By Jim Simpson
In the Heartland, in our charge conferences we enjoyed learning how congregations just say yes to God’s invitation to make the love of Jesus alive and real in the world. People are responding to Christ’s call as we connect with special needs children; get involved in schools; reach out to the hungry and homeless; embrace immigrants in our communities, and welcome new disciples of Jesus in our congregations! We celebrate how people engage fresh ideas and ways to witness and serve.
As a rookie District Superintendent, my training often reminds me of the distinction between management and leadership. It is the distinction between “doing things right” and “doing the right things.” Both are expressions of faithfulness. Jesus talked about the spirit of the law and seeking first the kingdom as a way to be truly faithful in our discipleship. In our churches we strive to stay focused on our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I often think of Joseph’s invitation to become the adoptive father of Jesus. Joseph’s initial response to Mary’s pregnancy was to just say no. But Joseph wanted to do things right (to set Mary aside in the right way) with compassion and mercy. The angel, Gabriel, invited Joseph to not be afraid; to find the courage to do the right thing; to become the earthly father of Jesus. I wonder (in his time of discernment) if Joseph thought about his ancestor, Boaz. When Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem, they needed protection. Boaz was not obligated to provide care and sustenance for them but Boaz welcomed Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law. Their relationship began with Boaz doing things right by allowing Ruth to glean in his fields. He went further (and did the right or righteous thing) by embracing Ruth as his wife. Their son, Obed, became the grandfather of King David. I wonder if Joseph thought about the faithfulness of Boaz as he decided to just say yes to God’s invitation to become the father of Jesus.
As the Lord chose to embody the fullness of God’s love in a human life, many people found the courage to do the right thing (to just say yes) to the invitation to make God’s love alive and real in the world through Jesus. Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, the magi, the shepherds, Anna and Simeon all said yes to the invitation to be a witness, welcome, worship, serve, and love the Messiah.
As disciples prepare to remember and celebrate the birth of God’s love in the life of our friend and savior, Jesus, we also are invited to watch for the new way God’s love is coming to life among us. The Spirit seeks to encourage us to just say yes and do the right things to make Jesus love alive and real in the world. We want to be faithful. We want to make a difference. We trust and believe the love of God in Jesus Christ brings hope for the world. I give thanks for all those who say with Mary: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.