What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-15-20

My Cadets merit badge sash circa 1980-something

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 5-15-20

Every Wednesday evening from third grade through eighth grade I would put on my uniform–including the merit badge sash, which I was very proud of–go to church, line up in the “Fellowship Hall” with the other boys according to our grades, and go through the opening exercises of “Cadets,” my church’s more Jesus-y version of Boy Scouts. 

The opening exercises included reciting the Cadet’s Pledge, singing the Cadet’s Song (“Living for Jesus”), and reciting the Cadet’s Scripture verse, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).” I liked Cadets. I liked earning the different merit badges for knot tying, wood working, electronics, etc. Of course there was a “Bible” merit badge. One of the things I had to do to earn it was memorize the names of the books of the Bible in order–a helpful skill that I use to this day! I liked the campouts, the fundraising, cameraderie, and I’m grateful to the men who gave their time and resources to mentor young boys like me. 

I thought of Cadets when reading the Gospel lectionary for the sixth Sunday of Easter. John 14:15-21 continues Jesus’ “farewell discourse,” which we began studying last Sunday. It’s the Gospel of John’s version of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples before his crucifixion. We study texts like this during the Easter Season to prepare ourselves–as Jesus prepared his followers–to be Christ’s hands and heart for the world. The historical Jesus is a memory. The living Christ is you and I. Contrary to popular belief, loving Jesus is not primarily an emotion. Emotions come and go. Loving Jesus is an action. More importantly, it’s a repeated action. We call repeated action directed toward the object of devotion “spiritual practice.” Worship is spiritual practice, cleaning the kitchen–if it’s done with an awareness of Christ’s presence–can be spiritual practice, donating to the food pantry is spiritual practice, walking the dog can be spiritual practice. 

Mother Teresa famously said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Whatever we do–if we do it as Christ’s hands and heart–has the potential to bring us deeper into communion with God and all of life. This is loving Jesus. This is keeping his commandments.

Author: toddyonkman

I am a husband, father, author, and Designated Term Transitional Pastor of First Church of Christ in Saybrook (CT).

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