Article 20 : Letters from the desk of a Great-Grandfather
THE MAIN THING.
Covid 19 has altered so many things for so many people. So much suffering, so much kindness, so much despair, so much hope, so many plans shelved, so many priorities changed. Often we have heard TV interviewees say that they now realise the importance of family and intend to concentrate more on that in the future.
Back in January, our upcoming Diamond Wedding Day in July was in the forefront of our minds, but as lockdown and shielding went on and on, the plans we were making were changing. Our joy and gratitude to God for 60 years of marriage was not altered, but how we celebrated it was! It's vital to remember what is really most important and concentrate on that. Keep the main thing the main thing, as preachers have told us. But what is the main thing?
Many years ago as a young Methodist preacher, I was invited to sit on a Brains Trust along with the local MP and a senior police officer. After fielding a series of questions on crime and capital punishment, we were asked about our favourite conversation topic. When I replied ' Jesus', there was a pleasantly surprising round of applause. It seems I was not alone.
What a topic! What a person to talk about. I believe, as the Bible clearly states, that Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of Time and Space, the Lord of Life and Death! He holds the entire universe in his hands as well as my eternal destiny. The greatest event in all history was the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem about BC4. God himself, the Lord of History became a man.
"Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man". This event is closely followed in importance by the Resurrection of Jesus and one day the Return of King Jesus will bring all history to an end. He is the "main thing" in our church, in our personal lives, in our society. There is no one, nothing greater. He has given me forgiveness of all my sins, opened a close relationship with God, my heavenly Dad, and every day he lives beside me, inside me, to do things right. What a privilege it is to begin each day with a conversation with him. He is involved in ALL the activities of EVERY day. I woke up recently with this thought in my mind.........'God is never more present than when it seems he can't be found.' It sort of ties in with 'God does more behind our back than in front of our face'.
Even the mention of the Name of Jesus can have spectacular effects. When we were pastoring a church in Zambia, a girl was brought to us, heavily under the influence of demon power. She could converse fairly normally, but was totally unable to renounce Satan or to speak the name of Jesus. It was his name alone which eventually set her free. When I was in India, I was asked to pray for a little boy, badly injured in an accident. He was in a vegetative state, but his parents had been told by their Imam that there was great power in prayer in the Name of Jesus. If you aren't convinced, bring Jesus into your conversations with people. I did this with my barber some time ago, with unexpected results! People are reasonably comfortable talking about church, even about God. But when the name "Jesus" is mentioned, things change. It somehow reveals what is hidden underneath.
Over the last decade or so, we've seen a huge increase in social action by the Western Church, a renewed and right emphasis on compassion in the community, establishing the Kingdom of Love through correct principles and actions. It is being welcomed by a needy society and is obviously the right way and the best way to live. But our basic motivation to get involved is that Jesus commands us to live like this. Not a polite suggestion or a gentle encouragement but a direct command. We obey because he is so important, so dear to us. He is at the centre, the heart of our lives, our thoughts, our values, our motivation.
As the song says,
"It's all about you, Jesus. And all this is for you, for your glory and your fame".
I have a favourite Wesley hymn, often quoted at funerals, surprisingly! It includes the verse :-
"Tis Jesus, the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home.
We'll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that's to come".
Stay safe, Stay distanced. Stay Jesus centred!