When I was young I had some heroes. Some of these were sports figures like Frank Mahovolich or Russ Jackson but many were biblical heroes I learned about in Sunday School. David and his slingshot, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Samson before his hair cut, young Samuel in the Temple, these and many others filled my head with the glories of following God! Now I still find biblical role models, but they are apt to be nameless and faceless characters in the biblical narrative.
This week I read about just such ‘heroes. The main cast of characters are identified: Jesus, Mary, Martha, and dead Lazarus, but the folks that drew my admiration and I hope emulation had no name. Most of us do not leave a huge historical footprint but that does not mean we cannot play a meaningful role in the drama of the in coming Kingdom of God. These nameless faceless people in the story become then a moral template for us.
Jesus says, “Roll away the stone!” The Gospel writer does not tell us who obeyed this command but soon the stone is indeed rolled away. How might the rest of the story have unfolded but for the instant obedience and energy of these nameless heroes? The story can continue because of them, and Jesus goes on to call Lazarus to life. Jesus gives one more command to the nameless ones. “Take the grave clothes off him!” It is not recorded who jumped to obey but it is taken for granted that it was done.
I believe that my role, and probably yours, in ushering in the Kingdom is to do the nameless tasks. To see where and how I can be a part of “rolling the stone away” so that people can clearly hear the Lord call their name. I must avoid putting obstacles in people’s way but instead be removing those obstacles. As one of the countless nameless ones I am called to love and serve!
Another role is to help people out of their grave clothes. We are all called from death to life, and we bring baggage from our pasts. We come into this “new birth” with a variety of hurts, habits and hang ups from which we need to be freed. It is my task then to be involved in helping in this endeavour, all the time being aware that I am entangled as well!
The key, I think is that neither of these tasks is an individualistic endeavour. These are team sports! You may very well be able to worship God in nature (I do) or on the golf course, but you can not rid yourself of the ‘grave clothes’ that so entangle all of us. This is the work of a community of faith. Together we pitch in and the task that is impossible for the individual becomes entirely do-able in community.
The one work, stone rolling, is evangelistic in nature. The other is discipleship. A wholesome exercise of both is key. This is our emphasis at Threshold House. We work with men and connect them to Christian community so they can find freedom from their grave clothes. We also seek to offer teaching, modelling, and opportunity to engage in rolling away stones so others can hear the Lord call them to new life. For us this is the heartbeat of the Gospel.
On a personal note, this has been a consequential few weeks. Through treatment and prayer my back is so much better than it was. If I can avoid “doing something silly” I should be able to go about life as normal. A couple of weeks ago I also had a cancerous growth removed from my back. The doctor dug especially deep in hopes of getting it all. He suspected it was a non-life-threatening type but sent a biopsy off to confirm that. Just this week I received a call to say that his estimate of it was correct and that since he took so much surrounding tissue there would be no need for further treatment. I am thankful to God for these answers to prayer.
Here is a picture of our van Gough experience