I read a story recently about a discouraged Russian rabbi who decided to go out at night for walk. Having no particular place to go, he wandered aimlessly through the streets and onto a military compound. A guard suddenly confronted him and asked, “Who are you and why are you here?” The old rabbi was startled and replied, “What?” to which the guard replied all the more loudly “Who are you and Why are you here!?” The rabbi answered, “Tell me, how much do they pay you?” The guard asked why the old man wanted to know and the rabbi said, “Because I need someone to ask me those two questions every day!” (The Parish Paper, January 2011). 

Who are You? Why are you Here?

These questions have been on my mind these last several weeks,and in particular as our church goes through a visioning process. We have organized a Vision 2020 Task Force comprised of 10 members of differing ages and gender, plus have formed prayer groups who relate to each particular task force member. Last Sunday we met as a church for Sunday School to hear about the Life Cycle of the Church and UHBC’s score on the Natural Church Development. This Sunday we unpack some of those scores in a town hall meeting, using six areas of emphasis that our Task Force has identified.

It’s important to know the answers to those two questions as a congregation, but it is even more significant to deal with them on a personal level. So many people go through life without any real direction or purpose, and wander aimlessly like that Russian rabbi did before being startled by the guard.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1.12 NIV).

Paul was in prison when he wrote that and was experiencing persecution for his staunch belief in Christ. This letter is all about the subject of “joy” and I find it remarkable that he would interpret his trials and hardship as a means to promote the gospel.

The answers to these two questions are important. For myself and also for our congregation, I hope that we can see what happens to us as a means to “advance the gospel.”