Pause with Pastor Joel – May 1, 2023

By now you’ve maybe heard me talk a little about my weekend at Walk to Emmaus. Walk to Emmaus is a retreat designed to help us deepen our walk with Christ and to be God’s representatives in the world.
People have asked me how it was and I respond, “Wonderful.” It’s hard to put to words what exactly you experience on that weekend.
I can relate one thing however. All throughout the weekend, there are little gifts left for you. Pieces of candy, small crosses, pencils, pens, bookmarks and a variety of other things. These are largely given by other people who have been to an Emmaus weekend. It’s a sign of love. They are called Agape Gifts.
Agape is a Greek word for love – the love of God to put it most simply. These gifts are meant to be a sign of how much God loves us. In fact, the main idea of the Emmaus weekend is to point to how much God loves us.
You see, if we know how God loves us, we will follow God. If we are only afraid of God or only duty-bound to church, we will not truly follow God with our whole hearts, souls, minds and strengths. It’s only when we know the depth of God’s love that we are inclined to follow wholeheartedly. At least, John Wesley really believed that to be true and I believe it is attested to in Scripture.
But our day-to-day life easily distracts us from the fact of God’s love. Worse, it tries to actively tell us the opposite – that we are not loved, unlovable, completely broken and worthless, irredeemable.
There was power in those Agape Gifts all weekend. There was power in being reminded of God’s great love for each of us. The goal now is to figure out how to hold on to that fact from day to day. How do I make sure I don’t let the world distract or convince me otherwise?
I think one of the answers is to pass it on. If I start giving Agape Gifts to others, then I’m repeatedly having to articulate what they are about and what they’re for. When we have to constantly tell someone about something, we are not likely to forget it.
Would you join me in showing God’s love in the world this week? Through small gifts, words of encouragement and simply telling others how much God loves them? I plan to make this my own reminder and I hope you’ll join me.

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