What's the craziest thing you have ever wanted to do in life? Have you done it? If you haven't yet done it, what's stopping you?
One of the better known triathlons on the East Coast is one called "Escape the Cape". The swim portion of this triathlon starts with a 12 foot jump off the Cape May (NJ)/Lewes (DE) ferry into the Atlantic Ocean. While the thought of jumping off the Cape May ferry sounds like it would be a really cool, amazing, adventurous thing to do, it also sounds scary, overwhelming, and intimidating! Talk about conquering fear and just doing it! -- Maybe someday.
Sadly, during the recent Escape the Cape event, there was a death. A thirty six year old male died of a heart attack as he was finishing the swim back to shore from the ferry. Attempts to revive him were not successful.
When one registers for a sporting event, such as a triathlon or any other strenuous activity, participants are encouraged to sign a waiver. This waiver includes wording to the effect that participation in the event could lead to injury, possibly even death, and that the person signing the waiver agrees not to hold the organizer of the event responsible for wrongful injury or death. It's a risk some pay to participate in.
The lesson in this unfortunate death is taking risks can have consequences. Then again, so does being a Christian. Living during a time of intense persecution, those in the early church knew their way of living had risks and consequences connected to it. On one hand, there was joy in finding community, a place to be, and a place to call home in the midst of like-minded individuals. On the other hand, there was the very real threat this way of living ran counter to leadership of the day.
Being a Christian today has risks and consequences as well. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters live in places where Christianity is not embraced or welcomed. Many live in places where the Islamic faith tradition has a heavy influence. Even in America, there can be persecution if religious views are held or expressed that counter current religious thought. If not persecution, then ways subtly and not so subtly to remain silent.
Knowing all this, the early Christians embraced these risks and consequences. They did so because they knew, from what Paul, Peter, and the other disciples shared with them, that to die was to have life. To die was to live with Christ. To live in Christ was/is greater than life itself in this world.
In a few days, the Church celebrates Pentecost. Pentecost takes place fifty days after Passover, and in its origins, celebrated the receiving of the Law, the Torah from God by Moses. When the first disciples gathered, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in languages other faithful Jews who were in Jerusalem heard and understood. Those who first heard Paul's words didn't worry about how deep the water is, or whether or not it was safe to swim. Instead, Paul's words of 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved', were an invitation to jump right in.
It's the same invitation to us: to jump in, feet first into the amazing grace of God's love. As we jump in, we trust, too, God will be with us. In this knowledge, we take risks of sharing God's love with others in need.