Yesterday 2 February we celebrated the feast of the Presentation. Forty days after Jesus was born, he was brought to the temple to make the prescribed ceremonial offering. Fist an old man named Simeon took him and prayed a remarkable prayer over him: “my eyes have seen your salvation”, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Then an ancient prophetess named Anna also prayed, and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” We remember this at the end of the brief season of Epiphany, that time when we celebrate the shining forth of God’s glory, Jesus’ revelation to the world.
We return to the temple for our reading from Isaiah. At a time of political and social turmoil, when the old, disgraced, leprous king has just died, Isaiah has this amazing vision as he worships in the temple. He sees this host of angels, worshipping God, and he is terrified because he is suddenly aware of his sins and imperfections.
An angel touches his lips with a coal from the altar to purify him, and many take this as a picture of the work of the cross, cleansing and purifying us. Isaiah hears a voice saying ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And Isaiah says ‘Here am I. Send me!’
Both of these stories are about Christ being made known, his glory being allowed to shine forth. But how?
This is the fourth week of our series Just Walk Across the Room. We were reminded of the single greatest gift we can offer the people around us, which is an introduction to their creator and lover of their souls, God himself.
Then we thought about living in 3D. We were encouraged to Develop friendships, Discover stories, prayerfully Discern next steps. These three things are what we can think about, pray about, and act on when we’re operating in the Zone of the Unknown. The 3D framework reminds us to take things slow with people, allowing the other person to be in the spotlight, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the dance.
Last week we looked at the power of story. How important it is to know God’ story and tell it well. What is our story of before Christ became real in our lives, and what has happened after?
Today we look at Grander Vision living. Sometimes there are wonderful things for us to see and experience, but we miss them because we are concentrating of the surface view, and don’t look with. If you had been in the temple on the day that Simeon took Jesus in his arms, you might just have noticed an old man with a baby. You might have missed the proclamation that here is the hope of all humans, the one who will bring healing and forgiveness to all who will turn to him.
If you had been in the temple with Isaiah, you might have seen only the prophet struck by remarkable vision of God, and missed the wonder and glory of it. Or you might have seen the angels and been caught up in the eternal song of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!” You might yet have missed the real thing that was happening, the point of the whole exercise, that God is looking for those who will go for him.
If you had been on the sea shore with Jesus, you might have heard him preach and seen the crowds; you might have seen the disciples going out (against their will) to try again to catch fish and having a miraculous result. You might have seen Peter fall on his knees and confess his sinfulness. But you might have missed the grander vision, the point of it all.
God’s priority is people. All that Jesus did was about reaching out to seek and to save those who were lost. The priority is people. On a day when these three career fisher men had made the most significant and amazing catch of their professional lives, Jesus points them to a bigger catch, a higher priority, people. He is asking them to completely reorder their lives, so that from now on they will seek to fish for people.
Prioritizing people. This is what so much of our four-week series has been about, as you’ll recall. Taking walks across rooms for people. Caring more about other people than about yourself. Having a sort of “radical inclusiveness” for people, even if they look different, talk different, act different, vote different, and so on.
And so Jesus asks all of us who say we want to be walk-across-the-room people … Will you choose the Grander Vision in your situation?
It’s the big-fish opportunity that awaits us all:
You can catch fish … or become fishers of men and women.
You can be a successful businessperson … or excel at the business of redeeming lives.
You can be the top student … or focus your attention on studying people.
You can shine as a superstar salesman … or care more about letting your light shine in the lives of people all around you!
We are to reorder our lives, so that the way that we live speaks of God. The way that we conduct ourselves at work, the way that we drive our car, the way that we treat our spouse, parents or children or friends. All that we do and say, and the way that we do it and say it is a light shining so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
As we make people the priority, we focus on potential. We see so many folk who seem to have no thought or concern to live God’s way. Very often they seem to be far from living the sort of life that God is looking for. But we look beyond that, seeking for what God can do in that person’s life. We let God do what he wants to in a person’s life – we are not there to impose our judgements about how they should behave. Instead we practice a kind of radical inclusiveness that shares God’s love with everyone.
We get a clue to this later in Luke chapter 5, where we read in verse 27 that Jesus encounters a tax collector called Levi or Matthew. Here is someone obviously beyond the pale, but Jesus calls him to follow him. This was a completely unlikely event to take place – this materialistic, money grabbing person sold out to the Romans, who obviously had no time for God. But Jesus called him and he followed. We can do the same.
We can also learn the next step. Start small …. But start.
The first thing that Matthew does is to throw a party. He invites his erstwhile colleagues and friends to meet Jesus. Nothing fancy. Just keep it simple, and do something. Do what makes sense. If you dog walk, invite a friend. If you make cup cakes, have a tea party or coffee morning. If you live near a park, have a picnic. Do what seems natural. Get the ratio right. Try to have the Christians outnumbered by the non-churchgoers. People do not like to feel ganged up on.
Do share this grander vision? Will you join me in making people a priority? Will you share your life with others?
1. Have you ever thought that being a Christian meant you had to become a lifestyle referee to the world about you? What did you think when Bill said Christ-followers are under no obligation to play such a role?
2. What did you think about the Matthew Party concept – an event where you invite a few Christ followers, several seekers, and several people who want nothing to do with God? What fears or concerns are raised by the idea of hosting one?
3. Apart from the idea used in the video, what other ways could be used to invite meaningful conversation at a Matthew Party, or any other gathering?
4. It is vital to make the most of God’s supernatural power that is available to every believer through the Holy Spirit at work in us. Study the following verses to see what you can learn about the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of the Christ-follower:
5. John 14:16-21; Acts 1:8 Romans 8:26-27
6. God’s timing and plans are often different from ours (see Isaiah 55:8). How can we develop God’s patience when it doesn’t seem like any spiritual progress is being made in the lives of people we care deeply about?
7. Based on that we have learned so far in this four week experience, what are some ways you can build trust with people who are far from God, so when things finally turn spiritual, they are convinced you have their best interests at heart?
Pray together asking God to help you to be his mouthpiece. Pray that you would play the role you are supposed to play in people’s lives. Pray that hearts would melt, people would be changed, and that their place in eternity would be secured.
You might like to name some people who you would like God to open a door for your message.
Commit to pray for an opportunity to share your faith with them, especially during the week of Camberley Connections, March 9-17th 2013.