I never liked being told what to do. I recall that when my older brothers would tell me to do or not do something I would often retort “Make me!” All too often they would proceed to do just that. I would be pummelled into submission having to call out “Uncle!” as a sign of my capitulation.
When I read the word “submit” in scripture these experiences colour my understanding of the word. Submission equates to force and humiliation to my inner child/tyrant. I have found that I have to do some adult thinking to properly address such words when I encounter them in scripture.
Paul encourages me to submit to civil authority. In his days, such authorities were not as kindly as they are in our day, but even so he called for submission, in those things which did not explicitly contradict God’s own reign. Our chief allegiance (read submission) is after all to God, and he calls us to a civic submission, even with unfair and godless rulers. While there is room for civil disobedience ala Gandhi or Martin Luther King this exercise ought to be undertaken prayerfully and in full compliance to the Word of God. It ought also to be undertaken with the expectation that the ‘sword’ is not given the state for no reason, and we cannot expect to disobey without consequence.
This week I read Jesus’ call to his disciples for the umpteenth time. “I will make you fishers of men (women boys and girls).” I realized that this too is a call to submission. Jesus’ invites us to an action. That action is, primarily following not fishing. He invites us to walk closely with him, to learn of him. In journeying with Jesus in this submissive relationship of disciple and rabbi we will be changed! In the process of life lived with Jesus, and submission to his lordship, he promises he will do something. He promises us that he will “make” me. The image of a potter springs to mind. He is actively forming the clay and we as the clay are passively being formed or made, in this case into fishers! None of this happens apart from an intimate relationship of yieldedness to Him.
Now 1Peter 3:15 makes more sense. As I set apart Jesus in my heart as Lord I will be ‘made’ into a person who attracts people to ask “What is different about your life?” At this point I have become a fisher! Through intimate obedient communion with him, he has made me a fisher. That these occasions are infrequent is more likely due to my aversion to submission than to any inadequacy on Christ’s part.
So to those who are uncomfortable with a call to be “fishers of men”, take heart. We are called firt and foremost to follow hard after Jesus. He does the ‘making’.
The Thanksgiving Weekend was a more contemplative one than usual for many of us. It exerted its gravitational pull on my attitudes. I had been plagued with frustration. I found myself recalling my renewed zeal for ministry with the healing of my back. I remember the excited planning for a new vision “Threshold House.” I felt that 65 I had one more project for God in me. It was a warm and wonderful time for me, but I was sinking into a funk. I will be sixty-eight soon and the vision for Threshold House remains unfulfilled. I began to despair that I would get there and began to think of who might assume the reins. There have been any number of delays and impediments but like Peter on the surface of Galilee’s Lake I was looking at the storm and not the Saviour.
I determined to look to Jesus in thanksgiving. I began to count my blessings and they are many! One of the things I thanked God for is our home. Our house is little more than a cottage but for the two of us it suits beautifully. Since repairs after a flood a few years ago we have a refinished guest space and with a three-piece bathroom. As I was thinking of this space I was again tugged to lament that we have not had guests since Covid. Then a thought occurred to me, “Why do you have to wait until Threshold House is completed?”
We already had our first resident selected. He has been waiting for a few months to move in, but delays have held him off. He left his room in the South End and found other short-term accommodation, as we fully expected to welcome him soon to Threshold House. The days turned into weeks and then months. The time came where his short-term situation was no longer sustainable, and he was truly homeless. After conversation with Linda, we decided to open our guest space as an Annex of Threshold House. It has only been a few days, but It is a relief to finally be fulfilling a part of our dream!
Things are still slowed down as our contractor has not yet returned from covid related isolation. We had electricians in to ‘rough in’ the wiring for our new smoke alarm system. These alarms were supposed to be installed this very morning but like so many in the world today we are faced with “supply chain” issues. The alarm company does not have the detectors and bells in inventory, so we are again stalled.
In order to share responsibility, we are forming a group to vet application. We have two other gentlemen who are applying so we need this in place very soon.
