Saturday, February 6

Following Christ

 Tim Wu in his 2016 book “Attention Merchants” as a world in which “You don’t sell things to people, you sell people to advertisers (Wu in Harris).” Google, Microsoft, and Facebook didn’t invent the idea, they just took it to another level.  The start was in the 1830s with the birth of the New York Sun. They undersold their competition, charging a penny, and funded the production of their newspaper with advertising sales. What made them really unique was they went after news that appealed to the masses, “This meant stories about ‘melancholy’, suicides, and lewd murders. Anything to grab eyeballs (Harris).” According to Forbes, and other marketing journals, most of us saw 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. You may not even realize some were advertisements.

Last year was hard for many people. Even those like myself who were out in public found things to be strange and odd. Activities, events, vacations, parties, family gatherings, even funerals had the chance to explode into horrible centers of disease.  Our lives became subject to the whims of a new virus and the learning curve it took us through.

“Last year was a year of again. Each day in 2020 dawned and we got to work again, feed and homeschooled our children again, watched COVID-19 numbers rise again, wondered “When will this be over? “again (Kerhoulas).”

This was a piece in Christianity Today just a couple of weeks ago. About 2021, she notes, “[P]erhaps these unyielding months of the pandemic have…Our lives are full of monotony and repetition, and they always will be (ibid.).”

I believe our texts this morning demonstrate that God has a different pace about Himself. Incarnate, Jesus shows us a different discipline than we have and that the outcome of these two means that God’s blessings are different than we realize.

God’s Pace

I’ve told you about Bob Mumford’s example of patience and training a dog to fetch. The dog isn’t trained when he doesn’t run after the stick but strains forward, ready to go. Training is done when the stick is tossed, and the dog remains relaxed and unmoved until ordered to ‘fetch’.

One of the leaders of Open Doors ministry, which works for persecuted Christians met Pastor Wang Ming Dao who stood firm for Christ until his death in ’91. The Chinese pastor asked Ronald, “Young man, how do you walk with God (Boyd-McMillian 13)?” Reflecting on this he asked, “How can I talk about the Christian life as walking with God when I so often live it at a sprint (ibid.)?”

During Ming Dao’s 20-year imprisonment by the Chinese, the pastor commented that it had become a place of “unchosen, unhurried time… There was nothing to do but to be in God's presence (ibid.).” He summarized his learning from Wang Dao by writing,

"One of the keys to the faith of the suffering church: God does things slowly…We are too quick. We have so much to do—so much in fact we never really commune with God as he intended (Boyd-MacMillan)."

Ming Dao’s prison was our 2020 but his lasted 20-years. Will we learn from it.

God’s Discipline

The gospel of Mark has Jesus going to Peter’s home and healing Peter’s mother-in-law. After Sabbath, in the evening the news of the exorcism and Peter’s MIL caused others to gather at Peter’s home and Jesus healed many of them. Early the next morning Jesus leaves the rest of the household and goes out to a ‘desolate’ place and prays.

Why does Jesus do this? It’s not to regain His power. It’s not to meditate and empty Himself of all the stress. It is to talk with His Father about His next steps. Did you know that Satan wasn’t the only tempter Jesus faced? Right here, He is tempted by those who would be His disciples to return to Peter’s house. Come back Jesus, we have more people to heal. Pretty soon they’ll be coming from all over.

God’s word to His Son was to move into other towns and preach “for that is why I came out” v38. U2’s “Where the Streets have no Names” took over 40% of the time spent on their album The Joshua Tree. The producer, Brian Eno, was so disgusted with the amount of energy being expended he wanted the whole tape destroyed and start over. “There’s a part of Eno that likes instant gratification. He’d rather throw something difficult away and start something new (Songfacts).” Bono did not like the lyrics. He calls them a “sketch…I just wouldn’t have rhymed ‘hide’ with ‘inside’ (Daly).” Bono explains that the context of the song comes from Africa, specifically Ethiopia where he and his wife worked in an orphanage.

"In the desert, we meet God. In parched times, in fire and flood, we discover who we are. That’s my prayer, by the way…Do you want to go to that other place… where the streets have no name (Wenner).”

