The time of year has arrived when the bright yellow flowers of the ipê amarelo trees are falling. This is my favorite tree, and if Brazil had an official tree, I think this one ought to be it. The flowers bloom before the leaves bud out, leaving the tree a solid, gorgeous mass of shining golden flowers.
It seems almost a shame for these wonderful blooms to lie on the ground or street. Who could fashion such a fragile thing of precious form and color? Is it not a crime for such beauty to be trod upon or driven over? But God is so prodigious in his creation, that he has more to spare.
The best of this life will eventually fail. The grass and the flower. The tree and the grain. The young men and women in their beauty and strength and the old with their white hair and wisdom. Let us seek the things above, things eternal, things invisible, things immensely more valuable and beautiful than the ipê amarelo.
¶ The rich and powerful live by different rules than the rest of us. If Hillary were anybody else, she’d be in jail. If Trump were your next-door blowhard, he’d be a laughingstock or subject of a dozen lawsuits.
Thanks be to God that, in the church of Jesus Christ, all are judged by the same rule. In Christ there is no class, social, or racial distinction. If there is, on our part, we are none of his.
¶ How simple is the faith of Christ Jesus? Unlike many false churches out there, we don’t pump people for money. We don’t push a political or social agenda. We don’t do shows or concerts. We don’t work the flash-and-impress techniques.
We pray. We sing. We read the Word of God. We confess our sins. We encourage one another. On Sundays, we offer, by our own decision, our goods sacrificially; we eat the Lord’s supper. And at every moment we live by the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We don’t enter and sit in silence, as a few groups do, but neither do we make lots of noise and confusion. We follow Scripture for that just-right balance of simplicity and adoration of him who, were it not for his light into his workings, purposes, and intentions toward us, would be beyond all human comprehension, and whose ways still are much of a mystery to finite creatures like ourselves.
¶ Now a quote, by Paul Gray, in the old Beacon Bible Commentary.
“There are always two courses of action open to every individual. One way is an expression of faith and dependence on an eternal God and it leads to life. The other is an expressiom of trust in man’s wisdom and ability to direct his own life, and leads to death. The way of life demands faith to believe that God’s word is true even when it is contrary to human reason and desire …” (4: 397).
And how often does God’s word appear to be contrary to human reason and desire? Not infrequently, don’t you think?
¶ Does this description work for you, as a partial picture of humility? Humility is the knowledge that your opinions and conclusions might be proven at any time to be wrong.
¶ So much medicine, so many programs and policies, so much politicking over health care, so much money spent on cures and remedies, so many exams and procedures and medical routines, and the real problem of man still remains unsolved. Not the balm of Gilead nor the salve of Laodicea can cure what really ails us.
¶ Heaven’s perspective counts more. Heaven’s actions reverberate further. Maybe we get some joy and sense of power over snakes and scorpions, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” Lk 10.20 NRSV.
¶ On its entry on “Mission,” the Concise Dictionary of the Christian Tradition gets it right with this beginning: “The task of the church in the world. It is, however, only the task of the church because first it is the work and activity of the Holy Trinity.”
The short article doesn’t end so well, but its start is stellar. And it implores us to ask the question: What, then, is the “work and activity” of God? The answer is also simple, and profound: to save eternally as many people as possible across the globe. No more, no less.
Is that your mission?