“Will you have to get down on your knees because I stepped on your toes?” – T. Tron
It was interesting that last week’s lectionary was on how we have a hard time with “Believing” and how difficult it was for those in Jesus’ hometown to believe he was the Son of God. Even after he had performed countless miracles, healings and teachings, it was still beyond belief for some to accept who he was and what he was about. Today’s lectionary speaks to us from the other side of “Belief”; a belief so strong that it aroused special attention.
Long before Jesus’ time, there was one who was considered to be the “Most” faithful believer in God, Job. Job was so faithful, God gave him special favor. This, of course, did not sit well with everyone, especially with one being in particular, Satan. So when Satan talked God into allowing him to challenge Job’s faith, it became clear God was watching and waiting to see how his most faithful servant would respond. But beyond that, it was obvious God did want Job to know he considered him a special customer, so to speak.
New King James Version (NKJV)
38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? 3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
One could look at this passage a several ways. From one viewpoint, it could be a type of CSAT (Customer Satisfaction). What I mean is, we see how God sat Job down, appearing to him in a whirlwind and made him take a mental survey of all that he (God) had done for him. CSAT is a form of customer service. Customer service is what keeps you coming back and in some cases, it is this customer service and advertising that makes you sing either the jingles to their adds, or in other cases…
You might have at one time or another gone to a fast food restaurant and received one of their receipts which contained a free sandwich upon completion of their online survey. Granted I’d love to get the God-in-a-whirlwind survey instead, but hey, the consolation is you at least get a free sandwich. Well, recently I received one of these special receipts when visiting a Chik-Fil-A. What you wind up doing upon filling out this survey is taking a mental review of all the actual benefits and great customer service of their restaurant. Then, before you are done, you are asked to provide feedback as to what you might like to see or not see on your next visit.
Now, here was God himself, being one-on-one with Job, and presenting to him all that he had done on earth, for the good of all mankind. The difference in this survey was that it was live, a Godly-whirlwind, not something remote and removed, like the online survey. Talk about customer service. I guess you could say this in itself was a testament to Job’s faithfulness to God, the fact that he alone was being spoken too directly from Lord Father himself.
Then again, this could also be viewed as God showing off to Job. Not only to show him his omnipotent power, but to partly console him for what he was going through for the sake of his belief and trust. It is like saying, “Hey, don’t think that I can’t take care of what I started here. How can you not have faith in me when I have done all this?” Then again, from another viewpoint, you could say that God so loved Job and his commitment, he was willing to comfort him with knowledge little considered by others, or even divulged to others, thus was his confidence and faith in his most faithful servant.
Talk about customer satisfaction.
How many companies do you know that go out of their way to make their customer’s feel special?
Those companies are usually the ones you read about being highly successful; Fortune 500. But does this extra effort to return thanks to your customer base come for free: …of course not. However, the intrinsic value it returns magnifies the original investment many times over; it goes beyond that, it can sometimes become a belief, a movement in itself. Just reflect back to the recent events surrounding Chik-Fil-A and their president, Dan Cathy. With his Christian beliefs as his guidepost, Mr. Cathy simply stated, “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”. He simply stated how he felt about making laws out of something most Christians should already know, and how he believed a law was unnecessary if we truly held to our Christian beliefs.
The firestorm quickly became a movement that resulted in bringing out both sides of the controversy. Now let’s not be mistaken, I love going to Chik-Fil-A as much as the next person, and what better excuse to go than for a cause: Chik-Fil-A day Aug. 1 2012. Hey, you got to eat and support something….how awesome was that!!! Yet, even though initially it all sounded good, there were those who instantly thought of the negativity of it all. You see, it was never meant to be something that was negative, yet its statement, of pure faith, became a rallying cry for those wanting a rallying cry.
Personally, I believe Christians are more than ready to become a movement, we just need the cause…and today, there are plenty to go around; …too many in fact.
Yet, how much are we willing to invest in a cause, a mission, a journey?
Yes, that was one of the criticisms of the recent Chik-Fil-A day, the fact that we Americans are only capable of committing to something we can do in our lunch hour. Think about it, how many of you here today have committed to something more than is slightly above a brief respite in time, something that you could fit into your busy schedule, and still be able to make the tee time or birthday party, lest you be inconvenienced? Hopefully the drive through is open and I won’t have to wait on the food!
However, mankind is capable of rallying for a just cause. Look back to the crusades. Or just reflect back on the year 1170 AD and you can find a rallying cry; a mission taken on by a people who it was thought were incapable of such a deed, yet with faith, they did the impossible.
I must take you back to a people that received the word of God directly from the disciples themselves. It was so important to them that they felt compelled to memorize this word and pass it down from one generation to the next. Now I don’t know about you but when I learn something to the point it becomes second nature, there becomes a special connection, an ability that allows you to do more with that information. I believe in my heart and soul that if we were to memorize a few books of the Bible or even more impossible, the entire Bible, that we would come away changed, if not capable of performing acts you had previously believed implausible; to the faithful all things are possible. And when these keepers of the faith were attacked for their beliefs, they became united in their defense to a point beyond human imagination:
A brief excerpt from “Bruecke to Heaven” to illustrate what happens when your faith leads you to a point of ultimate sacrifice, defending their cause:
The elders raced to reach their armed protectors to try to dissuade them before they became martyred as a result of a seemingly fruitless action in the face of the overwhelming odds they could see quickly approaching. Their aged bodies could not cover the ground as quickly as they once could. Living at these high mountain elevations tended to keep the body in a physical shape that would maintain youthful vigor well beyond the normal aging years, but still, age always won and would take its toll. As the elders ran, they soon realized there was no way they could reach their warriors in time to stop them from rushing into the mouth of the serpent that now slithered up the narrowing passage, inching ever closer to their homes and families.
