One day St. Francis of Assisi said to one of the young monks at the monistary, “Let us go down to the town and preach!” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, obeyed with enthusiasm. They passed through the main streets, turned down many of the byways and alleys, made their way into the suburbs, and at great length returned by a winding route to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention.
“You have forgotten, Father, that we went to the town to preach!”
“My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by many; our behavior has been closely watched; it was then that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk.”
As we read the stories from the Bible, which describe how people in the past experienced God at work in their midst, we glimpse God with us too. As God worked through people like Moses and Paul, God calls us to give leadership, to be examples to others of God’s love.
The authors of DEUTERONOMY, writing in the 8th century BCE, sought to interpret the history of Israel in a way that would provide insight into the meaning of the catastrophic destruction of their nation, and provide guidance for the future of those surviving. Presented as Moses’ address to the Israelites before they moved across the Jordan River, it is a warning against abandoning the way to which God has called the people. Following the destruction of Israel, people must have wondered how to identify the real voice of God from the claims of the Jimmy Bakkers of their day. Here the writers of Deuteronomy use Moses’ farewell as a way of reminding their contemporaries that it was none other than God who had made the promise to provide prophets modeled after Moses, after his example. This may have been understood to mean the succession of prophets who had appeared throughout Israel’s history and who, for the most part, had been ignored or rejected. As time passed, however, the Hebrew people came to view these words as a promise that there would one day come a single great prophetic figure, the Messiah. In another story of Moses, the writer of Numbers expresses the hope that all God’s people would be prophets (Num. 11:29). In what ways might we be called as God’s prophets today?
Leslie Flynn points out that the Italian word for influence is influenza. The word influenza was introduced into English in the mid-1700s, apparently coming from the Italian phrase which attributed the origin of this sickness to an influenza di freddo (influence of the cold).
We are, by our very natures, very contagious people—our example tends to spread to others as easily as the flu. Everyone exerts influence.
In today’s reading from 1st CORINTHIANS, Paul explores the question of being an example, an infulence. Addressing concerns raised in the church about food laws, Paul urges faithful Christians to see themselves as members of a larger community. Our actions have an influence or impact upon the rest of the community of faith. Even if a thing does not affect me, if it causes you harm, then it’s a concern for me, too. For Paul, the yardstick of faith is not knowledge but loving actions. What impact do our personal choices have on others, especially the poor, the hungry, and those trapped in the midst of abuse or violence, both locally and globally? What causes are we prepared to research and support? To not decide is to decide. Of what am I an example?
Most of us have seen the bracelets, and other items that have four letters: WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? Many of us have probably had some of those items in our homes. I have this fridge magnet that Emma and Grace made. This saying has become a guiding principle for many Christians.
The WWJD movement started in 1989 when the youth group at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, studied Charles Sheldon’s 1896 novel, In His Steps. In the novel, a group of church members try to allow every thought and action to be shaped by the question: “What would Jesus do?”
Calvary’s youth group took Sheldon’s model to heart and made up colorful woven bracelets to wear as a reminder of that powerful question. Soon people throughout their community were wearing the bracelets, and it grew from there. And now, the letters WWJD can be found on a multitude of books, T-shirts, and other merchandise. To date, an estimated 14 million bracelets have been sold.
But the message of WWJD should not be taken for granted due to overexposure. As simple as it seems, sometimes the question—What Would Jesus Do?—still leaves us wondering. And as we wonder how to apply WWJD, we began to realize that we need to do is to stop wondering about it and start working on it.
Charles Sheldon built his book “In His Steps” on the passage from 1 Peter 2:21 which says of Jesus:
For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
So, it’s admirable and biblical to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” in the decisions we face each day, but what if we accept an even greater challenge that that. What if we go beyond “What Would Jesus Do?” and commit to “DWJD”—Doing What Jesus Did!
What did Jesus do? What example did Jesus leave us as a model for our lives? If we don’t know what Jesus did in his life, how can we expect to know what He would have us do in ours?
The Christian Herald once carried an article about a senior executive of one of the largest banks in New York City. He told how he had risen to a place of prominence and influence. At first he served as an office boy. Then one day the president of the company called him aside and said, “I want you to come into my office and be with me each day.” The young man replied, “But what could I do to help you, sir? I don’t know anything about finances.”
