My name is Jeff and I'm a pastor of a small, local, Christian fellowship

It's a wonderful thing to love your work; to know that when you do it you are doing something that you were born to do. I am so fortunate to be both. I don't say I am the best at what I do. God knows that are so many others who do it better. But I do feel fairly lucky to be called by such a good God to do work I can only do with his help, to be loved by a beautiful woman, and to have a workshop where I can work my craft. These musings of mine are part of that work.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Digging our way to Jesus

After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, 'Son, I forgive your sins.'” Mark 2:1-5, The Message

This past week our fellowship has been hosting Vacation Bible School. It's not specifically “our” school. Since the mid-1980s, four fellowships in our community – Advent Christian, Chetek Alliance, Chetek United Methodist and Refuge - have cooperatively run a VBS annually and this year it was our year to host it. For me, this is my 21st campaign. In over two decades of being involved in this annual evangelistic venture I have been in charge of drama, recruitment, publicity, rec, or communications at one time or another. But this year is the first time that I am serving as “director” in probably over a decade.

Grandpa & Granddaughter have team-taught
I didn't plan it that way. In fact, I attempted to recruit a few others to lead it but when those attempts didn't pan out, I agreed to do it for the simple reason that I didn't want this annual cooperative venture to die on my watch. Call that pride or call it stubbornly upholding tradition, either way working together to share the gospel is, I think, a good tradition to maintain.

I don't think I've done the best job of it. We could have done more publicity-wise (I totally forgot to put a spot on the radio and at the community access channel). I should have done more “button-holing” recruitment. Our numbers are especially low – 23 has been the high-water mark thus far (compare that to other years where we have had 50, 60, and 70-plus kids). But, having said that, all our food items were donated either by individuals or by a few of the businesses in our town. All our craft items were donated as well so that this may be the least expensive VBS we've run in years. What's more, our staff (numbering 25) are every bit enthusiastic as we have had in previous years. And of that staff (crafts, rec, worship and a few of the crew leaders) have grown up participating in VBS so that even though our numbers are not what we had hoped I can't help but enjoy what's going on here this week.

It would have been something to see
Four friends wanted to get their mutual friend to Jesus. The house was packed and apparently those inside were not from the Midwest who might have politely stepped out in order that the paralytic might be prayed for. No one budged. But these guys refused to be deterred. If they couldn't get their friend through the front door, then a little more drastic action would have to be taken. Carefully carrying him up the outdoor staircase, a common enough feature in Palestinian homes, to the roof they gently set him down and began to dig. Their actions speak of desperateness – maybe their friend's condition was worsening? Even if they had to wait the rest of the day until Jesus emerged from the place, why couldn't they have done just that? Mark doesn't tell us. Maybe they were afraid that they would be shooed away by the handlers of the religious authorities who were presently in the house. Maybe they just couldn't wait. But dig they do and the rest we know. What comes next is way more than just a healing. That paralyzed man goes home a new man in more ways than one.

My kids are the two on the right

Even a small VBS like we are hosting this week is a lot of work and does not come free. Curriculum, tent rental, a few ads in the local paper and some other odds and ends and you are way past $500 (a very inexpensive VBS as those things usually go). But like those four friends in the gospel story, we of those four fellowships still see it the same way: getting our friends – especially our young ones – to Jesus is worth the time, energy, headache and expense it will cost us. Besides, for this VBS I get to serve with two of my own kids as Ed has enthusiastically led rec and Emma has helped lead worship and been one of the crew leaders of our most rowdy bunch (yes, the older boys). To get to do that offsets whatever “burden” I have sometimes felt I have been carrying because of serving as director these past few months.

It's not over yet. We have two more days and that means eight more hours of “digging” in hopes that we'll get all our young friends to Jesus that he may heal them all, that those who are paralyzed in spirit (and we have a few of them) may go home on Friday afternoon changed, different, with the mysterious power of the seed of the word secretly at work within them.