Drew and I have completed another leg of our U.S. holiday journey and now we are spending time with his family in the lovely city of St. Louis! All of this traveling has been a lot of fun and discovering these new places has allowed us to experience newness in our home country. It doesn’t always feel like home here, but the journey has been exciting and refreshing.
One of my favorite things we have done so far was visiting the Atlanta Rescue Mission. I’m not sure why, but the Lord began stirring in my heart after our church service last week where we visited Passion City Church in Atlanta. Many of you all may be familiar with this church as they host a yearly conference for young adults called Passion. Large churches aren’t always my thing, but this service was so inspiring, it included beautiful baptisms, new songs prepared for this year’s conference, and a wonderful project they are working on in the community to help every child in the Atlanta Public School System up to the 8th grade receive a book for Christmas. I loved how the church was looking for a way to care deeply for their community, and I felt like during our last week in town before moving on to St. Louis, it would be great to learn more about the inner city community.
Drew and I met while we were both working for an organization that led inner city mission trips to Denver. We love volunteering together and have such wonderful memories of building relationships with people in the city we probably would never have crossed paths with otherwise. So, serving at the Atlanta Rescue Mission sounded like a great way to learn more about people in the community we haven’t come into contact with yet. It was such a life-giving experience!
We got to work at the men’s shelter and the men that were guiding us around the kitchen were part of the mission’s rehabilitation program. There were quite a few other volunteers that were with us and honestly not much work to do since the meal was already prepared, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy one another and get to know bits and pieces of each other’s stories.
By the time the rest of the men came for lunch we were already laughing, joking and enjoying one another’s company as we passed out the food. The fun seemed contagious and many of the men that we were serving were thankful for the food and eager to join in on the fun. The man that coordinated the kitchen with us knew most of the men we were serving by name, and he was passionate about his job in the kitchen and wanted to use it as a platform to give dignity and teach self-control to the other men that come to the shelter.
The picture of the Rescue Mission came flooding back to me when I heard a message the following Sunday on Matthew 9:10-13. In this passage, Jesus has just called his disciple Matthew, a tax collector, and the Pharisees begin to question why Jesus would hang out with people so obviously unholy. But that’s the beauty of Jesus’ story and ministry. He came for us, the unrighteous, but in order to do that he had to hang out with us. He didn’t look how the religious men and women thought he should, but he appealed deeply to the people who were able to acknowledge their need the most.
Isaiah describes this mysteriously beautiful aspect of Jesus in chapter 11:1-2,
“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.”
Jesus ministry was powerful and there is no doubt about that as we are still following him thousands of years later. But this passage describes his coming as something so discrete, yet so amazing that it brings new life.
As we prepare for the coming of our Christ child in the Advent season, may we think of ways He is calling us to sprout where we have been planted. I know that when I was reminded of this picture in light of remembering what Jesus’ ministry looked like in Matthew 9, there were specific things I want to get involved in when I get back to Zambia. How is the Lord stirring in your heart?
Henri Nouwen comments on the Isaiah passage in this way,
“The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown young man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hidden in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.”
Let’s position ourselves where the Lord has called us and in the simple places we see the life of Jesus sprouting up. As we prepare for Christmas let’s bring about new life as Jesus did in our dark and dying world.
Christ has come. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.