The Lord Before Me
3rd Sunday After Pentecost
Jane Shelton, TRE; June 26, 2022
First Presbyterian Valdosta
Recently, I had the opportunity to watch the movie “Chocolat.” You may be familiar with the movie, but for those who are not, in the movie, a mother and her daughter come into town, and the mother opens a chocolate shop. Soon, you learn the daughter is illegitimate, and the mother/daughter duo have led somewhat of a gypsy lifestyle with their special chocolates. These chocolates, it seems have special healing properties, bringing the towns’ people…who dare to try them…much joy and happiness.
But the mayor, who runs the town, is not satisfied because the mother and her daughter do not attend church, and he just can’t seem to find the good in this woman, who has no intention but to make sure others find happiness when they experience her chocolates.
The Chocolatier soon takes under her arm, a battered wife, a deserted grandmother and her grandson, and the wife of a drunkard, who soon finds a relationship with her husband again after a few of the infamous healing chocolates.
Now as much good continues throughout the town from the miraculous chocolates, it just doesn’t seem to be enough for the disgruntled mayor, who even writes and directs the sermons for the young, and recently installed Clergy.
However, as the movie progresses with many ups and downs for the mother/daughter duo, and much effort by the mayor to eliminate her from his community, the mayor is soon pushed to his limit to resist the temptation of the knowledge behind these mysterious chocolates. He breaks in to destroy the chocolates in the shop, but hysterically finds himself laying in the shop window overcome in hysterical chocolate bliss.
Overcome with hysteria, he is unable to complete the Easter Sunday sermon for the young clergy, who gladly accepts the challenge to do it himself.
From his pulpit, the young clergy begins, “I’m not sure of a theme today, Do I speak of the miracle of our Lord’s miraculous transformation? I don’t want to talk about his divinity. I’d rather talk about his humanity, you know, how he lived his life here on earth…his kindness, his tolerance. Listen, here’s what I think…I think we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do; what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.”
With this, this townspeople have a wonderful Easter celebration in their town, and welcome with open arms the Chocolatier and her daughter.
Inclusion and acceptance, can we find anyone who doesn’t want or need to be accepted for who they are?
Paul reminds us in Galations that we are called to freedom, but not for self-indulgence, but through love we should become slaves to one another, or devoted to one another in love. Love your neighbor as yourself. It is through this love for one another that we find true Joy in the Holy Spirit and with one another.
In the movie, as the mayor tries to destroy the female chocolatier, he soon becomes consumed with scheming and hatred that pushes his very soul to the brink of insanity.
He became anything less than free to experience any joy and freedom he had presumed he would by eliminating from his town this woman he deemed unfit.
Our Psalmist says, “I keep the Lord ALWAYS before me,” and what is the result, a glad heart, a soul that rejoices, and a body that rests secure!
Wow! Who doesn’t want that in their life?!
I’m sure you have all followed someone at some point in your life, somewhere you were guided by a leader, and what do you do? You keep your eye on the leader, because if you glance away for a second, you find yourself lost and searching for where you go from that position?
Have you ever found yourself in a situation, whether as a child or as an adult, where you were following a leader, and at some point you became distracted. You stop to look or listen at something that draws your attention in another direction, and you lose focus on the leader. When you look up, the leader is out of sight. You feel lost, maybe even panicked?
However, when you keep your eye on the leader on your journey, you feel safe and secure, and maybe you even learn a thing or two along the way.
When we keep the Lord before us, we focus our eyes on the Lord. It’s much easier to follow the Lord whenever we allow his presence before us. Rather than reacting to what is ahead of us if the Lord is behind us, or beside us, we are following his lead?
With the Lord before us, we are in the best capable hands, and in his presence we find fullness of joy. It’s only when we get ahead of the Lord or lose focus that we become lost, confused and maybe even a little stressed.
Let’s picture for a moment, if every day, when we open the door to our garage or our car, we say, “Okay Lord, you go ahead of me, I’m going to follow you today.”
How would that change our day?
When we walk into our office or sit in our office chair, or take a walk outside to start our day, what if we allow the Lord to go before us.
“After you,” we might say to put it into perspective.
If we could get in this habit, would we have the same reaction on the road when a car cuts in front of us, or perhaps when we get a disgruntled person on the phone. When we yield to the driver’s rage and we actually listen to the disgruntled person on the phone, how would the response be different if we picture the Lord there before us. Would we be more likely to give a response that is less reactive with rather soothing words and tone like the Lord before us?
Remember our traveling Jesus that Dr. G created for us to use in our photographs on summer vacations a couple years ago? What if we put traveling Jesus on a stick and held it out in front of us as we walk through our daily lives, would our attitudes be different? Would we be as critical and judgmental of others around us? It’s kind of hard to have that attitude when Jesus is there in front of us.
And I don’t see the Lord before me rushing through life, no, he would be taking his time, walking among the people, very much aware of what is going on around him and listening to see who he can help.
Delving into the lectionary this week, the Presbytery Outlook wrote:
‘In our lectionary text from Galatians, Paul writes about the nature of Christian liberty. In Christ, we are not freed from responsibility, not freed to do whatever we want, or freed to indulge in self-centered desires of the flesh. Rather, in Christ, we are freed FOR love, freed to care for, respect and cherish all lives. The cross is the symbol of this Christian freedom. Jesus did not pick up a weapon to defend himself from the violent Romans. He went to the cross. In his life, death and resurrection, the transformative power of God’s love for humankind is made known. Nothing can separate us from this love.’
When we allow ourselves to put the Lord before us, and be led by the Spirit, we can experience the fruit of the Spirit, and that fruit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Indeed, we experience fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore!
*Cover Art via churchart.com, used by subscription