PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you, as a living sacrifice
Jesus, We belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Luke 4:31–32 (NIV)
Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
One of the great epiphanies or revelations in the life of Jesus, hiding in plain sight, is the “where” of his work. The Son of God comes to the stage of the world he created and he spends most of his time in small fishing villages in a rural part of an otherwise fairly obscure country—that is about the size of the state of New Jersey. All in, probably around 1,500 people lived in Capernaum. Contrast that to Jerusalem whose population was likely around 30,000 at the time. Contrast that to Rome, whose population in those days likely exceeded one million.
In the world’s eyes (and if I’m honest, in my own eyes) Jesus wasn’t very strategic. The point I’m making is population or perceived importance, prestige or status is irrelevant in God’s kingdom. We live in a cross-shaped kingdom, which upends conventional wisdom and reverses the value system.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor. 1:27–29)
All this to say, no matter where you are (or are not), and no matter who you are (or are not), if you are following Jesus today, the kingdom is here and now—today. There is no better place than where you are and doing what you are doing to declare and demonstrate it.
As is well documented here, I grew up in the small town of Dumas, Arkansas, 71639. I secretly felt we were somehow less than, say, Little Rock; which is probably why we were so proud—and as life wore on—critical of those snobby city folk. Nonetheless, when we went to Little Rock I always held a secret awe of the place. I loved to ride around in the Heights, and to drive down the coveted street called Edge Hill with its expansive mansions. I had no idea who lived there but I knew they were somebody important. Why? I thought their neighborhood or street or place conferred importance on them. If I’m honest, I am still influenced by this value system. I want to drive around behind the gates of the gated communities and dream my way into those dream homes, because the value system of the world tells me there is more value there. Am I the only one here?
It’s not my point to say that is somehow wrong to do. My point is to say Jesus did and does just the opposite. Jesus doesn’t attach importance to place. He confers value on people irrespective of place, and to make his point he is quite careful to go to the places the world would consider the least valuable and least important. To make his point, not only does he go to those places and those people as though he were running a charity—he is those people in those places. Jesus was born into a poor family. He grew up in a backwater town. He practically lived the life of a homeless peasant (i.e., nowhere to lay his head). He spent his time moving among the rich and the poor as though there were no fundamental difference between them. Jesus confers value on the up and out and the down and out, on the lepers, the sick, the infirm, the demon-possessed, the afflicted, the addicted, the imprisoned, and on we could go and must.
This is profoundly revelatory about who God is and what God is like and how God works; and consequently, who we are and what we are like and how we must learn to work—because it’s Jesus who is working within and through us. We see as he sees. We hear as he hears. We think as he thinks. We move as he moves. We go where he goes. We do what he does—because he does it all in and through us. This is what discipleship must become about—not just learning more and more things about God and the Bible and our religious traditions—but learning to behold and become and bear his very presence right where we are doing exactly what we are doing. TODAY!
In the end, when all is said and done, he tells us it will come down to this . . .
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt. 25:37–40)
Epiphany alert! Jesus didn’t come to help the poor. He came to be the poor.
Our Father, I just want to sit with this for more than a minute, to contemplate the vast revelation of Jesus. I feel as though I have so many things backward in my thinking. I want the mind of Christ Jesus and you say it is mine. Come Holy Spirit and renovate my mind, don’t just change my thinking but transcend and transform my imagination. Thank you that I don’t have to figure this out, just yield to Jesus, belong to him and find him belonging to me and then following him—not with him as some distant figure of history, but from the inside where he dwells in me and in us. Jesus, we belong to you. Praying in your name, amen.
How is Jesus blowing your mind today? Are you being stretched? How so? Where do you want to push back and challenge? Do you, like me, like driving around and looking at houses nicer than yours? Why do we do that? What would it mean to drive around the poorer neighborhoods and look around in the same way?
Today we will sing hymn 160, “I Love to Tell the Story,” from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Reedemer’s Praise. This is a greatest hit for sure. I want to hear you!
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt
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JD, I’m honestly not impressed with wealth, status or fame. I was born into and raised lower middle class in a suburban neighborhood in the large city of Houston Texas. I spent most of my youth with kids who were very similar except for the fact that I went to a Christian parochial school through eighth grade where as my neighborhood friends attended public school. These were the days before racially integrated schools. I grew up pretty sheltered. You can imagine what a culture shock I faced when at age nineteen I applied and was accepted to join the Houston Police Department. From that vantage point I could see that the wealthy, the highly educated and privileged class suffered the same problems of life that all of fallen creation suffers; they’re just better at hiding it. One thing that really surprised me was that over the course of 22+ years, the majority of suicides that I was called to investigate, were among the middle to upper middle class individuals, not the poor. The lesson here for me was this: outward appearance’s can be misleading. Things are not always what they appear to be.
Some thoughts that we shove into the background of our mind are coming directly from God. Thank you, JD, for helping us to notice them.
I heard your call to WAKE UP this past weekend in Waco as I attended the GMC Mid Texas Conference Awakening meetings. Thank you for sharing your words with us. Jesus is alive in my church and we are dedicating ourselves anew to a Methodism that challenges us to sanctification and action in our community. Pray for Oak Island Methodist Church as we strive to be a light of gospel truth and righteousness in our community. Pray for our leadership including mine as chair of our Church Council as we seek to Awaken our congregation.
I’m serving in a tiny rural central Texas church. Humility is certainly a daily cup I drink from out here when, I confess, there are many days I desire to serve in a big, grand wealthy church instead. Yes, Jesus came to us in a humble way & remained so throughout his ministry. Thanks for reminding wake-up call to remain humble – Christ is needed everywhere, wealthy or poor!