Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 51:15-17; Isaiah 42:1-4
New Testament Lesson: Ephesians 3:14-21
Gospel Lesson: Mark 6:30-44
Note: Read Mark 6:12-13 and Ephesians 2:11-22 prior to the respective passages for context.)
Thomas Edison said of genius: it is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
Sweating is part of the process.
Reminds me of sweating out big tests at UF.
1% study. 99% sweating and praying.
The speaker at Garage.com’s entrepreneurial conference in Austin commented on genius: “The real genius is not in the idea. Its in the execution. Hundreds – maybe thousands – of good ideas – some genius ideas – are lost to history every day because the person with the idea has no vision of nor pathway to its execution.”
My father once said he worked so hard making a living he never had time to make any money.
In recent Sunday’s we have talked about the distillation of disappointment and the refinement of renewal through claiming the promise of Romans 8:28 (All things work together for good to them who love God, to those who and are called according to His purpose);
We then talked about being liberated (in our being called according to His purpose) through appropriate surrender to Grace, and movement toward Abundant Life through a willingness to learn new things about God through Jesus, the Word Incarnate.
Last week we talked about the power and authority of God’s Word – and of our responsibility to ‘rightly interpret the Word of Truth’.
Today we finish April with a Scriptural call to become a spiritually entrepreneurial congregation.
Perhaps an entrepreneur’s most effective attribute is imagination.
The ability to ‘see’ the conclusion of an idea; to ‘visualize’ a dream completely implemented.
Entrepreneurs must have capacity to compartmentalize issues and various offers of advice such that he or she finds room to remain focused upon the idea and the ‘visualized’ result.
Disney called his most creative employees ‘Imagineers’; people with an engineer’s intellect and an entrepreneur’s imagination.
The results are enchanting.
Does imagination matter to a person’s faith?
Does imagination matter to a congregation’s mission and witness?
Yes, to both.
Probably more than ‘we can imagine’.
What would your life – or my life – be if we were to accept and internalize all God would give us in Christ Jesus?
What would our church be if we – as a community of God’s people – willed ourselves to unleash our spiritual imagination?
Amazing; powerful; truly humble but truly strong; authentic; inviting; winsome; steadfast.
All desirable characteristics.
How do we do this?
If this is the ‘idea’ (that we accept and internalize all God would offer us in Christ Jesus); if this is Edison’s ‘inspiration’, what is the ‘perspiration’ – the execution- required to realize the genius –and achieve the results – of such an idea?
What is required for us to be a spiritually entrepreneurial congregation? A group of Christian Imagineers?
And…are we ready for such an effort?
Are we sufficiently entrepreneurial in our faith – do we have an expansive enough spiritual imagination – to take such a ride?
Can we visualize the spiritually enchanting results God could generate through us if we said yes to the idea of accepting and internalizing all God would offer us in Christ Jesus?
Jesus had sent the disciples out 2-by-2 to invite people into the Kingdom of God through repentance.
“They went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick…and cured them.” (Mark 6:12-13)
During their absence John the Baptist was beheaded, so we know approximately when this occurred. It was during the first year of Jesus’ public ministry.
Now the disciples have returned. Everyone is a bit travel-weary; looking forward to some R&R. Jesus was looking forward to hearing their reports and observations.
However, the popularity of Jesus and His disciples was such that crowds were relentless.
The crowd beat them to the secluded spot on the lake where they hoped to rest and where Jesus hoped to de-brief the recently returned disciples.
My bet is He also hoped for a bit of down-time to mourn John’s death in private.
Arriving by boat, the Bible says ‘as He went ashore’ He saw the huge crowd.
He had ‘compassion’ on them because they were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’.
He taught them ‘many things’ until dark.
An all-day revival meeting.
The disciples grew restless.
“It’s getting late. This was to have been our time together. This is an out-of-the-way place with no conveniences. We’d better close this thing up and tell them to go home.”
Parenthetically: “We’re tired and hungry and ready to eat and rest. We’ve been on the road awhile.”
“You feed them.”
“Check with the crowd and let me know what food is available?”
“Well…not much. Five loaves of bread and ..let’s see…yes…two fish.”
“Ask them to sit down in groups of 50’s and 100’s.”
(Yogi Berra: Ya’ll go out to the field and pair-up in 3’s)
Jesus said the blessing…and began to break the bread and fish. Everyone was fed. 5000 men plus women and children. Likely 7 or 8 thousand.
Plus, a basket for each disciple left over.
Can you imagine?
Paul is engaged in the intellectually honorable and venerable tradition of apologetics.
Not apologizing; not angry; rather stating a thesis from the vantage point and context of the listener.
Greeks at Ephesus had a storied tradition of hearing-out anyone of credibility who was honorable in their communication. Divergence of opinion was welcomed.
