I count myself among the many who thoroughly enjoyed Jason Hehir’s The Last Dance. It was a 10-part documentary series released on Netflix that explored the Chicago Bulls dynasty from the 1990s in general, and the career arch of Michael Jordan in particular. One of the frequent shots throughout the series was of a Jordan sitting in a comfortable chair with an adult beverage on the table and a cigar in his hand. In the last episode, MJ even declares that even though he led the Bulls to six championships, he can’t get over the fact that they didn’t try for a seventh. Jordan sat there and nostalgically pined for those days back in the 90s.
Nostalgia is powerful. And yet it doesn’t often spark us into action, but instead sedates us. It makes us long for and remember the days back there and then instead of propelling us to engage in the day that is here now. As Christians we long for our familiar worship services, discipleship strategies, ministry systems, and weekly routines. We remember them fondly. We are like Jordan, taking another puff from our cigar as we sit surrounded by the smoke of our nostalgia. Our eyes are bleary remembering what used to be and our focus on the moment before us is blurred.
Jesus, before ascending to heaven to reign at the right hand of God the Father, told his disciples of the task that was before them: “… You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit has come, he dwells in all who trust in Jesus as their Saviour, and he empowers us to do what Jesus has called us to do: To be witnesses of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished. The task is, as Matthew 28:19 puts it, to make disciples (or students) of Jesus.
Pastor Jeff, in his sermon on Esther 2 called The Rise of Queen Esther, made the compelling and timely point that God’s people ought to look at the situations around us (as lemony as they may be) and do what we can to make lemonade. We need to recognize that even though our current circumstances are not ideal, we still have a very real task before us. We have been saved by grace through faith unto obedience. We who claim Jesus as our Saviour now enter into a life as his student. And as students of Jesus we are called to live following his ways, to encourage our fellow students in their pursuit of him, and implore others to enter into his school.
The reality is that we desire for the return of pre-pandemic routine, and we grieve the loss of many things – including our ability to gather en masse with other believers for worship. But in the midst of our grieving (which is natural) and our pining for large worship gatherings (which is good), let’s not slumber on the moment before us. We cannot afford to misread the moment we are in. Our task is not finished. Our race is not complete. Jesus has not yet brought us into the place he is preparing for us (John 14:3), and he has not yet returned to make all things new (Romans 8:18-25; Revelation 21:1-8). The trophy is not yet in our hands.
In the last episode of The Last Dance, one of Jordan’s biographers made an incredible observation. He noted that Jordan’s unique ability in his success was not his athleticism, but his focus. He had an ability to flip a switch and live in the moment with laser-like focus on the task before him. So, why don’t we wave away the cigar smoke, splash some cold water on our face, shake ourselves out of our sleepy nostalgia, and, like Mike, consider the task before us.
Let’s consider who the Lord has providentially placed around us in this season that we need to engage with the good news of Jesus. Maybe it’s a neighbour, or a coworker, or a family member. Maybe they are already students of Jesus, or maybe they are inclined to return to his school, or maybe they don’t even know how great our Saviour-Teacher really is. Whoever they are, and whatever their understanding of Jesus may be, our task is still before us: to be a witness and to make disciples.