One of the most reassuring and troubling teachings from Jesus comes in the Gospel of John. In the 14th chapter the disciples reveal their despair. Jesus has been preparing them for what is to come…they don’t seem to like it very much. The anxiety in the upper room is palpable. Just when we think the storyteller is going to focus on this anxiety, Jesus offers a corrective, “The ones who believe in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” (John 14.12)
Hold the presses at “will do the works that I do.” In John Jesus has transformed water into wine, transformed not enough bread and fish into an overabundance of bread and fish, transformed the blind into the sighted, transformed the woman caught in adultery (my favorite, if dubious Jesus story) into an evangelist. Along the way, Jesus has transformed fishermen and tax collectors into professional preachers and pastors. To do the same things that Jesus did, means that we transform the simple into the spectacular, the flawed into the flawless, the ordinary into the extraordinary.
I consider myself blessed because I have witnessed this transformation both in my life and peripheral to it. I recognize that I am not the source of the transformation, just a vehicle for God’s transformational work to occur. (I’m not familiar enough with the Transformers to insert an Optimus Prime joke here, but someone should.) Young. Old. Camp. Bible Study. Basketball games. Brewery. Pennsylvania. Indiana. Wisconsin. Honduras. St. Thomas. I get to witness metamorphosis as a part of my everyday job and it never gets old.
The call to do more, the call to be greater seems offensive, even blasphemous. How could we possibly do more or be greater than the One who Creates, Redeems, and Blesses the whole Creation?
It is not a competition. It is a partnership. If we know our role, if we know our place, then it is easier to ‘meet expectations’ or attempt to ‘exceed expectations’. To know that we are the Created and not the Creator, to know that we are the Redeemed and not the Redeemer, to know that we are the Blessed and not the One who Blesses makes a big difference.
Sis. Kay Ward offered a great phrase a couple of years ago at a Clergy Retreat worship service. “I am under orders,” she said. She went on to talk about what that meant from the perspective of being a follower of Jesus—not just as an ordained pastor—but as a human person who has made a choice. The world looks different when we are under orders. The world looks VERY different when we are under orders to care, love, and serve without question and without condition.
Especially these days.
For me, the reasonable expectation for humanity in the Spring of 2020 is this: CARE ENOUGH. Care enough to take only as much toilet paper (and bread and for some reason potatoes) as you think you’ll need between now and the next time you go shopping. Care enough to call your neighbor and make sure they have what they need. Care enough to STAY AT HOME. Care enough to wash your hands. Care enough to give blood, to support a local restaurant, to give out of your abundance and scarcity. Again, for humanity, this is a low bar to hurdle.
Unless you are under orders. Unless you conspire to transform the world. Unless you have a mandate to do more and be more. In which case, we can’t just care enough, we have to care fully and completely. We have to care until the sweat burns our eyes, the tears flood our pillows, and our actions match our ambitions for the redeemed and blessed Creation which we inhabit.
I am under orders. I believe you are, too.