Monday, March 29, 2010

The Greatest

They all saw the basin. It sat quietly in a corner, as the disciples vied for chief seats.

"I call dibs next to Jesus," Simon the Zealot cried out.

"Hey, we already called those seats!" exclaimed James and John in unison.

"No you didn't. your mom did, and besides, if we're recalling firsts, I believe I was the first disciple that Jesus called," Andrew was quick to point out.

"Well, first is worst and second is best. Jesus told me that I was the rock upon which he was going to build his church."

"Yeah, Pete, but he also called you Satan. I think that cancels out the whole 'rock' thing."

"But I walked on water," Peter said defending himself.

"Okay, so maybe I was wrong. You were a rock; at least you sunk like one!"

"Very funny, I don't recall you standing next to Jesus when his face was transfigured and he talked with Elijah and Moses."

"Well, I hate to burst your bubble, brother, but you would have never even known Jesus had I not taken you to him. And speaking of taking things to Jesus...who was it that brought to him the boy with five loaves and two fish? Five thousand people were fed because of what I did."

"Jesus turned to me when he wanted to know where we would find bread for all the people to eat," Phillip said, joining in the argument.

"Don't kid yourselves. If you guys wouldn't have been there, we all know that Jesus could have rained down bread from heaven. He could have turned stones to bread if he wanted. Greatness isn't measured by what you do, but by what Jesus says of you. When Jesus saw me, he said, 'Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.' Boy, he sure did know what he was talking about," Nathanael interjected.

"If we're discussing names, it should be pointed out that we're called the 'Sons of Thunder.' Now that is a name that resounds with greatness."

"Yeah, but did Jesus ever eat dinner at your house with all your friends?"

"There's no way I'm letting a tax collector in above me. You may be use to handling people's money, but Jesus wasn't about to let some swindling tax collector be his treasurer. He entrusted that job to one who was a dependable steward of money, like me." With that, Iscariot, took the chief seat at Jesus' right hand.

As they elbowed and shoved their way to the front, Jesus slowly walked toward the basin. With the soft murmer of the disciples' argument echoing about the room, Jesus took off his outer clothes, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into the basin. The room fell silent. One-by-one, the Lord washed his disciples' filthy feet. They all saw the basin, but only one took up the towel.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shooting Arrows

When I teach, I am an archer, shooting words like arrows in hopes that one will strike home. But sometimes none do. The words whiz over the heads of their intended targets. I fire one sentence after another. "The Israelites spread the blood of the lamb over the doorway," I say. And kids rustle in their seats. So I fire again, "It was the blood from a perfect, spotless lamb." Blank stares. Better fire from a different angle, "Jesus was called the lamb of God." There's a hint of recognition, so I continue, "When the blood of the lamb covered the doorway to the house, Death could not enter." Slowly a child on the front row raises his hand. "This is it," I think. My heart starts to rise, "Yes?..." "What time do we get out of here?" My heart plummets. At this point, my supply is depleted, and I walk away from the class time without any indication that the word of God penetrated to dividing soul and Spirit, joints and marrow.

But every once in a while, an arrow pricks a child's heart. Last Wednesday night happened to be one of those times.

We were watching a video clip from The Visual Bible: Matthew in which Jesus heals a leper (Mt. 8:2-4). The scene starts with the leper approaching Jesus. He falls down on his knees and cries out, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." The disciples reflexively cover their faces and turn away in order to avoid contamination. But Jesus walks toward the leper. The disciples look on in bewilderment as Jesus unwraps the bandages and gently touches the man's face, "I am willing. Be clean!" At that moment, with Jesus' touch, the leper is healed.

The video clip ended, and I began to explain to the class that Jesus used his hands to welcome those whom no one else would. He touched mud to a blind sinner's eyes. He ate with tax collectors. He blessed children. He washed his disciple's dirty feet. Jesus touched the sick, the dirty, and the unclean. I was about to move on when a young boy's voice stopped me. Our eyes met, and he asked, "Why would he do that?"

The question hung in the air suspended by the silence that filled the room. The rest of the students scooted to the edge of their seats, and I knew this boy had spoken their hearts' longing as well. The class was a silent chorus pleading, "Tell us it's true." The arrow had penetrated.

So I told them. I told them that the reason Jesus welcomed these outcasts was because He loved them; God loves them. Jesus was sad they were sick and shunned. He wanted them to be made whole and well. And it was His touch that brought this healing. It was His touch that made the polluted, pure. And it is His touch that will make us clean, as well. It's true. And in that moment, with 40 kids leaning in, the arrow pierced my own heart as well. It is true, and I believed it.

But maybe I am more of a gardener than an archer. This isn't just a hit-or-miss operation. I till soil, plant seeds, water the earth, and pull weeds. Sometimes I get a glimpse of green sprouting from the soil. Sometimes I see the fruit of my labor. But mostly, I wait. With dirt under my fingernails and sweat on my brow, I pray for a bountiful harvest. And all the while, the Sun is shining down, beckoning to the seed, calling it to Himself.

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (1 Cor. 3:7).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Student of the Week: Caleb Cook

Our student of the week is Caleb Cook. Caleb is 7 years old and is in the 1st grade. This past Sunday, I had the honor of taking Caleb's confession before the congregation, as Caleb's dad baptized him into Christ.

When I asked Becky (Caleb's Wednesday night teacher) to describe him, she used the words attentive and lively. These two adjectives may not seem like they fit together, but I think they describe Caleb perfectly. He's excited, enthusiastic, and lively while at the same time being an engaged and attentive listener.

Whether it's acting out a Bible story, designing a wedding dress out of toilet paper, or making up actions for the memory verse, Caleb's the first to volunteer and participates without fear of what others might think. He is always willing to try new things, and as Caleb's dance performance during the Fall Festival illustrates, he is not intimidated by a crowd. Here's how Nancy (Caleb's small group leader) puts it,

"Caleb is always eager and willing to try, always participating in class. Even if he isn't sure, he takes that step of faith rather than staying back because he's afraid of being wrong. As adults, we can learn a lot from that childlike faith."

Thank you, Caleb, for showing me faith without fear. Your contagious enthusiasm makes you a joy to have in class.


Wednesday night, I sat down with Caleb and asked him a few questions. He informed me that he had never been interviewed before, so I bring to you an exclusive, first-time interview with Caleb Cook:

What are some of your favorite things to do?

A: read chapter books, tv

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: a dancer

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

A: to my Memaw and Papa's house, because I love them

If you had a time machine, to which time period would you travel?

A: to when my Papa was born

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A: to fly, so I could see things that are far away

How do you show Christ to someone who is not a Christian?

A: by hugging them