Invi­ta­tions. Life is full of them. Some invi­ta­tions we remem­ber hap­pi­ly; the invi­ta­tion to a birth­day par­ty, the invi­ta­tion to a prom, the invi­ta­tion to a wed­ding, the invi­ta­tion to accept a job. I remem­ber the day at East­ern Uni­ver­si­ty back in 1992 when the dean of the Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ences poked his head into my small cub­by hole of an office and said, with a grin on his face, Well, you want a job?” My response was an imme­di­ate yes!” What I had hoped for, prayed for, and worked for was now pos­si­ble, depend­ing on how I respond­ed to the invitation.

Just about a year ago I was offered anoth­er invi­ta­tion. The clear­ness com­mit­tee” of Ren­o­varé had fin­ished its work and I received the offer to become Renovaré’s pres­i­dent. I had thought I would fin­ish my life’s work at East­ern but God had some­thing else in store for me, some­thing unex­pect­ed, new, chal­leng­ing, ful­fill­ing, and fun. I’m lov­ing my new job.

Even more recent­ly I’ve received anoth­er invi­ta­tion: to blog once a week on Renovaré’s web­site. I’ve nev­er blogged before in my life – is blogged” a verb? I look for­ward to shar­ing my ques­tions and pon­der­ings with you in the weeks to come. Per­haps you’ll find them help­ful. I hope so.

I think of oth­er invi­ta­tions God has offered to his image-bear­ers, ones more glo­ri­ous and more dif­fi­cult, invi­ta­tions of greater dimen­sion and deep­er demand. Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer specif­i­cal­ly comes to mind. Bon­ho­ef­fer had spent a num­ber of fruit­ful and hap­py years in the Unit­ed States, enjoy­ing study­ing at Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, attend­ing week­end ser­vices at local African-Amer­i­can church­es in New York, and gen­er­al­ly soak­ing in the rich cul­tur­al life offered to him in the Unit­ed States. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, across the Atlantic, cul­tur­al insan­i­ty was grip­ping Ger­many as the ide­ol­o­gy of the Nazis – embod­ied in the trou­bled mind, words, and actions of Adolf Hitler – was engulf­ing Bonhoeffer’s native home­land. While safe and com­fort­able in the U.S., Bon­ho­ef­fer received an invi­ta­tion – what I would call a strong nudge from the Holy Spir­it – to return home. Was he ful­ly aware of what await­ed him in Ger­many? He was to face oppo­si­tion, fear, fatigue, dis­ap­point­ment, mis­un­der­stand­ing, lone­li­ness, impris­on­ment, and, final­ly, against all his hopes for the future, death at the end of an SS rope.

Did Christ force Bon­ho­ef­fer to return? No. Jesus sim­ply issued an invi­ta­tion. Come home, Diet­rich. There is work for you to do here. I will ask much of you. But I promise you that I will give you what you need to do what I ask of you. You will suf­fer, but in and through your suf­fer­ing life will blos­som and light will radi­ate. Diet­rich, I’m call­ing you home. I’m call­ing you to fol­low me. I’m ask­ing for your hopes, your desires, your future. I promise I will nev­er leave you or for­sake you, though I will ask of you every­thing you have to offer.”

As I pon­der Jesus’ invi­ta­tion to Bon­ho­ef­fer and his will­ing­ness, even eager­ness, to respond, I’m remind­ed of Bonhoeffer’s words regard­ing fol­low­ing Christ: When Christ calls a man to fol­low, he beck­ons him to come and die.” And yet in the dying – at least in Bonhoeffer’s view, and sure­ly in Jesus’ – life is found, ful­fill­ment expe­ri­enced, hope renewed. Who would have thought? Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die…” (John 12:24).

You can catch up with all of Chris’s posts at Con­ver­sa­tions with Chris.”

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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