Our family is in Wichita for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was able to preach at GracePoint Church, where I was on staff before we moved to Atlanta. It’s a great church with a fun group of people.
They were in the middle of a series called “Whatever It Takes” sharing about the important traits of a member of a church: serving, giving, and attending. Pastor Mike and Pastor Terry wanted me to try to bring that series to a close and help the transition to the Advent series.
I tried to flip the theme for the last sermon: instead of us working on doing whatever it takes for God’s sake, what if God could also do “whatever it takes” for our sake?
Part of God doing whatever it takes is to place us in situations that are tough, but necessary for our growth. It might be difficult for God to see us struggle, but God is patient, trusts the process for transformation, even the difficult moments.
I made mention of Matthew 25, Jesus’ last parable of the sheep and the goats. It’s a stunning parable and I find that it is interesting that Matthew puts it at the end of the Jesus’ parable discourses. Robert Farrar Capon suggests that Jesus’ parables in Matthew go through an important flow:
Parables of God’s Kingdom Arriving
Parables of Grace
Parables of Judgment
The last parable in Matthew 25, then, has a peculiar shape to it. If you recall, those who enter God’s kingdom do because they fit a certain criteria:
They feed the king when he was hungry
Gave the king something to drink when he was thirsty
Welcomed the king in when he was a stranger
Clothed him when he was naked
Looked after him when he was sick
Visited him when he was in prison
All of which sounded absurd when the crowd heard it. I mean, when do you see a king in a food line needing some food, right?
The king said, “Whatever you did for the least of these, you also did for me.”
The crowd was unaware of God’s presence in the midst of God’s absence. The deeds that they performed were not out of obligation, but because it was the right thing to do. They weren’t anxious workers at a bank branch preparing for a visit from the district manager. Their deeds were “without why.”
“Without why” is seeking to live before God without conditions; the unconditional. Think of a rose… is there a functional reason for a rose? We can’t eat them; they don’t have a long life span.
But, can you imagine life without the rose?
The rose lets us consider how life does not have to be mechanical or only measured on pragmatic scales. The rose exists in doxology, or as Paul would say, “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely… think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
Think about the things that you enjoy doing but have often thought about not doing because you think no one notices: putting a piece of trash from the ground into the nearby dumpster, putting your neighbor’s trash can next to their home, holding the door for strangers, etc. It doesn’t seem like much, but God seems to be near deeds done with great love, even if their motivation is “without why.”
Maybe the world will be won by multitudes of without why deeds, small threads of goodness that hold together a fragile world bent towards hate and violence?