A Methodist minister tells of his decision to join a Civil Rights march in the South during the late 60’s. He and other students met the group at a church ready to march for justice, to stand up and be counted, and to demand equality for all people. But the first thing that the organizers had the group of hot and bothered protesters do was find a seat in the sanctuary for several long hours of singing, praying, and preaching. Finally, some of the young activists grew tired and spoke to one of the march’s organizers, saying “Come on. Let’s get on with the march. Let’s get out on the streets where we can do some good.” They couldn’t figure out what all this singing and preaching had to do with their desire to work for justice. Patiently, the leader reminded the students that they had been at this struggle a long time. They had learned long ago that in the battle for human rights, they were not contending against just a few bad laws or a few bad people. They knew that they were struggling against principalities and powers, against cosmic evil, and if all they had to sustain them out in the streets was superficial, optimistic humanism, good intentions, and a desire to “do good”, they wouldn’t last long.
The young man learned an important lesson that day. Though he was ready to get busy about the work needing to be done, he discovered that as Christians, our power and strength for ministry begins in worship and discipleship. Just as it is inadequate to focus on worship and discipleship without putting our faith into action, we cannot go out to change the world unless we have connected our spiritual lives to Jesus who is the vine that nourishes us so we can bear fruit. Only when we balance our commitment to spiritual maturity with a commitment to do God’s work in the world can we be the church we need to be.
Mildred McWhorter was for many years a Baptist home missionary in inner-city Houston. Once, she encountered a little boy who had come to the Baptist Center where she worked. She had watched over him all week and spent significant time with him. At the end of the week, the little boy asked her, “Missus, are you God?” Mildred was taken aback by the question and quickly said, “No.” Then sensing an opportunity to teach the little boy about God, she continued, “But God’s love is in my heart.” But the boy just pointed at her again and said, “No, missus, you’re God.” Again, she tried to explain, “No, I’m not God, but God’s love lives within my heart.” Pointing to her heart, he said, “Oh no, you’re God, and I can see him right there.” That little boy knew the power and presence of God when he saw it in the life of God’s servant.
My hope and prayer for all of us is that we will deepen our discipleship and faith so that others see the love and grace of God in us.