From Fans to Followers. Jesus calls us out of the crowd.

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Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

 

Its great to blend in and disappear in the crowd sometimes. There is an almost cellular compulsion to just be like the other. Part of maturing is the acceptance that I’m a lot like and a lot different from folks in a crowd. I can be a part of crowd, enjoying the music, the art of another, or the vibe of a public event. Most artists are going to be just fine with that. But, when Jesus gets in front of crowd he calls people out. He doesn’t seem to be content with “fans.” He wants followers.

His invitation is winsom. He truly does assume the best about the crowd. “If any of you wants to be my follower.” I like that. Jesus knew that being about the Father’s love-work would create attraction. You like hanging around together in this movement? So, you want to be a follower? Jesus is actually looking to move people from being “fans” to becoming “followers.”

Jesus also clarifies what its going to take to be a follower. Followers of Jesus have a disruptive calling: “You must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.” People who have become fans like to look at and observe The Gospel at work. People who have become followers like to become participants in The Gospel work. It starts in them. Jesus transforms all of life and relationships through HIS life, death, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel changes everything.

I’m naturally resistant to the Gospel changing everything. We all are! We are all infected with this resistance. So it does take the work of the Spirit to move us into a sacrificial, submitted-to-God, kind of life. There is an ease to the Christian life — Jesus said it himself — “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly.”  But there is also a narrowness to the Christian life that does constrain against my selfishness— “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” Selfishness — the desire to be lord of my life when Jesus is the Lord — will be against what Jesus wants. Fans can do what they want. Followers do what Jesus wants. So, when I’m trying to live the Christian life in my own strength because “its what I should do” its really going to be a slog! On the way to the new life that comes from Him, I’m going to have to also attend to the death and burial of a “thing” resisting Jesus. That’s the cross of discipleship — the movement into obedience. There’s so much blessing on the other side of being aligned with Jesus! There’s no other way to be in His joy.

Now we live with great expectation.

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3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

6So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  1 Peter 1:3-6

Peter knew what it was to cave under pressure. He knew how weakness had given  way to dread. He knew how the shame of failure could have become a weight dragging him back from freedom in His relationship with Jesus and from leadership among Jesus’ people.

But Peter also knew the healing, restorative work of Jesus in His life. So Peter writes to the church celebrating God’s mercy that gives us new birth! He says, “Now we live with great expectation.” We look forward to our inheritance: the full unveiled experience of Jesus and His Kingdom. Even as we endure pressure and struggle, we are drawn forward by faith. “There is wonderful joy ahead!”

This is how faith works. Even when others don’t see who we are. Even when other do not share the hope we have in Christ. And even when they may even be puzzled by what Peter later calls “our good behaviour in Christ,” we persist because there is a day coming when what we are will be revealed “for all to see.”

“Now we live with great expectation.”

“There is wonderful joy ahead!”

Grief ~ The gift we hesitate to open.

I have had sadness welling up in my heart and mind since the weekend. Two UBC students died in a horrible accident on the Sea to Sky highway on Saturday. My heart goes out to their families and friends. But I confess I have had my own reluctance to fully enter into the feelings rising to the surface. You see, I have experienced great loss this year and I know there are still sensitivities and unresolved pain there for me and especially for my friends who feel the weight of their loss more dearly.

Christmas is coming.

Gifts are wrapped.

But there is a tear in the paper and I see a gift that comes with tears. Shall I open it?

Loss and grief crash through the thin veneer of invincibility we wear as a shield to our vulnerabilities and mortality. I have a smouldering anger just under the surface. The smoke stings my eyes and generates fear. Its a fear of losing again.

Christians believe God enters into our suffering, our loss, and our grief.

When Jesus came from the communion of God to enter with flesh into the relationships He had ordained for us: with God the Father, with people, with self, and with the stuff of earth, Jesus did not come with a special shield against loss and grief.

He had friends; He attached; His daily life was woven intricately with their lives with memory, with presence, and with hope for the future. They did life together. Knowing that his friend Lazarus had died and knowing that He would raise Lazarus up did not give Jesus immunity against the grief.

32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  John 11:32-

God meets us in our grief and people can too.

Losses come. Grief is the pain telling us all is not well in the world. The smile of God seems hidden. But if we meet Him in that grief, if we wait for Him in that pain, our hope is that we will live again.

We don’t have to open this grief gift alone. Its good to reach out to friends and family, to pastors and counsellors, for company and when we are ready some insight. Opening the gift requires talking and knowing someone else is listening as a witness to our grief.

What about happiness?

I think the well of joy we long to drink from must be dug through the ground of our grief. Its too easy to settle for surface pleasantries and trivial cover-ups.

The extraordinary reality of Jesus’ identity was hidden from Mary and Martha and even the disciples until they entered into the grief with him. Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” surely filled their hearts and minds through the years.

Oh how He loves us!

Here’s Brene Brown sharing how this story of Jesus’ grief brought life to her.

JoyLeaks at Christmas

Leaks seem to be hated recently.  And I agree.  When our kids were smaller I hated diaper leaks and now a leak in the roof will keep me awake at night for days.  However, as governments around the world respond to wikileaks I have been reflecting on the greatest leak ever.  In Luke 2:9-20 God leaked the secret of Jesus’ birth and broadcast it to shepherds working the night shift.  Up until that moment of revelation Jesus’ birth was Mary and Joseph’s private experience.  But God would not keep this joy to Himself.  This is how joy works.  It leaks into our lives and sometimes floods, but most often leaks.

I think there are plenty of reasons why joy is not our normative experience.  For one, we are incredibly suspicious of publicly joyful people.  Second, we are inhabited with joy killers who roam about like Rowling’s dementors ready to suck the happiness out of us: boredom, envy, and self-righteousness come to mind.  And third, life is tough as we live in a Narnia-like state of suspended winter:  “Always winter, never Christmas.”  We need joy to leak into our lives and our public experience.

I imagine it was another mundane night of watching sheep until Heaven leaked “good news great joy” all over those shepherds.  It was God’s happy dance.  Joy has roots in the details and the reality of Jesus’ birth.  Unto us a child is born!  Heaven shouts, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The shepherds show us how joy might leak more regularly into our lives.  They investigated Jesus and got close to Him.  So it is with us when we daily ascribe to Jesus the greatest worth and value in our lives, when we respond to the good news of the Gospel that God loves us, joy emerges.

I love the line in verse 20, “The Shepherds returned…”  They returned to their jobs, their lives, their responsibilities…but they were not the same.  They returned “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”  Sounds like joy.

Here is a joyleak to enjoy: