Week of April 30, 2014

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

On the heels of an uplifting and heartening celebration of Easter at First Presbyterian Church, I feel compelled to remind us all that Christ is still risen, and that resurrection is a reality we are called to live each and every day of our lives. The early church lived in the light of this resurrection power and during Eastertide, the weeks that follow Easter, the church pays special attention to the Book of Acts, which tells this gripping story. Easter changed the world, and when Easter faith is lived, it has a way of turning life into an adventure. I have been thinking more and more about the adventure of life, and the role of adventure in following Jesus Christ. Too often our fears and our need for control take the element of adventure completely out of life, and the lives we live are too tame, too void of life-giving risk and adventure. “The trouble with a life too well planned is that it leaves little room for adventure,” says Andre Gide. Too often we find ourselves so mired and stuck in the hurts and disappointments of the past that we rob ourselves of the future completely. If the Easter Gospel tells us anything, it speaks a message of hope, which enables us to look forward to our lives.

When Paul went to Corinth or to Athens or finally across the Bosporus to Macedonia to proclaim the Gospel, first in synagogues, and then in city streets, you have the unmistakable sense of an adventure of the highest order. When Paul and Silas are thrown into jail in Philippi, at midnight they are “praying and singing hymns to God” when an earthquake suddenly hits. Their chains are broken, and the prison doors are opened wide and at this point, instead of running, they use this moment of fear and confusion to share the Gospel. The jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?,” and Paul responds, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Paul and Silas proceed to baptize the Philippian jailer’s entire family that night! But no risk, no harrowing night in a prison, and there is no adventure! I doubt seriously that afterwards Paul was thinking, “I need to be more careful the next time I preach not to offend anyone, so I will be safer and can stay out of trouble.” It was the trouble that Paul and Silas got into that made their experience an adventure that bears telling and retelling for two thousand years now.

A life of adventure always requires of us risks worth taking. Thornton Wilder, the great American play write, has a word on the nature of a life of adventure. “The test of adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.” Last summer Connie and I went to Zion and Brice Canyon National Parks in Utah. These are places of unimaginable beauty and grandeur. One day we took a long hike up a path at Zion called Angel’s Landing. Not until we began to scale the final legs of this journey did we discover how aptly named it was! The hike was steep and strenuous throughout, but as you near the top, the final legs of the journey are on a narrow rock trail against the side of the mountain with a sheer cliff dropping straight off to your left the whole way up, and then as you descend. It was one of those experiences where when you are the middle of it, your adrenaline is running full, and you are wondering if the fear outweighs the fun you are having! Yet as we finished the strenuous hike that day, we both were so grateful that we hung in there, not allowing our fear to stop us from the joy and adventure of the climb. The view from the top, of course, was unforgettable. Neither of us would have traded this experience for the world!

I have never accepted a call to serve a church where I had not at some point down the road wondered if I taken on more than I should have, or bitten off way more than I could chew. At some point in each place where I have served over the last thirty plus years, I have come to places in road where I feared that I might fail, and fail miserably. I have come to believe that God calls us to places where we are meant to feel overmatched by the challenges ahead. Without this sense of healthy fear, we would not depend enough upon God, but would try to take things completely in our own hands, and manage to squeeze the joy and risk completely out of life. Easter is a call to follow where the Risen Christ leads. The angel of the Lord said to the women at the tomb, “…go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” The call of God is always a call to a life of adventure. Jesus is always going ahead of us into some Galilee, some place where we are being called to go. It is only in going that we are apt to encounter Jesus. It is only in the risk of daring to go where Jesus calls that we will discover the future that God intends for our lives. Fred Buechner is quoted often for his words of vocation: “The place God calls you to is the place where your great passion meets the world’s awful need.” That place and that call are all about adventure!

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

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