“Never mind that! You will learn what I want to teach you a lot faster if you just stay by my side and keep your eyes and ears open!” “That was the most significant experience of my life,” said the now-famous banker. “Being with that wise man made me just like him. I began to do things the way he did, and that accounts for what I am today.”
With that in mind, look at seven priorities that guided Jesus as we attempt to position ourselves at his side
Jesus was committed to Prayer, Acceptance, Compassion, Truth, Teaching, Servant hood & Equipping
Jesus demonstrated intimacy with God by seeking him continually in prayer. Forty-five times the gospels tell us that Jesus went alone to pray. Every aspect of his life and ministry was saturated with prayer. Mark 1 chapter gives us a glimpse of Jesus early in his ministry:
Verse 37 says “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there. 36Simon and his companions went searching for Him. 37They found Him and said, “Everyone’s looking for You!” (Mark 1:35-37)
His life was swirling with people, needs, and opportunities. Jesus ministered around the clock. Still, he would make time to talk with God and concentrate on God’s purposes. He might sleep less or work less, but he would find time to pray. If we are going to live by this example, and therefore be an example to others. If we are going to Do What Jesus Did we must make prayer a priority in our lives.
Jesus demonstrated the love of God by accepting the castaways of society.
Luke 5 offers a good example. Shortly after accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow him, Levi (later known as Matthew) held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them
But as we read on in Luke we find “the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31Jesus replied to them, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32)
On the social scale of the day, tax collectors were some of the most despised individuals around. In some ways they were even more hated than the Romans themselves because they were seen as traitors to the Nation, and traitors to God. An upstanding individual would not associate with them at all. But Jesus not only talked to Levi, he asked the man to become his disciple.
To follow Jesus example for us, to Do What Jesus Did we are going to have be accepting of all kinds of people. Every person on this planet has value to the Lord and we need to begin treating those different from us with the kind of love and acceptance Jesus gave to those around Him.
Jesus was an example of compassion; he was a healer of broken lives. By the power of God’s Spirit, Jesus provided for people’s physical and spiritual needs. He cast out demons, healed broken bodies, raised the dead, and forgave the sins of the guilty. Jesus proved that God’s power is sufficient to meet every need.
If we want to Do What Jesus Did then we are going to have to be willing to involve ourselves in the lives of others. Compassion requires action—it means we will have to be willing to get close enough to people to truly understand what they are experiencing—and then be willing to experience it with them.
Jesus was committed to TRUTH He cleansed the temple because people were using God’s house for their own gain.
We need to do the same. If Jesus spoke out in defence of the truth then we need to “Do What Jesus Did” and be willing to take a stand for what is right. However, we must not become so focused on what we might characterize the “evil” of the world that we forget that it was the “religious” people who took the majority of Jesus’ criticism. If there is anything that the Church needs today it is people willing to hold one another accountable, to deal with our own hypocrisy before we try to deal with the problems of the world.
Jesus was committed to TEACHING. Whether addressing curious crowds or the committed core, Jesus took advantage of every teachable moment. He was always helping people discover God. He lived and spoke the truth, a perfect expression of God’s character. He came as a living example of Gods love
Many of us do not consider ourselves teachers. If we don’t stand in a pulpit on Sunday or lead a study during the week, we may be tempted to think this aspect of Jesus’ life doesn’t apply to us. That isn’t the case. We all teach, if not specifically through formal instruction, certainly through our conversations and through our example.
Benjamin Franklin learned that plaster sown in the fields would make things grow. He told his neighbors, but they did not believe him and they argued with him. They felt that plaster could be of no use at all to grass or grain.
After a little while he allowed the matter to drop and said no more about it. But he went into the field early the next spring and sowed some grain. Close by the path, where men would walk, he traced some letters with his finger and put plaster into them and then sowed his seed in the field.
After a week or two the seed sprang up. His neighbors, as they passed that way, were very much surprised to see, in brighter green than all the rest of the field, the writing in large letters, “This has been plastered.” Benjamin Franklin did not need to argue with his neighbors any more about the benefit of plaster for the fields. For as the season went on and the grain grew, these bright, green letters just rose up above all the rest until they were a kind of relief-plate in the field—”This has been plastered.”
