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Saturday, January 21, 2012

A New Norm of Greatness for the End Time

Painting by HiQi
I've been reading over tomorrow's lectionary texts for the Third Sunday after The Epiphany.

It's the 'end time' for Jonah in Nineveh (3:1-5, 10) as well as for Paul in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

In tomorrow morning's Gospel (Mark 1:14-20), Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

And then, he calls two more disciples: Simon and Andrew and James and John.

Last week, we heard him call Philip and Nathaneal.

I'm struck, once again, by the choices Jesus makes in calling some of The Twelve.

Well, all of them, actually.

Maybe because the end was, in fact, near, and pickin's were slim, but consider His choices:
Peter had a tendency to speak before thinking…

James & John had quick tempers… (Jesus nicknamed them Sons of Thunder - Mark 3:17)

Simon (the other one) was affiliated with a known terrorist group… (the Zealots were a pro-Israel terrorist group who attacked the Romans)

Matthew had a bad reputation as a tax cheat (and he was collecting the taxes)…

Thomas had, shall we say, "faith issues…"
They were uneducated, unsophisticated, and untalented.

The only possible exception is a fellow named Judas Iscariot.

I'm reminded of a little letter I found in my files the other day. I first found it when I was a member of the Commission on Ministry and used to use it when working as a consultant with Search Committees.

I suspect I'll have occasion to use it again, soon.

It's a little something from from Greg Ogden, in his book "Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time."
Jesus, Son of Joseph

Carpenter Shop


Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.

They do not have the team" concept.

We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.

Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership.

The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty.

Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.

James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings. They registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new Venture.

Sincerely yours,

Jordan Management Consultants
Hear me, now: This is not an argument for serving up yet another helping of mediocrity in the church's leadership.

I'm simply shaking my head at the choices Jesus made in selecting The Twelve and wondering, yet again, why He called the people he calls.

Then again, God called Jonah - a reluctant prophet if ever there was one - to deliver a message to Nineveh. Even so, he was successful.....
"And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it."
......but Jonah was not pleased and sulked under a withering Fig Tree.

And, somehow - for whatever reason - after his death and resurrection, Jesus called Paul who had been actively persecuting the Jews - and especially the new followers of the man named Jesus.

Maybe that's why he had a penchant for overstating his case and being just a tad obtuse:
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
"The appointed time" is always short.

"The present form of this world" is always "passing away".

Thanks be to God.

The only constant is change.

I keep hearing that wonderful quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it, by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.
I think that's the message Jesus was giving us in the calling of The Twelve.

I would add, "You don't need to be ordained in order to serve."

And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."

Sounds so easy, doesn't it?

So, what are you waiting for?

Drop your nets - or, pick 'em up - and follow Jesus.

Just be sure to fasten your seat belts and make certain your crash helmet is on your head, securely strapped under your chin.

This Jesus-guy will turn your life upside down - especially with his 'new norm of greatness'.

That's a promise.

And, a warning.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."


Anonymous said...


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I hope next time you are able to leave your name. Even a first name will do. Thanks.