Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 16 September 2015

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”  John 21:18 NRSV

This is part of a conversation the Risen Christ is having with St. Peter.  Some have suggested it is the moment of Peter’s restoration to grace after having denied Jesus when He was facing His worst, but I think that may be reading a little too much into what is actually written.  After all, why would Jesus “favor” Peter and the others with an assurance of persecution?  This is what Jesus is talking about.  To serve The Lord does not mean life will always favor us.  To serve The Lord fully in a world that does not know Him and seems to have no desire to know Him means we will face the world’s wrath when we choose to live on The Lord’s terms rather than on our own terms.  And when we fully devote ourselves to obedience to The Lord, even HE will send us to places we may not wish to go!

I think of this county clerk in KY who served a brief jail sentence for defying a court order.  Many (including some politicians) are trying to make her a martyr.  Maybe she is.  However, a closer look might suggest she is not so concerned about living her beliefs as she is enforcing her beliefs (big difference) – while continuing to draw a paycheck! – in a world that is hostile to her beliefs.  We Christians should be prepared to hold one another accountable to discipleship, but we should not expect the world to be so willing to be held accountable – especially when so many in the CHURCH refuse to be held accountable!

Jesus has told Peter and the others (even apostles and faithful disciples to this day!) there was once a time when we could do as we wished when it pleased us – BUT – following Jesus faithfully is not going to be very well received in the world at large.  Yet even among all who need to hear the Gospel, there are some who have been waiting their entire lives to hear some Good News for a change!  It is not, however, about getting them to go to church – it is entirely about the Church going to them!  The Great Commission we know well from Matthew’s Gospel is being affirmed in John’s Gospel.  We are also seeing this Commission begin to take on an even more meaningful life.  Rather than to only “go” and “teach” and “baptize” (which can be construed as “imposing” or “enforcing”), the Church is being commissioned to “feed” those who are starving for mercy and justice.  This means we are being commissioned to get up close and personal!

I encourage you to continue to lift up this lady in your prayers, but we must keep our eyes on the Holy Ball.  It is The Lord who must be lifted up and glorified; not a county clerk!  The teaching of doctrine is a tricky thing even inside the “ekklesia”, so we should not be surprised nor get our noses out of joint when the world at large does not care. 

Our challenge is to ask ourselves: what will it take to “feed” those “sheep” and “lambs” to whom Jesus is referring?  I think this question must be asked and answered within the “ekklesia” before we venture out into a hostile world.  And let us not worry too much about how we can use federal legislation to enforce or even protect our beliefs.  The federal government never has been and never will be concerned with the Gospel of The Lord.  This is the task, the Commission, of the Church, the “ekklesia”.  That, my friends, is you and me.



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