I thought of the movie, City Slickers, during the weekend sermon. This 1991 movie of three best friends successfully crossing the mid-life crisis rapids together through a fantasy vacation cattle drive is a favorite of mine. There is so much to like in it. Jack Palance won an Oscar for best supporting actor in his characterization of the tough as nails, old as dirt and simple but deep, iconic cowboy, Curly. In a standout scene, Mitch, portrayed by Billy Crystal, is talking with Curly while working the cattle drive. Curly asks the confused and searching Mitch if he would like to know the “secret of life.” Curly holds up one finger and says, “One thing, just one thing.” Mitch asks, “What’s the one thing” and Curly replies, “That’s what you have to figure out.”
The great news for us is we do not have to figure out what the one thing is. Pastor Karl Roth ignited the stage this weekend with the answer. He pressed us to look at and live out what Jesus said was the one thing we must do. Pastor Karl directed us to John 13:34-35 where Jesus is holding up one finger and saying “one thing” – love one another . . . as I have loved you.
Pastor Karl shared the impact First Baptist/GateWay has had in his life and launching a lifetime of Christ-focused service. Different people in the church body poured out love upon him and poured love into Karl’s heart. He says it wasn’t the programs, the facilities or the teaching. It was the grace and loving kindness he continually received from individuals at First Baptist that made the difference. At one point in his sermon speaking of the American Church in general, Pastor Karl remarked somewhere along the line there was a transition from being about loving to being about learning; being right was more important. The result is the church has lost its relevance and its standing to speak into the lives of people.
Please do not take my remarks to mean learning is irrelevant. The opposite is more appropriate. We must learn more and more deeply who Jesus is and what He brings into our personal relationship with Him in order that we can live out “the one thing.” This is not learning for learning’s sake or knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is learning to be like Jesus and acquiring more knowledge that we can better connect with one another like Jesus. After 150 years of continuous ministry in Visalia we are challenged to renew and re-imagine how we make a difference in the lives of people and our community. Are we living out Jesus’ “one thing?”
For many the cycle of life begins anew in a week or two. School starts and families once again order their lives around the school calendar. This time provides a great opportunity to reach out and connect with people who do not have Jesus in their lives. People are more open to try something different at the beginning of a cycle rather than mid-cycle. Pastor Karl said if we know of anyone who does not know Jesus we need to love that person profoundly and invite them to GateWay. There are over 100,000 people in Visalia who do not attend a church. Jesus once remarked that the fields were ripe and the harvest plentiful but the workers were few. Our community is ripe. As we enter the next 150 years of ministry in Visalia and beyond let us love profoundly.