Last week it was suggested we focus, primarily, on renewal rather than repentance, and that a genuine renewal makes repentance so much easier - and much more honest. Of course...
Remember last week’s emphasis on our call and challenge to manifest, show forth, the Lord to our world – especially to those at the door waiting to be invited in?! John the Baptist manifested Jesus Christ to his world – to the crowd thronging around – those who were eager to be invited in.
It is, for me, interesting, that Jesus identified himself with both the crowds as well as the currently established ‘routine’ with which the Baptist was working. The Lord did not come along, appraise the situation and say there was a much better way.
HE WENT WITH THE FLOW. The people’s hearts were on fire with what was actually happening. Jesus used that enthusiasm. “Let it be so now, for this is fitting …” [SEE TODAY’S GOSPEL READING – MATTHEW3: 13 – 17] Jesus had his hand on the pulse of the people, and insisted that in the immediate situation it would be more productive to go, as it were, with the flow. I will always remember the counsel give us by a wise (very shrewd) professor with whom we were blessed during my seminary days. “Do not waste time and energy by swimming upstream against the tide. Go with the stream and use the good therein in order to mould specific approaches.”
It would be foolish if we were to kick against the goad and swim against the current stream of goodwill and enthusiasm regarding contemporary trends in the Church
OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 42:1 – 4. 6 – 7] focussed on the time of the coming Messiah and what he would manifest to the world. If we are to arise and shine it is helpful to apply the words of Isaiah to ourselves.
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, chosen … I have put my Spirit upon him … he will not fail or be discouraged.”
What a splendid summary of the results of our own baptisms. First of all we are reminded that we are HIS SERVANTS! Baptism calls us to SERVICE! This service is to the Lord, the Gospel, and the Church. It is not a service to promote our own private agendas, fads, or preferences. Then, we must always be sensitively aware of the fact that we have been CHOSEN! God-in-Christ did not decide that I might be a good bet or wager. Neither did he choose me as I choose my Lotto Numbers! Rather, it was a specific and individual choice. GOD HAS CHOSEN ME! He does not need me – he wants me! I never had to go for an interview. I am never given an annual evaluation! It is a permanent, ongoing, CHOICE!
Then, I have been given the Spirit. If he took back his Spirit, I would die! The Lord does not take back anything he has given. It follows, then, that we should never allow discouragement to become the fuel of our discipleship. Our sin and limitation, our lack of response, should never be labelled as failure. We may regularly fall short of the ideal but this does not mean that we are failures.
The Isaiah reading continues with “I have taken you by the hand and kept you.” This he has done for a purpose ….. so that we might manifest him to the blind (and) bring out the prisoners. However, we will not achieve this if we break the bruised reed nor quench the dimly burning wick. Remember that Jesus went with the flow, never used a ten-pound sledge hammer. My experience tells me that such an approach is a recipe for the disaster of discouragement. Rather, it is a matter for slowly, slowly, catch the monkey!
I believe the best way, the most productive, of manifesting the Lord to others is by quiet, sustained, and persevering example. In
THE NEW TESTAMENT READING [ACTS 10: 34 – 38] Luke records Peter as saying “you know the word … good news of peace … how he went about doing good … for God was with him.”
Here we have a basic outline of good, Christian, example. We do not need to be a Baptist-type preacher or personality. We must, however, be ourselves and be true to ourselves. If we know the
WORD as we should, there is no need for preaching but there is a need for peaceful action (no ten-pound sledgehammer!) – our example must offer GOOD NEWS. Good News is always joyful and happy. There are far too many joyless Christians around who look aghast at anything which even faintly resembles people enjoying themselves and being peacefully HAPPY!SAVE ME FROM PARTY POOPERS! God is with us when we are doing good – and being wet blankets is NOT GOOD! The Christian God is not a misery!
It is a good idea for us to finish off with a reference back to our Gospel reading.
Therein notice how John the Baptist wanted to ‘handover’ to Jesus. Of course the Lord had ‘powers’ superior to the Baptist – but this did not mean that John was impotent. In normal circumstances Jesus does not ‘take over’. I may well not be God but I AM a part of him, and A PART OF HIS PLAN. The plan is for me to be a human messenger – but I must remain human.