Part of discipleship is community and connection. Pastor Chris Ebbers is one of those preachers whose deep thinking and generous spirit inspire me. In this guest post he reflects with honesty and grace about the challenge of living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I would like to buy $5 worth of God, please,
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
But just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or
a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love the outcasts
or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation;
I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $5 worth of God, please.
I ran across this little prose poem, and immediately had two different reactions to it. First, it made me laugh with its tongue-in-cheek humor. Then it made me question how seriously I am taking my faith and my relationship with God. Humor has a way of making us drop our guard, and then hitting us with the truth of our own actions.
It’s easy to see and talk about the ways that we could be better Christians: helping the poor, visiting the sick, forgiving those who have wronged us, inviting people to church, etc., etc. All worthy activities, but we can beat ourselves up with “those things we have not done which we ought to have done.”
The concept of buying God is what hits me hardest. “Buying $5 worth of God” may not be so far from what we think. We come to worship more or less regularly, we put some money in the offering plate, we read our Bibles a lot or a little, we pray occasionally or constantly. We “do our duty” for faith, and believe ourselves to have earned God’s favor, to have “bought $5 worth of God.”
Ever since the apostle Paul wrote letters to the earliest Christian churches, followers of Jesus have struggled to discern what it means to be a disciple. Is it showing up and engaging in certain specific activities, like worship, sacraments, prayer, study, giving, mission projects? Is it a matter of the heart, believing in Jesus as the savior of our soul? Or both at the same time?
Today, our United Methodist Church continues to struggle with what it means to be a disciple, and what it means to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” as our mission statement reads. And I believe it’s a good struggle. Every generation, every person who wrestles with what life is about, eventually has to deal with issues of ultimate importance, and that is what our faith is about. As we look forward to the near future, the next few years, we will be, along with other UMC churches in Iowa and around the country, putting into place some ways that we can have a fruitful discussion and a fruitful practice of being disciples and making disciples. Hopefully those ways will speak not only to our own ultimate wrestling with the meaning of life and faith, but will also address the current economic, political, social and spiritual environment in which we live.
Anyone want $5 worth of God? Go for it! It’s a start. You might find that as your faith grows, God asks a bit more, and you will find that God gives a priceless gift that is a lot more than you can imagine.