Mine, Yours and Ours
31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,[a] that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
We are familiar with the Gospel messages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; but what about Timothy, Dena, Sandy, Paul, Bryan, Tanya, and everyone in this congregation. I believe that everyone has a gospel story. The gospel, at its heart, is about different people telling their story about God and then putting them together to create a bigger story. It was then I began thinking about the different stories – or living Gospel messages– in my own family and concentrating on just a few people I have found some incredible stories that have shaped my own story. Each person has their own “Gospel” message.
First, my twin brother Eric. His story can be best summarized by intensity and passion. The life he led, left no doubt in anyone’s mind exactly what he was about, who he served and why. He had an incredible assortment of Biblical study material. He knew his Bible forward and backwards. He dedicated his time to participating in the spiritual life organizations of Dakota Wesleyan University and serving our home congregation as a youth ministry volunteer. He lived with the end in mind and at only 24, when he was struck down by a cerebral aneurysm in our driveway, the testament to his life’s work was in the 600+ people that attended his funeral. His message was “live with passion.”
Next is my aunt Lorna. She along with her siblings, including my dad, grew up in a tumultuous environment. For many years she had nothing to do with the church and she was quite fine living that life. But it was over the past few years that changed and just about 2 years ago she decided to dedicate her life to Christ through baptism. When she called me to share with me about her decision, she was almost speechless. But for her it was finally letting go of the past and making a decision to move on with a new life. Her message is “a new life in Christ.”
Then there is my mom. She has been a life long Christian. Her message was serving quietly. Mom never drew attention to herself in the work that she did. As a nurse for 35 years she had many opportunities to witness to those in need by simply being quietly present for her patients. One of her nurses told me how they found her on her knees praying silently next to her patients. Again, the impact of the life she lived was demonstrated to us just recently when over 1,000 people attended one of 3 memorial services for her this past December when she was struck and killed while crossing the street on a late afternoon. It was just over 5 years since Eric died and we were doing this again. Her message “humble and quiet service.”
My message is quite different from those above. My gospel message is, “the life of faith is a work in progress.” I began the spiritual journey about the same time that Eric did. We had both attended church camp together at 15 and life was never the same again. My gospel message is about serving like my mother, living passionately like my brother and the willingness to let life start anew in Christ like my aunt. But for me at this point in life, I am identifying with what Jesus said, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani (My God, My God why have you forsaken me?) After burying half of my immediate family by age 30, I am feeling forsaken by God. I am certain that Jesus felt the same way while hanging on that cross. But there is even a more important message that God demonstrates with Jesus on the cross and that is that the suffering of this world will not last forever; even Jesus in all of His glory could not move God to work any faster than He wanted. This part of the message weighs heavily on me. My soul wants to cry out “how much longer O, God must I suffer?” And the answer is, just as He pointed out on the cross, “In my time, not yours.” Jesus did not hang on the cross forever and He did not lay in the grave forever. But for me there is more to this message and it is about growth. Faith is not a static situation in our lives, it needs to change with the demands that life puts on us. This is best illustrated with the birth of Jesus; he did not stay a baby forever he grew up and changed to meet the demands of the world.
I think there is great wealth in the stories that each of us has to share and I think that it is important for us to document our story and to share it. What is your Gospel message? Where and when did you get started? How have things changed since the beginning? Where are you now? It is the Gospel message we live and share with those around us that ensures that we live well beyond the earthly life. I think that this is part of the life eternal and this is what makes the Bible a “living” and relevant text for us today; the message it contains continues to transform lives today and tomorrow.