Most Influential

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Linwood Family and Friends,

Who influences you?

This past week Time Magazine published its annual list of “The 100 Most Influential People.” The “Top 100” got a lot of immediate publicity (much to the delight of Time Magazine!) when it was revealed that Beyonce was at the top of the list of “Titans.”  It really doesn’t excite me or disturb me if Beyonce is #1 on the list.  Good for her.

This did, however, get me to thinking about “most influential.”  Certainly many (if not most) on Time’s top 100 have had significant impact upon our culture – our thinking, our behaviors, our viewpoints and values as a society.  There have always been those whose lives shape the culture in deep ways – both for the good and for the bad. Perhaps what is significant about this list is how many entertainers are seen having such an impact on us today.

However, suppose some Sunday morning I were to ask each person gathered for worship in the Tabernacle to name the person who has been “most influential” for them.  I would wager you that NO ONE would name someone on the Time Magazine top 100 list!  In fact, if the same question were to be asked of 100,000 people packed into a college football stadium, I would still question if anyone would name one of the top 100.  The persons who impact us personally are almost always different from those that impact us collectively.

Just for fun, who would you name?

A number of names immediately come to my mind.  There is my 4th grade Sunday School teacher, Mame Fleanor; Paul Suzuki, my Senior High Youth Group advisor; Jerry Kirk, my role model in ministry; and Nelson Callahan, my dear friend.  All of these have been “influential” in who I am today.  Yet, they are not the “most influential.”

Without any doubt the “most influential” people in my life are my family – my wife, my parents, and my children.  “But,” you may say, “that’s a mixed bag!  There have been some blessings, but there have also been some burdens.”  Yes, indeed.  Time Magazine points out that “influential” does not always mean we are impacted in a positive way.

The fact is that for everyone of us, family has enormous influence – by its presence or its absence; by its encouragement or its discouragement; by its communication of faith or lack of communication about faith; by its affection or lack of affection; by its work ethic or play ethic; …..(this could go on and on)………….

Why is this?  That is an easy question!  Because that is how God designed it!  The relational God fashioned us as relational beings, and intentionally placed us into relationships (a family system) so that we can be fully human (which cannot happen without relationships) and so we can reflect His nature and character (which also does not happen without relationships).

It is a given – considering the design of creation – that family has an enormous impact on us – the person we become, the choices we make, and the faith that we hold.  What an incredible opportunity!  And, what an incredible responsibility!

Our season long theme at Linwood this summer is “Faith, Family, and Friendship.”  I am eager for us to explore together how these three “F’s” work together.  And, I can’t think of a better place to do this than Linwood!

A really important P.S.!!!!!

It is a “given” that family has a HUGE impact upon each of us.  That truth has led many parents to assume a HUGE load of guilt when a child “doesn’t turn out right.”  “What have we done wrong?” they wonder.  “It must be our fault.”  Consider the “first family.”

Adam and Eve had three sons (and other children that are not named in the Bible, including at least one daughter!).  However, of the three we know:  one (Abel) knew how to offer a fitting sacrifice to God; one (Cain) was not able (or willing) to prepare an acceptable sacrifice; and the third (Seth) established the generational line of blessing.  So…were Adam and Eve good parents to two sons and bad to one? What went wrong?  There is no easy answer to that.

None of us as parents can take all the credit when things work out well.  And, none of us as parents are off the hook completely when they don’t.  Certainly we have contributed to the final result.  That is why forgiveness and grace (and humility and thankfulness) are essential in both our relationship with God and with one another in our families.  HOWEVER, there are two other things that come into play.  1) We are not the only influence in our children’s lives.  There are other voices that also impact to varying degrees.  2)  We are in all given free will – which means we can embrace or reject the influence of anyone – including parents.

Again, I am glad to be with you in this adventure of life and faith!  The opening of the 2014 season is closer than it has ever been!

See you soon.

Blessings in Christ,
Hu Auburn, Linwood Park Pastor

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