Day 251: Matthew 28:19-20 – Part 3

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.

[This is the third of four reflections on this scripture where Jesus gives his disciples their final instructions before he ascends into heaven.]

After Jesus is crucified he returns and gives his disciples some final instructions.  He tells them to go and “disciple” people by baptizing and teaching them.  Today I’m going to look at his second instruction – to teach people to obey Jesus’ commands.  We aren’t instructed to teach them to believe in him.  We are instructed to teach them to believe in what he had to say.  His commands.

What are Jesus’ commands?  Simple enough.  He pretty much outlines all of his basic teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.  I explored the Sermon on the Mount in depth on Days 7-63.  These are the commands that he thinks are important.  On that last day, he tells us to build our house on the rock (truth) as opposed to sand (delusions).  Jesus’ teachings are the rock solid foundation that will bring us peace, happiness, and fulfilment. They will also create a healthy, nurturing, prosperous society.  When we individually or collectively build on sand, we are in danger of being swept away.  For your convenience I am re-posting my Sermon on the Mount “Quick Start Guide” from Day 63.  Here it is:

Sermon on the Mount

I would also add another couple of foundational teachings to the basic commands Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount.  I think his very last teaching on Day 228 in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is also foundational:

  • Feed the hungry.
  • Give the thirsty something to drink.
  • Clothe the naked.
  • Take care of the sick.
  • Visit those in prison.

Finally, there is the “mother of all commandments” – the Great Commandment from Day 193:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40).

Look at that last line again and let that sink into your spirit. “The whole Law of Moses and teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Love, my friends, is what it’s all about.  Jesus wants us to go out and teach people how to love.  That’s his command to us.  He doesn’t want us to teach theology.  He wants us to teach people about the power and importance of love.  As followers of Jesus this is our mission.

What does this scripture say to you?

Day 92: Matthew 10:25-27

So do not be afraid of people.  Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in the broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops.

[Jesus’ 12 disciples are sent out on a mission trip with these instructions.  For background see Days 83-84.]

Are you afraid of performing or public speaking?  I sure used to be.  It literally made me sick.  When I was a little girl they used to try to force me to sing in church and I would totally freak out.  My voice would get all shaky and it was a hot mess.

Jesus sent his disciples out on this mission trip to reveal God’s truth through healing, deliverance, raising the dead, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  Jesus expected them to go out and deliver a powerful message through both word and action to all who would receive it.  Perhaps some of them were afraid to speak to people.  If so, they were in good company. Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah are all known for being reluctant Biblical prophets who required a lot of encouragement from God:

  • But Moses said, “No, Lord, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.” (Exodus 4:10).
  • The Lord said to me [Jeremiah],  “I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.”   I answered,  “Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say.  Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:4-8).
  • One day the Lord spoke to Jonah son of Amittai.  He said, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and speak out against it; I am aware of how wicked its people are.”  Jonah, however, set out in the opposite direction in order to get away from the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3)

After telling them not to be afraid, Jesus assures his disciples that nothing can stop God’s truth from being revealed.  Jesus has revealed God’s truth to his disciples, and everything he is telling them in the relative privacy of their little group will spread out across the world and echo for thousands of years into the future!  Uncovered!  Repeated! Shouted from the housetops!

The Bible reinforces this idea that God’s truth always comes out in the end.

  • It is he who says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other god.
    I have not spoken in secret or kept my purpose hidden.
    I did not require the people of Israel to look for me in a desolate waste.
    I am the Lord, and I speak the truth; I make known what is right.” (Isaiah 45:19).
  • He reveals things that are deep and secret; he knows what is hidden in darkness, and he himself is surrounded by light. (Daniel 2:20-22).

The prophet Amos says, “When a lion roars, who can keep from being afraid? When the Sovereign Lord speaks, who can keep from proclaiming his message?” (Amos 3:8).

I agree with Amos that we must talk about how God is working in our lives if we want to see positive changes in our world.  Whatever God tells us in privacy should be shouted from the rooftops for the good of all mankind.  Despite my fear of public speaking, I’ve learned that I mustn’t be shy about sharing my special spiritual experiences or revelations.  People need to know that God is alive and active my life and the lives of others.  I treasure both my own experiences and those of others.  They are a wonderful gift and a great encouragement.  I have learned to love talking about God to all who will listen.  I think it should be as natural as talking about the weather.

It’s strange that lots of church people are uncomfortable talking about God.  It should be the one place where a person can talk candidly about what God has said or done without people looking at you like you’re describing a UFO.  Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case.  Somewhere in the church’s schedule there should be an opportunity for people to share on this level.  We shouldn’t have to keep these things to ourselves.  When God says or does something it should be shared.  It should be celebrated.  And churches that don’t want to bother with God are really pretty useless.

So don’t be afraid to share what God has done in your life!  If you need practice know that I will always appreciate hearing about what God is saying to you.  I promise I will never look at you as though you are telling me you have seen a UFO or a Bigfoot or a unicorn.  Truly, I promise I won’t do that.  And after you get a little practice talking about these kinds of things with people who understand, you will get to the point where you don’t care how people look at you.  Then, you will find that when you share your God stories with others, they will start sharing their God stories with you!  Share with your family, your friends, your neighbors.  You will find that people are eager to talk to others about their personal spirituality and experiences.  It’s kind of an underground network.  Last week, for example, one of our neighbors stopped us on the street to give us a testimony about how God used her dog to comfort her grieving friend.

Image

I will end with excerpts from Psalm 22.  It is my hope that churches will become more receptive to people like this psalmist whose boundless enthusiasm for their God can’t be contained!

