Dreamers and Doers

One December day in 1975, Peppermint Patty drags Marcie out to play football. The short, bespectacled Marcie knows virtually nothing about the sport, but she’s a good friend… And Peppermint Patty rarely takes “no” for an answer.

As Marcie gets ready to kick the football, she asks, “What if some major league scout spots me, and hires me for his team, and I have to go to the Super Bowl? What would I do about school?”

Peppermint Patty shouts back, “Just shut up, Marcie, and kick the ball!”

Marcie replies, “Don’t be impatient with me, sir…”

Even if Marcie could punt like a pro and child labor laws didn’t apply in the world of Peanuts, there is still one major obstacle: She never kicks the football.

This comic strip is a timely illustration as the coming weekend features both the kick off of college football and the lectionary passage from James 2 about how faith without works is dead. James addresses a specific, missional, and practical concern. Christians were not putting their faith into action–either because of a concern for works righteousness or because some thought platitudes were a substitute for genuine time, effort, and compassion.

While this specific application of the concept is incredibly important (and one that your church may need to hear this weekend), there are plenty of other contexts in which we are not putting our faith and/or calling into action. And whenever we aren’t putting our faith into action, we are missing out on what God wants to do in and through us.

How many of us are like Marcie? We have been invited by God to play–to get in the game and make a difference on the field (sorry for the sports metaphors, but it’s opening weekend for college football!!!!). Yes, we are called to mission, service, justice, mercy–all the things that James focuses on–but we have also been called to be creative people. We are called to make this world better and to help reveal the Kingdom of God–in all of its aspects. We are called to art. We are called to science. We are called to design, organization, cooking, writing, singing, playing, preaching, teaching… But sometimes we don’t because–what if?

What if things change? What if we go in a new direction and it actually works? Will we then have to change everything else? What if this outreach idea or compelling sermon series is effective and suddenly we have growth that we aren’t prepared for? What if we are faithful to follow God in preparing for the future and the people who are in love with the present leave?

Another reason why some of us don’t put our faith in action is because we are dreamers more than we are doers. We are idea people. We get really excited. Like Marcie, we can see success, and we are confident. But we aren’t detail people. Or the next idea grabs our passion and attention before we can see the first one through. Or when our first attempt doesn’t produce the success we anticipated, we quit. Or we assume that everyone else will just sense how great we are and open all the doors for us…

In a 2010 post, Seth Godin wrote:

If your business or your music or your art or your project is truly worth your energy and your passion, then don’t sell it short by putting its future into a lottery ticket.

There is a difference between being a dreamer and being delusional. There is a difference between stepping out in faith and leaping off a cliff while shouting, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens meeeeeeee…” A theme running through much of Godin’s work is focusing on making the best work you can and ultimately getting it out into the world. Focus on turning your dreams/calling into action in real, concrete ways that makes life better for the people around you. If it is truly of value, they will tell others about it.

After two more Peanuts strips in which Marcie keeps delaying, Peppermint Patty finally walks up and takes the ball away. Opportunities have their moments. Some ideas are more time-bound than others, but if you sense that God is calling you to something, there’s a decent chance that God has taken the timing into consideration.

Faith without works is dead–whether those works are buying someone a meal or following through on the dream God planted in your heart. So, in the immortal words of Peppermint Patty, “Just shut up, Marcie, and kick the ball!”

Lectionary Connections: Year B Proper 18

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