Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rippin up the Roof - Rick and Katherine

Since Selection Sunday is within a week, we will highlight a pair of leaders who are alumni of two-time defending champs UF. Rick Kingsley and Katherine Clements are leading in Salerno Italy, situated on the Costiera Amalfitana. Despite a perfect setting, Rick brings a little reality as he acknowledges, “For me, personally, I've had to deal with a lot of disappointment. Before I arrived in Salerno, I heard a lot about the fruitfulness of the ministry here. My expectations were high for the year. While students are very open to conversing about the gospel, they have a tough time grasping the concept of 'unmerited favor'. Plus, most see the sins of religious authorities and then reject any sort of organized religion (or relationship…). From a stats standpoint, this year has been a failure. We 'know' the Lord has been using us for his good purpose because of His promises, but it has been easy to 'feel' useless. It has been difficult to motivate the team when Katherine and I just as discouraged.”

But Rick goes on to write, “Despite my doom and gloom summation, we have reasons to celebrate. One highlight was the Agape Europe student conference, which we took four students (2 guys, 2 girls). Held 2/15-17 in Bristol, England, the conference was a follow-up to CM07. Its purpose was to cast vision for what God could do in Western Europe while providing ideas and opportunities for evangelism. The girls, Anto and Silvia, got really excited about ways to reach their countrymen; a huge deal as most Italian believers don't really share their faith... ever.”

“I'd say that we've been laboring in the dark this year, for two reasons”, Rick concludes. “First, Italy is so spiritually dark that dawn must surely be around the corner (we hope). But, second, I say 'laboring in the dark' because I have no idea what God is doing here. It's okay, it's not our right to know His ways or means. He told us to come here and share the gospel and that's what we've done. We'll leave the changing lives part to him.”

Yesterday, I was reading the story in the gospels where the four guys lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof. (It’s found in 3 places – Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; and Luke 5:17-25. Matthew doesn’t include the roof part of the story.) As I read this, I tried to put myself into the situation as the person organizing this event.

The parking lot is full of donkeys. The place is packed. SRO. Even the doorway is blocked. Fire codes, shmire codes. And sitting front and center are really important religious dudes from every town in Galilee, Judea and even as far as Jerusalem. We've got a perfect speaker. Who needs PowerPoint and video clips? He tells awesome stories and the power of Lord is present to heal.

But then in the middle of this great talk, shmack starts to fall from the ceiling onto Jesus’ head. Some yahoos are rippin’ up the roof, digging out a 2’ x 6’ hole. What the spank are they doing to my roof and this perfect outreach?!? If they wanted balcony seating they should have come early or had a pharisee front-row pass. Look at them with their goofy grins. If I could get through this crowd, I'd go toss them off the roof. They disappear for a second and now they are slowly lowering this guy right slap-dap in the middle.

Of course we know from these guys point of view, it wasn’t initially a perfect outreach. Looked good stats-wise, but really how good was it? These guys’s friend needed to be brought before Jesus. He had no other hope. And, like for Rick, Katherine and their team, organized religion and religious authorities were blocking the path to healing, forgiveness, and transformation. The authorities in that day didn’t get grace or who Jesus was asking ‘who is this fellow who claims he can forgive sin’. The crowd doesn’t seem to get it either. Sure they praise God in the end but it’s more like ‘what a remarkable thing that God gave this authority to man’.

Jesus looks at the ‘four yahoos’ grinning from the roof and sees their faith. So it begs us to ask what demonstrated faith for these who just wanted to bring someone to Jesus…

~ They don’t let obstacles or discouragement stand in the way.
~ They have dynamic determinism and intellectual flexibility
~ They make sacrifices (Perhaps one of them had to carry their friend on his back up a ladder to even get on the roof.)
~ They rip off the roof to find a new way to bring the lost and paralyzed to Jesus
~ They don’t care if their approach is unconventional. All they are thinking is ‘we just needed to bring our friend to the feet of Jesus and let Him do the work’.
~ They desired to see their friend get physical healing
~ They got a friend who received a greater healing of his sins being forgiven.

Here’s to rippin’ off the roof. Something we all can drink to.

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