Noah Webster, the Father of Christian Education, defines the word “occupy” as:
To take in possession…to keep in possession… to cover or fill… to employ to busy oneself. He refers to the biblical use in Luke 19:13 where a rich landowner leaves his ten servants with ten pounds and commands them to “occupy until I return”
As Christians we understand the great commission given by Christ in
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
With the promise of His return John 14:28 and Acts 1:11 we understand that Christ has not left us powerless or without help. Luke 24:9 He has left us the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us occupying us as we occupy the place where he once was physically present and now is spiritually present. We see the great commission being worked out around the globe as His faithful share the word of truth, mercy and grace to the lost.
I would like to expand on the definition and concept of the word “occupy’ by sharing these action words. Please dwell momentarily on each one and contemplate how they form a more complete understanding of discipleship.
Occupy – to take up residence – to live in community – to inhabit – inhabitants of a region often:
define, mold, impact, affect, create, encourage, shape, inform, motivate, develop, maintain, secure, defend, reflect, educate, preserve, influence, sustain, multiply, communicate, relate, lead, build, grow, produce, increase, the culture, the community, the society and its institutions.
In the book “Discipling Nations” author Darrow Miller states that “either the church will disciple the nation or the nation will disciple the church”
My contemplation this morning is in regards to the current situation of the church in quarantine and what we may learn from this perspective. Do we find ourselves comfortable and spirit filled in the church on a weekly basis but living spiritually anemic lives the rest of the week? Perhaps God is calling us to live the spirit-filled life each day of the week in all that we do. In our discipling and in our attempt to fulfill the great commission are we taking the word occupy seriously?
Review the action words for occupy again, slowly, prayerfully.
Martin Luther lived in a dark and terrible time of physical and spiritual sickness. He often attended to the sick and dying and felt it his duty to give of himself whenever it was possible and reasonable and his actions would not endanger others.
In the days of the dark plague he writes.
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what He has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.
We have a much greater advantage in many ways than Luther had in his day. We may rely on our government and institutions formed to serve the physical health needs of our community. We may rely on the cumulative albeit tentative wealth of our nation to fill our economic needs with a stimulus package. So what is our call as Christians in this day?
It is the same as always, occupy and disciple in whatever means, skill, and passion we have been blessed with.
I will finish with a look at Acts 3:1-10
Peter and John encounter a lame beggar at the gate of the temple called Beautiful. Here they are pressed by the beggar for alms. They turn to the man and speak “We have no silver or gold but what we do have we give to you, “in the name of Christ Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk” The man is healed and he joyfully accompanies them into the temple leaping and praising God. All the people around him are amazed and they also give glory and praise to God.
We may temporarily enjoy the benefit of a stimulus package from the state. But the state is not able to deliver what Christ can and what we as believers can. Are we, the church, perhaps like the lame man?
Do we hear the call? As we respond in joy and praise we as well will have the ability to say to our neighbor “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk”
Peter and John as occupants of the community are not only physically present but as the vessels of the Spirit of Christ Himself they are spiritually present even outside the Temple. His spirit is calling us in our quarantine time at home, with our family, near our neighbors to not only be physically present but to be spiritually present, walking in the spirit, letting our light shine in whatever way he has gifted us, spirit filled not only at church but wherever we occupy!