This Sunday we get ready to move into our church’s new location at the Spartan Gym in Shoreline. We started meeting at one community center in September and as we have outgrown this facility, our new meeting space is almost 3 times the size. There was a search committee and meetings and prayers and more meetings and walk-thrus and planning and laboring and dreaming and creating. And now we get ready to move. Without a doubt, I am thrilled for our new space and I hope a thousand people show up to celebrate. Or even 200. Or even 100. I really don’t care.
See, this is the duality of our Christian faith, hard work and surrender, labor and rest. Without a doubt, we are called to work hard in our pursuit of making others aware of Jesus’ great love for them. Proverbs 14:23 tells us: “ All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Paul himself writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10). Jesus is clear with us, Go, Spread the News, Make Disciples of All Men. We are called to not sit back and idly hope good fortune befalls us, but we are called to “run the race” and “fight the good fight of faith.”
Wendell Barry writes a poem called The Future:
“For God’s sake, be done
With this jabber of a “better world.”
What blasphemy! No “futuristic”
Twit or child thereof ever
In embodied light will see
A better world than this, though they
Foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
Beside the oblivious road. Pick up
The cans and bottles, old tires,
And dead predictions. No future
Can be stuffed into this presence
Except by being dead. The day is
Clear and bright, and overhead
The sun not yet half finished
With his daily praise.”
I love Berry’s encouragement here, “For God’s sake,” Berry writes, instead of dreaming of a better world “Do something!” I like this and this is encouraging to me as we’ve been putting in long days and hard work to grow this new church.
And yet….there is also a call to trust the Lord in reckless abandon. We aren’t guaranteed that all our work and efforts produce big yields. Sometimes people work and try and labor and yet….things still don’t turn out how they hoped. In the book of John after Jesus had been put to death, the disciples need to take their mind off their pain. Peter, in a sentiment I can understand, said “I’m going fishing” and the other disciples agreed to go with him. They fished all night without catching a fish. Without catching a single fish. And remember, before joining Christ 3 years prior, many of these men were professional fishermen! But labor as they tried all night, they had no success. Until Jesus showed up.
Jesus walks the beach and yells out to the men, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6). Though they labored to catch fish, it wasn’t until Jesus showed up that something big happened.
This is the dual nature of our faith, to work like crazy to create something good to penetrate the darkness of the world, and then trust Jesus to show up and control the results. Because at the end of the day, if left to only our own efforts and agenda, we’ll end up working in vain. We labor, and we rest, in the glory of a King who came to earth and humbled Himself as a servant. Jesus, who was with God in the beginning, was born in a feeding trough and lived in the dust and grime and slavery of first century Israel. All to build a bridge for humankind to be able to be reconciled with the love God has for us.
So as we start in our new location, may we show up early and stay late and work hard and seek to have excellence in our ministry. But mostly, we should wait for our Savior to show up and tell us where to fish. Labor and rest, effort and surrender. It’s the call of Christ.