03 Nov Something beautiful for God
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8 (MSG).
This week we mark the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing 95 theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This is often considered the start of the Christian Reformation, which was a pivotal moment in the history of Christianity, and this week millions of Christians around the world have marked this moment. Luther’s main contention was that salvation is obtained by grace through faith, not by works. Today, in The Salvation Army it is our lived experience that the life saved by grace through faith expresses itself in relationship with God and as a partner with him in His mission. Saved to serve so that others may be saved. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10).
Martin Luther was indeed one of the more influential people who has shaped modern history. And when I think of influential figures of our time, I think about those with characteristics such as courage, energy, grace and adaptability. But one of the characteristics that is seldom mentioned is the ability for people to ‘connect’. That is, to identify with people and relate to them in such a way that increases one’s influence.
Our movement has produced countless ‘connectors’ who have influenced our world for the better and advanced the Kingdom of God. Whilst this week has been all about the reformation and Martin Luther, it has been one particular woman of God who was a born ‘connector’ who has captured my thinking. Promoted to glory in 1997, this woman worked in Kolkata, India. She wore a white sari with a blue border that enclosed her deeply lined face. She served the poor in the most remarkable ways for a long period of time, was celebrated by world leaders and transcended political and social constructs. This woman was Mother Teresa.
What prompted my thinking about Mother Teresa was an article I recently read about one of the catalysts of her ascent to international influence. It was in an interview with the BBC’s Malcolm Muggeridge from 1967, which gave a spotlight to this saint of the slums on the global stage. Muggeridge was a religious sceptic, with little appreciation for the work Mother Teresa was doing with the destitute of Kolkata. Throughout the course of her dialogue with Muggeridge, she made a deep and profound impact on this man. In many ways, Mother Teresa transformed him to believe that the cheerfulness she and her sisters in Christ had for their ministry was both utterly genuine and wonderful and one that gave this man no other choice than to tell her story to the world. She said to Malcolm: “Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
In John’s gospel we read about how Jesus washed the feet of His Disciples. Jesus took off his robe and used it as a towel to wash his Disciples’ feet, whilst they protested that they should be the ones washing His. He said, “I am doing this to set an example for you.” Nothing He said could have had as much power as watching him do this humble deed.
And it is the example of selflessness and sacrifice of Mother Teresa’s life that implores us ourselves to do “something beautiful for God.” We, The Salvation Army in Australia, are doing everything in our power to do exactly what Paul’s letter to the Philippians states above. Being true. Acting nobly. Retaining our reputation. Being wholly authentic. Maintaining our conviction. Remaining always gracious. All factors that resemble the characteristics of a movement uniting to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.
This week Tracey and I are travelling to the United States to spend time with family before attending The Salvation Army’s International Conference of Leaders. The conference, hosted by General Andre Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox, will consider a range of practical, moral, ethical and theological issues, providing a shared platform from which the International Salvation Army can continue to fulfill its mission into the future. We will count it a privilege to share with leaders from around the Army world an update of the great and new things God is doing in and through His Army in Australia as we become one Territory.
Friends, together we share this once in a lifetime opportunity to unite The Salvation Army in Australia so that we can live, love and fight alongside others now and for the next 130 years, continuing to see lives transformed as partners in His mission. Saved and ready to serve that others may be saved! Let’s do something beautiful for God today.