August 1, 2017 “Just Me-n-Jesus?” Philippians 4:10-15

me n jesus

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.  Philippians 4:10-15 (NRSV)

I can do all things in Him (Jesus) who strengthens me. (verse 13)

Verse 13 of the above passage from Philippians is often picked out and quoted on its own. Yes it is true that Jesus is our Strength, but that shouldn’t make us infer that the journey of following Jesus is just a “me-n-Jesus” sort of proposition.

In our country we have been conditioned to prize our independence, which is not always a bad thing. No one wants to be a mindless lemming that just goes along with the group without thinking about what the group is doing. Many people are also wired to be introverted, which means a little socialization goes a long way, as introverts primarily recharge their batteries by getting away from people and being alone.  Jesus Himself did this at times.  He went off to pray and fast by Himself quite often.  Taking times of solitude- in moderation- can be a healthy discipline.

It can be unwise to think we are too independent though. Not only do we move and breathe and have our strength because those things all come from God, we were created to live and operate in community.  Not just “me-n-Jesus,” but “me-n-Jesus AND the greater community,” is how it’s supposed to work.

This means we are supposed to engage in dialogue. We are supposed to contribute to the life and the well being of our families and communities.  We are, like the apostle Paul did, supposed to accept help from others when we need it.  We are called to the drama and the messiness of belonging to a community and participating in the life of the community.

We do encounter Jesus in the solitude of prayer and study, and those disciplines are important to our growth in understanding and faith. Yet there are some who will say things such as, “nature is my church,” and who claim to not need the fellowship and the encouragement of a Christian community.  Unfortunately when we miss out on being part of a community, we miss out on a vital way of connecting with God, and we miss out on sharing the strength and encouragement of others.

How can we live out our lives as Jesus followers and rely on His strength both one-on-one with Him in solitude, study, contemplation and prayer, AND in community, alongside fellow believers?

May 15, 2017 –Unlikely Meetings- Luke 24:13-16

Friends-WalkingNow on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:13-16 (NRSV)

One of the downfalls of having an introverted personality is that it takes a conscious effort to meet new friends and sometimes it is a stretch to stay in touch with family and friends we already know. An introvert’s circle is necessarily small, and usually much deeper than it is broad.  We tend to have very close relationships with a very few people.

While social interactions can be draining for introverts (especially when we take it overboard) it is still necessary to keep an open mind and open heart and be willing to connect with others- to be the hands and feet of Jesus- even if only in small ways.  We shouldn’t be so absorbed in the cares of the moment that we miss those “angels unawares,” or we miss that calling to BE an angel unaware.

Introverts and extroverts alike can have blinders on when we interact with others. Do we really want to know how someone is doing when we ask that, or is it just a pleasantry or polite conversation?  Are we willing to take the time to walk with that person into a dark place or to give them a shoulder to lean on in their grief/anger/frustration?

Are we really willing to see Jesus in that person who we casually ask, “How are you?,” and the answer is not, “Fine?”

Sometimes we are just like the apostles who couldn’t see Jesus right in front of them- a lot of the time. We are busy, we are distracted, and sometimes we are simply in our own worlds.

This isn’t to say that contemplative solitary time is a bad thing (and even extroverts need that from time to time) but that when we walk with others we are also walking with Jesus- whether we recognize it or not.

How can we walk without blinders on today?