An every day decision.
These thoughts were part of “The Message” at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 7, 2016. They are based upon a reading from Matthew 7:13-27. Rather than lead a discussion this week, congregants were invited to make a public recommitment to their baptismal and membership vows: 7 people recommitted their life to Jesus’ Way on Sunday, August 7, 2016. Hold them in prayer.
I don’t remember the exact day, but I definitely remember the moment. I was 13 or 14 years old attending church camp at Santa Claus campground in Santa Claus, Indiana. It was the last night of camp. The worship experience was intense and highly emotional. I walked forward to receive communion and knelt at the rail to pray.
I had been a part of the church for as long as I could remember. I was raised in the church, First United Methodist Church, Mt. Vernon, Indiana. It was the church my parents had been married in, the church my father grew up in. I was baptized there. I had been confirmed there. I had gone through all the official steps to be considered an adult in the life of the church, but truth be told, the decision hadn’t been entirely mine. Parental and community pressure were real. I participated in the life of the church because it was what we did. I hadn’t really decided to make an intentional, personal commitment to follow Jesus.
It was at that rail, after receiving communion on the last night of camp in Santa Claus, Indiana, that I decided to walk the path of faith myself, to make the journey of following Jesus my own. As I prayed, my counselor came up behind me and laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed quietly behind me. It was a powerful moment. He had no idea what I was praying for, and I didn’t know exactly what he was praying for, but I knew in that moment that his presence meant I didn’t have to walk the journey on my own: that while I had to find the path and walk it myself there were others who would journey with me.
I wish I could say that I stood up from that rail a new person, that I left an old self behind, and stood up a new man. But, that wasn’t my experience. What did happen in that moment was the making of a commitment, a conscientious decision to follow Jesus. That moment at the rail was the first of many decisions to follow Jesus.
Jesus once said that those who seek to follow him will have to “take up their cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Those who seek to follow Jesus will have to make a concerted, intentional decision every single day to follow on the Jesus Way. It’s not a one-and-done decision. It’s not a decision you can make on auto-pilot. The decision to follow Jesus is one of intentionality and purpose. The Way is not well marked, says Jesus. “the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, New Revised Standard Version).
On Friday, I headed out to Revelation Church. I had never been out there. It was an interesting experience. That’s a huge property. But, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. The main drive is not off of a main road. There are no signs for the church. The buildings are all set back from the road such that you cannot see them. The only marker is the address number on the mailbox. You have to be intentional and purposeful, if you’re going to go to that church or you’ll very easily miss it. It was a real world example. “The gate is narrow and the road difficult” (Luke 7:14, Common English Bible).
Following Jesus takes intentionality. It means making purposeful steps to cultivate the Christ life in our lives. It’s an intentional choice to allow God’s love to germinate, grow, and bear fruit in our lives that we might “be complete,” perfect in showing love to all that we might give ourselves, like Christ, completely in love for God and neighbor.
The transformation of the world—into a place where peace, mercy and love reign—will not come about by people who sit idly by. It will come only through the hard and intentional work of those disciples who daily and diligently commit to continuing Christ’s mission of outreaching love in the world. The choice is a daily one. May we all be a little more intentional about making it for the glory of God found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Following Jesus on the path of love and life takes intentionality. How will you be intentional about growing in your faith and love of God and neighbor?