What would you think of God if someone came into your life, watched you from afar for weeks, listened well, felt their way into your struggles and hopes, walked beside you through your daily tasks, learned the language of your life, and then presented God to you using the words and images of your own life? Would you be able to see God’s relationship with you as clearly as if someone had just wiped the fog from the glass of your bathroom mirror? What would you give to have Christ’s love put into the words of your own life? Would you give up all you own to have such a chance? And, with your new understanding, would you care for someone else in the same sort of way so that they too could have the sort of life in Christ that you have?
Unfortunately, I am not so certain that all of us get that sort of tender care and concern for our spiritual development. Often our first encounters with Jesus look a lot like the children’s sermon that Randele and I sat through while in seminary. The pastor invited all of the kids to the front of the church and then asked the simple question, “Why did your parents bring you here today?” Of course, the pastor held a young child in his mind that would wisely answer, “Because at our baptisms our parents promised that they would bring us here so that we might know the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The vision of this spiritual honors student floated around in his head while the very real children before him raised their hands. Choosing a young boy, he asked again, “Why did you parents bring you here today?” In an exacerbated tone, the boy answered, “Because kids can’t drive.” Duh! Of course, since kids can’t drive, their parents drove them to church. You could literally see on the pastor's face the vision of his spiritual honor student pop as all of the children mutinously agreed that this was indeed the best and most obvious answer.
Sometimes I think back on that children’s sermon, and I wonder how differently it would have been if the pastor had taken time to simply play with the children of his congregation. Would he have been able to learn and use their own language to tell them about baptism and Jesus. What if he had simply remembered what it was like to take a bath? Would the fleeing dirt in the water have given him an idea as to how he might talk about sin and God’s cleansing grace?
As the Apostle Paul entered Athens, he did something that today we might see as extraordinary because we have such busy lives; he simply walked around and looked and listened. He went through the city and stared at their statues, looked inside their temples, read their plaques, and studied their poets. What Paul noticed as he looked around was a plaque underneath a statue. The dedication read, “to an unknown god.” What Paul saw, was that God was already at work here. What Paul saw was that the Athenians were open to seeing God and God is…they had no preconceptions.
Only after taking the time to learn about who the Athenians were and what they thought and how they lived, did Paul decide to paint a picture of Jesus, the unknown God, who has come down to earth and made himself known.
What would it be like to have Christ’s love put into the words of your own life?
How much joy would a farmer have when the farmer learned that God’s word is like seed that was spread and fell onto good soil? Would he understand and scatter the seed on other farmers?
How much joy would a homemaker have when she learns that life with God is as abundant as yeast that raises the bread so much that it spills out of the pan? Would she understand and spill God’s love on other homemakers?
How much joy would a poor person have when he or she learns that, in God’s kingdom, all of the awards shows would honor them; the poor, the blessed. Would they run into the streets and shout for joy that they have not been forgotten?
Over the years I have learned a lot about living in Jesus and Jesus in me. There is much more to learn I am sure, but one thing that I do know is that, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus walks beside me…not moving too quickly…taking the time to see and listen and learn my language, and then shaping me using words and images and stories that I can understand.
Have you ever considered just walking with someone, learning their language, and seeing what God is up in their lives, and then, using their own words, revealing the unknown God to them? Belief is more than simply accepting and reciting a Creed. It is an actual relationship with Christ. And, relationships require some time to learn each others’ languages before the friendship can grow. So, have you ever considered just walking with someone, so that through a relationship they may gain Jesus’ assurance to all?