by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Matthew 28:18-20 (KJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go Ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Rhythm is a wonderful metaphor for the natural process of maturing in the applications of the Christian faith. Let me offer a small example of why rhythm is a marvelous vehicle to express Christian understanding.
Imagine, if you will, you are sitting in a very comfortable chair awaiting a live concert of a group of exceptional musicians. You have not yet heard them in person, and in fact have only heard of them through enthusiastic followers. The musicians come out on stage. The lights go dim over the audience while the stage becomes bright with multicolored lighting. The anticipation is mounting. Then the music begins.
At this point of the story it really doesn’t matter what the type or style the music is, it is only important to note that these musicians are those rare individuals who are so blessed with incredible talent that no one will be able to deny their special gifts. As the first piece of music begins to play the crowd surrounding you begins to “feel the music” to the point of obvious joy. As you begin to allow the unfolding scene to overtake you a few reactions to the circumstances become apparent.
First, you begin by actively listening.
Second, you find yourself experiencing a heightened sense of physical involvement.
Third, because of the first two reactions there now follows a tangible sense of pleasure.
Almost by reflex, without even realizing it, your foot starts tapping in RHYTHM on the floor underneath you. You sit forward slightly in your seat with increasing anticipation not wanting to miss the subtle phrases of those who are demonstrating their gifts. You begin to sway and move to the RHYTHM. You even enthusiastically repeat some of those musical phrases that somehow you have connected with.
Now for the best part.
While driving home you begin to relive the concert. Your mind and your spirit review as many of the notes, phrases, and senses that you have experienced. When you arrive at your destination you can’t wait to share with someone…. anyone…. your experience. You try to recount with enthusiastic detail all that you can remember. Even though in your heart you realize you will never be able to effectively recreate the original events, you are drawn by some strange force to try and make others understand how much you were moved by the experience and would very much like to share the next experience with them. You even went so far as to purchase a recording of the event just to relive and to prove how incredible the experience was to those who might not believe your obvious enthusiasm. This process of sharing the natural rhythm of life’s great joys and pleasures is exactly what the Christian Church was founded on and what it was built on.
As a church we must refocus our collective minds and spirits on who we are foundationally called to reflect and what our Divine Creator has translated our purpose in being.
The GREAT COMMISSION provides us with the word “Go”. The second word is “Ye”. These two simple little words provide ACTION and DIRECTION! Only by combining ACTION with personal DIRECTION can we attain the completeness of salvation that the Creator offers. By demonstrating the loving, gracious, joyful and committed nature of our faith to others, we as Christians arrive at the place where space and time pass over from the temporal and sinful, to the eternal and holy. Only by demonstrating a love that is based upon sacrificing our own “wants” for another person’s “needs” do we find a Christ-like parallel. When we discover this foundational Christian truth as not only valid but essential, we then also are enabled to stand boldly on the grace of God’s goodness.
It is this understanding of the goodness of God that prompts all believers to separate themselves from the life of self-seeking to the life of love; from a life of loneliness to a life of fullness and abiding communion with God.
Think about that for a moment. The creator of all that is known and unknown “communes” with you. The Creator is actually connected to you specifically and in a way that can no longer be denied. God’s intimacy with you provides a clarity of understanding concerning your personal, permanent, and passionate connection to the origin of life itself. Because of this “communing God” you come to realize the depth of love that is available. God has allowed the physical manifestation of the Creator’s glory to be experienced and fulfilled within the life of Jesus…and that same Jesus lives, and breathes, and reigns over your life.
Only when an individual can cross this bridge of “‘divine understanding” do they become transformed from death to life; from earth to heaven; from darkness to light. This is what it means to “be saved.” There is no other way!
The mission of Christianity can be summed up by the story of a drowning man in the ocean. After being thrown overboard and left to his own devices he begins to falter. The man pleads with great passion for mercy. He begins to lose strength and stamina. At that very moment a floating piece of the damaged and sinking ship comes into grasping distance. He struggles to reach out for it. Finally he attains this floatation device and as such expresses a profound thankfulness.
The man, through his fear and failing strength sees an island ahead. He begins to stroke gently, with whatever strength he has left, toward the awaiting island of refuge. The closer he gets to the shore, the more he senses the uncertainty of what may be lurking out of sight; just under the surface of the water. He begins to understand that at any time he may be swallowed up by the surrounding circumstances. Even though he is deathly tired he struggles to keep his thoughts on the island ahead. As he finally reaches a few feet from the shore he tries to stand and walk the rest of the way, but his legs have no strength left. He is completely exhausted. And yet he makes it to the beach even though he has to crawl inch by inch the last few yards.
