Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.
Here is the next submission:
Simon of Cyrene Modeled Unconditional Love
Unconditional love is messy; it’s hard, and sometimes it makes us sad. Unconditional love, the kind we find in the Scriptures, the kind that our society and world hunger for is a kind of love that says, “I don’t care…I still love you!” A kind of love that is willing to help those in need when they’re encountered; a love that provides help when help is needed, but does not expect anything in return. This is unconditional love; an example of this kind of love is a man that gets relatively small mention in The Gospels. Dragged out of his everyday life, pulled out of his comfort zone, taken out of his routine to help a man condemned to death. Simon of Cyrene. We know very little about this man… we know that he was coming from the country (Luke 23:26), the father of two sons, Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21), and was made to (Luke) or compelled to (Matthew 27:32) help carry the cross of Jesus.
We each have a role to play in spreading the unconditional love of Jesus in the world. It may be that we contribute greatly to the financial well-being of, or give of our time and energies to, the communities we find ourselves in; it may be that we reach out and say “Hi!” to the person who looks like they need a friend sitting next to us; it may be that we stop and talk to the man and his dog holding a sign on the street corner. It may be all of these things. And it may be the one thing that changes our lives forever.
Simon was put in a situation that he, I’m sure, would have preferred not to be in, but he responded, he reached out and helped a man condemned to death that he’d never met or would never know. He showed Jesus and us a wonderful, messy example of what it means to show unconditional love, an unconditional love that helps the broken in their time of need, an unconditional love that has no expectations, an unconditional love that helped Jesus continue His work in the world. We have an impact on the lives around us everyday, just as Simon’s experience impacted his sons, the people around them, and Jesus.
My pastor in West Virginia, Rev. Dr. Dean Thompson, took me to lunch one day, sat me down and asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I said, “Good job, family, house.” (You know the usual). When I got back to work I had a confrontation with my boss about the future. If it weren’t for those two men, those two interactions, I know that my life would not have turned out the way it has. Both those interactions, one positive, one confrontational, helped me to continue my journey to the cross.
What interactions can you reflect on when you have been a stepping stone for someone’s journey to the cross? Who have been the stepping stones on your journey?
Prayer: Gracious and Merciful God, we see broken, helpless people all around us; we feel broken and helpless ourselves at times. Give us the strength to reach out to those around us who are in need of a stepping stone to You. Help us to see those around us who are laying down our stepping stones, those who are reaching out to us. Remind us that Your Love, through Jesus, is unwavering as we navigate the long road we call faith. Let us rejoice, when our Simon arrives to carry our burden, let us rejoice when we can be Simon to others. Let us rejoice in the knowledge that You are with us now and forevermore. Amen!