What is belief? Are they words on the page, aspirations to live up to, hopes, dreams, ideas, or even sources of challenge? What we say matters, and when we say we believe in God we are making a powerful statement, a statement which puts us directly at the crossroads a world and culture that says this is all crazy and unhelpful. When we hear our stories in scripture about all the things Jesus does, and asks us to do in his name, it can feel like we need more faith, more power, more energy, more everything in order to really follow him in the way he asks of us. So what is belief? What do we do with the superhuman requests Jesus makes of us without burning out? We do what Jesus did. We do just what's in front of us.
Is doing what is just in front of us really all that's necessary in Christ’s call to follow him -- well yes. But why? Because it's what Christ did. In this section of Luke, we are only a few chapters from the cross. We are on the road to Jerusalem, a road which takes us into new places and new communities which all struggle with the same question- how do I follow Christ in the way he wants me to follow him? Christ models that for us in how he ministres to us. Think about it for a second, when Christ comes to us in Scripture, into our communities, what does he do? He comes to us, listens to us, shares a meal with us, and teaches us- before moving to the next community, Christ encounters us and responds with what he knows the deepest within him- which is a relationship with us, in order to bring about the kingdom of God through discipleship. In growing disciples, Christ invites us to see the world differently because of what we have received. To see possibility where there is scarcity, to see life where there is death, and to work differently because of what we confess as belief in Jesus Christ.
Many saints before and many saints after us will try everything they can to live up to ideals of discipleship we may wish to emulate. Mother Theresa feeding and living with the poor, refusing to listen to those who said these people were worthless. Allison Cheek, the first female priest to preside at the Eucharist in the United states refusing to let the institution tell her her ministry was not of Christ. The first women to vote, the first indigenous members of parliament. St. Romero of El Salvador who brought a whole country to its freedom and identity in Jesus, or to the planning team that 11 years ago started our neighbourhood ministry, each of them started us on our path to Jerusalem, a path of encounter and justice for a better world by doing just what was in front of them, because that was what Christ had done in their lives.
I often watch the news and get so overwhelmed by the needs all around us, the challenges, the fear, the violence, and the lack of real leadership to address any of it in a sustainable way. Sometimes I look at what's going on and cry out to God for more belief, more trust, more ability to tackle what is happening all around us. For a deeper belief to speak truth in love to the powers of this world which are willing to settle for the least effort, rather than the best. For a deeper trust that I am capable of doing this work, and an ability to make an offering worthy of God’s glory. Yet, Christ isn't asking us to be superheroes, cranky Christians who live in anger against everyone, or people who live outside of this world. Rather, Christ is asking you and I together to live in the depths of this world, as a people set apart, doing exactly what God puts before us to do, in Jesus name.
As a people set aside, we remain within the chaos of what is around us while seeing the world differently because of what we confess as our faith in God, given to us at baptism. This baptism opens our eyes to a new reality, where we are all interconnected, we all matter, and that every single one of us who breathe on this planet have an inherent human dignity- we are not disposable. This leads us to ask questions of what we see, and to act on those questions. Why does this issue, problem, reality, exist, and how can I effect change because of what I believe? It was exactly these questions that led to the poor being fed and clothed, the eucharist celebrated by all God's children, the freedom from oppression, and our own movement from within our walls out into the streets of this city to be mutually transformed in Christs name as we serve our neighbours on the street. This service is not about selling our homes, giving everything we have, or living in poverty ourselves. Rather, it's about the small human movements we make. Donating a case of Ensure, or a pair of socks- leads to packing a bag, or writing a card for our neighbours- leads to asking our friends to donate a case of Ensure- leads to us walking with the outdoor team on saturday- which leads us to rejoicing when we see our friends who live on the streets, because they become more than friends- they are our family. A family which together, represents the inbreaking of the kingdom of God.
Over the next 4 weeks we will engage and hear more about this powerful ministry of doing just what's in front of us through the work of the homeless ministry. When I first encountered a homeless person, I was terrified because they did not look, smell, or act like me. As I grew and learned more, I realized that what I was actually afraid of was seeing myself in their faces. They are someone's child, spouse, loved one- they are just like me, and like me deserve the same care and affection I give and get. The hard place is knowing where to start, maybe this is your place and your time?
So do you believe, church? Do you believe in your ability to ask the questions of this world- of why things are the way they are, and what you can do about them with the skills and abilities God gave you today? Do you believe in faith, that Christ is calling us to action in our everyday actions- actions navigated via our baptismal covenant? Do you believe you’re capable, in the same way God knows you already are? Your answers matter, in a world which yearns to be free, whole, and known, in the saving heart of Jesus, a heart that does just what's in front of it, in the name of the kingdom.. How will you respond with your life this week?