Soul Prints #2
I opened with a video on the life of tightrope walker Charles Blondin.
What was it that caused the crowd to suddenly go silent and no hand go up? Was it the roar of the Falls? Was it the 1,100 foot chasm? Was it the 160 foot drop? They’d seen Blondin cross it at least half a dozen times? What was it that made the crowd go silent when Blondin asked who wanted a ride?
Today we continue with our series Soul Prints. Last week we talked about how, just like leaving fingerprints, we all leave Soul Prints, lasting impressions of our faith which speak of our legacy and faithfulness as Disciples Jesus Christ. Today we’re going to look at one major ingredient, one of the key ingredients which we need to be faithful Disciples. It was such a key ingredient that this word, along with the two others in our series, adorned John Wesley’s signet ring.
What words could be so important, so influential that John Wesley would chose to wear them each day and use them on every wax seal he made? It was the words Believe, Love, Obey. They summed up for Mr. Wesley what being a Disciple was all about. Let’s look at the passage from Luke 8:40-56.
 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him.
 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house,
 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. As he went, the crowds pressed in on him.
 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her.
 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.
 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.”
 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.”
 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.
 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.”
 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.”
 When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother.
 They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.”
 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.
 But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!”
 Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat.
 Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
It’s true, John Wesley’s signet ring had these three words inscribed on it. In one of the Methodist History books it’s said that he used to tell his preachers to “Stir them up to Believe, Love, Obey.”
I’ve always thought that these three words should be the mission statement of the church. Our purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s our purpose. That’s every church’s purpose, no matter what denomination. Matthew 28:19-20 makes that pretty clear. Those were the last words Jesus spoke to the disciples.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Almost every Sunday I welcome you by saying, we are a community of Grace seeking to become and making disciples for the transformation of the world by trying to live as Jesus taught. For me those aren’t just empty words. I think they sum up our purpose and mission as a church and as individual Xns.
Our purpose is to make Disciples but our mission is to become faithful Disciples. And order to do that we have to Believe, Love and Obey in such a way as to allow us and others to fulfill our purpose and live out our mission. It’s that living out of our mission as we seek to be faithful which leaves the Soul Prints behind. Let’s look at the word Believe and how it plays into all of this.
A. I carry a lot of strange images and thought in my head and make these weird connections at times and for whatever reason, whenever I hear or think about the word believe, I think of Cowardly Lion as Dorothy and all the others are getting ready to enter the Haunted Forest. They tell him there’s no such thing as spooks and then something strange happens and he’s standing there shaking in his fur, hanging onto his tail with his eyes closed saying, “I do believe in spooks. I do! I do! I do!”
Belief is very important part of Discipleship. For Wesley it was one of the foundations upon which Discipleship was built. When the woman with the hemorrhage touched the hem of Jesus’ robe, she did so because she believed that Jesus was her last chance to be healed and made whole. When Jairus came to Jesus because his daughter was sick and dying it was because he believed Jesus could heal her.
When they turned to go to Jairus’ home, after the woman was healed, friends stopped them and basically said, “Don’t bother, your daughter’s already dead.” But when Jesus heard them what did he say: “Do not fear, only believe.” Jairus did believe and because of his belief, his daughter was raised from the dead and given new life. Belief is a powerful thing.
B. The Wesley’s knew this. It was extremely important to the John and Charles Wesley. They didn’t want people to just have a heart-warming experience with Jesus. They wanted to take the warmth and glow of that experience and harness it for the Kingdom of God by using it to transform the life of the individual so that individual COULD become a Disciple formed and shaped in the very image of Christ.
John Wesley believed in those words and that process so much that he chose to have those three words to describe and emphasize the process. In order to remind himself and everyone else how important they were, he had those three words, along with his initials, engraved on his signet ring; the ring he used to mark the wax seal on all correspondence.
We talk sometimes about how we put our faith into action through our Head, Hearts and Hands. Well, Believe, Love, Obey correspond and those three words. They are actually the way in which Belief, Love and Obedience are lived out in the world. We Believe with our Head, Love with our Hearts and Obey with our Hands.
A. But there’s more to it than just a simple head nod. It’s more than just a simple intellectual agreement. There are a lot of people who believe in Jesus but they don’t believe Jesus. There’s a big big difference.
Ken Davis has a book with the intriguing title I DON’T REMEMBER DROPPING THE SKUNK, BUT I DO REMEMBER TRYING TO BREATHE. In it he tells about an assignment he was given in college to teach a class as creatively as possible. He decided to teach the law of the pendulum, a law of physics that states that a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it is released. If you put a ball on the end of a string and release it so that it is free to swing, when it returns it can’t go any higher than the point from which you released it. In fact, because of friction and gravity, it will fall short of the release point. Each time it swings, the arc gets smaller and smaller until it finally comes to rest. Ken used all kinds of diagrams, mathematical formulas, and models to teach the law of the pendulum to the class, and he could tell by the look on the teacher’s face that the teacher thought he had done well.
