The Crouse family has an inside joke. If one of us says to another, “all you have to do is score one more point than the other team,” we are referring to the year Forest was in little league soccer. I don’t think the team had won any games well into the season. As the next match began, the very well meaning coach gathered the team together to encourage the players. It cracked me up when I overheard the coach, obviously wanting to finally win a game, carefully encouraged the team by saying, “OK team, this is what we need to do to win this game. We need to score one more point than the other team.” “One more point” he repeated 3-4 times. “Really?” I thought, “So that’s the secret of winning!”
Point #1: I want to look at the sorts of people Jesus selects for his team ~ talk about a rag tag bunch of underdogs. After praying all night who Jesus wants on his team, this list of players would not exactly strike fear into the opponent… later in another scripture they are dismissed as “ordinary men.” Just ordinary everyday dime a dozen players… The people Jesus selects are so different from each other. We are too… if you are honest, some of you drive each other nuts! Sounds just like Jesus original team of players. Guess what! Jesus Christ is a great coach and can accomplish great things in our community of faith even if we don’t understand each other, as long as we are focused on him and his kingdom.
Point #2: In light of how different the disciples are ~ READ Luke 6:17-19 ~ he huddles them together. This is nicknamed The Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17a) (equivalent to Sermon on the Mount in Matthew). Jesus begins with what is traditionally called The Beattitudes…. This is a foundational rallying cry in how to be a player for Christ. What it means to be a winner. Only Jesus has some strange ideas. Jesus challenge his players to refocus the priorities away from the world’s values and focus on what is most important to God. The people who are blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who cry, those who are hated and rejected. These are the blessings nobody wants.
Point #1: The diversity of the disciples. When I was asked to be the pastor of this church 3-4 years ago, Jack had already been here and was going to school. Now he is almost finished. For a couple of years I thought how much we’ll be able to accomplish when Jack is available to go out into the community like I do, engage people, be available to people. Jack and I met each week this Summer as part of an internship for his schooling. As he shared the classes he wanted to develop and teach and some of his dreams, I began to think specifically about Jack being out of school ~ I must be a slow thinker ~ it dawned on me that my vision for Jack was to compliment me and what I am already doing ~ but how dopy is that? One Carl Crouse is enough! (No “Amen’s” please). For the first time it occurred to me God needs to use Jack and his gifts and his personality. Jack is uniquely wired by God in ways Carl is not wired, and that’s what we need to take advantage of…it’s the same story for all of you… we still don’t know how things will develop, but my new thinking is God may use Jack to help bring more depth of faith and insights into Christian living and understanding, maybe he will become more of a teaching pastor, a small group pastor, an intentional discipleship guy of those who are ready to grow and learn and make a deeper commitment to God.
God uses people in his kingdom work with different gifts, personalities and passions. The 12 guys deliberately chosen by Jesus after extended prayer are incredibly different from each other… The two contrasting disciples that amaze me the most: Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector ~ complete opposites. The Romans occupied Israel in those days. Simon as a Zealot believed in going to war against the Romans ~ he was a fighting man. What did Matthew the Tax Collector do? He was hired by the Romans to collect taxes from the Jews. . And these two guys are both in the inner circle of Jesus? That would be like having Democrats and Republicans in the same church!
The disciples are so different. It’s one of the dynamics of the gospels that make them so much fun to read… Peter was quick to speak, Andrew thoughtful, Philip reserved, Thomas skeptical, John lovable, James and John had an anger problem ~ Jesus had room for all sorts of personalities on his team. So many flaws, some wanted the power position on the team, one thought he deserved more money to play on the team, some were intolerant, self serving, secretive, too many were prone to gossip. May we always welcome people who are different from ourselves even if we don’t get them. God never said we all needed to think exactly alike… Years ago I told Claudette Wells, and later Kim Smith, they were important because they were extroverts in a sea of introverts… introverts don’t always get extroverts, but we need you… and hopefully extroverts need us introverts.
