In this morning's sermon I looked at St. Paul's claim that a sincere disciple of Jesus can be a bit crazy when it comes to God and still be gentle with people:
For if we are beside ourselves (seemingly nuts, out of step with others), it is for God; if we are in our right mind (self-controlled, clear headed), it is for you.
II Corinthians 5:13
Among several possible applications of this verse, I suggested stepping out of the familiar church comfort zone and spending more time among non-church people, where we will be a bit out of step.
- + Our wackiness, if it is based in our sincere devotion to God, might be thought provoking or even attractive to people who might take a peek at Christ's message.
- + But for that to happen, our crazy devotion to God must be matched with a neighborly humanity toward other people. People are bombarded with solicitations and manipulations to make them cogs in somebody else's machine. We need to have the self-control to treat each person first and foremost as a valued soul, not as a rear-end targeted for our pews (OK, seats if you're more contemporary).
As an off-the-cuff illustration of this idea, I mentioned Jesus' mini-parable about a shepherd leaving his 99 secure sheep to go out looking for the one that wandered off into danger. There's a certain over-the-top craziness in the little story, but also a tender simplicity.
Tonight, as I settled down for my evening devotions at home, I opened the Book of Common Prayer to find Matthew 18:1-14 as the assigned reading. Guess what's in verse 12?What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
Coincidence? Or is this a case of the Holy Spirit confirming a priority for me and for my congregation? Was THE Good Shepherd cheer leading this idea that Church of the Good Shepherd get out of its comfort zone?