Friday, March 14, 2008

have you seen my friend?

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other. Jhn 15:12 - 17

Friends, friendship, interesting terms aren’t they? What do they mean, really? Have we ever thought about them before we use the terms?

For some of us, “friend” means an acquaintance, someone we have met but know little about, like a MySpace friend. For others, the term “friends” takes us back to our days in high school or college where we banded and bonded with like minded comrades. The TV series by the same name was so popular, in part because I think so many people long for what the characters seemed to possess as friends. And for yet others of us, “friend” refers to a very specific person who has seen us at our best and worst and stills chooses to hang out with us anyway. Go figure.

When students were following a rabbi, the last thing they would have thought was their teacher was their “buddy”. Their relationship was quite formal. It would have been more appropriate for the followers of a rabbi to think of themselves as servants. Not in terms of being butlers and maids, but more as caregivers of their teacher. We see in the life of Jesus how his disciples were tasked with caring for the finances, providing food, acquiring transportation, and procuring a place to stay.

Can there be “love” between a servant or caregiver and their master? Of course. But certainly that love is different than the love between friends. Is a person is more likely to willingly sacrifice for their friend than a slave for a master? Certainly, no master would ever sacrifice for his servant. Jesus says the acid test of love is this; dying for the one you call a friend. Clearly Jesus did that, as the disciples watched over the subsequent hours.

But Jesus had to make sure that there was a significant change in the disciple’s mindset. I no longer call you servants… How odd that had to sound to the disciples ears. Well beyond paradigm shift, this would have been a cultural abnormality. Instead, I have called you friends… Love was the basis of their relationship, not service. The disciple’s relationship was not based on what they could do for him, but what he would do for them out of His love.

Now that is all quite fabulous. We could extract hours, even days of warm fuzzy off that truth. But it gets even better. This sacrificial love is a relationship of choice.

Now I was not a very athletic kid growing up. I know it is difficult to imagine given my current physical prowess. I’ll wait while the laughter subsides. One the childhood traumas I had to endure was being selected last or next to last when it came time for games. I wasn’t popular or talented, so there was no reason to pick me. I wasn’t the brightest or the best at anything.

Neither were the disciples. But, they loved Jesus. They wanted to be with Him. They chose to leave their families and businesses to be with Jesus. Jesus rocked their world, blew them away when he told them, “I chose you”. To be chosen as a friend, not a servant? I image the disciples sat there agape. What would that mean to someone who had never been picked for anything? What would that mean to someone who had nothing to offer anyone?

I was chosen. You were chosen. We were picked, not because we were the brightest and the best, not because of our talent or training. We were chosen because we were loved. We were selected to receive a gift we didn’t ask for or even deserve. Jesus picked me to be His friend.

I needed to hear that today. My screw-ups are many. My mistakes are obvious. My lacks are huge. But Jesus didn’t pick me because of what I could offer Him. He chose me because of what He could give to me – love, forgiveness, relationship, purpose, mission.

Ok, friends, it time for us to play a game. It’s called discipleship. The object of the game is to tell others of My love for them. To tell them I have chosen them to be My friend. I need to pick a team that will carry this new game on to others. I choose…” Jesus picked you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Following by Example

1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1Cr 11:1 ( NIV )

Paul knew personally the key to discipleship. It is following. It is about following Christ and following those who are following Christ.

Paul had heard and seen, up close and personal this Jesus who is the Christ. From the Scriptures he had read and memorized, Paul discovered the flesh and blood revelation of God’s Savior for mankind. Paul had also experienced the relational aspect of discipleship, from his rabbi Gamaliel and his brother in the Lord, Barnabas. Both men poured their life into Paul; one in the sense of following Judaism; the other in the sense of following Messiah.

Paul understood, from what he saw of Christ’s life, what he saw in the Holy Scriptures, what he had experienced from Gamaliel and Barnabas, discipleship is about following. But following what, following who?

Everyone is following something, even leaders. The best lessons we learn are the ones we “live through”. You may forget a seminar, a book or a speech, but you’ll never forget what you’ve lived through. We follow by example. It is awkward grammatically, I admit; but it is true none the less. We choose people we admire or look up to. We find people whose lives we seek to emulate. We see people we love and desire to be like them. We start to mimic them. Dress like them (that is why we choose eyeglasses like Rob Bell).
Read what they are reading. The list goes on and on. We see children do the same thing with their parents or grandparents. We follow by the example we see.

