Make it Right

kingdom

 

Every week I see people in difficult circumstances because of inequities and injustices in the world system. They are undervalued and disadvantaged because of their physical handicaps and or mental illnesses. They often display a kind of dogged genius in surviving week to week, month to month, but with no real hope of thriving. When I think of this, when I think of my friends, I feel angry and I long for the time that God “makes it right”. In the meantime, God calls me, not to privately fume about a system gone so wrong but to actively be a part of his answer. When it works right, my God given anger moves me to, as far as lies within me, co-labour with Him in correcting wrongs.

Most of us can relate to this anger at injustice. The earliest cries from our children (and likely from us though we can’t recall) is “That’s not fair!” Our natural bent is to justice as a reflection of the image of God. We long for things to be put right.

But do we really? I want the racism and greed of this world to be corrected. I long for the white heat of God’s wrath to burn up the straw and stubble of this fallen world. All these ‘isms’ must be banished for God’s Kingdom to fully come, but I am not ready for him to ‘burn up’ the pride and selfishness in me. My longing for justice is always in the abstract or about the other guy.

I remember singing, glibly, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”. I want to experience peace, peace of mind peace of heart, but am I ready to have the rebellious “me” seared and purified. I want to be pure gold but even as I sing “Refiner’s Fire” I want someone else to feel the heat.

I have little influence over those big systematic wrongs, but I can repent of those same things in me. Most of all I can pray. I was reminded recently that prayer is more than mere words thought or spoken. When I offer practical help or dignity to those affected by injustice it is a deep groan. It is a prayer, a heart felt prayer. It is a prayer that is heard.

One of my early mentors, Capt. T., used to enjoin us to “put legs on our prayers”. In doing so he was saying that having prayed we now were to go out in service of those same prayers. I am coming to a fuller understanding now. We don’t stop praying and begin to act, as if prayer were not action. Action is a continuation of prayer! Could this be what Paul means when he tells us “Pray without ceasing”.   This is God’s will for us.

The nice thing about this concept of continuing in prayer through service is that it keeps me in the place where God can continue the necessary refining work on me, which is as much needed as correcting the ills of the sin sick world.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

 

Recalling a Call

We have been on a ‘road trip’. We drove to Ontario and visited friends and family and experienced our first bit of summer for this year. It was a really nice break. One of the most memorable events was our visit to the Mirvish Theatre production of “Come From Away”. A generous friend sent us to see this production for our birthdays (which are in December and January respectively).  The musical is set in Gander Newfoundland during the September of 2001. Hundreds of passengers from all around the world were stranded there during the after math of 9/11. The musical was a wonderful reminder of the power of love and hospitality, especially during the darkest days.

Many lives were changed on 9/11 and mine was one of them. Before those events I was energetically engaged in the politics and culture wars within the church. I was chair of a national organization advocating ‘renewal’ in the church. After 9/11 I quit. I quit not because I had become convinced that renewal was not necessary but because my calling was to a much narrower focus. 9/11 called me back to my roots. My calling was to evangelism. Others would have to deal with the important matters of politics and renewal while I recommitted myself to evangelism. I purposely stepped from the limelight into relative obscurity.

Many died that day and I don’t know how many had heard, really heard, the Good News. I realize that there have been even greater tragedies in other parts of the world, and I was not moved in this same way but the scope of the tragedy in my ‘neck of the woods’ woke me afresh to the urgency of evangelism.

Recently I found myself saying (I sometimes surprise myself and even learn something during my own sermons) that I only have one message. I do not constantly repeat myself. but the message is always the same. There is a story of a young man who travelled with John Wesley one day. Wesley began early in a town and preached from John 3:3 “You must be born again”. He moved to the next community and preached on the same text and so it continued as he travelled that day. After the last meeting of the day, the young man asked Wesley “Why do you always preach “You must be born again?” to which Wesley replied, “Because… You must be born again.” Jesus preached using a lot of different metaphors and examples, but the gospel writers could summarise all his preaching in the phrase “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

I do not preach exactly the same sermon nor constantly share the same examples but especially since 9/11 I have consistently shared the Good News so that people have a chance to hear, really hear, the love of Christ.

In many ways, I have come to enjoy my obscurity. It gives me the opportunity to consistently communicate in word and deed the love of our crucified and risen Saviour so that people have the opportunity to repent, believe, and receive him as Lord.

I will conclude with this ‘little’ tease. In coming weeks, we will be making an exciting announcement about next steps for Street Hope Saint John. Keep us in prayer!