Pastor Bob Woods: Risky lifestyle is worthwhile
The worst nightmare of every mother happened to a woman who was stopped at a traffic light. Suddenly, a stranger opened the passenger door of her car, grabbed her 2-month-old baby, and ran. Her motherly instincts took over. She jumped out and ran after him. A protective mother can move with austere speed. When she got close, the man threw her baby into a ditch and kept on running. Miraculously, the child was not hurt.
Thinking about the incident later, she was surprised and saddened.
“This happened in broad daylight, about 3:30 in the afternoon. My car was the first one at the traffic light. There were probably 20 cars in two lanes behind me. Not one person did anything to help.”
You can guess what went through the minds of those other drivers: It could be a domestic dispute; he could have a gun. He could be on drugs. I’m in a hurry, and I sure don’t need to go picking a fight. Where are the police when you need them? All good excuses, but somebody should have helped, regardless of the risks. There are those times in life when you must look the risks squarely in the eyes and do something anyway.
Followers of Jesus must be risk-takers. Basically, Jesus says: “If your main concern is preserving your life and your possessions, don’t waste my time. But if you are willing to risk (and perhaps lose) your life or possessions in my service, then you’ll fit in just fine.” Christians are risk-takers.
There was a Roman Catholic abbey in France called Our Lady of the Risk. It was called this to honor the enormous risk taken by the Virgin Mary when she agreed to be the mother of the Messiah. She lived in a society where it was dangerous to be an unmarried pregnant woman. It was likely that she would be stoned to death, but, certainly, she would be shunned. Regardless, she was willing to take that risk for Jesus.
We were never told that building the kingdom of God would be easy. Jesus made it clear we would face risks, and that still is true today. What is it that God calls you to do with the life, the gifts given to you? Are there some people who are not allowed to fully participate in our society, some people who are discriminated against? We are called to speak out and take action, and that may involve some risk.
When I did the union ceremony for a same-sex couple here in Craig, I knew the risk. I was watching for sharp shooters in the hills around Loudy Simpson Park, where the ceremony was held.
If you believe, as I do, that we are called to build God’s kingdom right here on Earth, then get off your duff and do something about it. It will involve risk, but don’t just play it safe, maybe grumble – but do nothing. If we are going to change this city, this state, this country, this world into something resembling the Kingdom of God, we must get out of our comfort zones and take risks. I absolutely believe there are those who are willing to take risks for Christ’s sake.
Seven decades ago, Clarence Jordon founded a community in Americus, Ga., called Koinonia Farm; a community where whites and African-Americans lived and shared what they produced. This assimilated community bothered many of the locals who did their best to destroy it. They shunned its farm products and damaged the workers’ cars when they came to town. Finally, the Ku Klux Klan came and burned every building except Dr. Jordon’s home, chasing off all of the families except for the Jordons and one black family.
A reporter came the next day to see the smoldering remains. To his amazement, he found Clarence Jordon busy cultivating and planting. He asked this man with two Ph.D.s, who had put 14 years into this farm, “Just how successful do you think you’ve been?”
Clarence paused from his work, faced the reporter, and said quietly but firmly, “Sir, I don’t think you understand us Christians. What we are about is not success; what we are about is faithfulness.”
In order to be faithful, we must be willing to take risks for the One who died for us. Not me-, mine- or I-focused, but God-and-others-focused. God has richly invested time, talent, money in you and me – it’s all God’s!
What we have is not really ours; our very lives are a gift, entrusted to us by our master.
Make an investment with what God has given to you by putting your faith and trust into action. God calls us to go beyond what we are, to what we can become.
As the poet Mary Oliver says, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Bob Woods is the pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Craig.