Friday, August 19, 2016

"...dishonor for the sake of the name."

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). This particular passage is one that if properly considered by the Christian, is one that is full of promise, hope, and undoubtedly, a fair amount of trepidation.  For here, as in so many of Christ’s teachings, there is no ambiguity, no parable that must be “unwrapped”, and no meaning beyond the simplicity of the statement. Those of us who are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of when He is standing before the Heavenly Father.
Perhaps we’re thinking, “well, that doesn’t apply to me because I’m not ashamed of Christ and I’ll talk about Him to anyone who wants to discuss Him. I go to Church regularly, I pray every day, I attend all kinds of retreat programs and/or faith study programs and we talk about our Lord at those programs regularly”. This is all great stuff and can be valuable in developing a deeper appreciation for aspects of faith, but, it is sadly nothing more than swimming in the shallow end of the pool, or fishing in your favorite pond, re-catching the same fish every time you visit, releasing them back into the pond when you depart, comforted in the knowledge that they’ll be there next week when you return. 

Simon Peter was doing just that (fishing in the shallow waters) when Jesus said to him “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4) Peter did as instructed, and despite his trepidation they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing” (Luke 5:6). After Jesus had been Crucified, the Apostles – still confronted with anxiety, sadness, and fear decided to return temporarily to the safety of what they knew and went fishing, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:3). As they were returning in the morning, a voice from the shore called out to them: “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” 'So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish' (John 21:6). Here again, the Apostles were fishing in the comfort of the shallows and Christ directed them to the right side of the boat where the deep waters lay.
Our minds were drawn to these reflections the last two days while traveling through the ‘deep and unknown waters’ of our community, trying to bring the Hope of Jesus and the Joy of the Gospel to “every creature” (Mark 16:15)We visited a series of five consecutive Baptist homes where each of the owners of those homes greeted us with joy, love, brotherhood, and the Hope of Christ. Home after home they thanked us for what we "are doing for our community and for God". Each of them knowing intuitively that this work is not for a church (be it our church or any other church), or a parish, but rather for the greater Glory of God, a glory that is defined by each individual's willingness to “Put out into deep water” (Luke 5:4). For it is only in glorifying God that we build up His Kingdom here on earth, a Kingdom that is made up of Christians and Jews, Muslims and Mormons, atheists and agnostics, lovers and haters, sinners and perhaps even some saints. 
This past week, not unlike all previous weeks, we were met with smiles, handshakes, praise and thanks, some tears, some skeptics, some non-believers and for the first time in 2,188 visits an individual who was so empty inside, so broken, so miserable, that the only thing he could do was to greet us with vulgarity and hatred. And it is this very person that we pray so desperately for knowing that his heart has become so hard that he sees the world with nothing but rage and hatred. It is also this very person that we thank God for allowing us to encounter, for it is in experiencing this extreme anger and visceral hatred up close and personal that we are able to see who we truly are inside. Are we people who shun the deep waters for fear of the unknown, preferring instead the comfort and safety of the four walls of the church, the small pond we like to fish at weekly, surrounded by like-minded fishermen, or are we willing, as was Jesus, to stand among those who hate and mock us because their hearts are empty, returning nothing to them but love, prayer, and a quiet cry out to God, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34).

"So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name." (Acts 5:41).

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