Jesus began his public ministry in the Gospel of Matthew by saying, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Repenting is clearly important to Jesus. What he was asking people to do back then—and us today—is turn away from the worldly kingdom. Jesus is asking us to turn from the things that are ruling and governing our lives, to take a step outside the walls of our self-built fortresses and begin to look for a new kind of King in a new kind of Kingdom.
I'll just come out and say it: I missed an opportunity to share my faith. We had a superhero birthday party for our oldest son, complete with capes, decorated cardboard-box buildings, a Spiderman hanging from the ceiling, and—at my son's request—a butterfly piñata. My wife had invited an acquaintance of hers with a child around our son's age. This woman came with her two kids and her husband, whom I had never met. But we got talking, and he asked me, "So, what do you do?" And I told him, "I'm a pastor." So he followed up, "You don't hear that very often. What got you into that?"
She woke up this morning, excited, because she was going to church. She didn't go to church all that often, just a couple times a month, but she loved going. In this day and age where you can connect online and do your "church" through your phone, she still appreciated being among people. There was something about the camaraderie or community of it, everyone together for a similar purpose.
Last week, the gas light came on in my car. It was time to fill up. That morning, I had left a bit late and had a meeting, so I was slightly annoyed when the gas was pumping slower than normal. I got about four gallons in and thought to myself, "That will get me far enough." So I took off. I had a couple of places to drive that day and had confirmation class that night as well. As I was driving home from confirmation, ding: the gas-light came on again. Running on empty, after having stopped for gas up that morning.
One of the blessings of being a husband and father is that I have the opportunity to watch my wife be a mother. She is a dedicated, loving, selfless mom, and I am thankful for her. Not only does she daily provide for our three sons, she has helped me to see God's love in new ways through her mothering. What's more, I have come to understand my own mother's and grandmothers' love more deeply, and I appreciate more consciously everything my mom and grandmothers have done for me. Mothers make known the very heart of God, and we take one day out of a year specifically to recognize them, (kind of like calling a newborn baby a day old—what happened to those nine months of weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, and sacrifice, if that baby is a mere one day old?), and mothers take it in stride, thankful to receive even one note of thanks along the way.
If your church follows the lectionary, last Sunday was "Good Shepherd Sunday", when we read Psalm 23 and sing some songs about us being God's little lambs. It is striking that the Gospel reading for this day from John 10:11-18 misses the beginning of the chapter, where Jesus says, "The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him" (John 10:3-4). This is an important part of the picture of Jesus as Shepherd and us as his sheep: we need to get out of the sheep pen.
We know God has a great sense of humor, and I appreciate the Bible stories that make us laugh about how God works. The disciples on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24, is one of those stories. After the resurrection on Easter morning, Jesus sneaks up on two disciples on their way to Emmaus. "What are you guys talking about?" Jesus asks, nosing his way into their conversation. They don't recognize him and proceed to tell Jesus all about himself. Then Jesus calls them silly fools. Every time I read that story, I can't help but laugh at God's humor and how oblivious I, and all people, can be.