How do we choose whose example to follow? Well, Paul would be a good one. Authored more than half the New Testament, planted who knows how many churches, lead untold thousands to Christ. But notice Paul immediately points to the one he is following; Jesus. Paul is saying, “Watch me, do what I do, because I am watching and doing what Jesus is doing. We are following the same Lord.” No matter how many generations of disciples we make, we/they are all following the same Christ. What did Jesus say? “I only do what I see the Father doing. I only speak what the Father is speaking.” (Jhn 5:19 , Jhn 12:49 )

We need, all of us, to step back into the gospels and immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus. We are His followers, are we not? What did he say? What did he do? How did he live? He has so much to show us, so much to tell us. So let’s start with getting to know Jesus. Not the Sunday School Jesus; not the Institutional Christ; but the Jesus of the Scriptures. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you; open your eyes and your heart to Jesus’ life.

As you are doing that, look around you. Who do you see that looks like the Jesus of the gospels? Look for the person who has Christ being formed in them by the Holy Spirit (Gal 4:19 ). Let them be your example with skin on. We need to follow the Jesus of the scriptures. We also need to follow those who are living Jesus’ life in the world.

Some of us have said to others, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” It was difficult to say, even awkward. Some have said yes; others have left us with silence. That’s ok. Remember, it is a prepared work.

Show them your Master. Show them how to follow.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Have you checked your feet lately?

12After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. John 13:12-17 ( NLT )( Jhn 13:12 )

Anybody who has ever been in a men’s locker room or raised teenage boys knows what “sticky feet” is all about. There is really no description for the aroma that assaults ones olfactory senses from the sneakers and socks of an athlete. Well I’ll go you one better.

In Jesus’ day, sandals or bare feet were the rule, not the summer time exception. Closed toe footwear or socks were unheard of. We all have sandals or Tevas, so that is no big deal. However, the sandal covered feet of Jesus’ day were walking on dirty, dusty, possibly stone paths or muddy trails. These were the same “roadways” that the animals took. Horses, donkeys, camels, goats, cattle, and sheep, to best of my knowledge, were not house broken during that time or even now for that matter. So dust and dirt of the road was the least of travelers’ problems. The Department of Public Works didn’t keep the streets too clean; that was left to a good rain storm. EEEEeewwwwweee.

It was a standard hospitality practice in Palestine to offer a visitor a basin of water to wash their feet when they came to your home. That’s a big no kidding; who would want someone walking through the house with those dirty feet; certainly not my mother. In wealthy homes, the lowliest of the servants was given the task of washing the visitor’s feet.

Jesus said, “Now that I your teacher and Lord have washed your feet, you are to do that for one another.” Do we even have a clue? Our garage-door-opener-fenced-in-back-yard-stick-to-our- computer-monitor lives can’t begin to image that kind of personal, almost intimate, contact with someone. Is Jesus asking us to be space invaders with each other? I’m pretty sure He is. How can we really disciple someone unless we are willing and able to wash their feet? Will we wade into the mud and muck of what they have walked through in their lives?

I have seen God do some powerful stuff when people have literally washed one another’s feet. As I have been blessed to see and participate in this awesome practice I have often wondered who is this more humbling for, the washer or the washee? In either case, the heart must be vulnerable, open, even exposed.

The one that extends the foot and the one who receives the foot, each must be willing to expose themselves to each other. Please notice; Jesus began by stripped down to undergarments. Jesus became vulnerable first. We must lead the same way in washing one another’s feet. We can convey safety and vulnerability by stripping away all pretense, and masks and stuff that gets in the way of us being in real relationship with one another. It will be much easier for someone to expose their filthy feet to someone who is kneeling before them in their skivvies.

I think that you and I would agree, in principle if not in practice, that it is easier to give than to receive; especially in foot washing. Is it possible for someone to wash your feet? Will you expose the mud and the dung you have walked through in your travels?

One of the things that the Catholic Church has gotten right is the confessional. We Protestants tend to run from anything Catholic just in principle without really examining what we are running from. Confession is cathartic. It is meant to be way. Yes, we confess our sins to God and He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us (1Jo 1:9 ). But, what about James 5:16 (Jam 5:16) ? “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” How many times have we not felt forgiven, not felt cleansed, after we have confessed our sins to God. Confession, to one another, is healing.

When we extend our foot to the one who washes them, we are saying, these are my sins; these are my burdens. There is an important transaction between us and God, and the foot washer and the one whose foot is being washed. It is sacramental, because grace is conveyed between us and God, between each other. Boy, do we ever need that kind of grace.

So you want to be disciple makers (Mat 28:19) ? Carry a basin and a towel. You’ll need it.