“Jesus Loves Me” (UMH 191) is one of the first lessons I learned in the church. It is one that has influenced me throughout my life. If we’re very fortunate, we learn this lesson early in our lives, in a nurturing, loving environment. This is foundational in our understanding of our relationship with God. If we stay connected with God, we continue to learn and know more about God. The lessons become more involved and complex as we open ourselves and let the Holy Spirit guide and direct us. I often use the example of King David to explain this concept. As a child, we learn about David the shepherd boy who slew Goliath and became a mighty king. As an adult, we learn that David was as mortal as we are and committed adultery, then murdered a man to cover up his sin. Yet when he sought God’s forgiveness, he found God still loved him.
We need to keep studying, learning and growing in our faith so we can understand how God wants us to live. Life is complex and the answers aren’t always easy to understand. I thank God that He has given me opportunities to continue to grow in my understanding of His will. When I was a teenager, I had a paper route. One of the responsibilities was collecting the payment. As it happened, the last stop on my route was the rectory for the Catholic Church that was on the same block as the Methodist church I attended. The routine was debating with one of the priests about the relative merits of their church versus mine. And I grew in my commitment to being a Methodist because of those discussions.
Later on, I became a Lay Speaker, requiring me to continue to study and learn more about how God wanted me to live. When I became a Lay Speaker, it was primarily to provide pulpit supply if the pastor was sick or went on vacation. I now teach an adult Sunday School class and have done so for over 15 years. I really look forward to our time together each Sunday. I also teach adult book studies about four to five times a year. God called me to become a Certified Lay Minister, and again more study. One of the classes I took was on the history of the Methodist Church. That class was instrumental preparing me for where our denomination is today. I learned that Methodists have argued and debated what it means to be a Methodist since our founding and we have often decided to go our separate ways, usually finding our way back together. So, I am not too concerned about the rift facing the Church today. God still loves us.
What we need to remember is “Jesus loves me!” Jesus has always loved us and will continue to love us, and our task is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our strength, and with all our minds; and our neighbors as ourselves. (Paraphrased from Luke 10:27).