Bono’s musical invitation is that alone time that he learned from other believers in his life. It is the invitation Jesus offers to Andrew and John when they ask about where Jesus is saying, “Come and see”. It is found in Christ’s offer to the fishermen, “I will make you fishers of men”.

If you an introvert you may be saying, Yes!!! Don’t confuse God’s invitation to a desolate place and prayer as being by yourself, eating food deliveries, and only video chatting. When Jesus is done with this desolate place He goes out into the world. Verse 39 says, “And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” There is a call to being apart, but it is a call that leads us into involvement. We can’t have one without the other.

God’s Blessing

Isaiah shows us some of the blessings of God when we walk at His pace and practice His disciplines. In the midst of the difficulties of life “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” We have heard this verse dozens of times. What does it mean to wait upon the Lord? Does it mean going to a conference, prayer retreats, giving alms, or something else?

We wait upon God’s timing. As we wait, we remember that time doesn’t exist for God. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is not above time; He is outside of time. He is its very creator in all it’s mysteries. He knows it all. Psalm 139:4 says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Altogether means God knows the very intentions of everything we say. Not just the ones we admit to ourselves but the responses and reactions that flow from dark, deep places in our souls. He knows it ALL!

It never gets old for God. Come to God with the same a dozen times a day and God doesn’t tire of forgiving us. God doesn’t tire of loving us. God doesn’t tire, or regret sending His Son to die for us.

Let me take us back to the beginning of this message where I talked about our last year being a ‘year of again’, one of monotony. G. K. Chesterton pointed out that God understands and celebrates those who are like a child. The child who wants the same book read repeatedly. Or who loves being tossed up in the air and caught “Do it again” they squeal. To the parents, grandparents, and stuffy adults who won’t repeat their desire Chesterton writes:

"For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them (Chesterton)."

Praise God for Jesus’ love; God’s love; the love from the Holy Spirit who lives within us repeatedly forgives, sustains, nurtures, and covers us day-after-day. Let us pray and prepare to come to the Lord’s Table.

Works Cited

Boyd-MacMillan, Ronald. Faith That Endures. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 2006. Print. 13-14.

Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. Serenity Publishers, 2008. Print.

Daly, Rhian. "Bono Says, 'Where The Streets Have No Name' Is 'Unfinished'." Music, Film, TV, Gaming & Pop Culture News. 2017. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Harris, Michael. "Review: Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants Charts The Battle For Our Mental Landscape." The Globe and Mail. 2016. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Kerhoulas, Anne. "What Another Year of Routine Teaches us About God." Christianity Today 2021: Print.

Wenner, Jann S. "Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview." RollingStone 2005. Web. 6 Feb. 2021.

"Where The Streets Have No Name By U2 - Songfacts." Songfacts.com. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Wu, Tim. Attention Merchants. Atlantic Books, 2017. Print.

Work’s Consulted

Boyd-MacMillan, Ronald. Faith That Endures. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 2006. Print. 13-14.

Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. Serenity Publishers, 2008. Print.

Daly, Rhian. "Bono Says, 'Where The Streets Have No Name' Is 'Unfinished'." Music, Film, TV, Gaming & Pop Culture News. 2017. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Gibbs, Alexandra. "MEDIA New TV Binge-Watching World Record Set at 94 Hours." CNBC.com. 2016. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference. Little Brown and Company, 2000. Print.

Harris, Michael. "Review: Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants Charts The Battle For Our Mental Landscape." The Globe and Mail. 2016. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Kerhoulas, Anne. "What Another Year of Routine Teaches us About God." Christianity Today 2021: Print.

Merida, Kevin. "Gut Instinct." The Washington Post 2002: 10. Print.

Scifres, Mary, and B. J. Beu. The Abingdon Worship Annual 2021: Worship Planning Resources for Every Sunday of the Year. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020. Print.

Wenner, Jann S. "Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview." RollingStone 2005. Web. 6 Feb. 2021.

"Where The Streets Have No Name By U2 - Songfacts." Songfacts.com. Web. 5 Feb. 2021.

Wu, Tim. Attention Merchants. Atlantic Books, 2017. Print.