Demagoguery was not.
In this Scripture lesson Paul weaves his points with compassion, yet with precision.
The Hebrew monopoly on God’s favor was expanded through the sacrifice of Christ into spiritual equality before God for all who trust the promise of Grace.
To the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentile).
In this spiritually equality:
Circumcision was replaced by Baptism.
The Law was fulfilled in Grace.
Peace with God was obtained for us as a free gift, made possible by Jesus having fulfilled the just requirement of the Law, with the Holy Spirit as evidence, enabling obedience to be what it was always intended to be: the empowering and joyful result of…not the vehicle to… peace with God.
Paul concludes his line of reasoning:
“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend what is the breadth, the length, the height, the depth of God’s love’ to know the love of Jesus that surpasses knowledge, so you might be filled with all the fullness of God.”
This is an example of ingenious apologetics.
The Greeks of Ephesus – as was true for all of Greece – put great emphasis upon knowledge.
Knowledge was their social DNA, the fabric of their culture, and they saw in knowledge the clearest avenue to enlightenment and- self-awareness.
Paul’s choice of word is not coincidental:
‘To comprehend…and to know…the love of Jesus that surpasses knowledge’.
‘You folks are intelligent and intellectually astute. You elevate knowledge. Let me tell you of the one thing that actually passes knowledge…the love of Jesus.’
Can you just imagine such love?
DO you imagine?
Have you ever SERIOUSLY imagined?
For ‘reasonable people’ Paul’s claim is counterintuitive.
Consider the disciples.
They had just returned from performing amazing miracles – yet could not see beyond “two” and “five”.
The ‘comprehension’ of which Paul speaks – that of actually being in communion with the love of Jesus – is not so easy;
And when we journey toward it we will be challenged by subtle hindrances and blatant attacks – by the wiles and trip-wires of sin – because the effect for good triggered by believers comprehending this overwhelming love is the greatest threat to Satan’s agenda.
The comprehending of the Love of Jesus is counterintuitive, therefore not obvious. Execution upon a good idea almost invariably requires some heavy lifting; some cognizant effort and stamina.
For spiritual imagination to be of value – indeed for it not to be detrimental – it must be rooted in reality and grounded in discipleship.
It is not a ‘feel good, be great, live well’ theology.
Jesus was never shallow nor cavalier about life’s cares and distractions.
If my reality is that I am 66, married, with 4 children and 3 grandchildren; with commitments to family, church, and business, I do myself – and everyone in my ‘orb’ a disservice if my imagining has me a 30 year-old single evangelical preacher winning thousands to Christ.
Such imagining is not rooted in reality, and certainly not grounded in discipleship.
Rather, empowering imagination – entrepreneurial spirituality – affirms Romans 8:28 and says “Given who You made me and the various messes and mistakes I have made, and the blessings I have nonetheless enjoyed – fill me up with Your Spirit and open my eyes, heal my heart and mind to practice Your presence;
Rooted in the reality of Jesus as God’s only Son and only solution for our condition; grounded in our willing and joyful desire toward obedience to Him.
We risk missing the peace of God when our spiritual sense of self and purpose is overly dependent upon the mechanics of our effort.
There is no rest and no peace in works-righteousness, nor is there any room for imagination.
Jesus concluded the day by teaching with yet another example of His power; (the miracle of loaves and fish)
Motivated – yet again – by His compassion for all who seek Him; to all who are willing to give faith a chance.
A willing and contrite heart He will not despise.
A dimly-burning wick He will not quinch.
He recognizes a heart open to His Word and a mind open to His Spirit – these are the best mediums for spiritual imagination to take root – and for a person (or a congregation) to become spiritually entrepreneurial.
Paul concludes his conversation with the Ephesian Greeks this way:
‘Now unto Him Who by the power already at work in us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we could ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Church (this church also!) and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.
How is your spiritual imagination today?
Could you see yourself as a spiritual entrepreneur; willing to step out in faith for a vision of exploding our effectiveness for the work of Jesus in this community?
Could you envision MPC continuing to grow in Grace, in compassion, in the practicing of Jesus’ presence?
Could you imaging an excitement at the opportunity to worship God and help our fellowmen and women; to real ministry among those within our community who might be open to Grace?
There is an idea afloat to begin a next chapter to our great adventure; the next instalment of the ‘miracle at McIntosh’. We will be talking about it in the next few weeks.
But, the idea is just the 1%.
I pray you will add your imagination to the 1%. That’s all we need. Then the 99% will follow as we follow Jesus.
Tim Keller writes:
‘You are more sinful than you could ever dare imagine…and you are more loved and accepted by Jesus than you ever dare hope.
As Paul said:
“Far more than we could ask or imagine.”
But, only because we don’t.
Let’s do! Let’s ask and imagine.