Our high school students and I act out and focus on one particular biblical narrative, typically from the gospels, on Sunday evenings.
This is one of our regular small group meeting activities, as we seek to understand better the meaning of the passage we are studying.
We do so by playing all the different parts and looking at it from just about every angle it can be looked at and acted out and heard.
Our discussion following this time always begins with this question: “So where did you find yourself in this story tonight?”
The answers are always illuminating. For instance, a few weeks ago, we looked at the passage about Jesus calming the storm.
Several students talked about being one of the disciples who would have tried to talk another disciple into waking Jesus up, being scared but not wanting to bother Jesus.
Others talked about really feeling like they were the storm, always caught up in something or other and wanting to be calmed down.
What has been interesting to me in each of these discussions is that no one ever says, “I feel like Jesus in that passage” or “I can relate to Jesus.”
Even though I’ve pointed this out to our students several times, Jesus remains the one character in the story we don’t identify with during this activity, and this is troublesome.
The brilliant Richard Rohr, a Roman Catholic Franciscan friar, constantly reminds us, “Remember, Jesus said ‘follow me’ and never once said ‘worship me.'”
Which is not to say that Jesus is not worthy of worship.
To quote another of my mentors, Terry York, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of Christian ministry and church music at Truett Seminary, who wrote the second hymn in The Baptist Hymnal, “You are worthy Savior, Sustainer. You are worthy, worthy and wonderful, worthy of worship and praise.”
It’s just that worship is not what Jesus truly desires from us. What Jesus truly desires from us is obedience. It’s imitating his life, taking his teachings and living and making them our teachings and livings.
This requires great imagination on our part and the ability to look at a text and see Jesus as the one we are called to relate to.
It involves recognizing that we are called to speak peace amid a storm, to heal those around us who are broken, to sit at the well with those no one else wants to sit with, to eat at a table with those no one else wants to eat with, to touch the untouchables, to give beyond 10 percent, even to bring dead things back to life.
As I tell our students most Sunday nights, I know it’s hard, but wherever we begin to find ourselves in the story, our goal is to work to find ourselves a lot closer to Jesus in it.
Which means doing some hard things, accepting difficult truths, living odd lives, and loving and loving and loving.
It means knowing that yes, Jesus is worthy of worship, but what Jesus is asking is much harder: He is asking for our obedience.
This is a needed reminder as we prepare to enter into a new year, and a commitment to more faithful obedience offers us a constructive resolution for 2016.
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