Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Jesus, thank you for coming anyway"

Every so often I'm struck by a turn of a phrase that probably didn't seem very profound to most people, but happened to really cut straight to my heart.

The first sentence of this Sunday's closing prayer did it for me:

"Jesus, thank you for coming anyway."

If the Bible is true -- or if even "the majority of the words of a rabbi named Yeshua who lived about 2000 years ago" were true -- then 1) we live out our lives in the midst of a remarkable spiritual plane that goes almost totally unnoticed, and 2) it's amazing that God would choose to interject himself into that ignorant and ungrateful world.

And that's not an indictment by "me" against "them;" I'm as ignorant of and ungrateful for God's workings as the next guy is. I don't live in a state of unceasing prayer. My life isn't focused on "advancing the Kingdom." I hope (and am fairly confident) that I'm not actively undermining God and His work by my actions, but an honest self-assessment does make me wonder what the right definition of "Lordship" is... and how I measure up to it.

And then whenever I get too concerned about whether I measure up to God -- news flash: I don't -- I remember the perspective captured so succinctly in that prayer. "Jesus, thank you for coming anyway."

What are missionaries called to do?

This is just a shadow of an age-old question, but I'm still pondering it at the moment: the Great Commission has us go our and teach "everything" that Jesus has commanded us. But Jesus' teachings weren't merely Paul's "Romans Road" -- He called us to be "good people" and do "good things".

I don't think missionaries are teaching the opposite... but is the emphasis on "saving faith in Jesus," or is it on being the good Law-abiding Jew that He was?

Yes, I know some works-oriented heresies lurk there... but it's still important to ask the question, isn't it?

Investment, as defined by God

One thing that always bothered me about the "Parable of the Talents" stems from the fact that I think of "investment" in the modern-day context of "put some money into the stock market and hope it doesn't disappear."  In that sense, the servant who buried his money seems pretty reasonable -- he took a conservative but prudent step and made sure that none of his master's principal was lost.

It was Joel Osteen, of all people, who gave a message that altered my perspective.  He described "talents" (the 2000-year-old monetary word) in the context of our skills or "talents" that God has given us and expects us to use.

In that sense, the master in Jesus' account was exactly right: the only way to waste/abuse/lose a talent is to not put it to use.

For me, that's a much more liberating view than to see God as someone who expects you to metaphorically "play the stock market" and come out ahead, punishing you if you have bad luck and lose some of His investment.