When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.”
Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” John 16:13-17
I always find it fascinating how conversation takes its direction. It’s one of the reasons small group ministry is such a valuable discipleship tool. Such a valuable life tool.
I come with a prepared outline, participants do the assigned reading, life happens, the scripture speaks, we bring our whole selves to the table, we open with prayer, and then I ask some version of, “Where have you seen God working in your life during the past few days?”
The story of our individual discipleship is the story of how we prepare to invite God into the details, how we live into that intention, and then – importantly – how we reflect on and share the journey in the context (and accountability) of encouraging, supportive, community.
LIGHT BULB MOMENTS! But back to the conversation. My Wednesday evening men’s group at WFPC is in the middle of a book study using (and this was their idea) Reaching Toward Easter. So this week my plan was to have a conversation about some of the amazing ideas Jesus floated around the dinner table on the occasion of the Last Supper, words that are detailed so beautifully in John 16.
So here’s what’s funny. I authored the book; I lead the group; I wrote the study-guide; I had an agenda for discussion. Yet the conversation I had in mind never happened!
I had asked the following question: “I’d like each of you to share a thought, or a paragraph, from this week’s reading, something that touched your soul, that made you think, or gave you an ‘uh-huh’ moment.”
The first response I got was, “I’m still thinking about the apocalypse…”
“The apocalypse?” I asked. “What page are you on? I don’t remember writing about the apocalypse in this book?”
“I’m probably thinking about your blog,” my friend said. “I think you were on to something and I can’t get it out of my mind.”
One of the other guys had his smartphone out and quickly found the reference. “Here it is, you posted February 24: If the 2016 presidential election landscape really is the dystopian novel it reads like, then when was the apocalypse?
So we talked about the idea that we’re in the middle of a moral/spiritual apocalypse in America, that there’s been a mass hijacking of reasonable thought in this country, and that we really have sold our souls to self interest, and the false religion of needing to be right.
But – and this is where the Holy Spirit is a much better facilitator than me – we engaged the conversation in the context of the scripture pasted above, and the following thoughts from Chapter 21 of Reaching Toward Easter:
- It was often a real struggle for the twelve disciples to grasp Jesus’ teaching because he referenced a world that was beyond the scope of their language or their experience…
- It was to the disciples’ credit that they didn’t just swallow every ounce of this stuff hook, line, and sinker. They were willing to ask hard questions.
- Jesus is still willing for us to ask questions… hard ones and more basic ones too. Our God is not so small that we cannot sit back and legitimately wonder sometimes. In fact, the more neatly wrapped and tidy my God becomes, the more I have diminished the idea of deity through my small imagination and my profound lack of faith.
LOST! I believe that we have lost our moral and spiritual reference point as a people. Not only are we absolutely not a Christian nation, but the average American does not even begin to recognize where Jesus is coming from when he talks about reconciliation with God, about kingdom life, and about what salvation really means.
There is this huge gap in understanding, this epic miscommunication; and responsibility for this tragic disconnect rests firmly in the lap of The Church (all of us!), because we have failed miserably when it comes to the task of communicating the deep joy, the liberating freedom, and the transcendent beauty of life in Christ.
So, candidates, this is from the heart:
Please stop waving your Bibles, co-opting Jesus to endorse your politics, and stop trying to appeal to “the Evangelical vote” (whatever that is!). Because Jesus doesn’t care two hoots about your party, your platform, or your social preferences. What Jesus cares about is spelled out in the fruit – the evidence – of the work of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5)
That is my agenda. It’s why I write; it’s why I speak; it’s why I want you to share this message of hope and of concern. I’m not pessimistic – but I am deeply troubled. Let’s live as if the Gospel we espouse is actually true, and let’s live as Kingdom people, redeemed followers of Jesus Christ who bear the kind of fruit that leaves no doubt that this land can be healed.
Can I get an “Amen”? – DEREK