Realizing the inevitability of the situation, they began marching together as well as they could, considering the terrain, and began chanting Scripture as they marched. With only the Word of God as their weapon, down the mountain they came.
Up the mountain evil surged, with the spirit of youth the only thing between the two titans of faith. These youths had yet to live to become the future generations of what had been so long passed on. They appeared to be facing a totally brutal massacre, wasted lives, and unforgiven sins unless something miraculous transpired on this day of the beginning of the end.
Only something miraculous could save them now.
Heimat Museum, Walldorf Germany
In 1998 when I walked into the Heimat Museum in Walldorf Germany, I fully expected to find out how “German” I actually was. Little did I or anyone else in my family from Posey county USA, know the ancestral roots I was about to realize. Even after I was told, in both German and English, what the full extent of my heritage actually was, it took a lot of time to sink in; several years in fact. It became a slow dawning awareness of the “who”, the how and finally the why, that began to overtake my preconceived perception. But then the “why” began to become more important, day-by-day, until it led me to the simple truth. Why anyone would commit not only their life, but generations of lives to something so vivid, so true, so foundational that nothing else mattered: to believe in God and all that his Son stood for.
When Jesus spoke to his disciples telling them to be first you had to be last and to gain your life in Heaven you had to lose it first, the Waldensians took this to heart more than anyone could know or realize, even today.
New King James Version (NKJV)
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
39 They said to Him, “We are able.”
So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
These principles were something that had all but been lost around the turn of the first millennium when the peoples in the remote Cottien region of the Alps became a highly sought out commodity. It seems that for a common man to possess the Word of God was something of an aberration, and appalling prospect that scared the powers that be to death, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The Papacy had gained control of mankind through a series of events which soon allowed the church to usurp the power for of the surrounding kingdoms; placing the terrestrial wealth and muscle now solely in the grasp of the Papacy, the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, became the Roman Catholic Church.
Yet these people, who erroneously became known as Waldensian, served God with the ultimate dedication putting themselves last. How much greater service to the Lord can you give than to sacrifice your life for him, as did his only Son. But if not to sacrifice your life then rather, sacrifice all; to fully rely upon his judgment and guidance for what lay ahead and with this ability to believe, step forward into the unknown, basing everything you own, everything that allows you to exist upon this faith.
“To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you must first put them on…” – T. Tron
How many of us are ready for that commitment; which takes us back to us Americans and our limited time constraints.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some of us that have committed ourselves to causes or missions that are honorable and memorable. Those few of us that have done so have come to realize the importance of the scripture of Mark. However, some of us have taken that step, that leap of faith and come back from a mission trip or activity and suddenly realized the staggering breadth of the need and how our effort was just a little drop in the ocean of despair; panicking to the useless feeling we are left with in the void of thoughtful action. Or, in the opposite case, as with my book, we are left with the staggering hill to climb as we invest in a staggering number of books and nowhere to distribute them (yes, McIntyre Books in Fearrington won’t sell them, Pittsboro Library won’t allow me to read it there). But yet, I continue to believe, to have faith, for I know He told me to make it happen and I did…I’m just trying to find his will as to continue on. So from the daunting depths of overwhelming need to the improbable task of spreading the word through a written message, we must recognize the survey or lecture God is giving to Job and why he was lifting him up while also showing him what is possible, when faith is the motivation.
When I began to prepare for today’s sermon, I asked Thomas if I should use the lectionary or do something on my own. He said either way would be fine. Curiously, I chose the lectionary. When I read about Job and the lecture God was giving him, it didn’t immediately become apparent to me that this was exactly where I was; like Job. I had started a mission, writing a book unlike any other and when I took that gigantic leap of faith, spending lots of money on self-publishing, I felt led. Before taking this leap of faith I prayed unceasingly, asking God how I should proceed. When the time came to make the decision, I placed it all in his hands. However, like Job, since that time I have begun to have doubts and questioning my faith. Here again, God sits Job down and explains to him all that He (God) is over and what He is capable of, not to fear; ….and yet we still do!
We must not!
Is it your mission, or is it your lunch hour? Do you believe or don’t you? How strong is your faith?
Is it your lunch hour or is it your mission?
Then I have to ask, “What if anything I’ve said today will affect your walk with Christ this coming week?” Will you use the something of today to witness to someone this coming week; perhaps the video, perhaps the idea of a mission vs. a lunch hour, or possibly using this book (Bruecke) to lead someone to this book (Bible)? How will you take our short time together today and use it to God’s glory this next week.
Is it just your lunch hour, or will it become your mission.
All we have to do is have faith the size of a mustard seed and the Lord will provide!
We must keep God’s dedication to us in focus, for us to carry on in seemingly insurmountable odds, we must keep the faith…and keep believing; Jesus Christ, God’s only son, who gave his all for us so that we may come to know him, and through him be saved.
Again I ask, “Is it just your lunch hour, or is it your mission?”
Lux Lucet In Tenebris
The Light in the Darkness
Thanks be to God.