A few weeks ago the Reverend Leah Dunlap-Ennis asked an interesting question at the beginning of her sermon: If we could have one wish, what would that wish be? The people I met last month in Turkey who are working with refugees all spoke with one voice around this question: refugees fleeing from religious persecution and war, and immigrants looking for a better life, are all ultimately after one thing: they wish for a future rich with possibilities, a future with hope, for them and for their children. Isn’t that what we all want – a future with hope?
So what do we need to do? What DOES give us a hopeful future? Proverbs, arguably the most pragmatic book in scripture, speaks of the desirability of wisdom, as we strive to do God’s will. Proverbs 24: 13 & 14: My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off. We are called to be the very presence of God in this world, acting as God’s messengers, working as servants of the Lord, fulfilling His vision for shalom here on earth. Restoring shalom means that we consider the needs of others, as well as our needs, following Jesus’ command to care for one another. Here in this place and time, with whom are we called to walk, to encourage, to share hope?
The Dream Team is considering these questions. We are looking at demographic data from the US Census, and from various social service agencies in this area to determine the needs of the community. We will be talking with folks from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, the police departments, people who work with the young, the sick, the poor, the lonely, parents, single parents, veterans, folks with handicaps, older people, to better understand the felt needs of the community. Then we will consider our areas of giftedness, to see how we can be Jesus’ hands and feet here.
This flies in the face of what our culture tells us about how to live our lives. We are told not to serve, but to strive to be served by others. That is not what Jesus taught us to do. The Synoptic gospels tell us the story of the conflict between Jesus’ wisdom, what Jesus calls us to do, and what the culture says. Jesus has been telling the disciples openly that He will be going to Jerusalem, be arrested, tried, tortured, and crucified. Peter begins to argue vehemently with Jesus, and Jesus responds with even more vehemence, telling Peter that his thinking is totally wrong.
As it is said in Mark 8, beginning with verse 34: “He [Jesus] called the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake, and for the sake of the gospel,* will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of Me and of My words* in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”
To save our lives, to save any body of Christ, any church, it is necessary for us to be willing to set aside our desire to “save the church” and instead do what Jesus calls us to do: offer a vision of God’s kingdom, which is a future with hope, as we learn more and more to live and love like Jesus. When we do that, not only do we live into Proverbs 24, we also find that Jesus saves our lives, and the life of His church.
It starts not with us, but with Jesus. As we continue to live into Jesus’ teaching to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and souls and minds and strength, as we grow in our ability to love our neighbors as ourselves, may the Lord grant us wisdom. May we receive the grace to see a glimpse of our future, one filled with hope and the blessed assurance that comes from serving Jesus, until He returns in glory. And even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!!