Skip to content

Get Off the Couch

April 28, 2016

The world has become a smaller place. We see news as it happens around the world on our handheld, computer, and television screens 24/7. Traveling between countries has never been faster or easier, even with airport screening delays. We regularly face-time with friends and relatives around the world. I am posting this from a hotel room in Nuremberg, Germany.  Last month, people from 11 countries—most of which I have never visited–read my blog.  But the distances traveled by the apostles to spread the word of Christ’s resurrection boggles my mind.

This week’s psalm foreshadows Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples shortly after the resurrection[1]: “That your ways be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” (Psalm 67:2). The challenge to reach out to others in different cultures runs throughout the scripture texts this week[2]

Luke Changes the Narrative

Paul was on his second missionary journey in AD 50 when he met Luke in Troas. Dr. Bill Creasy, a biblical scholar and teacher, surmises that the medical issue Paul references throughout his epistles and letters was an eye problem, possibly the result of the temporary blindness he was inflicted with on the road to Damascus. He had problems with eye infections and fevers after that incident requiring medical treatment.[3] It is likely that he met Dr. Luke when he sought medical treatment from him.

We pick up the story this week in Acts 16, which contains a major change in Luke’s narrative. Up until Acts 16:10, Luke refers to Paul and the others (Silas and Timothy) as “they.” A few examples: “they traveled from town to town, they delivered decisions” (Acts 16: 4); “When they came to the border, they tried to enter Bithynia” (Acts 16:7) etc. But in verse 10, the pronouns change to “we” and “us”: “After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God has called us to preach the gospel to them.”   Up until verse 10, he had reported what Paul and the others related to him. In verse 10, he moves from reporting the events to being a participant in the narrative. He becomes one of the people who moves the narrative along; he is now an actor, not an observer. Luke got off of the couch and decided to join Paul’s group—to participate in the story instead of just reporting it.

It is so easy for us these days to observe events happening around the world—real events and fictional narratives. We get hooked watching the news, “reality” shows, dramas, and playing video games—all while sitting on the couch.

But Jesus calls us to get off the couch and follow the example of Luke and the others, who reached out to people outside of their comfort zones. Paul was on his second missionary trip (AD 50-52) when he received the call to go to Macedonia–modern day northern Greece. Luke made the decision to join Paul on his travels to spread the gospel. He stayed with Paul from AD 50 until AD 68, when Paul was martyred in Rome. Luke was Paul’s personal physician, friend, fellow traveler and biographer. Dr. Creasy notes that Luke’s medical care of Paul must have been good, since he did not complain of illness after Luke joined the team.

Luke made a decision to get off the couch and to make a difference. He never looked back.

John Participates in the Narrative

Like Luke, John became a participant in the narrative when one of the angels “spoke to me, . . . and carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain . . .” (Revelation 21:9.10). While one could argue that John’s experience was “merely” a dream, there are many credible accounts of encounters with God that involve all of one’s senses. I have no doubt that John was actually a participant in the events that he later wrote about, not just passively sitting on the couch looking at a movie. He describes the incredible light of heaven and that no temple is needed in heaven, because God’s presence is everywhere.   It is evident that he experienced God’s light shining down on him and all around him.

It was an experience that God instructed him to write about and to share. It is not uncommon for ordinary people to experience the presence of God in their everyday lives, and to write about it[4].  There is no reasonable doubt that John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” (John 13:23) was blessed with an extraordinary vision which included his full sensory perception.

Jesus Warns That It Won’t Be Easy—But Don’t Worry

In the last hours that he spent with his disciples before he was arrested, Jesus assured them: “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Participation in life has great rewards, but it is not risk free. When he returned to prepare them further after the resurrection, and instructed them to go out into the world to make disciples of all nations, he knew it wouldn’t be easy.  But as my mother taught me, and yours probably taught you, nothing worth having in life is easy.

Dr. Stephen Lien preached a sermon many years ago, touching on the subject of getting out of our comfort zones to reach out to minister to others. He mentioned a book by John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat. We were each given an origami boat that I keep in my Bible, as a challenge to move out of my comfort zone from time to time, and to participate in the story. What story? The story of reaching out and connecting with others in love and faith.

Are you part of the audience or in the play? Are you observing the action from the bench, or are you on the field? Are you reporting the news or making news? What are you waiting for? Get off the couch!

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:18-20

[2] Psalm 67; Acts 16:9-15; Revelation 21:9-14; 21-27; John 16:23-33)

[3] Scholars estimate that the Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus occurred between 33 and 36 AD.

[4] Here are two examples: Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk in a Carmelite monastery in Paris, performed menial tasks in the monastery kitchen, and regularly found himself in the presence of God (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God). Sarah Young, the author of the current best-selling devotional, Jesus Calling, describes one experience of being “enveloped in brilliant light and profound peace,” in addition to her accounts of resting in God’s presence regularly.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: