In worship at Elim last weekend, Pastor Martin Schlomer shared a compelling message from John 2 of Christ’s consuming passion for both the symbolic and manifest presence of God in our midst.
For the Jews of His day, that symbolic presence was the Temple. Christ’s passion for this powerful symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people was so consuming that this most meek, humble, and lowly of men stunned religious leaders, bystanders, and even His own disciples by making a whip of cords and forcefully driving exploiters out of His Father’s House of Prayer! (That would have been something to see!)
Passion for the Presence
One of the most fascinating things about this passage, to me, is the few verses that follow it. They reveal that while the Temple was the symbolic presence of God, the real presence of God there in Jerusalem, the real “Temple,” was the Body of Jesus Himself:
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Martin then went on to connect this passage with 1 Corinthians 3:16 …
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
The implications are profound. We are to be consumed with zeal for the presence of God in His Church, the Body of Christ … both corporately, and locally, and more specifically as He dwells in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ! Loving each other well is how the world will know we are His disciples. We are to burn with passion for His Church, His presence in the midst of a dark and decaying world.
Being Salt and Light
We are also to honor God’s presence in our own hearts, by seeking His holiness and by being salt and light as He calls us to be.
Recently, here on my personal blog, I shared how God used Cindy, one of my sisters in Christ at Elim, to help me understand how He wanted me to recognize that part of the purpose for this particular season in my life, having been laid off from my career job with World Vision, was to “clear out the rubble” so I could move forward to see and embrace what He next had for me.
I had an epiphany of sorts about this while Pastor Martin was sharing on Sunday. He spoke how he had struggled to understand how he could be salt and light while working completely within the “Christian bubble” that is Elim, and how as a result in 2017 he was planning to move “out of the bubble” and become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) in order to start rubbing the salt into some of the places in our world that really needed it!
This made me think about what God was doing in my own heart and life. At World Vision, I too frequently felt frustrated that I never really had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the unsaved. (World Vision is another “Christian bubble.”)
Then, guess what? My “bubble” got burst! I was laid off last August. Since then, God has been building four new things into my life, and it wasn’t until Sunday that I realized each of them is an opportunity for me to become better salt and light:
- I’ve always felt called to write. But what I’ve usually written or edited has been very Christian by nature. I’d be shocked if any unbelievers were actually reading this blog, or any of my others. Marketing materials for World Vision, four books on church growth and a biography, even a novel on the events of Noah’s day were good Christian fare. But now I’ve started writing something very different, a science fiction novel. I am a Christian so it will convey all the hopes I have for God’s future for His creation. (Click here or on the thumbnail at right for a preview.) But I am working very hard to make it NOT “overtly” Christian, as such. The science fiction trilogy of C.S. Lewis was powerful, in part, because he succeeded at this. (Also, because he was learned and brilliant, as I am not; but one can only try.) If I can write good sci fi and get it out in front of people who wouldn’t normally read Christian books, maybe there’s some salt and light there.
- As a school nurse for the Puyallup School District, my wife Darlene has daily opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus. So I have become a pre-college (AVID) Tutor, and an emergency sub. One can’t be overt about one’s faith in that context, but I’ve already discovered ways you can love on students and represent Jesus’ heart to them, even if you can’t pray (out loud) or share overtly.
- My passion for mushrooms is no secret, and so in this season of my life I’m seeking to share and develop that in such a way that mushrooms can point to the glory of God! I’m developing relationships with other mycophiles (we’re a weird bunch). I’ve also developed an e-commerce website (where I will ultimately, hopefully, peddle many things mushroom-related, and where I can inspire and equip others). My son and I take groups hunting in the forests. And I’ve started writing mushroom blogs that show what fungus can teach us about the existence and heart of God! (If you don’t believe me, please read this.)
- Finally, a number of people were surprised to hear that I’ve been licensed as an Uber driver (and am in the process of becoming licensed as a Lyft driver), both in Pierce and King Counties. The money is not as great as they try to make you think it will be (basically it’s minimum-wage equivalent), but the great part is that when I tire of staring at a computer,
I can switch on my app and get out there and drive. It’s mostly fun, and it’s serving people, and I’ve really enjoyed connecting with both Christians and others one-on-one as we drive along. I’ve had some amazing conversations! I’m not allowed to “proselytize,” but Uber defines that as inviting people to your church. (I’ve never done that, of course. We’ve driven by Elim many times, and each time we do I point it out and say, “Hey, there’s where I go to church!” They often ask, “Really? What’s it like?” And then I tell them how much Elim has meant to me and what God has been doing in my heart and life while I’ve been here! I can answer their questions, right? But I don’t actually “invite them,” unless they ask to be invited.)
I’ve had opportunities to share the love of Jesus with more than a few (because they asked). Every day I talk about what God is doing in my life. Nearly every day people share their hurts, and when they do it’s only natural to ask how I can pray for them. Sometimes I even stop (usually not until we get to our destination) and pray with my riders right in the car! And only, of course, when they want to. (Pressure is never a loving way to share your faith, anyway, right? It’s got to be relational and two-way.) So it’s been a marvelous experience so far.
Salt and Light Is Humble and Simple, Right?
Working for nearly minimum wage as a tutor or a wannabe taxi driver is not something I anticipated as God’s best for me when I was laid off from World Vision. (Although I could see myself gushing about mushrooms or writing sci-fi! I’m weird, I know.) Compared to what I achieved and experienced at that wonderful organization, what I am doing now is humbling in the very truest sense of that word. But I realized as Pastor Martin was teaching: It’s not something I chose; it’s something God chose for me, even as I prayed for His best for my life and for how He might use me in His Kingdom.
So, that’s my challenge to each of us as we consider how God wants to use US to be salt and light. You may not be the next American Idol, or the Great American Novelist. But maybe God wants you to serve others in the humblest ways possible? Perhaps He wants you to help a bedridden invalid, or care for a foster child, or ride the bus and talk to a hurting stranger, or build and hand out homeless survival kits. Or maybe He wants you to spend your time and energy praying (in obscurity, like countless prayer warriors before you) for anyone and everyone. Who knows?
Being salt and light is not just an individual responsibility for the believer; it’s a Body responsibility. So we are also to encourage and hold each other accountable as we seek to “march off the map” and influence a world that desperately needs Jesus.
Pray for His best (both for you, for your local church, and the Kingdom), and then let Him lead you where He wishes to!