List-less

Good morning Faculty and Staff,

I’m a list maker. I’m a list maker because I like to check things off the list. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I look down at my list and find that the tiny boxes I drew next to my things to be done contain check marks. Sometimes I even make lists of things I have already done just so I can experience the satisfactory feeling of filling the hungry boxes with their nourishing little check marks. Check, check, check…aaaah.

My love of lists often creates tension in my life of following Jesus because I’m not always sure how to measure my following. Tipped the barista at Starbucks. Check. Let the car merge even after they broke the rules. Check. Memorized a bible verse. Check. Prayed for the friend who came to mind this morning. Check. Cleaned the toilet. Check, Check...it is after all next to godliness.

What exactly should be on our “following” list anyway? And which denomination gets to make the list that will be authoritative? What are the true non-negotiables that we should all be seeking to check off the list by the end of each day, week, month, year or life? And how do we resist the temptation of turning a life that is supposed to be lived into a list that has to be checked?

In the days preceding Jesus’ death he “went out as usual to the Mount of Olives and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:39-42

In seeking to resist the temptation of turning of life that is meant to be lived into a list that has to be checked I think this passage provides us some clues. First, following Jesus happens in the course of our “usual” life. Following is not about set of things that is standardized but rather an awareness of how Jesus might walk through your usual day. Following Jesus is not about going with Jesus to the right Christian event on the right mountain top but rather about seeing Christ manifested in the mundane events of your usual life. Were you kind to the busy salesperson, patient with the slow moving old person, gentle with injured person and gracious with the person who just had a bad a day. In your usual life is God’s will being done?

A second nudge away from a list and into a life is Jesus’ reminder to the disciples, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” When you feel tempted to reduce your life into a list, ask God to remind you what holds true value. If you want to know whether or not your day measured up to God’s hopes for it don’t ask around for accolades but rather place yourself in God’s presence for his assessment. Let God be the measure of your life for he is far more gracious and compassionate than your list.

The third nudge reminds us that sometimes we need to withdraw at least a “stone’s throw” away from our peers if we want to accurately assess our lives. You see, dying was not going to seem successful to those who were in Jesus’ most intimate circle. If Jesus had taken his cues about success from those in his inner circle, God’s will would never have been done. In the course of your usual life perhaps once in a while you would consider withdrawing at least a stone’s throw away from your most intimate traveling companions to see whether or not God would push you beyond their comfort zone.

And so as we pursue together a life of following Jesus I pray that you would set down the list and begin to live a life in the presence of the One who can nudge you through your usual day. This means that at the beginning of the day you may not know what to put on the list, but at the end of the day you be able to look back and say...aaah.

This morning in Chapel Pastor Rico Altiery of New Life Covenant Ministries will be preaching from this passage. Come and join us as we learn how a “stone’s throw” can make a difference in our every day life. Pastor Altiery attended North Park University and remains connected to it by way of his two daughters:  Ariana who completed her bachelor’s degree in 2012 and Cristina who is currently a sophomore. Rico’s wife of almost 26 years, Daisy, is the Director of Counseling Support Services at North Park.

Blessings on our usual life,

Pastor Judy