The Way of Christ

This is my radio devotion for Friday, October 9, 2020, aired on KBBN/KCNI, who graciously airs devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

Good morning, I’m Pastor Matt Fowler of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical, Hamilton, George Washington’s character repeats various phrases of “This is easy; that is harder.” This week, I’ve been exploring some of the things Jesus does and says in the Gospel of Mark that might fit the following Hamilton-esque pairing: Hearing Jesus is easy; following him is harder.

I’ve always been challenged by this quote by Mahatma Ghandi: “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.” That one stings, right? Apparently, he said this after reflecting on at least one incident in which he was turned away from worshipping at a particular church, because he was not of the “right” caste – a social, economic, and ethnic system of division. I’d like to think all our churches, and even our families, would welcome anyone. Perhaps we would. And yet, I wonder if there are ways, intentional or not, in which I, as a Christian person and pastor, actually harm the witness of Christ, and if this is sometimes true for all of us.

Jesus welcomes the children – Mark 10:13-16 JESUS MAFA. from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

When I wonder this, it reminds me of three scenes in the Gospel of Mark. First, Jesus tells his disciples that welcoming children in his name is welcoming him, and that “for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and to be thrown into the lake” (Mk 9:37, 42). Then, he’s a little less harsh when he says a chapter later, “[Allow] the children to come to me…because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children” (Mk 10:14). Third, later in Mark 10, Jesus describes the character of his followers: “Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people” (Mk 10:43-45).

Hearing is easy; following with our lives is harder, indeed. These three passages challenge my sensibilities and practices. It’s easy to go through my day focused on me, my, and mine: my schedule, my goals, my to-dos, my pride, my desire for stuff, satisfaction, and fulfillment. It’s harder to live like Jesus calls – to be a servant of others, to put myself last instead of vying for first. Here’s an easy example (and hopefully my family’s not listening to this). The dog needs to go out every morning. Somebody’s got to do it. But, if I’m honest, is there any truly good reason why it’s never me who does it?

What other ways, in just our family lives, could a little more humility, a little more selflessness, be a means of grace to others? To draw the circle wider, how might our churches, businesses, or communities, better bless others by simply adopting a greater attitude of service toward others? What would look different about our state, or our nation, if Christ’s call for humble welcome and servanthood, spread through every person because of us? Would people see Jesus in us, and grow to follow him because of our witness?

Hearing is easy; following Jesus is harder, but it’s a calling worth trying.

Let’s pray. Jesus, grow your spirit in us. Give us vision to see one way in which we can set aside me, my, mine, in favor of another’s blessing. And then give us courage to act on your vision, assured that, in you, there is blessing aplenty. May it be so.

Have a blessed day.

Cranach, Lucas, 1472-1553. Christ Blessing the Children, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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