My youngest niece, Mary, accepted a marriage proposal by her fiancé on June 21, 2020. Mary and Tom trust and depend on God, so Tom proposed to Mary immediately after attending a worship service in Evansville, Indiana. Tom’s parents and Mary’s family were all present in the church building when he popped the question. Mary had always wanted a marriage proposal in this manner because she wants no rivalry in the family, and she wants to belong to one family where all are children of God.

This is our calling as Christian faithful: to recognize the Christ in everyone. And to reach out a hand of hope, to speak a word of love, to sing a song of happiness, to share a tear of joy or pain, to speak a word of praise, to murmur a prayer, to stand together against those forces that would divide us, isolate us, and block our flow toward our goal of loving God and others.

It’s so important that all people are able to recognize themselves as God’s image. Christ is present in everything – in the universe, in creation, in me and you, in all that happens to us, in the church, in my brothers and sisters and neighbors. God is bread when you’re hungry, water when you’re thirsty, a harbor from the storm. God is my sister, my brother, my leader, my guide, my teacher, my comforter, my friend. God is the heart-fixer and the mind-regulator. God is my all in all, my everything.

God is my rock, my lily of the field, my pearl of great price. Christ is the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, Redeemer, Savior, Son of God, Mary’s little baby, wonderful Counselor, Word of God. These images come from Scripture and meditations from Christians that help us focus on God. We fully love God when we love others, when we are intentional about caring for our neighbor, and intentionally being kind to others because God is in us all.

One way to intentionally love and experience God is to intentionally welcome all people. The mission of Jesus is hospitality. Jesus professes, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matthew 10:39-40, 42).

To be a disciple of Christ is to be ready to receive hospitality and to offer hospitality. In other words, you are being sent as beloved children of God to be the image of God. And you are to recognize Christ in the other. The Holy Spirit gives you this ability. You are vulnerable because God works through you. You must give up arrogance, trust God, and do God’s will.

As Disciples of Jesus, we are weak and powerless just like our master, Jesus Christ. To renounce power over others is to lose our life as we know it, and to find it where we didn’t know it could exist – in Christ with God and the Holy Spirit. We all think our capacity to impact the world and people around us makes us important. But in thinking that, we distort or sever our relationship with God. It is only when we are yielding to God, compliant & trusting toward God that we discover life. In this yielding, humble, trusting, open, joyous and grateful living our bodies relax and our spirits soar.

If we trust Christ, we have made God in Christ the center of our network of relationships. In other words, we are to be focused on God, and intentionally love others more and more. We are disciples of a truly righteous person, a person in right relation with every person ever created by God. This righteous person is showing everyone they are loved, and not excluded. As disciples, we are presenting God to others through our life in Christ.

Jesus’ disciples are vulnerable, weak and powerless just like our master, Christ Jesus. Jesus’ disciples don’t escape any part of this world; even if it seems brutal and violent. Only when you connect to the eternal by turning toward God’s immanence within all, when you explore your inner reality facing unmet potential and failure with honesty and grace, when you face the unlovable neighbor, only then can you declare God’s peace on earth. This generally takes a lifetime to learn.

Rev. Tom Cici is the pastor at First Christian Church of Hoopeston (502 E. Main St.). Please go to www.fcchoopeston.org for inspirational sermons and much more.