So I am evaluating the possibility of taking my grandsons shark fishing next summer. After two weeks with them this year, I can see that something exciting is required. In my normal way of operating, I began reading about shark fishing and remembered a scene from many years ago on the Jersey shore…pickup trucks lined up along the shore shark fishing. They used a cannon to launch the bait several hundred yards out. As I read about shark fishing and cannon launchers, I kept thinking, “you are on to something.” I go so far as to watch some guys drinking beer in their garage and making a potato gun and shooting oranges at a bucket. I must admit that after they had three beers it was pretty funny. I wonder, “To what extent am I willing to go to create a memory in the heart of those boys?” I am already planning for NEXT summer. I have learned how very important a story is to the life of a family. My family lives off of our stories. They bind us together. They help us laugh even when tragedy strikes. Stories are glue. Most of the time they just happen, but I have learned that we can create an environment where a story is most likely to unfold.
Jesus uses stories to mesmerize crowds and to create a bond among the disciples. He makes things happen. He even goes so far as to walk on water. He waits days to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead…dramatic anticipation. He plans for stories to happen because He knows that stories are irrevocable. They are the very glue of belief and create intimate connection. So, guess what, next summer, we are going shark fishing.
Bonhoeffer. Blog week 2 Costly Discipleship
When grace is cheap, discipleship is easy. Less and less accountability for spiritual growth turns the church into more of a political institution than a transforming spiritual vessel. The church becomes so busy with accommodating, it forgets its purpose. To survive, the church has to bring in money to pay the bills. The people with the most money push leaders to compromise. To keep the cathedral open, leaders compromise or turn a blind eye to those who are pushing their own agenda and not God’s, leaving room for sin to get a foothold. Those who compromise cannot understand that a new compromise is just around the corner, and those who see the ploy for what it is get frustrated and quit. So who do you side with? Side with those who have a personal agenda and you keep the doors open singing Amazing Grace until you retire. Side with those who will not compromise the Gospel and you lose the cathedral status and position. This is how the church in Germany failed. It chose to compromise with money and power, to keep the cathedrals. In the end Germany lost both the Cathedrals and spiritual integrity. Evil overran the church.
So, for the church to maintain integrity, it must be in union with the gospel of the New Testament. This is not the cheap grace being peddled on TV or in most mainline churches. The good news of Christ is simply, “you must take up a cross.” Any discipleship that is not sacrificial is not of the gospel of Jesus. It is a gospel with its own agenda. Being a Christian was never meant to be free or easy; and though God loves us, He never intended us to stay just as we are. Real change for the church cannot be separated from pain. The church in America has too long been tied to cathedrals. The real gospel compels us to something new. The day of multi million dollar debt to create cathedrals is over in America. The new church will not be connected to land or buildings. Those buildings will one day be turned into institutional warehouses that exist to take care of the lower classes or just bulldozed. And how do I know this? History repeats itself.
For a man who dreams of great things, this was not a good idea, at least not at first. I thought I would set aside a day to meditate on the life and letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave his life in opposition to the evils of the Third Reich. And rather than simply read, I chose to think, to enter into a decision. I wanted to know how he could deliberately leave the relative safety of England and return straight into the lion’s mouth. He knew Hitler would imprison and eventually execute him. So Friday I took my kayak into Tampa bay to enter in. This was not a good idea. I took only two thoughts: “when in the fullness of tasks, questions, success or ill-hap, experiences and perplexities, a man throws himself into the arms of God…then he wakes with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith.” That alone took me to humility. The most difficult decision I made last week was what color would the floors in the church hall be? Not quite Gethsemane. I long for great things, heroic tasks, grand faith.
Now add this to the second thought, “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.” Cheap grace is what we see mostly here in America: the gift that keeps on giving and allows tolerances for evil, compromising with evil until grace is pushed aside. Bonhoeffer says it was this cheap grace that made room for Hitler and National Socialism. Bonhoeffer said it would take discipleship of a great cost to overcome. So he returned to Germany to die with his people and for His Lord, that in death, Christ would win.
So I took the kayak to see how I might enter in to this decision only to be humbled by the decision of great faith. How can I, in ordinary things, find such great faith? Then I caught a fish, and another, and another. Fifty fish later I had almost been able to forget that catching fish is a fleeting pleasure. And it was time to paddle in….I had been able to avoid the obvious. I am not Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Part of me, the faith part, wishes I were. But the rest of me wonders, “would I go to the gallows, intentionally?”
No doubt it was a beautiful day on Tampa Bay, iced tea to quench my thirst and sea trout to distract my mind. And for a short time distraction won. Yet I cannot escape the humble decision Bonhoeffer made to return to his people. There is little doubt that passion for God is what compelled Bonhoeffer to return. Passion drove him.
January 6 has come and gone and now is when most folks take down their trees and decorations. Epiphany in the Western Church remembers the visit of the wise men to the Christ child, bearing worldly gifts for a heavenly king. An epiphany is a manifestation of God, a time when God became real to us, or in the case of Christmas, became flesh for us. The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on when God revealed Himself to you and to anticipate that He will do it again. If God were to visit you again, what might He say? Turn around? Well done? Get up? Strengthen your hands? These are all things he has said to someone.
As we begin 2014, what might God say to Wesley? Let’s go! Move forward! I love what you’ve done with the place. I hope and pray God’s richest blessing on us this year. Our focus this year can be summed in a single phrase from 1 John, “Love one another.”