(yes, I know it’s New Years Day, but let’s pretend I posted it yesterday)
It’s still December. And I usually enjoy my Christmas ambiance a bit longer. I kind of have a rule about getting everything down before Elvis’s birthday. Not because I’m a fan but when he died, I discovered we share the same birthday on January 8. So as much as I love Christmas, by the time Elvis and I are ready for cake and candles, all remnants of the holidays must be gone.
This year, I must be in a hurry. Everything is already packed away and my brain is several months down the road. At our church, we are rolling out my newest small group study Frantically Flat in a couple weeks. I’m kind of excited about it but my head has been done with it for a while. By the time we finish that up, Easter will be four lousy weeks out.
So this morning at my big table in front of the fire, I settled in to ask Jesus to talk to me about where to take small groups in the month of March. I began by processing the season of Lent and wondering whether it should have any bearing on our Easter celebration this year. I learned more about Lent than I will bore you with but I ended up wrestling with its relevance for the believer vs. the nonbeliever that we are trying to reach.
In the midst of my study and prayer and worship, I got an image.
I don’t know or care if it qualifies as a vision, but I know the Holy Spirit delivered it. It was vivid and I could paint it for you if I could paint.
Right in front of our stage where we often roll out our high tech baptism trough, I saw someone up to his waist in mud. There were ropes under his armpits and several people were working to pull him out without getting in the mud themselves.
I believe God was sharing with me that as the Vineyard, this is our calling.
By sharing the good news of Jesus’s death on the cross for our salvation, we are working to release people from bondage. We have been doing it and will continue to do it.
I noticed that there was more than one person working the ropes. It is not a single person’s job but as a community of faith, we are joined in the effort to free those who are stuck in their sin. The ropes brought to mind the old hymn “Throw out the lifeline.”
After the person is freed from muck and the mire, they are in desperate need of being washed off. This took me to baptism. Cleansing is a significant part of transformation.
Even when clean, there is often a weariness about someone who has been rescued and they need comfort from community. They emerge exhausted and need nourishment.
As the body of Christ, we must help feed and nurture a new disciple.
Finally, released, washed and strengthened, they are able to join those who work the ropes to free others.
I’m not sure why God delivered this so definitively today. But I am encouraged by the reality of our task. I like knowing what God has for me to do.
For me, it is the next thing.
Continue to make disciples by helping people escape the muck and the mire. But then we dare not walk away; leaving them freed but weary, exhausted, and still smelling like where they have been. Making disciples has to include walking with the freed to teach them “everything” Jesus taught.
The new year has so much promise. And I tremble at the thought of what it will mean for those who will surrender to Jesus this year.
I want to be part of that story.