2019 Advent Devo: The Jesus Way

“You know those days when you wake up and you think, ‘I want to help someone today’? My friend says this casually, leaning into the phone like we’re sitting across the table.  She continues, as if our hearts beat the same. “Well, yesterday I woke up like that, so I got up, got dressed, got in my car, and I drove around looking for someone who needed help.”

I pause the video message, hearing a pulse discordant from but more strident than my own, a voice I recognize as the voice of the Spirit:  This is the Jesus Way.  For a split second it seems absurd, this notion that my friend, who is physically petite but spiritually magnanimous, or “great-souled,” would allow her day to be so wind-tossed.  But the Spirit is a wind, the gust of God’s breath, and disciples of Jesus are servants living to serve.

In Luke 22, Jesus and his disciples–the betrayer among them–gather around a table celebrating the grace of God through the Passover feast.  Maybe minutes after Jesus offers them bread and wine; maybe minutes after Jesus explains that these emblems represent his own broken and given body and blood, his own self-sacrifice; maybe minutes after Jesus reveals the presence of a betrayer; the disciples argue about who among them is greatest.  The irony of course is that most of s read this and inwardly sneer at Judas. Loving Jesus with Peter-like passion, we want to chase Judas from the table. We feel, if we’re honest, the temptation to believe that we would not betray Jesus.  Centuries later, we dive with the apostles into the discussion of which of us will be the greatest, and through the Spirit, Jesus warns us of our own betrayals like He warned Peter.  The entire experience, from Jesus’ reconceived Passover to the concurrent foot washing the apostle John also shares, proclaims a new Kingdom and pivots on Jesus’ perfect expression of Godly Kingship.  Right at the Passover table, Jesus redefines royalty:

Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.  Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves (Luke 22:25-27).’”

So this thing my friend does, it’s what royals do in the Kingdom of Jesus.  They wake up wanting to serve and go looking for the opportunities God prepares in advance (Ephesians 2:10).  I watch the video and smile; my friend’s eyes sparkle with love.

“First, I saw this older gentleman struggling to walk down the road on the opposite side,” she says, remembering.  “Two other men were trying to help him, but they were all struggling, and I thought, ‘Maybe I just need to pick that man up and drive him where he needs to go.’”

Her words sound reckless, and I feel myself wanting to save her life, this life my friend’s okay to lose.  But my friend, she’s as courageous as her wide, Spirit-led faith.

She laughs out loud, tucking errant strands of hair behind her ear, continuing. “But by the time I turned my car around, the men were gone.  I don’t know where they went, but I thought, ‘Okay, maybe they’re not the ones today.’ At our library, I almost always see a few homeless people hanging around, so I decided to stop by the grocery store on my way over.  I bought some apples, some granola bars, and some water, and I went to see who might be at the library that I could help with a little food.”

I smile, watching her, thinking this relentlessness must be the difference between disciples who serve because the Spirit makes them like their King and those of us still trying to make the leap on our own.  Jesus keeps company with people who need something. I think I might have followed Him out the door and then, having lost sight of that struggling old man, checked the day’s box on servanthood. But my friend leans into the Spirit, waiting for Him to send her home.  Jesus came to serve.  My friend, she lives to serve.

“I got to the library and couldn’t find a single homeless person hanging around.  There’s always someone.  I thought, ‘Where is everyone today?’ So I looked and looked, and finally, just a little hidden behind some bushes, I saw one old man hanging out.  So I went over and talked to him for a while. He was the most delightful, joyful man, and we had such a good time. Finally, I said, ‘Would you like something to eat?  I have these granola bars and some apples and some water.’ And he said, ‘Honey, I don’t have a tooth left in my head. I can’t bite into apples or granola bars anymore.  But thank you for offering!’”

I smile, thinking that as she spoke, all I could see was that man’s smile, not the toothless mouth to which he confessed.  All I could see was what my friend saw: someone to love. My friend, she laughs, taken up with the fact that this joyful homeless man was also not the one she was meant to serve that day.  And yet, I listen wondering how much she served him just by setting aside her day to stop and talk, just by acknowledging him as someone significant to Christ.

I am among you as one who serves.  Jesus left his home and came to us–the homeless, the lost, the needy.

My friend, she tried one more time that day before God sent her home.  Catching sight of a panhandler at a stoplight, my friend rolled down her window and offered granola bars, apples, and water.  And the panhandler peered in the window, sweaty faced and tired, and said, “You might have poisoned that food! No, I won’t take it.”

My friend leans toward the camera, grinning, lifting her arms in a shrug.  Her hands are open, empty, lifted to God. She would surrender herself–her time, her agenda, her possessions.  Incredulous, she sighs. “I don’t know; I just couldn’t give that food away today.” I think of Peter, resisting that foot washing.  I think of all the ones I know who still won’t be served by Christ. I shake my head at the phone, even though my friend can’t see. Nothing we do for Christ is ever in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and the Jesus way, the cross-shaped way, is the only way for disciples of Jesus.  My friend, she lives the Advent; she comes and comes again, leaving home to serve the broken, whether they’ll receive her gift or not.

You are loved!
Elysa Henegar