“The "show business," which is so incorporated into our view of Christian work today, has caused us to drift far from Our Lord's conception of discipleship. It is instilled in us to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we have not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in five minutes.”
― Oswald Chambers
Introduction of Theme:
God has an invitation for you.
Ever think about the invitations we receive in life? They can be formal, like to a wedding next summer. Or they can be as casual as your daughter saying come and see what I just drew. In each and every case, we make a choice.
I am starting to think it is not the events that happen to us, nor is it the invitations that matter, it is the response.
What defines us is what happens when someone asks us for something. What matters is how we relate to the people that need us.
How we respond shows how much we care after all. It shows us how much the other person means to us. If you care about someone, it is hard to ignore their needs, their problems, their pain.
Jesus taught it to us this way, he said that we should feed the hungry, he said we should care for the widow and the orphan, he said we should cry with those who are sad and rejoice with those are happy.
In other words, he said we should choose how we respond to them. And God’s invitation is to respond like Jesus would. Like God would. We are asked to become disciples.
Exploring the Theme
In the stories we have of Jesus you can see a lot of things at work. Clearly he must have spoken well, cause everyone seemed to listen. I imagine he had a presence so that when you looked at him you trusted him. All of these things made sense. One thing he did not seem to ever do was force anyone to do anything.
In Jesus mind faith was all about you, the listener. He told you the stories, he healed you, he talked to you when you were curious. But he never said to anyone, you need to believe this or else.
In fact, the closest he ever got to that was to tell a rich person that the only thing he could possibly do to be any better was to sell what he owned and help the poor more. It was not a judgement, it was not a command, it was an answer to a question: “I go to church, I help people, I live according to the rules… what else can I do…”
Once upon a time there were some people minding their own business when Jesus walked by and talked to them.
Well, I guess it wasn’t that simple, they were the curious sort already. They had been following along behind John the Baptist for a while trying to figure out what he was up to. They were disciples, trying to learn how to repent, how to be holy.
But then they met Jesus, and they simply asked, what are you all about, and he responded even more simply. Come and see.
Following Jesus was not a command it was not even because they couldn’t help it. It was an invitation. And following was a choice.
We happen to know that whatever they found back at Jesus’ campfire it intrigued them enough to make them want to come back. But at every step, it was their response that mattered. Come and see what I am doing, Jesus said, try it yourself, Jesus said, go over to the next village and give it a whirl, when I am gone, you are welcome to keep trying…
It was their choice, and it was their reaction, that made them followers.
Exploring the Theme:
So let me tell you a story.
Last weekend Ali and I decided to go to Quebec City on Thursday night. It was going to be warm all weekend, maybe some rain, and it is only 5 hours away. We could easily get back to Fredericton on Saturday for Ali to do church in the morning on Sunday.
So… apparently the weather people were wrong. It seemed as we travelled along every highway around us got closed either just before we got there or just after. By Edmunston we were wondering if we should stop…. By St Anne we decided to pull over… so we took the first off ramp with a sign for a motel.
Unfortunately the off ramp was solid ice, as was the road. We found ourselves sliding sidewise down a hill towards a bridge over a river…scariest few minutes of our life till feet cramping on the brakes and pulling on the emergency brake the car finally slid to a stop, still sideways, across the road. Every time we tried to put our gas on and ease of the brake… it just started to go further down the hill… luckily we managed to just get it off the road. And there we stayed, afraid to move.
No Rogers cell phone coverage…. But 911 worked. Still there were no police available in the province of NB to come and help us. They suggested sleeping till morning. An hour and a half later… us thinking if we took our foot of the brake the car would careen into the river, a man named Gerard pulled up with studs on his tires. Let me tell you. I think it might be worth it to that from now on…
He was driving by on his way from work when he saw us. He picked us up and took us to a hotel. It was closed for the season. He drove us to the next place… 50 km down the road, and waited while we asked about a room. None available… off to the next place… His wife and kid were safe at home, he phoned them to tell them he would be late… we got a place and once he knew we were ok, he left… he would not take any gas money, or any thanks really. It was just the right thing to do, he said.
So here we are in a motel surrounded by other stranded motorists, including a stranded CBC news crew, all of whom went off the road in the ice; which made us feel less like idiots. The woman behind the desk was being driven crazy by phone calls and people and panicking… and yet, when our turn came, she focused on us and helped us and apologized for having to charge us.
It was 10 oclock. We had last eaten at 3. The motel restaurant was closed… but there was soup and bread in the fridge and she heated it up for a bunch of us.
In the morning we phoned some friends and asked them to drive an hour out of their way, take us back to our car, and help us get it out. Their response, “give us an hour to get there.”
We still had three hours to drive back to Fredericton, and on the way Ali and I sat in silence for a while… but then we started talking about something in a brand new way. What does God want you to do with your life? What does it mean to follow God?
Now, I don’t know if any of the people we met go to church. I have no idea what their faith is and I did not mention mine. But I hope I am half as good a disciple of Jesus as they are.
Conclusion of Theme
I will tell you this. I am not going to drive by people stopped in a storm anymore if I can possibly stop and help.
Life is not as simple as that. But I am starting to think faith is a lot simpler than I ever thought. Faith is simply a matter of responding… and like I said when I started, how you respond might just be the most important measure of who you are.
Jesus is asking us to stop and look at what he was doing, to come and see how life could be, if we just loved like he did.
But in the end, it is still up to you and me.