Devotional

Lori Lynch

Read ~John12:20-33

Words - In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. ~ Prov14:23 

 I am reading about the life of the boxer Muhammad Ali, who confidently referred to himself as “The Greatest”.

Growing up in the segregated South, Ali knew what it was to be treated as less than great. Even after winning an Olympic Gold Medal in Rome in 1960, he was turned away from a “whites-only” restaurant here at home.

Because of his religious beliefs he refused induction into the United States Army in 1967. This decision resulted in his arrest. He was fined $10,000.00, stripped of his boxing license and title, found guilty of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison. Ali was prepared to pay the price for his convictions, but in 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that his refusal stemmed from his constitutionally protected religious beliefs and the initial ruling was overturned. This man, who came from such humble beginnings, has given us much food for thought during his adult life. 

Personally I don’t like boxing, but I am impressed with Ali’s wonderful talent and economy with words. The phrase “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” brings to mind a picture of strategically powerful athletic grace in motion. I envy his gift for gab. But my favorite thing I have heard of him saying came at the commencement speech he gave at Harvard one year.  He urged the class now to take what they had learned, go out into the world and try to help make it a better place.  Someone in the audience shouted “Give us a poem”, quickly he responded and said “Me. We.” 

In the reading for today the Apostle John shows us that Jesus, aware that he was soon to be executed for his radical teaching ministry, then strangely glorified through his death and resurrection, also was masterful with words, even under pressure. We read through this passage with anxiety. Even Jesus said that His heart was troubled in what He had to say. Like the Greeks at the beginning of the text we also want to see Jesus, and Jesus has much to say of what’s about to happen in the story, in terms of theology and doctrine, but at the same time He sums it all up quite succinctly in the connective central message that we find in verse 26. “Where I am, My servant also will be.” Challenging, yes?

A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of the truth that a living and vibrant faith is a lot more than a lot of words spoken. We were at a gathering of disciples that have been in the formative phase of a connectional fellowship for the past couple of years, when someone asked “What really is the mission that we have been called together for?” 

In the spirit of encouragement it is appropriate to gather to keep connections alive because networking opens avenues for caring and sharing, yet coming together to worship and fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ cannot be the complete goal of our efforts in Christian ministry. We are also called to witness. Yes, it’s true that wherever one or two are gathered in His name He is alive among us, but He is also interested in living among the people  who have not gathered, who have needs that His disciples can somehow, through our gifts and talents and His grace and mercy, help to meet.

As providence would have it, Muhammad Ali’s greatness has been revealed not so much through his ability to knock other people down, but instead through his desire to use his gifts and talents to try to lift others up. At the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky those who share in the ideals of Ali work to promote respect, hope, and understanding. They’d like to inspire people everywhere to be great.  

 

Prayer: Almighty God, in Your wisdom and mercy and for Your glory, help us when we come together, to seek intelligent solutions to life’s problems. Amen