Friday, October 20, 2017

Modeling (Luke 9:1-6) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

Models are ubiquitous today.   Magazines, television, movies, we see models or pictures of models everywhere.  As we know, Runway Models advertise a clothing designer’s creations when they are walking in fashion shows and posing for photographs. They are the face behind a fashion collection that the designer has been cultivating for months.  Your look and personality are for one purpose, to sell some creative designers clothing line.   A high paid model makes millions of dollars a year.  Not bad.

Oh, yes, that’s not exactly the kind of modeling I am speaking about today.   I am instead talking about role models, mentors, being an example for others.  I am speaking about leading by example.  It’s not nearly so glamorous, you don’t always get positive feedback or much feedback at all, you won’t make the cover of a magazine,  you will likely have to make sacrifices, it will probably cost you time among other things, and the pay is nothing, no salary at all.   However, by your example, by your life, like a model, you are modeling another’s designs, the divine designer, God.  God designed and created you.  So are you interested in being a role model?

I recall reading the story of a woman named Dranafice.  She was also known as Rose.  She was a poor woman who lived for years in Albania.  Rose and her husband opened their home to the poor and hungry in their town.  Whenever one of Rose’s daughters would ask who the new visitor was at the dinner table, Rose would answer that it was a relative.  Rose’s daughters grew up believing that they came from an enormous extended family.

After Rose’s husband died, she still found ways to give food to the hungry and destitute.  One of Rose’s daughters was greatly influenced by her mother’s example of sacrificial love.  This daughter, Agnes, grew up to become an advocate for the poor all over the world.  Young Agnes grew up to become mother Teresa, the 20th Century’s living example of Christ to the world.

Don’t turn away, don’t say “surely not me,” don’t be afraid, be a mentor, be a role model to someone.  Pray for God to send you someone to mentor. That is Christ’s will for us.  The world needs good role models.  Professional athletes are a natural source of role models for young people.   Some professional athletes, like Serena Williams, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Le Braun James and Michael Phelps among others are exceptional mentors; they set up sports camps, clinics, and foundations for young people.  They devote time and money to invest in young people. Other athletes don’t like the label.  They say, we are not role models, we are professional baseball players or football players.  Still other athletes are, well let’s say, negative role models, when they get into drugs or commit crimes.  I think Pastor Miles McPherson, the founder and head pastor of the Rock Church and Miles Ministries is an inspirational role model for young people and all people here in San Diego.

But with the pervasive greed and evil we witness daily, the world needs more role models.  An unknown author wrote:  “We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints, more degrees, but less commonsense, more knowledge but less judgment, we’ve been to the moon but have trouble crossing the street to greet a new neighbor, we’ve increased our possessions, but reduced our human values.”

A four-year old boy was watching his grandfather play golf.  He asked his grandfather if he would teach him to play golf.  The grandfather was so delighted that he immediately went out and bought his grandson a set of golf clubs.  A few weeks later, the entire family had a cookout in the park and the little boy who had been spending time golfing with his grandfather announced, “Watch me play golf.”  He took a club, began to swing and then threw his club as far as he could.  Yes, he was learning to play golf all right, all by observing his grandfather.

As a role model, you need certain qualities: being interested in people,  humility, admitting you are not perfect, a willingness to admit you may have learned a lot, but you don’t know everything, an ability to say you were wrong, but also having the honesty to say you were right, the willingness to take risks and make mistakes,  the ability to forgive yourself, when you could have mentored more effectively, rather than allowing your disappointed in yourself to crush you and cause you to lose confidence, the ability to seek guidance, wisdom and strength from God, rather than relying only upon yourself because of pride.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, fully divine, and fully human had mentors.  I think of his father Joseph, and his mother Mary and who knows how many others in the village of Nazareth where he spent his childhood.  Further recall the story from the Gospel of Luke, where his parents and Jesus became separated when they left Jerusalem to return home after the Passover.  His parents searched for him and finally found him in the Temple, and we read:  “And after three days Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and scribes, listening to them and asking them questions.”

In our passage from Luke, after Jesus spent three years with his disciples, teaching them, leading them, mentoring them, Jesus sends them out on their first mission.  They have observed and learned from Jesus.  Now it’s their time.  It’s their moment.  Jesus gives them power and authority over evil, they have power to cure disease.  He sends them out to do his work in the Kingdom of God.  We read: “They departed and went through the villages, bringing he good news and curing diseases everywhere.”

Mentors are teachers.  They aren’t perfect, they have flaws, they have overcome challenges in their lives, they have gained wisdom and knowledge, they are persons of good character, they are willing to share.  Mentors are people who have experienced life and are capable of transferring that knowledge to another.  They may be older or younger.  A role model is anyone capable of helping others to grow, to better their lives, to enhance other’s lives, to teach values and strategies for living.  And if a mentor is a person of faith, they are capable of sharing their personal faith in a way that open’s your soul to faith or helps you to mature in your walk with God.

A mother writes:  “One especially stressful day, when I had little time for anything, I was losing my patience with my two young children.  My son, Len, who was three, was on my heels constantly.  Whenever I stopped to do something and turned back around, I would trip over him.  I suggested he go outside and play.  But he simply said, ‘Oh, that’s all right, mommy, I’d rather be in here with you.’   He continued to bounce along after me.  After stepping on my toes for the fifth time, I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up and said: ‘Well, mommy, in Sunday school my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, but I can’t see Jesus, so I’m walking in yours.’

Second, no matter what our age, I believe we still need mentors, role models, examples for our lives.   We always need people we can imitate, admire, people who challenge us to be better.   We need someone or a variety of people to teach us and help us to continue to grow and mature in our lives and faith.  When former mentors have died or moved on, pray to God to bring new examples into your life.  Look for them, watch for them, God will bring them forth.  As we grow older, admitting that we still need mentors requires humility.  It requires walking humbly with God, as the prophet Micah says.   We always need to learn and there are always good examples we can learn from.

Proverbs 1:5 says:  “Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance.”  Proverbs 27:9 says:  “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.”  Proverbs 13:20 says:  “One that walks with the wise grows wise; but a companion of fools suffers harm.

The first step toward improving your life is the willingness to watch and listen.  Spend time with your mentor when that is possible.   Use those opportunities wisely. Thank God for giving you someone who can inspire you.  Ask God to help you to be able to know to whom you should open your ears and eyes.

What three people have had the greatest impact on your life?  List one key nugget of wisdom you have learned from each one.  Have you ever thanked your role models, your mentors, for their influence on your life?

Yes, role models still count today.  Worthy examples still make a difference.  Jesus calls us to stand tall for him.  Jesus sends us out to be models of his love and grace.  Amen!

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