[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The start of a New Year brings to mind the inevitable marking of time and its indelible mark on each of us. How fast and fleeting time is as it seemingly evaporates into thin air before our bewildered hearts and startled eyes. Enveloped in this limiting and often noisy reality we call time, do we hear the Psalmist’s words exhorting us to number our days that we may live attentive lives? Will we heed Paul’s words calling us to make the most of our time that we may honor Christ in all dimensions of human existence? While an array of seamless stewardships compete for the measured time we have been given, none are more important than the stewardship of our apprenticeship with Jesus. Jesus extends to you and me his grand and grace-filled invitation to come to Him, to be yoked with him and to learn from him how he would live our lives if he were you or me. While we greatly benefit in learning from others, the most important mentor in our lives, at home, at school, and at work, is brilliant Jesus.
As a multisite church family our focus this year will be to press more fully into Jesus’ great invitation. In our extended message series through the Gospel of Matthew, as well as in many of our community groups, we will be considering together what it means to be yoked to King Jesus. We will be exploring how apprenticeship with King Jesus beckons us to increased intimacy, as well as how it informs and empowers our lives, in all of life. No matter where we find ourselves in our journey of faith, Jesus’ great invitation is the transformational pathway for us to truly experience the life we long to live. My heart skips a beat of eager expectation when I think about the year ahead. I hope yours does too.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
It’s been a few months now since we did something that most pastors — and frankly — even I thought was a bit crazy: We had a sermon series on…drum roll please…economics. I know, right? And yet, amidst it all I’ve never been more stretched and simultaneously more amazed in the many situations where our faith and work naturally intertwined. The series was called Neighborly Love, because as we saw from the parable of the Samaritan, the best economic structures — where even the vulnerable flourish — are driven, designed and directed by God’s commanded love for our fellow human beings.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to swim through all that we learned in those six short weeks. One book I wanted to share with you that has helped me keep swimming in the right direction is Let Justice Roll Down. If you’ve never read it, get it and read it.
John Perkins has changed the landscape of community development in the Christian Community Development Association, become a well known author and speaker, and has received honorary doctorates from prestigious institutions like Wheaton College, Geneva College, and more.
And here, in his biography, you discover he didn’t start with prestige or privilege. Instead, being born into poverty in Mississippi, Perkins dropped out of school after third grade, and without a mother or a father, Perkins fled to California by age 17 after seeing his older brother killed by a town marshal.
Having his fill of sharecropping, he swore he would never return, but something happened. Perkins realized his own spiritual bankruptcy and accepted the free gift of the gospel in Christ, which changed everything — and not just how he saw his individual life before God, mind you. It changed how he saw oppressive systems, and how the oppressor and the oppressed needed rescuing within that system. In other words, the gospel changed his economics, and in return for his outspoken leadership, he was harassed, unlawfully imprisoned and even beaten nearly to death by prison guards.
Being someone who had formative years of my own life in Mississippi, I have to admit that I didn’t see what Perkins saw while I lived in Mississippi. Not that I didn’t literally see it, but I didn’t understand what I saw. In the words of the wise 20th century rabbi, Abraham Heschel, “The principle to be kept in mind is to know what we see rather than see what we know,” and I needed his story to help me know what I saw. To begin to feel what he felt. To enter the economic brokenness on the page as I remember the economic brokenness of the past and how it lingers on today.
Then upon seeing, Perkins points forward to how the gospel gives us a more robust vision that fills every corner of our lives. “If Christ is Savior, He must also be Lord — Lord over such areas as spending, racial attitudes and business dealings. The gospel must be allowed to penetrate the white consciousness as well as the black consciousness.”
And we need stories of those who have allowed the gospel to do just that. To show us the way in the midst of racial injustice, economic inequality, and media informed values. We need Perkins’ story — his leadership — more than ever. May we read, repent and respond. Then repeat.