Saturday, April 20, 2013

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John... and Emilee

"So what do you think John the Baptist was doing while all of this went down?" I asked, after Emilee and I had discussed in length the odd Baptizer's camel hair clothing, wilderness dwelling, and locust eating habits, and then watched the baptism of Jesus unfold - heavens rent, dove-like Spirit, God's voice. We had just started our adventurous study together through the book of Mark... with a bang.

She giggled and put her hand to her face in amusement. "I can just see him sitting in the river with a tub of fried locust, eating them like pop corn." And she imitated him, hunched over, eyes wide open, and hand moving frantically from bowl to mouth, like she was watching an intense movie. I cracked up with her, and thanked God again for throwing this crazy girl into my life.

She definitely took some poetic liberty in her response, but it shows that she's relating to these people who knew Jesus personally, that they are real-life people to her, not just two-dimensional characters in a story... and she thinks they are awesome. I have never thought of John as being so engaged, enthralled, dumbfounded by the experience before, but it makes total sense, I'm sure I'd react the same way, and I will forever think of John with his bucket of fried locusts.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Many Broken

I woke up this morning with this feeling of "not-right-ness." Do you ever have days like that? Even before you can explain why, you can tell something isn't right. All morning was frustrating... I couldn't find things, I dropped things, it took me hours to do what normally would take a short time, I got bad news and warnings and cancellations and red lights. Plus, it is cold again outside, rainy, windy, and the city is flooded. Nothing was right.

At lunch time, Brie came home and when I started to tell her about my day, she said, "Connie, the world is not right today." She directed me to the news from Watertown today, which I had been to preoccupied to notice. And I remembered that our ministry partner has gone home today to visit a good friend who is dying of cancer - a young man my age who has a wife and two small children, and whose ministry is having a huge impact on the world. My not-right day extends far beyond the walls of my little Hobbit Hole.

Meng Pu came over just a little while ago, and as he began to talk about our last Bible lesson, I realized I wasn't understanding anything he said - not a word. My heart was too heavy to be able to listen, and I nearly cried. Instead, I prayed for God to help me listen and understand something. Then, with sad eyes, I heard Meng Pu say, "Many broken..." He spoke of the world, people, death, violence, earthquakes... he said God will come soon, and fix all that is broken. Apparently, he felt the not-right-ness of today, too.

Many things are broken in this world, and we can feel it. As this world falls apart and dies, it is heartbreaking to witness and experience the pain. But the heaviness and the not-right-ness is supposed to chafe at our spirit, to remind us that this is not all there is - this is not what we live for or hope in. One day Jesus will return, and he will put things right again, as it was meant to be from the beginning. Trust in him, place your hope in him, and he will give you grace and courage to walk through the brokenness until it is restored.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Example for community ministry

Probably one of the most exciting days in March for me was the day I got to go to Grace College with Todd and Tara, to do some community ministry training. We got to speak to a small group of students who are in school, training to serve the Lord in missions, and it was exciting to hear from them and share with them what God's been doing in our lives over the past year. We talked mostly about community, since that is something we've been learning a lot and growing in this year. It's a fine balance between hiding within rich Christ-centered fellowship and being light and salt in a dark and bland world. What is the biblical basis for the kind of community that we long for and work for?

We agreed that Philippians 2 was a good place to start:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
        even death on a cross!

I am so thankful that Jesus set an example for us to follow. He helps us to understand what it looks like to shed selfish ambition and clothe ourselves in humility. I love reading the book of Mark to see Jesus' example of community ministry in action. So many times the stories show him walking and looking, finding people and inviting them to follow him and join him in what he was doing. He touched and looked at and ate with individuals, and spoke in the context of their culture and their lifestyle. He was one of them, and at the same time he was definitely distinct from them all - and it was attractive. He laid down his glory for the sake of calling us to something deeper and greater than we could ever reach on our own. And what was the point of all of it?
 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The glory of God. That was the point of everything Jesus did. And through his example, it should be the point of our lives too. We talk with strangers in the neighborhood, we invite people into our homes, we teach and serve and give and listen and pray and love because Jesus freed us to do it and called us to do it. And our lives are for the glory of the Father.