It is so incredibly good though to be able to say that Threshold House is now operational! We are not what we hope to be, but we are not what we were (stalled mired etc.). Is that not like the ‘Pilgrim Life’ of each follower of Jesus?
“I choose to sing!” This is my determination right now.
I have reason not to feel like singing. The days are shortening, and the darkness always seems to creep into my soul. The season of depression is descending. This always brings melancholy. This fall a combination of covid and ‘rage’ on social media also tend me toward sadness.
This week I learned that a contractor who worked on our Threshold House renovations has tested positive for covid. I went for a test and must wait for up to 5 days for results. In the meantime, we live in isolation which is deeper than our regular covid isolation! All this occurs over the Thanksgiving weekend upsetting all our plans both for feasting and worshipping. Together it feels like I have sufficient reason not to sing.
Two things have caused me to determine to sing.
The first is a memory. I fondly recall my mentor/boss Capt. T. straightening me out a few times. Once he invited me to pray about something and I dared reply “I don’t feel like praying!” His immediate reply was “Well pray until you feel like it!.” Another time he asked me to write a kind letter to someone who had sent us a nasty epistle of their own. Again, I said, “I don’t feel like it!” and he replied, “What would you write if you did feel like it?” and he waited a beat before adding “Write that!”
The second thing is my Scripture reading this morning. I read of the Last Supper, of Judas’ predicted betrayal and departure from the twelve (certainly a downer)., of Jesus detailed prediction of his pending ordeal, and the disciples’ child-like squabbling. Jesus before his final journey to Gethsemane did one last thing at that commemorative meal. He sang a hymn! Jesus might not have ‘felt’ like singing. He chose to sing!
The times we live in offer us all sorts of reasons for not wanting to sing but God has given us more reason to sing his praise! We do not walk through this dark valley alone! He is greater than the darkness. He has given us a glimpse of the future he holds securely for us. A part of my song today is the word “Maranatha” (Lord Jesus come quickly). I ask him to come to my aid. I ask him to soon establish his rule and reign. We wait and we sing. Even in the times of despair He comes when we sing.
I chose to sing.
Have you ever had someone ask you “What’s new?”? Sometimes I really have to stop and search for an honest answer. Sometimes I may resort to “Not much!” This is probably close to the answer Solomon might have given at his most depressed and depressing! I think though it is a question we ought to ask ourselves, and it is a question we ought to diligently answer.
It amazes me that one of the wonderful attributes of our unchanging and unchangeable God, is that he is always doing something new! “His mercies are new every morning”, “He makes all things new” he invites us to “Behold, I am doing a new thing”. Time winds down with us in a “New Heaven and Earth”, bearing “new names”. He invites us to “Sing a new song”. The scriptures are replete with God’s fondness for new things.
The Ancient of Days seems to be constantly changing things. “He is the potter, and we are the clay!” The divine plan for our sanctification hinges on this process of change and renewal.
So, when I am asked what is new? or when I ask this of myself, it really deserves my best thought. This is a diagnostic question for my soul. If I am stumped by the question it points to problem in me which ought to be quickly addressed. Most often though after careful meditation on the question and with the indispensable help of the Paraclete, I notice God’s sanctifying and renewing activity. This causes me to do two things; praise God for his creative work in my life and seek ways to cooperate with God in this activity.
Jesus says, “My sheep know my voice”, and this is an exercise in tuning into that ‘voice’.
Sometimes the “new” is obvious. These can be times of change for us, either for obvious blessing or for challenge. The “new” is not always (or even often) comfortable. Refining is seldom comfortable!
The question invites me to step away from passivity to partnership. It blows my fragile mind that the God of the universe continues to condescend to collaborate with me in achieving his purposes in and through me! Too often though like those in the parable of the banqueting feast, I miss the invitation, and I do so to my own harm!
I want to encourage everyone to take the glib question “What’s new?” and pay serious spiritual attention, and I am preaching firstly to myself.