Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Shepastor: "The Courage to Be a Change Agent..."

Women Accompanying Jesus
8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their means. Luke 8: 1-4, English Standard Version

In the above passage of scripture, we find an intriguing description of one of Jesus’ followers, “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s Steward or household manager.” One can only imagine the conversations held between Joanna and her husband Chuza, the “COO,” Chief Operating Officer, if you will of Herod’s household. Can’t you hear Chuza saying to his wife Joanna, “Baby, I understand that you find that Jesus fellow interesting and I know that you think that he had something to do with you feeling better after being sick for a while, but do you really have to follow him from town to town? Don’t you understand that Herod could fire me or worse, have me killed for allowing my wife to be seen with that Jesus man? Don’t you know how threatened Herod is by him? On top of that, why are you giving him MY money? Why does he have to rely on you and other women to support him?

I can imagine that Joanna was concerned about how her husband felt about her decision to follow Jesus and support Jesus’ ministry. I can imagine that she responded, “Darling, you just don’t understand. “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart! I have light in my soul for which long I have sought, since Jesus came into my heart!” After considering all factors, Joanna had the courage to not only follow Jesus, but support the work of the ministry.

Pastor, Preacher and Biblical scholar, the Late Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, in his book, The Certain Sound of a Trumpet: Crafting a Sermon of Authority, declared, “In order to please God, we are often compelled to be different.” It’s not easy to be different. It’s not easy to go against the grain, to march to the beat of a different drum, to separate from the pack, to take the road less traveled, to have the courage to follow where the Spirit leads. Indeed, it takes courage to be different, to do what is right in the face of daunting opposition, to be willing to do and be what is necessary to bring about change.

The term courage may be defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens you.” We have somehow developed the false notion that if someone is courageous, it means that they have such bravery, such “true grit,” such valor that they are fearless. In other words, because of their boldness or audacious spirit, they move about with little or no trepidation. Fear does not enter into their equation in the decision making process.

The opposite, however, is true. Courage is what it takes to move forward in the face of or in spite our fears. We take so much for granted as we read the Scriptures. Often we mindlessly move through the text, gliding over history, innuendo, and the setting in life. During that day and time, it was no small feat or endeavor to drop everything and follow Jesus, especially for a woman!

Jesus was considered to be a menace to society. For many in the political and social realms, he was little more than a trouble making, illegitimate, sorcery working hippy that was ever growing in popularity and increasingly becoming a threat to Religious leaders and the Roman Empire. For Joanna to step out of “her place,” particularly as a woman and follow Jesus, supporting his ministry financially with her money, took GREAT courage! The text does not clearly state how Joanna started following Jesus or even why. It simply says, “And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”

Though not stated specifically, it is inferred that Joanna was one of the women either “healed of an evil spirit” or with an “infirmity.” In other words, she was sick. If you have ever been sick, I don’t mean with a cold or a hang nail, but sick, REALLY sick…bent over in pain, continually nauseated, suffering from back, neck or knee pain, body ravaged by cancer or any other kind of illness, physical, mental or spiritual pain, you can imagine the relief and depth of appreciation Joanna must have felt when she was healed by Jesus!

One might argue that her healing not only emboldened her, but carved out a deep level of compassion for others that gave her the courage to be a change agent. With all of her wealth, with all of her finery, high position and prominence, she still could not get healed. Her healing came from Jesus! Her healing opened her eyes and her heart to some new realities. Her healing may have caused her to think, “I don’t want to be selfish and keep this blessing all to myself. I want to go with Jesus and help him to help others just like he helped me. I want to be a part of bringing about a change!”

When you really experience a move of God in your life…when God delivers you and or your loved ones, when God, frees you from whatever shackles were binding you, when the Lord lifts you out of whatever pit you found yourself in, you throw off the garments of fear, shame and defeat and you declare with boldness, “The Lord is my helper, what can man do unto me?”

It is clear that Joanna did not care what Herod thought, what her friends in society thought or even what Chuza may have thought! Joanna had her eyes fixed on Jesus and not only did she appreciate her healing but she wanted others to have the same. Joanna was a change agent because she was willing to sacrifice her comfort, her position, her prestige and whatever people thought of her in order to support and help others.

To be a change agent, one must be willing to sacrifice, suffer and serve. To be a change agent, one must be willing to take up their cross and follow Jesus. To be a change agent one must have a heart of humility and compassion. If we want to please Jesus than we will be compelled to be change agents! It is not enough to feed the hungry. We should desire that the hungry will one day be able to feed themselves and do what we can to change systems that keep people in the cycle of poverty.

It is not enough to sit back and watch people being mistreated and taken advantage of on the job. We must be willing to do what we can, using wisdom to protest unfair labor laws and conditions. It is not enough to sit back and watch bullies destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of others. We must have the courage to confront bullies (children and adults) to let them know that someone is watching, that someone does care and that someone is ready to take whatever action is necessary to make them stop their harassment.

Understand that being a change agent is not easy. Understand that people may not like you. They may not invite you to sit at their tables, to come to their parties, to participate in their conversations. But if by faith, you will defend the defenseless, support efforts that help to lift and bless others, speak truth to power, do whatever you can to help bring about hope and change for the better, you will not walk alone.

In our everyday lives, we may not be called upon to exhibit life or death courage. But we will be called upon to choose the road less traveled. We will be compelled by our compassion, our faith and our hope in a risen savior to be change agents – to rock some boats, to say and do things that some people will not like. We will be called upon to speak up concerning issues of injustice, ugliness, oppression and hate. We will be compelled to reject the joys and comforts of going along with the crowd for our own temporary comfort for the hope, healing and deliverance of others.

It takes courage to be a change agent. We cannot do it on our own. But with the help of the Lord, we can do all things. By coming together with others who also desire to lift, love and serve, we can run through troops and leap over walls! We may not readily see the fruit of our labor. But if by faith we will choose to please God, rather than humans, God will give us the victory. God will give us the strength. God will give us the courage and God will bless us with His favor in ways that no human being can erase.

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May you and your loved ones experience the hope, peace, joy and love that is ever present in this Advent Season!

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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