During my childhood a certain man, affectionately known as JFK, became the 35th president of the USA. In his inaugural speech President Kennedy urges American citizens to participate in public service and “ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Now a search online will come up with some theory that this phrase was not originally his. Some of his ex-classmates indicated that a past headmaster of a school they attended used similar wording regularly in school assemblies – presumably substituting school for country? . However there is strong indication that this headmaster claimed no credit due to a similar line of speech apparently being used in a work of literature, which was in the school curriculum at that time, written near the end of the Great Depression – and revisiting this phrase we can see why that sentiment might have been very relevant during that period. We will probably never get to the actual truth. My point in bringing this up is there is a strong indication in these words that not only does a country expect all its citizens to participate for the greater good, but it can also be read that there would appear to be some cost to this.
As Christians we are only sojourners here on earth but can still participate in many acts of charity and involvement in local affairs. But how much more are we called to participate in the life of the church? We have heard from our pulpit on more than one occasion in this period of interim ministry, the Biblical truth that repentance is a turning through 180 and living a different life to that we used to live as our ‘old self’. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 v 2-3 of a man’s need to be born again. But that would appear, as in natural birth, to be just the start. Not only do new Christians need to live on the Word and grow spiritually, but they also may be required to abandon old habits and take up some form of service. Jesus indicated in the Scriptures that we should not take lightly the decision to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. On more than one occasion Jesus told his followers and the general crowd to ‘count the cost’. In Luke 14:25-34 for example He tells of estimating the cost of building a tower and seeing if you have the funds to complete the task. In the same passage he urges kings to count the cost of going to war – something readily ignored since the dawn of time I assume. Jesus in this passage also uses the words “cannot be my disciple” . The reason for this is Jesus paid for our redemption with His life so there is nothing we should not consider doing for His cause. Not that we can ever repay the price He paid , but we should be using our gifts in serving others, particularly within the church environment. The parable of the pearl of great price indicates the price some people have to/are required to/choose to pay to enter God’s coming Kingdom –which can be lived out in part, or a shadow of, here on earth- and of course the inclusion of the change in the life of Zacchaeus in the Gospels shows what a great effect meeting the Saviour can have on some people.
This coming Sunday I will try to explore the call of three well know Old Testament characters. One, a seemingly timid man, was called by God as a judge to relieve Israel of a great burden of a somewhat strange form of subjugation. Two were called form childhood and even before. One could be perhaps considered the greatest of the Hebrew prophets who live up to his calling, the other seemingly went his own way during much of his 20 years as a judge but in the end was the beginning of a great revival in the Hebrew’s fortunes. Please join with me that we may all join together and be mightily blessed knowing that God often chooses to use the people the world would not.