“Choose the color”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Isaiah 26:1-4, 8-9, 12-13, 19-21
Revelation 21:9-11, 22-27, 22:1-5
Matthew 5:1-12

A young college student sold magazines door-to-door one summer. He was lame from a boyhood accident and walked with difficulty. At one house, a woman quickly turned him down. As he turned and walked away she noticed his handicap and called out: “I didn’t realize you were crippled; I’ll buy a magazine.” He responded, “I’m not selling sympathy. I’m selling subscriptions.” “Well,” she said, doesn’t being lame color your life?” He replied, “Yes, but I can choose the color.”

Some things we can choose and some we can’t. People with an upbeat outlook, like the student above, have discovered the difference. We can’t choose to be short or tall any more than the young man could choose not to be lame, but we can choose how these externals color our attitudes, behavior and life.

This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. The Festival of All Saints annually falls on Nov. 1. It began as a remembrance of all the martyrs who made the supreme witness to Christ. It has become a celebration of all our brothers and sisters who have died marked with the sign of faith, who now serve in the Church Triumphant.

When I was in college, a professor said that, while he feared dying, he was not afraid of death. He added that he actually looked forward to hearing the Lord’s trumpets playing Bach’s “Judgment Day Cantata.” Another student interrupted: “Bach never wrote a ‘Judgment Day Cantata!'” The professor smiled and said, “He’s writing it now.” As I write these words I have a picture in my mind of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and others gathered around a heavenly piano while, over in the corner, Bing Crosby hums the part for the rest of the bass section.

How do you suppose you will be serving in the eternal habitations? I guess I’ll be out of a job! I can’t imagine a need for a missionary or preacher of the Gospel. If one would be needed, I would be way down near the bottom of a list of candidates starting with Saints Paul, Peter, Luther, etc. There will be no undiscipled to disciple, uncommitted to motivate, sick to visit, etc.! (Say, Bing, could you use another bass?)

Oh well, I don’t have time to wonder about that right now — I’m still here and I have plenty to do. On this side of the Gate, there are billions of non-saints as well as uninvolved, under committed, poorly informed or under motivated saints. Actually, those adjectives probably fit all of us at one time or another. Periodically we all need something ranging from a word of encouragement to a good swift kick in the motivations.

For Gospel-centered Christians, this can be somewhat difficult. When you get right down to it, in the Lord’s Service there are no volunteers. God’s message in the Scriptures is clear — “You did not choose me; I chose you!” The call to discipleship is a free gift of God’s grace, and so is the ability to serve. We have everything going for us — God’s gracious love is all the motive we could ever need and He has given us the ability to accomplish whatever He has in mind for us to do. Yet, taken as a whole, with everything going for us very little comes from us.

Someone has said that it is a wonder God can keep His sanity. Imagine a parent, with billions of gifted children, receiving their report cards. They all come in with “A’s” in motivation and ability, but only a scant few have “C” or better in performance. Very few fail, but most perform at a “D-minus” level. What happens between the “A” and the “D”? A marvelous little word picture says that you and I and three crosses are in between, and only by the grace of God does eternity follow. It looks likes this: AttituDe.

When Joe Torre managed the Mets, he offered a three-year contract to a veteran player in his late thirties, named Rusty Staub. The wisdom of this decision was questioned and Joe replied, “Rusty still says, `Hey, I want to play,’ instead of `Aw, I got to play.'” An upbeat outlook makes a big difference in our performances.

A story is told in big sky country, about a small party of prospectors who struck it rich in the gold fields near Bannock, Montana. After months of hardship and difficulty, they discovered a huge vein of gold, but they needed more equipment to mine it. On the way to town each miner swore by his life not to reveal their secret. Yet, when they returned, 300 other gold seekers followed them. Had someone broken his vow? No, their beaming faces had betrayed their secret. God has revealed the treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, the Golden City to you and me. Has the message reached our faces, demeanor, attitude and behavior?

I’m not talking about false optimism or fake enthusiasm. I don’t know about you, but I am already tired of the election campaigns. Even over the television the glad hands and plastic smiles of some politicians leave a bad taste in my mouth. I read a fascinating word for it once — “saccarinity.” With practically no exceptions, every candidate tells us to vote for him or her for the same reason: “I am not as bad as my opponent.” We are not told what anybody is good for. Sometimes, in addition to candidates A and B, I’d like the choice of C — “None of the above.”

All kinds of circumstances color our lives, but we can still choose the color. We can also choose our priorities. Someone once said that we have the racquet and the ball is in our court. It is time to decide when, where, and how we will serve.

The famous Scopes “Monkey trial” lawyer, Clarence Darrow, was asked to give a message to the younger generation. According to the news report he said, “If I were a young person, with life ahead of me, I think I’d chuck it all, the way things are now. The odds are too great against you, and anyway, the world is all wrong nowadays. I certainly have no encouragement for the young bloods that are just starting out looking for jobs. The sooner they jump out of windows, the sooner they’ll find peace.”

Contrast that statement from the renowned atheist with one from Paul, the renowned man of faith, in his Letter to the Philippians. By the world’s standards, Darrow hasn’t a care in the world. Sitting in the lap of luxury, he says mourn with me. St. Paul, sitting in jail, says rejoice with me. Paul’s faith changed the color of his world.

To Paul, the most important thing was that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed. Proclaiming Jesus cost Paul dearly — spell that “deadly.” Jesus said: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus said it; Paul lived it. But Jesus lived it first.

Jesus laid down His life for us because of His Father’s love for us. It is God’s will that all people would be saved, that all His lost children would be found. That colored every part of Jesus’ attitude, words and life. He gave His life to make it possible.

How does your faith in Jesus color your attitude and life? He has entrusted His mission to us now. I think the color looks good on you.

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