Sitting in the hospital waiting room, waiting for your wife’s surgery to finish is not the time that you want to hear anything pat or clichéd. Things like: “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine,” or even Christianish things like “God will never give you more than you can handle,” or even “don’t worry, God is in control.”
Because these kinds of words, though they may sound okay, they aren’t really connected to my situation or what I’m dealing with in my life at that moment. Where can I find hope in the hospital room?
But this is the same kind of thing that the Western Church in the US in particular has been accused of and even done many times. It has sometimes become a religion that does not connect to the everyday life of the people, one that uses pat and clichéd catch phrases like “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Used things that have no meaning in my everyday life and experiences, things that don’t even come from the Bible.
There are large groups of people, many my generation and younger, that have left the church or don’t come to a Christian church even though they feel very spiritual and even close to Jesus because of these clichés and pat phrases.
As a Christian church and individual believers of every age, this is one of the questions that we are faced with about how church relates to my everyday life and experiences. If church is simply about clichés that don’t relate to my life, is that something I want to encourage my friends and loved ones to join me in? Is it a place where I can find hope and comfort in the hospital room?
As we struggle with these kinds of questions the place to start answering these questions is with Jesus. The Gospel Lesson from Matthew 4 talks about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the call of the first disciples.
Jesus began his public ministry preaching “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” The time for messing around is over; God is here in the flesh, repent of your sins and believe. While walking and preaching “he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22 ESV
When I hear this call of Jesus to the first disciples I’ve always been bothered by it. When he calls Peter and Andrew immediately they drop their nets and follow him. No conversation, no questions, no future planning, they immediately followed Him. Much the same thing if Jesus walked into your place of business during the workday and said “follow me.” This is a hard thing because we want to be in control of the situation and dictate what our relationship with Jesus will be like and what it will look like and what areas of my life it will effect.
“Jesus, I want my faith to look like this, to be a part of this area of my life but not this area, to go to church when I want to, if I want to. I want to be in control.”
But when Jesus calls us in to faith there are no negotiations—when the very son of God from eternity whom through all things were created, your creator and savior says come, you either follow in faith or you don’t, there are no third options. When he called Andrew and Simon he called them away from their nets and their livelihood and towards being fishers of men. When he calls us, he also calls each of us away from and towards different places, behaviors and relationships. Jesus doesn’t let us separate my faith life and my daily life, in Jesus they are always the same thing and His call effects every aspect of who you are.
But also notice how personal this call of Jesus is. He doesn’t tell James and John to consult with their father first and what he thought or even their other relatives or even each other. Jesus said come and follow me, this faith is personal, intimate, close at hand. The day you die and are in the presence of God, it will not be because of your parent’s faith, or your spouse’s faith, or your friend’s faith but because faith was in your life and you believe in Jesus.
And if we stop there we might say, ok, Christianity can just be about me and Jesus, I don’t need a church. But we have to remember in those few short verses Jesus took two sets of brothers and made them four brothers who would follow Him together. Those four would soon become twelve brought together by the word of Jesus and those would call 10’s, 20’s, 100’s, 1000’s of others to come and follow Jesus together. We are saved by faith alone in Jesus but in Jesus we are never alone. That is what Jesus does for us, he makes sure that we are never alone. We are filled with His presence by the Holy Spirit in every event of our lives and we are surrounded by the people of the church to support and encourage us with the words and works of Jesus.
That is what the Church is all about. A group of people who have been called by Jesus to follow him together in this place and time. To hear His words together, not cliché’s or pat phrases, but his living words of conviction, hope, strength and love. People who share the words of Jesus together and to live the life He has called us to live, together.
That is why, when I was sitting in the waiting room for my wife’s surgery to finish I was not surrounded by cliché’s and things that didn’t matter but by the very Words of Jesus spoken to me by faithful Christians in the Church. In that hospital room I was not alone but was supported by the very hands of Christ reaching out through the Church and lifting me up. These are words and actions that mean everything to me in my daily life that come to me from Jesus through His church. God does still work in His Church and it is a place for you.
A place where we can have hope in the hospital room.
(an article I read from http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2013/11/07/5-churchy-phrases-that-are-scaring-off-millennials/25149 by Addie Zierman gave me food for thought on this sermon. Check out the article for more to think on…)