As he lies on the beach reflecting on what had just transpired he praises God for his mercy, then all of a sudden he begins to get remarkably angry. He cries out to God; “If you were going to save me anyhow why didn’t you just pick me up and set me down on the beach? It would have been so much easier.” God’s reply is; “I gave the floatation device and the willingness to make it to shore. It was your choice to choose to use them or die.”
We must do all we can to share this choice with everyone, everywhere, and in every circumstance that is presented. We, as both a church and as individuals, are called to tell the story of God through Christ. Thereby providing an opportunity for a Divine awakening…a moment of profound clarity…a transformational paradigm of body, spirit, and mind that is completely connected to God through the life, death, and resurrected reality of Jesus.
We, as both a church and as individuals, must live our faith. Thereby providing an opportunity for a decision to act, to demonstrate that faithful decision. We, as both a church and as individuals, must be willing to search out opportunities that allow us to demonstrate the inclusive and affirming nature of a God, who through Jesus Christ, says….
• come to me….
• all are welcome….
• I am your shelter…..
• I am the redeemer…..
• I am love and grace….
• I am powerful and completely able to fill your life with abundant purpose and joy….
• I am the Creator who rejects no one that awakens to the love that I offer and an empowerment I freely give.
• I am forgiving and kind but also jealous and righteous.
• I am able to provide overwhelming blessings to those who call upon my name to guide them in times of trouble as well as a source of strength in times of tribulation.
In 1912 during Princeton Theological Seminary’s graduation ceremonies, J. Gresham Machen said the following regarding the “intellectual” threat to Christianity.
“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistant force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at the root….”
We must have a sense of urgency with this message. The word urgency has the meaning associated with the concept of not wasting time. It is incredibly important to realize that there is a significant difference between being impatient with people or process and having an overwhelming sense of urgency to tell the story of a Divine Creator through the lens of Jesus Christ. The Creator of all that is known and unknown, is the one who supplied all the evidence-of-faith necessary to understand the “call” on each of our lives. That “call” creates in us a focused response that allows each of us to come to a decision that ends in a yes or a no answer. At the end of a “”reasoning process” all of us will at some point in our lives have to make a decision of whether we believe in something that we can not see and that only others who did not personally witness it either believe in. That yes or no answer revolves around the question that requires each of us to accept or reject the subjective reality of the promises of God as told to us in the Bible and the individual lives of those who have lived the convictions of their faith.
This conviction starts with the “reasoned” decision to believe in something greater than themselves. Each person has to decide in a God so personal and devoted to the Divine’s creation that God refuses to give up on us when logic would have required otherwise. We, as a Christian community of FAITH, must provide the environment, encouragement, incentive, and demeanor necessary to draw others to the conclusion that they can believe, as we already profess to believe, in the loving reconciliation into the eternal presence of God. We receive this assurance by accepting what was told to us by ancient witnesses regarding a birth, life, betrayal, capture, conviction, torture, crucifixion, self-sacrifice, atoning, buried, and resurrected Jesus.
WHAT HAS YOUR DENOMINATION DONE TO BRING THIS INTO A HIGHER SENSE OF URGENCY?
WHAT HAS YOUR CHURCH DONE TO BRING THIS INTO A HIGHER SENSE OF URGENCY?
WHAT HAVE YOU PERSONALLY DONE TO BRING THIS INTO A HIGHER SENSE OF URGENCY?
WE MUST HAVE A SENSE OF COMMITMENT TO ITS MEANINGS.
One of the great harms the world has perpetrated on the Christian Church, and unfortunately “us Christians” have also allowed to take place, is the watering down of the central meanings and messages of the Creator’s Divine message of Faith, Boldness, Enthusiasm, Service, Mission, Humble Reverence, and Profound Worship. The Church has been living a life of fear. The fear that sharing the message of Christ, boldly professing it, and finally demonstrating our commitment to both personal and congregational growth will somehow not be good enough to keep the church vibrant, visible, and fiscally sound. We have fallen victim to the worst mistake any organization can slide into; trying to be everything to everybody.
People, more often than not, are drawn to others that have an obvious and blatant sincerity to their commitments. They are drawn to those who demonstrate a loving and bold commitment in living their life’s choices. It is not unexpected that the outside world finds us Christians less than an attractive choice to investigate when we are the epitome of PART-TIME “religious” do-gooders. The leaders of the Christian Church must do all that they are able to provide all the enthusiasm… all the encouragement….all the empowerment….all the support necessary to significantly increase the corporate display of sincere, life-changing, self-sacrificial, and bold servants of Christ.
We must not hesitate to demonstrate its power, understanding, grace and love.