When Ken finished, he asked the class how many believed in the law of the pendulum. All hands flew up, including the teacher’s. The teacher thought the lesson was over at this point–but it had just started. Ken asked his teacher to come to the front of the room and sit in a chair placed against the wall. Suspended from the ceiling Ken had rigged 250 pounds of weight-lifting disks. This was a big pendulum. Ken brought the 250 pounds of metal right up to the teacher’s nose and said, “If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of where I am holding it now. Your nose will still look like it does right now.”
Ken looked his teacher right in the eye and said, “Sir, do you believe this law is true?”
There was a long pause as great drops of sweat formed on his teacher’s upper lip. Then weakly, his teacher nodded and whispered, “Yes.”
Ken released the pendulum. At the far end of its arc it paused momentarily and then started back. Ken says he has never seen a man move so fast in his life!
Carefully, Ken stepped around the still-swinging pendulum and asked the class, “Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?”
And in unison they all answered, “No!”
Ken’s professor understood the law, but he was unwilling to trust his nose to it. After a short discussion, a student volunteered to sit in the chair. Even though his face contorted in fear as the pendulum started back, he stayed put. But it stopped an inch from his nose and swung away from him again. His faith in the law was strengthened. The next time the pendulum swung, he didn’t even blink. (1)
The professor believed in the law of the pendulum because that’s what he was taught to believe. But he didn’t really believe the law. He didn’t trust what he believed. The other student did he may have cringed out a last minute doubt but he Believed enough to Trust the law.
There are a lot of Christians who say they believe in Christ. They will even claim they believe He is the Son of God. The believe in His teachings. The believe in His miracles. They believe in the resurrection. They Believe in Jesus. But the problem is they don’t Believe Jesus. They don’t trust what He taught.
John Wesley used the words Believe, Trust and Faith pretty much interchangeably but he taught that what God wants is for our Belief to move from simple acknowledgement to a life of Trust in God and Trust in what Jesus taught. When we trust what Jesus taught and Trust Him, then we have Faith. When we live that Faith our Beliefs get stronger, we grow in our Discipleship and we become more like Christ.
B. The woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus both not only believed in Jesus they Believed Jesus was who He said He was and could do what He said He could do, what He had done before. They trusted Jesus and as a consequence that Belief and that Trust became a powerful.
There’s a great scene in the movie Henry Poole Is Here. When Henry Poole discovers that he has only six weeks to live, he leaves his family business, his fiancée, and his overbearing mother; and he tries to spend his remaining days in seclusion. But when his quirky neighbors discover a “miracle” on the side of his house, the face and shoulder of Jesus seen faintly in a stucco stain, it throws his plan to live out his days in quiet desperation into an uproar.
One friend he has reluctantly made, is Patience, a check out girl at the local grocery store. Patience truly lives out her name. Henry is rude and sometimes even unkind but she doesn’t seem to notice or care, she simply cares about him. In the midst of all the talk of miracles, God, hope and faith, Patience visits the side of Henry’s house and is healed. Henry doesn’t understand it and won’t believe it. This is the conversation that takes place at the checkout counter after the event. WATCH
I love what Patience had to say in the midst of henry’s skepticism even with the evidence staring him in the face. “Sometimes things happen because we choose for them to. I chose to believe.”
Jairus and the woman chose to Believe. They chose to move from mere belief to Trust. And in the Spiritual equation Belief + Trust = Faith. And if you remember, it doesn’t take much at all, only a mustard seeds worth, according to Jesus. Just the touch of the hem of his garment, just a little bit of belief. All we have to do is choose to Believe and choose to Trust.
I read that a famous Japanese sculptor once confounded the curators of an American art gallery where his works were being shown. At the base of each statue the sculptor had placed a polite little sign. The signs all read: “PLEASE TOUCH.” (Edwin M. McMahon and Peter A. Campbell, PLEASE TOUCH, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969)
I can imagine Jesus making that same invitation, can’t you?
Whenever we worship, I hope that at some point in the service we feel the presence of Christ. Whether it’s in the music, a prayer, the sermon or even in the time of silence I hope we encounter the risen Christ. And in that very moment when we encounter Him and feel His great love for us; when we feel His grace engulf us, my hope and my prayer is that we will reach out to Him and like the woman, touch him.
So, imagine Him standing among us this morning. Arms outstretched to each of us. And on His robe where we would wear a name tag, is little sign that says, “Please Believe. Please Touch.”
Jesus wants us to not only Believe in Him but to Believe Him and to Trust Him so we can have the depth of faith we need to become the Disciples we long to be and He longs for us to be.
Today as we close in prayer and take time for reflection, I want you to think of that in your life which needs to be healed or where it is that you need Trust even more. If there is something keeping you from living a fully Christ-like life, then reach out and touch the hem of Jesus garment today. Give it to Him, trust Him, Believe Him.
And during these moments, if your heart has been touched by God’s presence, if you have felt the Holy spirit move and would like to spend time in prayer at the altar or make a public profession of your faith in Christ and join the fellowship of our church, then come forward as we sing our Hymn of Invitation.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.