I don’t know how Jesus managed to get along with such diverse infighting knuckleheaded disciples. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned to do: I listen a lot and generally do nothing. You wouldn’t believe how many of you drive each other nuts. I love it! About 75 of you are thinking, “he’s talking about me.” I’m talking to all of you/none of you.
I know they are sick of this story, but let me tell you about the original two knot heads in my life: Tina and Candi. They were in the youth group when I served as pastor of the Nooksack Church. They were best friend teenage girls. They hated each other. /loved /hated/ loved…. One would come to me and complain. Two days later I’d see the other one and I’d bring up the problem of the moment. Candi/Tina would role her eyes, “What are you talking about, we’re best friends.” I could never get to the bottom of anything. I wonder if that is how Jesus handled his disciples fighting! I credit Tina and Candi for teaching me the greatest insight in how to be a successful pastor: DO NOTHING. Don’t try to solve problems between people. I let people work it out themselves. I wonder how Jesus handled a tax collector and a zealot on his team? Jesus established the practice of accepting players who are different from one another. Think about it. As a community of faith, the more diverse we are, God will be able to use us to reach more people because if people cannot relate to me and my quiet ways, perhaps they will identify with you and your loud ways.
Point #2: Common values/goals, not personalities, will bind us together as a team. You’ve heard the Bible image that gives the picture of the coming day of peace as the Lion and the Lamb lying next to each other. I read once that the most incredible thing of that image not that the Lion and the Lamb are lying next to each other, but both of them keep their basic personalities. The Lion will still be totally Lion. That is impossible, yet with God it’s not The Lord is gathering his people! Players willing to learn and put into practice the lessons of the Master Coach. The extrovert and the introvert are going to cooperate. The aggressive and the meek. The loud/the quiet. The tax collector and the zealot.
Another person wrote in a private message: “Poverty stinks.” Ya, it does, but it’s not all bad. When I was young and we lived on Vancouver Street I didn’t know we were poor. It was a way of life for my mother to go shopping at the Hammingh’s store, write a check, and ask them not to cash it till Monday after my father was paid. Those were good days for the Crouse family… I like the story Joe Bronkema tells from back in the 60’s or 70’s that in those days he could get normal bills paid, but if something extra came up he had a harder time. He needed a new battery and got it from Fred Miller’s service station on the corner… after a few months of not quite having enough to get the battery paid off Joe went to Fred and apologized for taking so long. Fred said to Joe, “Joe, I don’t worry about it, because you’re doing the worrying. It’s the ones that don’t worry that have me worried.” Blessed are the poor. This is the first lesson in discipleship. This is God’s way of building character, integrity, what’s most important.
I know that those of you who are literally poor, you need enough. I get it. I’m not diminishing the real struggles some folks have in this old world. Yet even as we strive to get along in this world, to have enough, to make ends meet, to find peace and satisfaction, to be accepted, somehow all these values must be a secondary concern and not be a measuring stick of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness. As Christians we are called to rally together as a team focusing on that which is most important.
The Lord Jesus Christ is putting his team together. Some people reject the community of faith because they think they need to become like the players already on the team ~ and churches are guilty when too often the message is become like us, look like us, dress a certain way, behave a certain way, vote a certain way, sit and be passive… But when you look at the players Jesus selected, they were so different from each other. He seems to go out of his way so they will be different from each other. He wants them involved. Jesus rally’s his team to play together, not be trying to get them to look like each other, but rather to focus on common values ~ Embrace the blessings nobody ever strives to attain. Do not think as the world thinks, but stay focused on the things of God. Reputation, power, income, are not important.
As SACC heads into the next Century, may we go forward in the Jesus sort of way. We don’t need to all think alike, look alike, act alike. The things of this world have no lasting value. May we be bound together as players on Jesus’ team, willing to accept the blessings nobody wants.