What are you distracted by? That’s a question underlying our text this week. What is it that draws your attention away from your call to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Not that followers of Jesus aren’t allowed to enjoy the beauty and wonder that this world has to offer. The Christian life is marked by joy and surrounded by wonder. Yet, like the disciples in our text, we can be distracted by what we see around us and lose sight of our reason for being, to live a life of proclamation and invitation.
While the distraction in our text is about something beautiful, even something of God—the temple itself—Jesus’s discourse tells us that sometimes it is terrible things that distract us. Wars and rebellions can distract us; false prophets or those who claim to represent Jesus but who really don’t, can distract us; natural disasters can distract us. All sorts of things can distract us from lifting up the name of Jesus and living in hope and confidence that indeed God has the whole world in the divine hands.
Each week, worship is an opportunity to reorient ourselves toward God. Yes, the object of worship is giving praise to God and lifting up the name of Jesus. At the same time, we redeclare our commitment to walk the path of discipleship and live as though we were a part of the kin-dom of God, because we are. It is a moment of perspective, or of realignment. Not that we come and realize that nothing else matters, that the wars and conflicts and deprivations and divisions don’t matter, because all that matters is giving praise to God. To the contrary, we discover that what is happening in the world matters all that much more because of our commitment to Christ and to loving the world that he gave his life for. But we hold on to hope.
We hold on to hope by declaring that God cares about the brokenness of the world and the people who are harmed by that brokenness. And we declare it by caring too, by serving, by giving, by advocating for change and for peace and for reconciliation. Not out of a sense of despair, but out of that very hope that says God is still God and there is good in the world. There is grace and there is a way that leads to salvation.
So, let our prayers reach out into the whole world. Let our songs praise the God of creation and instill in us a sense of mission and purpose to bring transformation. Let those who work in various missions be given space to inform and invite. And let there be a call to commitment. Not out of a sense of duty but let us reignite our commitment to love and hospitality. What needs attending in our neighborhood? Who needs to be acknowledged and invited into fellowship in our community? In other words, let us stop being tourists wandering around just taking in the sights of this world, for good or for ill, and let us be engaged with the Spirit in working transformation right where we are.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.