July/August. High summer. Hot days with high humidity leaves a body feeling listless. Makes it hard to focus on kingdom priorities. What to do? Fight it? Stay only in an air conditioned environment? Or realise it’s part of summer in Canada and it definitely won’t last forever? After all, as Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (3.1-8 TNIV)
So what is summer the time for? In many cultures it’s harvest time. For some of us here it still is. For others it means school’s out, summer jobs, summer camps, perhaps some holidays with family, a little travel maybe. A change in the tempo of life allows us to be a little more reflective than at other times of the year. Time, maybe, to look at the priorities that have dictated the rhythm of the rest of the year. Whose priorities have I been pursuing? My own, or the priorities of the Kingdom, Jesus’ priorities? That’s a tough question, because as a follower of Jesus I would like to think that my priorities and Jesus’ are one and the same. For most of the year in the rough and tumble of a reasonably busy life, and without much time for reflection, the question usually goes unanswered. So when the tempo slows for a couple of months, what am I going to do with this time that I could use (if I so chose) to try and answer it.
It seems pretty clear that Jesus’ priority for us is disciple making. Making the kind of disciples who obey all that Jesus has taught us. Now I find it much easier to agree with all that Jesus taught us than to actually obey it. It seems that Jesus is really not interested in people who merely agree with him: he actually wants us to put his teaching into action. Why else would he end his major teaching sessions in both Matthew and Luke with the cautionary tale of two house builders?
In the old days, when sound recordings were made on two inch wide magnetic tape, using sixteen or thirty-two track tape machines, each day the sound engineer had to realign the recording heads of the machines so that the different tracks were synchronised. If they didn’t do this banal task, the recordings made would be out of phase with the ones made the previous day and the work would be wasted. Summer gives us the opportunity, both individually and as members of communities of followers of Jesus to re-calibrate, to re-align ourselves and our communities with the values and priorities of the Kingdom.
Unfortunately, disciple making is not a quick and easy pursuit. It is better thought about in terms of the whole of life and lifelong discipleship of Jesus. We never graduate from being a disciple: we will be forever learning, forever striving to become more like the one we follow. Discipleship is not a program, nor a course—though both of these can be helpful—but it describes the relationship between us and the one we follow. So even though knowledge, understanding, and wisdom are necessary, they cannot exist apart from the discipleship relationship if we are to be able to claim that we are followers of Jesus. It is the extent to which we are becoming like Jesus that seems to matter in the Kingdom.
Now, all this introspection could easily become morbid and depressing. The Apostle Paul helpfully provides the perspective that lifts the weight from our shoulders, when he expresses his confidence “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Yes, we are very much God’s work in progress, so it’s never all down to me. Rather, we are expected to cooperate with God’s work in us and not obstruct it.
So, how about using some of this down time (if indeed we have some) to do some realigning, to test ourselves, to see if our lives are “in line with the truth of the gospel,” and if we find there has been some “slippage” to make some course corrections and attempt to get back on track?