I will tell my people what you have done;
 I will praise you in their assembly:
“Praise him, you servants of the Lord!
Honor him, you descendants of Jacob!
Worship him, you people of Israel!
He does not neglect the poor or ignore their suffering;
he does not turn away from them,
but answers when they call for help.”

 

In the full assembly I will praise you for what you have done;
in the presence of those who worship you
    I will offer the sacrifices I promised.
The poor will eat as much as they want;
those who come to the Lord will praise him.
May they prosper forever!

 

Future generations will serve him;
they will speak of the Lord to the coming generation.
People not yet born will be told:
“The Lord saved his people.”

 

What does this scripture say to you?

Day 6: Matthew 4:19

Mankind was my business. ~ Jacob Marley

Day 6: Matthew 4:19

Come with me and I will teach you to catch men.

One of the first things Jesus does when he begins his ministry is to form a little community of people to accompany him on his journey through life. The first two disciples were fishermen. His words of invitation are an intriguing invitation for these fisherman to interrupt their lives; to stop fishing for food and to start “fishing for men”.

For many Americans work, home, and family are the most important things in their lives. Jesus asks Simon (Peter) and Andrew to give up all of these things and go on a spiritual adventure. A true mission from God. Jesus knows that Simon and Andrew all have a higher calling than earning a living for themselves and their families.

I am reminded of the conversation between the ghost of Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself. “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.”Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

I think Dickens got it right. Mankind is our business. Making a difference in other people’s lives is our business. Celebrating the goodness of life is our business. Loving one another is our business. Creating healthy communities where everyone is accepted and cared for is our business. Contrary to what many people believe, the accumulation of wealth shouldn’t be our primary objective. Greed and money weigh us down. Just ask the ghost of Marley who was encumbered by those chains and moneyboxes, forged of his own making.

I like it that Scrooge didn’t close down his business and go into ministry after he had his epiphany and transformation. Scrooge used what he already had – his successful business – to build up the Kingdom by extending love and generosity to his employee Bob Cratchit, reconciling with his nephew, and giving generously to charities. In doing so he became a walking miracle, a catcher of man and Kingdom builder right where he was. We are not supposed to go about our daily affairs being greedy and cynical like the old Scrooge. We are all called to use our gifts and abilities to make the world a better place, just like the new Scrooge.

Is it possible to reconcile work and spirituality? I definitely think it’s possible if the motivation is honorable and there is a culture of integrity. There has to be a sense of mission other than to make money. When it comes to mixing work and spirituality I don’t think anyone ever did it better than the Shakers. The way they conducted themselves was a powerful witness about their faith. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about economics of Shaker communities:

The communality of the Believers was an economic success, and their cleanliness, honesty and frugality received the highest praise. All Shaker villages ran farms, using the latest scientific methods in agriculture. They raised most of Shakerstheir own food, so farming, and preserving the produce required to feed them through the winter, had to be priorities. Their livestock was fat and healthy, and their barns were commended for convenience and efficiency.

When not doing farm work, Shaker brethren pursued a variety of trades and hand crafts, many documented by Isaac N. Youngs. When not doing housework, Shaker sisters did likewise, spinning, weaving, sewing, and making sale goods.

Shakers ran a variety of businesses to support their communities. Many Shaker villages had their own tanneries, sold baskets, brushes, bonnets, brooms, fancy goods, and homespun fabric that was known for high quality, but were more famous for their medicinal herbs, garden seeds, apple-sauce, and knitted garments.

The Shaker goal in their temporal labor was perfection. Ann Lee’s followers preserved her admonitions about work:

  • Good spirits will not live where there is dirt.
  • Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.
  • Put your hands to work, and your heart to God.

Shaker craftsmen were known for a style of Shaker furniture that was plain in style, durable, and functional. Shaker chairs were usually mass-produced because a great number of them were needed to seat all the Shakers in a community. Because of the quality of their craftsmanship, original Shaker furniture is costly.

Shakers won respect and admiration for their productive farms and orderly communities. Their industry brought about many inventions like Babbitt metal, the rotary harrow, the circular saw, the clothespin, the Shaker peg, the flat broom, the wheel-driven washing machine, a machine for setting teeth in textile cards, a threshing machine, metal pens, a new type of fire engine, a machine for matching boards, numerous innovations in waterworks, planing machinery, a hernia truss, silk reeling machinery, small looms for weaving palm leaf, machines for processing broom corn, ball-and-socket tilters for chair legs, and a number of other useful inventions.

Shakers were the first large producers of medicinal herbs in the United States, and pioneers in the sale of seeds in paper packets. Brethren grew the crops, but sisters picked, sorted, and packaged their products for sale, so those industries were built on a foundation of women’s labor in the Shaker partnership between the sexes.

The Shakers believed in the value of hard work and kept comfortably busy. Mother Ann said, “Labor to make the way of God your own; let it be your inheritance, your treasure, your occupation, your daily calling.”

I don’t think we are all called to give up our families and friends and jobs and become traveling apostles. I think there is ample opportunity for us to do a lot of great things without leaving our homes or quitting our jobs. But in our own way we are still nevertheless invited to go on the same kind of spiritual journey as the disciples – dedicating ourselves to God and inviting others to do likewise, demonstrating love and kindness to all, and using the gifts that we have been given to make a difference in people’s lives. Like it says in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.” When we do all that we do for the love of humanity instead of the love of money, we have the potential to shake things up and make the world take notice. We have the ability to make people step back and think about the meaning of life, and the purpose of work. Just like the Shakers.

What does this scripture say to you?