Have you ever missed out on something? You planned to attend some special event, having seen it advertised in the media, but then the weekend came and you totally spaced it! The event happened without you! How does that happen? I think it may be related to the busy-ness of our lives these days - getting so much crammed into our lives is just impossible - but it could also be related to our inattentiveness to the details of our lives. I often remind my readers about the importance of paying attention "on purpose" to the things recorded for us in scripture because they are put there for a reason. They sometimes act as words which will build us up when we are low, or to give us wisdom in the things we should avoid in this life. Regardless of their purpose WITHIN our lives, they all serve a purpose at some POINT in our lives. There is no accidental text in the scripture - it is all there because God intended us to learn from it - but to learn from it, we have to pay attention "on purpose" to what is recorded!
How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. (Romans 9:30-32 MSG)
Paul is responding to the criticisms he often faced in his ministry - those of embracing the "Gentile" (non-Israelite) believers and rejecting his "heritage" by what his critics saw as him "turning away from" his religious upbringing as a Jew. A couple weekends ago, I responded to the doorbell only to find three ladies intent on getting all "fallen away Catholics" back into the Catholic church. At first, I thought they must be the regulars from the Jehovah's Witness group which frequents my neighborhood canvassing for possible converts, but was surprised to find the Catholics have "gotten in on the action"!
Imagine their surprise when I told them I was a "fallen away Catholic", but intensely in love with Jesus and totally content following him at my local "non-denominational" church! They almost could not comprehend that I did not "miss the Eucharist", as they put it. Had I not have been in the middle of a meal with family who had come from the other side of town that day, I might have just shared a little longer about how the "Eucharist" is more than a part of the Catholic mass, but a living, breathing part of who I am today! What I did tell that is that I don't need the "ceremony" to know my connection to Christ - I feel him right here inside me each and every step I take!
We all have "religious heritage" we might hold onto in life, but what happens when we become so "narrow" as to believe our "religious heritage" is the only way others can experience the reality of Christ we limit the tremendous work of all those whose hearts are on fire for him. I don't poke fun at the zeal of these women, but rather would encourage all of us to remember the purpose of our "religion" is to connect others with Christ - the reality of his living, breathing Spirit within us, innervating us from within to live holy and acceptable lives before God the Father. All of us need to remember the dangers of becoming so absorbed in the "ceremony" we forget the encompassing power of his presence and the intensity of the "intimacy" he desires with each of his children.
Some of us get so wrapped up in the "ceremony" of being Christian - the right words, the right appearance, the right amount of time at church, etc. - but totally miss the reality of relationship WITH Christ and our fellow believers. We can get so interested in "talking about" Christ that we forget to "talk to" him. We might get so wrapped up in "doing service" in his name that we forget to actually "serve" him. Maybe that statement needs a little clarification. We can "do" all kinds of good works in the name of Christ - like serving at the soup kitchen, or perhaps volunteering once a quarter to work in the nursery at church. When we actually move from "doing service" into living a life of service, we find little opportunities to "serve Christ" in the moments of silent prayer for the hurting heart we pass on our way to work, the tender touch of a daughter just holding the hand of an elderly parent, or the moments of pause we give to consider the questions of a small child intent on understanding how something works. God's whole "business" on this earth is one of bringing "connection" between his creation and his heart. Connection only occurs through relationship. Relationship only occurs when there is a move away from doing into just being with another individual.
I don't know about you, but I don't want my legacy to be "she did all the right stuff". I hope my legacy will be more like "we saw Jesus in her". Just sayin!