The life of Jesus shows us that teaching doesn’t demand an outline with three points that begin with the same letter. Teaching simply requires being so filled with God’s Word that it naturally overflows from our lives into the lives of those around us.
Jesus was committed to SERVANTHOOD. Service marked Jesus’ life from start to finish. He served through sacrifice, putting the needs of others above his own. At the last supper, he put on a towel and washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:2-17).
Jesus was committed to EQUIPPING OTHERS. Finally, Jesus demonstrated God’s character by equipping leaders who continued his mission and changed the world after his departure. He refused to let the ministry pressures of today stop him from identifying and investing in the leaders of tomorrow. From the beginning of His ministry Jesus began training and equipping a small group of followers who would be responsible for carrying on His work when He was gone.
By living as the example shown to us by the life of Jesus, we may then be an example to others
What does in mean to “Do What Jesus Did?” The seven characteristics that we have looked at should give us a clue. The fad of WWJD may one day end, but we need hold on DWJD, “Doing What Jesus Did” on a day to day basis. So we may in turn influence and be an example to others of what it is to be apart of the United Church.
—a sample packet (of shampoo, biscuits, etc. like you get in the mail.)
—a math textbook showing examples at the beginning of each lesson.
Show your sample package and ask if anyone has gotten something like that in the mail. Sometimes
when we are in a shopping mall, grocery store or at a fair, people give out “samples.” Has
that ever happened to you? Why do they do that? (Look inside the math textbook at the examples.)
Why do they put the example there?
A long time ago God looked at our world and saw that we just didn’t seem to be able to live
together as God wanted us to. God realized that maybe we needed an example, like in that math
book, to help us learn how we were meant to live. Do you know what the example was that God
gave to us? What things did Jesus do?
In our Bible we have a letter that Paul wrote to some people who went to church in Corinth.
They had asked about whether they had to follow certain food rules. Paul didn’t tell them
specifically what they should or shouldn’t do. He just suggested that they be a good example
to those around them. Has anyone ever suggested that you be an example to others? When was
that? (Use examples from your own childhood if children need help to understand this.)
Today in church school you will hear the about how Jesus taught and healed people and
how the disciples learned from his example. Some of you will read a Bible story about how
Jesus helped a man that everyone else was afraid of because he had an unusual disease. It will
be another example for us to learn from.
God made us. We are creatures made in the Creator’s image. Christ has redeemed us. We are a people forgiven and blessed. The Spirit sustains us. We are open to the future with confidence and hope. Be assured that wherever you are and whatever you do, God is there to bless your pathway and guide your way home. Thanks be to God!
Loving God who sent your son Jesus Christ to the world to proclaim, I am the Way, Thank you for showing us the way we ought to go. Who said, I am the Truth, Thank you for showing us the truth we ought to know. Who said, I am the Life, Thank you for showing us what real life is. We thank you for our community our family and friends. We thank you for the opportunity that you present to us each day that we may be an example to others.
God whose name is Compassion, We pray this day for those who do not know compassion: The children who hunger. The bereaved who mourn. The prisoners who are isolated. The institutionalized who are alone. The depressed who are fearful. God whose name is Compassion, Transform us ‘til our name is your name. God whose name is Mercy, We pray for those who do not experience the world as a merciful place: For those who wrestle with the demons of their past. For those whose worth is measured in productivity and profit. For those who are victimized by violence. For those who are trapped in addictions. For those who live in relationships of terror. God whose name is Mercy, Transform us ‘til our name is your name.
God of compassion and caring, we pray for those that we hold in our hearts that we now name aloud:
Source of all light, we praise you for the wisdom of your Word and the hope of your promises. With all your saints, on earth and in heaven, we commit ourselves to the dawning of your new age, we pray together as we were taught by saying Our Father....
The blessing of God be on us now and stay with us always. Let us go our as an example to others by following the example of our faith. May the Grace of Christ, the love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen
Prayer of Confession:
Creator God, we confess that sometimes we are not doing what we should do, and being who we should be. We confess that sometimes we are lazy, and this stops us from doing the work we should be doing, or taking the stands that we should be taking. That sometimes we are selfish keeping us from giving the service we should give. Please grant wisdom of mind; strength of will; and devotion of heart, that we may not desire to do anything except the things that please you: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.