Tired of the cold yet? Allow me to transport you from the biting chill of a Southeast Alaska winter to the balmy climes of the Middle East. Northern Israel, Galilee to be precise. A little more than two thousand years ago.
Amid the long shadows and sizzling sand of a late summer afternoon, Jesus and His followers have just returned home to their northern center of operations, Capernaum - another influential city on the water. It's been a demanding day of ministry to the people, walking the hard, hot byways of Galilee, teaching His equally hard-headed disciples. Anticipating the cool of the house, it's time to freshen up, relax and reflect.
After a customary greeting and blessing, Jesus enjoys a welcome ladle of water from the cistern. The liquid still dripping from His beard, He crosses the inornate threshold.
Relieved from the throbbing sunlight, He asks over His shoulder, "What were you guys arguing about earlier today while we were on the road?"
Embarrassed, no one says a word as they shuffle in. Young John looks down at his own feet self consciously. James, his brother, reddens and squirms uncomfortably. The others hold their tongues, none bold enough to fess up.
Jesus pauses a moment, considers, then kneels to sit on a haphazardly folded blanket next to the low table. Avoiding the intense orange sunbeam creeping across the dirt floor toward His calf, He bids, "Come and sit with me."
His friends awkwardly comply.
"I know it's tempting to want to be first in the eyes of others all the time. But in the kingdom of God, the value system is different. The ones who push their way to the head of the line end up being last and a servant of all the others."
Gently lifting a toddler, a tot who had wandered over to the group, Jesus tells His friends how important it is to be childlike - but not childish - in their relationship to their fellow man and heavenly Father.
Eager to change the subject, the impulsive young John blurts out that he had recently seen someone doing good in Jesus' name, but who wasn't part of their close-knit group, implying that this was certainly wrong and should be stopped.
Patiently, Jesus offers a soft rebuke and reminds His flock that there is no place for narrow exclusivism in His family.
Back here in Juneau, I pray Jesus' words about warmly embracing our fellow followers, regardless of denomination, tradition, or style would melt our cold, childish attitudes toward others who also work miracles in His name.
Tired of the cold yet?
Mark Everett is senior pastor of RealLife Church in Juneau. For more information, visit www.reallifefoursquare.org.
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