This coming Sunday, Sept 15 will be Community of Christ Heritage Sunday in which we celebrate the history of the restoration. This year the Topeka's congregation's focus is on how our history has always spoken of being people of Peace and Justice. You can find a lot of other historical stories like the one I share below at the Historic Sites Foundation.
There are always a myriad of thoughts surrounding Joseph Smith Jr. from in the Community of Christ however Joseph Smith III is highly beloved for his genuine ability to care for others and form the roots of who we are today.
One amazing story of Joseph Smith III happened on his farm. Three boys who found themselves on the Smith property, began picking apples from their tree without permission. While this was going on, Joseph Smith III caught them in the act. Now Joseph could have ran them off however he decided to take a different direction which showed the nature of who he was. He called the boys over saying, "Throw those apples on the ground and come inside for the good ones have already been picked." This choice of response initiated a invitation to relationship. It wasn't about the apples, but about taking the time to learn and listen to their story. These boys came away with not only the best apples from the tree but now a family who took the time to get to know them.
I find this story extremely thought provoking because I don't know what I would have done in a similar situation. Would I have been as generous? Would I have used this circumstance to focus on relationships? Who am I in the midst of uncomfortable or unsettling situations in my own life? Faith journey's are all about being in relationship with God and others. When we take the time to listen and learn others stories we come away changed. Let's look closer at Joseph Smith III and how relationships play a vital role in faith journey's.
Joseph Smith III
Joseph Smith III lived a good life filled with lots of love. He thoughtfully and pragmatically made decisions as he formed this church and what it has come to be with his mother Emma by his side. He openly understood and communicated the faults of his father and yet upheld the belief in the ongoing spirit of the restoration. It was in this reserved confidence he had where he knew he did not have to be defend his father's past actions but instead was called to lead this restoration movement into one of peace and justice.
His moderate viewpoints created a foundation for this church which would eventually accept women into the priesthood, embrace other churches baptisms, welcome the marriage and ordination of LBGTQia+, and give an open Lord's Supper to all who were present.
Now was Joseph Smith III perfect? No by no means was he and I would imagine if he was here today there are many things he would regret and do differently. But I can imagine his delight in how this church has come to be from just his small gathering of saints who longed for the restoration message which welcomes and includes all who seek the message of Jesus.
Building and Engaging in Relationships
Relationships are hard work, taking time and effort. We share with others, build trust, and engage in interests. Its a two way street in which support is mutually given. Relationships are the key and foundation of community. In Community of Christ we have the enduring principle of Blessings of Community. This is the understanding that Christ's love is shared through others and with others.
How do we get to the point in which we completely focus and engage in those around us? How many of us feel alone because the lack of sharing with others in our lives? Relationships can be healing and can make us develop a deeper trust and understanding God in our lives. The tedtalk below by Lindsay Adams talks about the benefits and keys of building relationships through an experience he had with building his house. It focuses on the need to serve those we come in contact with. Enjoy!
Relationships and Faith
How do we radically love others we come in contact with? Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to build relationships with others especially when they are not like us. We find things we don't like, do not want to tolerate, or simply can't take. Setting boundaries is healthy for us however we must also be conscious of our call to love others through the imperfections we see. God may be talking to you through this person.
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with
one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace."
- Ephesians 4:2-3
Building relationships with others gives us opportunities to find God in people and ultimately strengthen our faith. God speaks to us through others and the circumstances we find ourselves in. This article by Lesli White titled "6 ways to Find God in Others" gives some great suggestions on how we can focus our minds to see God through people. Often we think it should come easy however as the article indicates it takes a lot of awareness from ourselves in changing our judgments, perceptions, and view of ourselves. This interpersonal work helps us live the Christ like love we have been called to share.
Relationships are also meant to be deepened. This article "15 Little Ways to Deepen Your Relationship With Anyone" gives some awesome ideas of how we can continue to go deeper with people. This article by Tris Thorpe "10 Ways to Deepen Your Connections With Others" also gives some wonderful thoughts. However we must acknowledge that deepening our relationships with others allows us to understand the intimacy God is wanting from us.
God yearns to meet us upon our first breath in the morning and feel our heart beat when we acknowledge the spirit present before us. Those deep relationships are only a fraction of what it feels like when the divine sees us as beloved. I encourage you to not only build relationships with those you are around but also to intentionally do that with the divine. This may be through spiritual practices or some other way that is authentic to you. Give it a try and invest time in relationships with God and others.
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This week plan something to do with a person you don't know much about.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.