Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
This week I watched a movie. It wasn’t a new movie or one that had any particular spiritual quality but it struck me. The movie was Pontiac moon. It is a story of a family living during the time of the Apollo moon missions. The mother had a phobia of going out doors and of cars while the father loved cars but couldn’t take the son out in them. The dad is an excentric school teacher captivated with the space program. One of his car was nearing the mileage of the distance from the earth to the moon, and his son and him decided they would race the astronauts to try to reach the goal at the same time. Every thing seemed to be against them. They were faced with road construction, breakdowns, interactions with local cultures, the highway patrol and worry. This goal became a driving passion. It tore at the relationship between the family and at the same time brought them closer than ever before. When one gave up the other re-inspired the vision and passion. Even the mother who was gripped by fear over came her fear of people and cars because she was driven to save her son from potential harm.
They each had goals, passions, a quest so romantic and ideal that they could not help themselves from pursuing it. I misspoke when I said this movie had no real spiritual quality, because it is filled with the human condition of finding who we are and taking ownership of it. Who are we?
We are many things. We are children of our parents, students of our schools, citizens of various locations. All of these give us some terminology to how to describe ourselves. These things only go so far. People build stereotypes or generalities around these terms. When I was in Ukraine everyone regarded me as rich, yet when you compared the amount of work required to earn the funding to purchase what we wanted, the costs were similar. Honestly in some cases they were better off because working at McDonald’s there was actually a good job. So even our understanding of terms can’t fully describe a person.
We tend to build our lives to reflect what other want to see. We begin to define our lives according to the criteria of our culture. For most of us we introduce ourselves and then talk about our jobs, or our families, or the group that we support because these thing have become who we are. Often these things drain the passion from us and we become company men or women, or mindless drones as the movies often call the employed. We discuss work because it consumes most of our time, energy, and thoughts. We even dream about it because it has become part of us. I am not saying it is a bad thing totally. What happens if our job changes, maybe finances require both spouses to work, or maybe we retire? We are left to stand on our own, without the comfort we received in our prior definitions of our life.
We are more than our job, our family, or our hobbies. We are children of God, redeemed by Jesus, and people commissioned to build the kingdom. Paul, the author of this letter to the people of Corinth, speaks on this issue. He begins this portion of scripture speaking of his passion the thing that drives him and defines his life. He must preach the gospel of Christ. It is more than a job, or a means of survival. To preach the gospel comes from a much deeper place it is his purpose of living, everything else in his life is a means to allow him to participate in this one central activity. With out leaching he would be nothing, he would cease to exist. Maybe Paul is being a little melodramatic here, but he is trying to make a point. It is a point many have preached for centuries, even contemporaries today have stressed this point with movements like the purpose driven life. We were created for a purpose, and we are not being true to ourselves or God if we reject that purpose.
Paul says he must preach. He goes so far to say I must preach even if it is to be done at expense to myself, because I am a slave to the gospel. This does not mean that he rejects any form of assistance to his ministry when he says he does it free of charge. What it means is he will preach wherever he is led no matter what.
Do we live by that same passion? The people in Pontiac moon did. There was a point in the movie where the radio was playing the live conversation between the Apollo mission and the Huston mission control center where the goal of the father and son so gripped the child even when the father was about to give up that the kid got into the driver’s seat to finish the quest no matter what the cost. He slammed the accelerator to the floor and never looked back because he was going to complete the quest of driving the distance to the moon. He live all in, he gave it all without regard to his father, the law, fame or anything but fulfilling the mission. without the mission he felt his life would be meaningless.
God gives us all a ministry. The church does not ordain or commission ministry. the church is only a vehicle, to accomplish and facilitate the ministry of God’s kingdom. Your ministry is found in the deep places of our hearts, often the areas we hide from others. Ministry come from our innermost being the vulnerable, naked truth of our who we are. We hide this from others so often because it is easier to let people reject a facade but it hurts to have our true heart trampled on. Our passions are interesting things, they are woven through everything we are, yet so often we reject passion. Passion and ministry are similar because they are unique to every person. This is why the historic Friends church would rarely define who or what ministry really was. Instead they would observe and record people as ministers who showed kingdom building work in their lives.
To be true to ourselves and our communities we must live fully engaged to our passion and ministry. These will look very different to many people. Some may find their passion in their hobby, home repair, or medical service. Others may truly be ministering their greatest when providing customer service at a retailer. Yet in all thing we serve God the greatest when we live fully in our passions.
I read a book this week written by a physicist. This person loved physics and would describe this science with as much passion as an artist. The author then made their best attempt to relate their faith and passion to inspire others. I loved reading this book because the passion oozes throughout. I did not find every answer I sought in the book but I was compelled to consider what it was that gave this person such passion. They loved their science and they loved God, they did not see the two as enemies but partners in life and the fulfilment thereof.
This also reminds me of another movie of passion chariots of fire. Eric discussed with his sister his call tl the mission in china and his desire to run saying that china would wait till after the olympics because, when he ran he felt God’s pleasure. When we pursue our passions God is pleased because that is who we are, who he created us to be. When we live our passions for His Glory we feel communion with Him, an intimacy with Him where we have mutual satisfaction.
This pleasure so fills us that we must pursue it. It is a healthy rewarding pleasure, one that never fails to satisfy. The laws of diminishing returns does not apply because this pleasure, this running with God pulling us deeper into a relationship with Him. When we feel it, experience, and know it we begin to share it with others the best we can. For some it is found in speaking, in others writing, some may paint or sculptor. While others just invite people to share life with them at a game, movie, or meeting for worship. Paul explains it as becoming a Jew to reach the Jews or like one outside the law to reach those outside of the law. He finds some way to speak the language to make known to others the truth of Life with God.
God truly changes life. Jesus said he came to bring life and life more abundantly. This seems odd that Paul would then say he is a slave to this message. But it is the truth. He is bound and caught up in life with God bound not because of hate or fear, but bound by love enslaved by passion. No matter what he faces he will stay true to the preaching of the Gospel because in this He feels, He knows God’s pleasure.
We are a community with a defined purpose. We say that we are a community loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living Christ’s love with others. That statement is similar to Paul’s. It is a definition of what we feel is the meaning of our existence. To fully know this pleasure of the Gospel we must live it full and completely. As we enter this time of Holy Expectancy let us explore what brings each of us the pleasure of God, and how we can incorporate that into our life with God.