Are You Ready, Friend?

I was all set to go. You know the feeling. Then somethin' happens. Like, say… life. Oh, the Spirit moved me in mid-summer to get this morning's message goin'… in a certain way. And then… wouldn't you know it, life happened. Let me say I hardly know a soul-on-earth more prepared to live today and die tomorrow than my friend, Calvin Williams. To me, he's an angel in waiting. So when he had to cancel his speaking with us yesterday because he's unwell, I was disappointed. His heart's the big issue. But Calvin's Calvin. "It'll be OK," he said, " 'Cause I'm gonna be walkin' with Jesus however it goes." Then somebody came to see me. 'Wonderful office visit. But a need expressed. "I was so struck by how certain so-in-so was that they're goin' to a better place. I wanna have that assurance too." And then a phone call while I was writing this message. 'Lovely person. Little ones at home. 'Asking for a place to start the Spirit-journey for the family. I was all ready to write. But life happened! I know we need to go another way today, you and I. We have this question that needs askin'.

Are you ready? Well, are you? I mean, really? You, _____? You, ______? Surely somebody oughta ask, "Ready for what?" Here's my answer. 'Ready to go up the mountain with Jesus, just like Peter, James and John. 'Ready to come down again, just like Jesus said we must. 'And ready to come to the Table of the Bread and the Cup, knowing that it's true, "We are what we eat." 'And knowing that Jesus says, "This bread is my body, broken for you. This cup, my blood, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of Sin." So here's the thing. Are you ready?

Are you ready to go up the mountain with Jesus, just like Peter, James and John? There's some stuff you need to know before you answer. Even with Jesus, it's an uphill climb. You'll have to lean into it, lean forward, shift your weight from heel to toe. And you'll likely have to separate yourself from what's familiar, and keep a new and different kind of company. You'll need to keep your eyes and ears open, 'cause stuff's gonna' come clear to you… unimagined in your wildest dreams. And it's gonna knock you off your feet for a while. It's gonna be…awesome!

If you want a mountaintop experience, if you're open to one, climbing's gonna be in your future. It's one thing to listen and learn the stories of Jesus. You can do that in the valley, or on the plain. Lots of folks do. It leaves us vaguely religious and politely Christian. But it doesn't change us in a radical way or assure us against all fear, uncertainty or pain. For that, two things are required. You need to get apart awhile to see things in your life from heaven's perspective. ('Like lookin' down from a high place to see the real size and relationship of things below.) And you need to spend a little energy-of-soul to get to that higher ground with Jesus.

These things don't earn us salvation somehow. But they do open us to it. They help us, as Calvin says, "walk with Jesus." In another church, I had a fireman friend. When he entered the stationhouse, fellas gathered 'round, just to be with him. They were a salty bunch. Their language, too. That all changed when my friend came near. When the question was the right thing to do, they turned to him. If you had to know there was a man behind you on the hose in a fire, he's the one they all wanted. I asked him about all this once. Quietly he said, in so many words, " 'Wasn't always this way. I sounded, looked, acted, felt, like everybody else. I wanted it that way. But I wanted to be near to God and Jesus more. I found out going with Jesus was uphill, and steep sometimes. I knew I'd have to leave some of the old me behind to be new in Jesus. Somehow, as I got more with him (not that I don't have a long way to go, mind you), the guys wanted to be with me more. Because I was changed, a little rubbed off on them, I guess." Jesus invited my friend to come to higher ground with him. He's giving you the same invitation today. What do you need to leave behind to come with him? Maybe who? What habits? What treasures… that are not? What energy-of-soul will you need to be with Jesus on the mountaintop?

At the very least, open eyes and ears. They saw who Jesus was, in the company of Moses and Elijah…Jesus, the giver of a new law. Jesus, the Prophet of Grace (forgiveness). And they heard the voice of God. "This is my son. Listen to him." Maybe the scene on the mountain's a little hard to grasp. It was, even then. But from heaven's vantage point, it may be a more difficult miracle to get regular folks to watch and listen than to get ancient heroes to appear once more. Are you willing to be a miracle of God in Jesus Christ, beginning today. Here's where you start: watch and listen!

Are you ready to come down again, just like Jesus said we must? And fully aware of the time. My thanks to Sandy Thomas. From her pulpit she reminded me years ago of how fond we all are of the "high places" in our religious and personal lives. The day I first knew, really knew, Christ died and rose for me. The first time I took up a ministry for him. Those signal moments when some new glimpse, or sign, or sense of him came to me. I wanna stay at times and places like these. How about you? Peter sure did. 'Offered to make camp on the mountain. It's like we remember the days our kids were born, and prefer them to the days we held their heads when ill. Who wouldn't wanna stay at that feeling on the day you graduated, compared to the fourth week you were out looking for a job? Jesus says on the mountain, "Oh, this is good, but not our calling. The work is in the valley and on the plain. So let's get up and get to it!" First, know, deep in your heart, all that Christ is and does, is for you! Then, know it's not for you alone. Knowing who he is compels us to follow where he's going.

And look what he says about the time. He says, "Don't tell about this vision of my glory 'til after the resurrection day!" So let me ask you. What time is it, right now? (Ans.) And the date? Ahhh, you missed a part. It's the 2005th year of our Lord! Turns out we're livin', you and me, in the days after the resurrection! 'Know what that means? We have permission to tell everybody, everywhere about what we have seen and heard of Jesus, whatever the mountaintop times we've had with him. In fact, we have more than permission. We have a command straight from the lips of Jesus to do just this! It's our calling to reveal Jesus. To represent/re-present Jesus. It's the great imperative, the most urgent effort of our lives. Let's put it another way today. In a way we can say and see and taste and tell.

Oh, friend, are you ready to come to the Table of the Bread and the Cup, knowing that it's true, "We are what we eat?" We have this young fellow Linda and I and others will interview next week, to certify him as a probationary pastor. When I see him, I'm going to thank him for his sample communion sermon title, "We Are What We Eat." I'd never thought of it in so sharp a term before. When we take in the bread today, in some marvelous, mysterious way the church has sought to explain for centuries, Jesus literally enters into us. It's not so much up to us to understand or explain it, as it is to live it! When we drink from the cup, some way, way beyond comprehending, the lifeblood of Jesus infuses our life's blood, not just coursing the arteries and veins. Nope, this goes right to the capillaries and nourishes every fiber of our being. When you come to the table today, come prayerfully. Come asking, "Lord, make me ready for this." If you want to, hum the little tune,
Lord, prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living sanctuary for you.
Why, it's in our bones and in our blood,
in our hearts and in our hands.

Desire a certain faith? Jesus offers it to all of us. But if we want the highest moments, we'll need to be ready to head up the mountain with him. Some exertion will be required. We'll need to leave behind, much that's comfortable and familiar for the sake of what's sacred and saving. So be ready, keep your eyes and ears, and hearts wide open. Be prepared to come down from the high places to take up his name and his work wherever you are. And be prepared for more than mere nourishment at his table. 'Turns out, a new you is waiting to be served and to serve.

Are you ready?

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