up this parable, a visit if you will into the landscapes of my night that may or may not have a lesson for others. I know it solidified one for me. I wish it were as creative as my nightmares are.
I just returned from vacation and visiting my brother in Toccoa, Georgia. As we drove from Florida to Georgia I chose to take back roads instead of going through Atlanta. Less traffic and the Georgia countryside are always preferable. The speeds are slower but the tradeoff is invaluable.
Christmas noted how many small churches she saw along the way. I explained that even if every church was filled with people that there were not enough to hold the population of the area. We passed one church where the name of a former student was on the obligatory church sign. He was the pastor.
And now the dream begins with the proper backdrop. In my dream I was visiting this student at his request. I was there to teach a week-long seminar for his Christian Education team. There is a parsonage on the church property and the church uses it as a guest house. I was staying there.
The church had a youth center as well where twenty to thirty youth gathered each evening. There was study help in the afternoon and basketball and volleyball in the evening. I was enjoy an excellent meal prepared by one of the church families when I heard a loud chorus of boos being shouted with the energy and vigor of real hatred.
I stepped out to see that the teens were lining the highway and booing some joggers who were passing by. The joggers were all Muslim women. I was saddened by the active hatred that I saw in young people who should have been taught better by my former student.
That evening as the education team gathered for my instruction I asked the Pastor about what I had witnessed. He explained that they were just “expressing themselves” and their anger at the things some Muslims do in the world. He went on to tell me that these women worked at a shop in the nearby town and would jog to work in the morning and home to their small community in the evening.
I reminded him that no matter what his congregation feels that hatred of any kind is forbidden by Christ. I reminded him that it is his job to guide his people, especially his youth, into acts of love and service. He offered several lame excuses but fortunately he still viewed me as his professor.
After some internal struggle he admitted that he needed to change things. He was always a creative student and came upon an idea. He would not tell me what it was but asked me to observe what he did the next evening.
I avoided mentioning the event during my training that night and spent much of the next day in prayer for my friend and his congregation. I also prayed for the women that were jogging by and the poor impressing they were getting of Christians.
Evening came and the Pastor pulled up in his pickup truck. The bed was loaded with ice and bottled water. He had some signs in the cab. He called the teens over from the volleyball court and spoke to them briefly. They took the signs and bottles of water. They lined the highway as the joggers approached.
The bright signs all read “Jesus loves you”: As the joggers passed the youth called out, “we apologize” and “I am sorry”. Some of the women grabbed the ice cold water but others crossed the highway avoiding the youth. To his credit the Pastor realized that he had to make an adjustment.
He instructed the youth to be back at the church early the next morning. They were there. The Pastor again showed up with iced water but no signs. He instructed the teens to be silent and simply offer the water. More of the women took the water. Some still moved to the other side of the highway.
The next morning the teens were there again. The Pastor handed over the responsibility for getting the ice and water to one of the teens with truck. The teens continued to silently hand out cold water in the Georgia heat. And I awakened for it was only a dream.
Wishing you joy in the journey,
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
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