Advent Devotion – Day 18

Dear Summerfielders,

A week until Christmas! Wow. You are running out of time, so if there is someone you would like to acknowledge as a shining star in your faith journey you need to hurry up and let me know soon.

In October of last year I attended an Urban Ministry conference in Los Angeles. Someone who attended and spoke was a pastor from Houston, Texas named Rudy Rasmuss. He’s a relatively short, slim African-American who wears his goatee in braids with beads and calls that his filter – it filters out all the judgmental people right away. He pastors a huge United Methodist Church in Houston that some of you may have heard of because it is the church Beyoncé grew up in and got married at.

Rudy grew up in a brothel that his parents owned and operated. I didn’t get the impression they were very churchy folks. He started going to church to appease his wife. His pastor took him to look at a property that the district or conference had offered to their church if they felt it was a usable ministry opportunity. The pastor and the other couple of people that were there felt like it was too run down, too terrible of a neighborhood, too much of a mess to even consider doing anything with. They felt it was a gift they would rather pass on. Not Rudy, all he could see was opportunity. He saw people who needed the things the church can offer – God, community, hope. His pastor told him, “okay, you run it”. Rudy says at that time he knew one Bible verse – “Jesus wept.” He hadn’t been to seminary, and he certainly didn’t fancy himself to be a pastor.

He got that church started by offering to pay homeless people $5 each to sit through a worship service. He grew and grew and grew that church by meeting people where they were at, and offering them what they were hungry for. The church is now a huge complex with transitional housing, feeding programs, a ginormous sanctuary with high-production value music and more other stuff than I could describe.

Rudy is a shining star to me. Ever since I met him he has remained in my mind as a shining star of going beyond what is expected of you by people to meet the expectations of God. I am going to another Urban Ministry conference this January, this time in Houston. I sure hope that his church offers a worship service early enough in the day on Saturdays that I can still get home for Sunday. I want to see it all myself, how God is working to serve a neighborhood that the rest of the United Methodist Church would have been happy to leave to the prostitutes and drug dealers. I am inspired.

Do you know someone that has gone way beyond what anyone ever expected of them? Is there a way in which you are one of those people? We all can be. I was so honored a couple of months ago to have two different people in two different situations over the course of one week respond to something I had said with “that reminds me of Rudy Rasmuss, do you know who that is?” It is okay to aspire to take on some of the qualities of people who have succeeded in being amazing stewards of God’s gifts. God wants all of us to be our best. Next time you are wowed, I challenge you to take some of that awe and use it to be more of the you God created you to be.

Peace,

Pastor Jennifer