Well. It’s come to this, the last day of freshman year at Hendrix College. And what a year it has been too, between the activities, classes, work, and general fun I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of. So without further ado, here’s a quick recap of the year:
Note: this is the full text of a sermon that I wrote and preached at Kibler UMC in the Kibler community of Arkansas on April 10, 2016.
“Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
–Matthew 18:19-20 CEB
It was a day in early September, around the start of my time at Hendrix College. I was just starting to get into the swing of things, sticking to a regular schedule again with classes, chapel services, and the beginnings of my campus work schedule. But I made sure to keep on top of it all, and make it to as many events as I could, including the weekly Communion service. So on that September day, around 4 o’clock, I went to Greene Chapel and sat down in a pew. I noticed that the room seemed very…empty. As in I was the only one there. A few minutes later, J.J. (Hendrix’s chaplain) arrived with the sacraments, and she noticed the empty room too, saying “Well, let’s give everyone a few more minutes to show up, it is the first of the semester after all!” Those few minutes pass by, and we were still the only ones there, and so we had communion, just the two of us. Even so, I still felt the Holy Spirit there, with us as we took Communion. And that stuck out to me, because for as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve participated in worship, mission work, or just being involved with the church in general, it has always been in large groups or even whole communities. And in all of those situations, I’ve always felt the Spirit moving within the group and within myself. “So why just us, then?” I asked myself later that night. “Why would Jesus decide that His presence would be there with just myself and J.J. during Communion? That seems like just a small blip of an event in the grand scheme of things.”
I thought about it more and more, and I found myself reminded of the verses from the 18th chapter from Matthew. Throughout the chapter as a whole, Jesus was speaking to the Twelve about the importance of the children of God, including the parables of the lost sheep and of the unforgiving servant. However, it was those verses that we read that stuck out to me: “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” And that’s what stuck with me, even as I tried to fully understand *why* it stuck with me. Again, it just didn’t make sense why Jesus would just decide to be around two or three people, when those in large groups would be just as, if not more important. But as I continued to mull over it, I began to realize how much sense it made to me. You see, all throughout the Gospel, there are examples of Jesus among crowds, from His preaching to the towns that he visited to the feeding of the five thousand. However, some of the most important events in Jesus’s life, such as his transformation on the mountain from Mark chapter 9, were in the presence of just two or three people (in that particular instance, in front of Peter, James and John). And that’s where I began to realize why it is that He decides to be with just two or three that are there in his name, because those moments can be transformative.
Some of the most important work that all of us will accomplish at some point in our life will just be done by two or three people. We may not even be fully aware of these instances and their importance. It could be as simple as visiting someone in the hospital, or praying with a friend, or helping someone who is struggling in life. Because when we do these things in the name of Jesus Christ, these can all transformative moments for people. These are all moments that people have the opportunity to see Jesus through you, and the love that He has for us that he showed on the cross just a few weeks ago. And not only that, but these moments are just as important as our big, communal moments of worship, because for some people this may make a difference in their life that you may not even be aware of.
I’ll admit, even as I thought about it I couldn’t think of whether or not this had happened before in my life. Again, as far back as I could remember, it was always about feeling the presence of the Lord in big groups and big communities, and never in small instances. It was always about the large events that I would attend at the district and state levels, it was about the multiple worship services I would attend every Sunday at my local church, it was about District Conference and Annual Conference and everything like that. But the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that those events were made of important experiences made up of just two or three people. The big worship groups were just as important as the times where we would meet in small groups and talk about our lives and the Gospel, the shared “joys and concerns” time were just as important as the times of one-on-one prayer with those who asked for me to pray with them. These sometimes quick instances, I came to realize, were the true defining moments of these events, and not necessarily the big, communal, sometimes flashy get-togethers that we had.
So today, consider doing something that you may not consider to be a big deal, maybe with a companion along with you. Go out to love your neighbor, to do good, and you may just find yourself with the presence of the Lord with you, as J.J. and I did on that September day of Communion, just us, the party of two.
I honestly believe that Hendrix College has been the place that I’ve been wanting to be a part of for so long. It’s a vibrant community where I can be a part of any type of organization from social activism to United Methodist student groups to clubs that just like what I like (film!), and where if you have an idea, well, you should go explore it! “Here,” the Hendrix Odyssey program says metaphorically, “here’s a professor or staff member that would love to sponsor you and see what you learn from this experience! Here’s some money to make your idea happen! Let us know how it goes!” The whole of Hendrix is just teeming with energy and ideas, and I proceeded to get involved in a list not quite a mile long, but pretty darn close.
And I’m not gonna lie, it might’ve looked like I was doing a belly-buster into a lake.
Which at first, maybe I was. I actually wanted to be a larger part in a lot more organizations. I had more and more ideas for projects that I’m now spacing out. I applied for two jobs on-campus (although I only wanted one) and to top it all off, I have five classes (four full-credit and one quarter-credit). And that seems like so much for a freshman in his first semester of college. But I felt like I was ready to take it all on.
And so far, I’m happy.
Between classes for my CompSci major/film studies minor; participation in COGS (Committee on Gender and Sexuality), SAGE (Students Advocating for Gender Equality, of which I am co-Media Chair), the UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) Scholars program, and hopefully soon the Hendrix Filmmakers; work on OdysseyOnline (my Odyssey project for the year); and everything else; I couldn’t be happier. I’m busy, but not so busy that I can’t socialize or I feel overwhelmed. I’ve met many cool upperclassmen/women and “freshers”, learned about new ideas and ways of thinking in both my classes and on campus, and have just generally been given the resources and tools to really follow my personal passions. And all of that put together has made all the difference.
And it hasn’t been nearly as painful as that belly-buster.
(To keep up with my college stuff, check out JT at College!)