This is the One Question We Must Answer
"No clever talk or gift to bring
requires our lowly, lovely King,
come you empty handed, you don't need anything."
- mewithoutyou in the song "A Stick, a Carrot, and a String"
Come. That's the invitation to all of us, to everyone. Come! Everyone who thirsts, come. If you have no money, come, buy and eat without money and without price! Everyone empty-handed, come! Do you bring a heavy burden? Pain? A history of wrongdoing? You don't fit in? You don't know where you've come from or where you're going? You're lost? Uncertain? Come!
Jesus calls to us, come! Come, follow me. Come, have water that never ends, life that never ends, joy that never ends. Come! Know me, be with me, rest with me. Come!
And this is him, this is our Master Jesus, his personality, his way of being, his call, his character. We see it in the coming Gospel reading from Mark:
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Look at this man! What must he have been like, to draw so many people to himself? What must he have been like, that he inspired the kind of faith that the sick and suffering wanted to get close enough even to just touch the fringe of his cloak!
For his friends, his first followers, and the crowds that encountered Jesus, he was the walking, talking, living embodiment of those words from the prophet Isaiah:
everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
Read those words from Mark's Gospel again. Imagine the man who inspired the crowds to come, who embodied the invitation that all who thirst or hunger or suffer can come to him to find healing and life. We are the crowds, longing for him, sick, hurting, needing healing and peace, longing to just touch the hem of his cloak. We are his students, the disciples, who need to retreat alone with him to get some rest with him. And we are him, we are Jesus, at least we are called to be for the world. We are called to live this exact ministry, we are called to be this kind of presence to a broken, hurting, world.
If you're reading this and you need to hear the invitation to come, then know that he calls to you by name. He longs for you to come and be with him, abide in him. He longs to give you himself, his love, his presence, his own strength, his rest and peace. He is for you, now today, and the life of the age to come, the life of God, and the fullness of life and joy he promises are available to you now in him today. Are you prepared to turn and follow him?
If you're reading this and you've already come, you already follow, maybe you are a member of my own congregation IHS. I've been thinking a lot about how these promises, the promise that is him, what they mean for how we ought to be a congregation, a community that follows his way of love. How do we pattern these words in all that we do?
First of all it means that in literally everything we do, we ought to mimic, model, live out the grace of these words: come! Come empty-handed, come with nothing! All that we have, all that we are as a congregation, they are not ours. They are not for us. They belong to our Master. We belong to our Master, Jesus. The way of our Master is found in not wanting anything but Him.
The band mewithoutyou has a song, quoted above, about who Jesus is, from his birth to the Garden and his final night of life. And the author of the song puts these words in Jesus' mouth, in his prayer, that are meant to exemplify Jesus' relationship to His Father. They are five simple, but incredibly profound and transforming words:
What else me but you?
What else me but you?
What else us but him? That is the question before us now at IHS as a congregation, looking to come back from the pandemic to congregational life, not just in the same-old-same-old way we always have, but more truly following, more fully faithful to his way. The Spirit is calling us to come, to follow, transformed to do his mission at this time and place. So what we do at IHS ought to look like him. It ought to mimic his ministry - more so, it needs to be his ministry, authentically. That question is the one before us now, the one we ought to fully ponder, marvel at, and try to embrace and embody: what else us but him? What else me but you?
Are we willing to set our own will aside for his? Are we willing to give up our control, our desire for influence and power, the way we think things ought to be done, to do things his way, to obey and follow him?
And on a personal level, are you willing to do even one thing today to follow? Are you willing to do one single thing today to obey him? Are you willing to forgive today? Are you willing to turn the other cheek today? Are you willing to get down on your knees and wash someone's feet today? To give up yourself today and sacrifice today? Are you willing to love as he loved today? What one thing will you do today to obey his teachings?
If we cannot even do one single thing today to obey him, to follow him, can we call him our Master or our Lord?
Even still, he calls us: come! No matter where we are on our journey of faith, come! No matter what you've done, come! No matter where you've wandered, come!
"everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live."