Reading the Bible is a fascinating experience for many reasons. One of them is the way in which a phrase that you have read many times can come alive for the first time. This happened to me only the other week.
In Luke 22 Jesus is approaching events that he long predicted would take place. What will soon unfold in his arrest, trial and crucifixion, will shape the course of history and alter the destiny of millions of people. His death will reverse the effects of sin, restore our broken relationship with God and establish a new society of people called the Church who will seek to exhibit his life to the world.
As these epic events are unfolding we learn that '(Jesus) went as usual to the Mount of Olives' (v.39).
…HE WENT AS USUAL…
This was clearly part of his regular practice; a habit formed over time. But for what purpose?
As I've reflected on this sentence in one of the gospels, I believe that we can learn some encouraging truths that will help us as we serve within the ministry of Young Cartsbridge.
Firstly, we learn the significance of PLACE.
If our service for God is going to be truly effective, then it must be underpinned by prayer and the reading of God's Word. That will be a major part of what sustains over the long haul of Christian ministry. Not only was this central in Jesus' life but there was also a particular place he often visited that helped nurture his relationship with the Father.
Some of us enjoy recreation and in so doing commune with God. Others value quiet time at the start of each day at home. Wherever it happens to be, Jesus example of securing an uninterrupted time for communion with God highlights a prerequisite to faithful service.
Secondly, we discover the value of SPACE.
Jesus intentionally withdrew from the demands of ministry in order to secure not only a place to fellowship with the Father but also to find space for the replenishing of his spiritual life and the good of his soul. To do this he recognised the need to escape the rigors of daily demands that can be so constricting to delight in the expanse of the Father's love.
As those who make it their goal to please him, securing those moments with God will enable us to experience something of "the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).
Lastly, we recognise the importance of PACE.
Someone once described the life of discipleship as 'a long obedience in the same direction.' It is vital, then, to set a steady, consistent pace that will avoid burnout.
For Jesus, going as usual to the Mount of Olives helped him to stay on track and avoid the twin dangers that we often encounter…rushing ahead or lagging behind where the Father wants us to be.
If we set the 'as usual' in our lives it will prevent us from running on empty and 'keep us in step with Spirit' (Galatians 5:25).
(Written as a reflection for the volunteers of the children’s and youth ministries at Cartsbridge, November 2016)