This week has marked a “climactic change” in the office with the arrival of Jenna Dulay our brand new Director of Student Ministries; and two summer interns Amelia Ashley and Kaitlin Craig, who are assisting Nancy Ashley in Children & Family Ministry. Sandi and I are enjoying how our quiet hallway is coming alive with activity again. As I was preparing a devotional for our first staff meeting on Tuesday, my eyes landed on a description of Jesus in Mark 7:37: “He has done everything well.” That was a high compliment, but could it ever be said of us? I thought about that as I reflected on the passage with our new ministry team.
The compliment Jesus was given came as he was passing “by way of Sidon” to the Sea of Galilee. There in this Gentile region, “they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.” The sentence reminded me that “doing well” in Jesus’ eyes begins as we bring others closer to Him. I asked our staff to join me in praying that we would excel at bringing one another closer to Jesus, for “apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
As the story continues, “Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.” This seems like a very odd way to heal someone, yet perhaps intending to prepare this deaf man for what he was about to do. We can learn a lot from the past and how things have been done, but Jesus shows us that “doing well” in his eyes will also mean stepping out in faith and taking a totally new and unfamiliar approach.
“Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to the deaf man, ‘Be opened!’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” In a room full of church staff, I found this verse to be especially relevant. Jesus opened the man’s ears, and only thenhis mouth. How much I need Jesus to open my ears before opening my mouth. As we serve Jesus together, “doing well” will always mean listeningwell. We live in a time when our opinions can be instantly broadcast to the world via social media. Taking time to hear the needs and concerns of those around us before we speak has never been more important. So I challenged myself and our staff to ask for the miracle of “opened ears” each day as we work with each other in the office, with our ministry teams, with the larger St. John’s community, and in all our relationships.
This is not to say that speaking up is unimportant. Jesus opened this man’s ears and released his tongue so that he couldtalk. The more our ears are opened to others, the more others will want to hear what we have to say. My prayer for our new staff and for myself is that we feel empowered to speak up and to embrace our God-given roles. A preaching professor once told us that when we enter a church where we are to speak, we should walk the inside perimeter to gain the listener’s perspective; and then, when it is our time to speak, he said, “Accept your turf.” In other words, recognize that God has placed us there for a purpose, that we have gifts to share, and a message to speak. So speak it. As I look at our new staff, I see the confidence that each of us has been called by God for “for such a time as this.”
So what does it mean to do well in Jesus’ eyes? As we talked together as a staff, we realized that it means to bring one another closer to Jesus. It means taking a risk now and then, serving God and others in some new or unexpected ways; listening to each other carefully and with compassion, and accepting our turf as we speak up and use our gifts. As we do this, let’s remember that “Well done!” was God’s verdict on his own creation (Gen. 1:31); and that the Crucified and Risen One who has done all thingswell, is now doing them by grace in us.