Connecting – out there!


When Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became ‘the new pope’ he immediately hit the headlines…Google, newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, even inclusion in a new book on the ancient St Malachy papal prophecies.
 
Not only is this pontiff the first Latin American and Jesuit in modern times to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics but many highlights quickly circulated about him. For example, he…
+ Declines $10,000 a night hotel rooms/ popemobile usage, wanting freedom to get out and meet ‘the people’
+ Broke tradition, asking some 150,000 people to pray for him
+ Faces controversy; opposes same-sex marriage
and abortion
+ Wanting to honour that great servant to the poor and destitute, he chose ‘Francis’ (but without number 2 tacked on!). 
   
Blending with ordinary people
Here’s a pope who Is humble, authentic, credible and appears, in some ways, to be just a normal guy. Watching the news regarding this new pope, immediately brought to mind two things. One was that delightful underrated, overlooked 1985 Tom Conti movie, Saving Grace

It’s a classic that asks the question, ‘Have you seen the pope lately?’ Why? Because he’s hit the streets and disappeared!
A fictional, reluctant ‘Pope Leo XIV’ grows tired of the politics and insularity of his new position. Taking a few quiet moments in the open air, he puts his head back to feel the raindrops on his face: But he’s promptly ushered inside to bankers, politicians, and back-to-back blessings of politicos. But one day, Leo slips out a back gate and blends in with soccer crowds.
He ends up in a troubled Italian village and, incognito, sets out to make a difference. Asked his name, Leo says ‘Francesco.’ And indeed there is something of St Francis in the way this gentle man sets aside the trappings of wealth and power to join the townspeople in their poverty and toil.
More importantly…Jesus who came from heaven
But the other thing that struck me at the same time was this: The reality of Jesus Christ! 

Although the Son of God he willingly allowed himself to be made lower than angels (Heb. 2:9), left the splendour of the heavenly throne room, not the Holy See, to become the humble servant of this world’s troubled, poor, destitute, fearful and sick. 
Why? He wanted to move ‘out there’ and meet ordinary people, bringing blessings and become our Saviour and greatest friend.  And the head of the newfound church.
Matthew 20:28 Mge spells out this aspect of Jesus’ humility and people’s servant heart: ‘That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.’
‘Serve’ is diakononeo, sometimes translated ‘minister’ but with the thought of waiting on menially. No wonder his ministry on earth is considered that of the servant king. He didn’t take on the name Joseph, his respected and supposed father, but that of ‘Jesus’ for he would ‘save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). Verse 23 recognises the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy about his supernatural birth: ‘Call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.’
Out there – among the people
Scripture depicts Jesus as the people’s friend. He was a marketplace minister
who spent about a third of his ministry ‘out there’ not locked within the walls of some worship centre. 
In doing so he moved where the rubber hits the road. He felt people’s heartaches, hurts, burdensome governmental oppression, religious confusion, their wondering if God had forgotten them.  He touched their lives with good news, hope, healings, much comfort and wise, balanced advice and shared truths from God’s word.
Mark 6:56 Mge reads, ‘Wherever he went, village or town or countryside crossroads, they brought their sick to the marketplace and begged him to let them touch the edge of his coat – that’s all. And whoever touched him became well.’
‘Marketplace’ is the Greek word agorah, a town square. It comes from a base meaning to gather, to waken from disease, death, ruin. If you like…where people came together expecting something good – blessings just as in this Mark scripture.
Be an influencer
An important theme that blogs such as ours  stress again and again, is that all Christians carry the responsibility of reaching the unreached. That it’s not enough to attend church, tithe, worship God, individually experience the Holy Spirit and be personally blessed every week.
The church we attend when not ministering around, has a sign over an exit door which dramatically states, ‘You are now entering the mission field!’ How true. The mission field is wherever we go in the marketplace of life…school, college, uni, supermarket, café, restaurant, sports ground, hospital. Wherever we meet people.
Acts 17:12 describes some new Christians as ‘women and men of influence.’ This is what Jesus was – an influencer, one who liked to be among God’s creation encouraging them when opportunities arose…such as simply requesting a drink, a meal or miraculously instigating healings or sharing an uplifting word.
Personal example
Easter Saturday is regarded by Christians as a spiritually wasted day. Good Friday is over, Resurrection Sunday awaits and only a secular Saturday lies between. 
I (Robert) visited my local library to return DVDs and discovered only the emergency chute was open and it was over-full! As I endeavoured to push further in the several books, CDs and DVDs that other borrowers had jammed into the blocked opening, an out-of-town stranger arrived with the same errand. 
We chatted, became friends and I had the joy of influencing him, not in Sunday church, but ‘out there’ in the street and leading him to Christ. And praying over him for a healing. Then another lady needing help came along – another God-given opportunity. It was not a wasted Saturday after all! 
May we all be marketplace Christians, not missing opportunities to share the good news.

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