A New Way of Engaging the World
John’s disciples reported back to him the news of all these events taking place. He sent two of them to the Master to ask the question, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”
The men showed up before Jesus and said, “John the Baptiser sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?’”
In the next two or three hours Jesus healed many from diseases, distress and evil spirits. To many of the blind he gave the gift of sight. Then he gave his answer: “Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth
have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them
“Is this what you were expecting?
Then count yourselves fortunate!”
The Luke passage conjures up a great visual for me. Consider the power of the right questions. “Jesus, are you the one we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”
Next, consider how Jesus answered; with the power of story; the power of image; the power of demonstrating. God’s love outwardly is amazing! After this demonstration, Jesus answered the question. “Tell John what you have seen and heard.” The answer wasn’t highfalutin or filled with theological words. In fact, the answer was a very nitty-gritty visual of what Jesus was doing.
In other words, “Look and see! What do you see? Can you see it? I’m doing a new thing, do you see it?” proclaims Isaiah 43:19.
I believe Jesus was trying to get the church of his day to see a new way of engaging the world through outwardly focused acts of mercy and witness. Think about who is in this passage. To whom is Jesus speaking? I believe it is church leaders; you, me and any who already profess to be God’s followers, you and me included.
My wife, Susan attends The Way in Wentzville and occasionally I get to go with her. At the end of the worship service, the benediction is always the same: “Help us be a church declaring and demonstrating a different way of life to a watching world.”
I love it! It speaks to what Jesus was saying in this passage. It is the same motivation that has inspired our new conference vision (along with lots of prayer, conversation, listening, thought and scripture searching): “The Missouri Conference will relentlessly lead our congregations to be outwardly focused and spiritually centered Christ followers.”
Outwardly focused: We must engage our communities with acts of mercy and witness as Jesus embodied or we will continue to be irrelevant.
Spiritually centered Christ followers:
We must center ourselves through acts of piety and devotion. It has always been our way as Methodists. As Bishop Rueben Job wrote so well, “stay in love with God.” Or as writers of Revelation said to Paul’s favorite churches in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-4;
"I see what you’ve done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can’t stomach evil that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause that you never wear out. But you walked away from your first love — why?”
I am excited about getting a new direction for the Missouri Annual Conference. We are busy constructing the goals and strategies to put hands and feet to this new vision, so that we might achieve the mission to lead people to Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I look forward to where God is leading our conference.