You never knew Myrt from Mississippi. Myrt was a really devout Christian, who for much of her adult life, suffered with debilitating arthritis. Near the end of her life it kept her from walking and from being able to grip things. Those who knew her, loved her and admired the tenacity of her will.
Her grandson, to this day, many years after her death, still has two paint-by-number pictures that Myrt painted. You remember, I hope, the straight from the 50s, still-life oil paintings, scenes of bluebirds and robins? Of course, what Myrt did was follow the pre-determined steps of the paint-by-number genre. Myrt’s hands, so gnarled by disease, were able to hold with great steadiness, a paintbrush.
In the world of art, perhaps the paint-by-number style is frowned upon. But maybe all of us need to get back to a “by the numbers” approach to Christianity. It’s simple. In the same way that the legendary Vince Lombardi would begin his first practice with “Gentlemen, this is a football,” many of us could benefit by a return to the basics: “Follow me.”
What Jesus called his followers to do is to know and want Christ more than you want or know anything else. Often disciples of Christ are like the young man who went to the card shop to find just the right card for his girlfriend. He told the clerk that he wanted something really special to express his deepest feelings. The clerk said, “I have the card for you.” She handed the man the card that read, “To the only girl I ever loved.”
The young man then said, “That’s perfect. I’ll take six of them.”
Jesus called us to follow him only. He demands our allegiance, our heart, our soul.
I run into people around town, in the grocery store, at ballgames, or Sunday lunch and they blush and mumble, “Oh Steve I’ve been meaning to get back to church. You’ll be seeing me more often, I promise.” Then I will see the same person several months later, and they will say, “I hope to be there soon.” In that case “hope” means “not going to happen.” There is no singular purpose for them, no focus on what really matters. They are sharing their heart with so many others.
We get distracted easily don’t we? We get discouraged easily. We fall into bad habits. The old lady called her husband, Clarence, and said, “Honey, the police just reported that there is a car going the wrong way on I-20. I know you are on I-20, so be careful.”
He said, “There’s not just one, there are hundreds going the wrong way.”
It is so easy for us to get going the wrong way, isn’t it? We get on the wrong track and can’t seem to get it right. I understand.
I read an interview with a church leader, and they were talking about discipleship. This church leader was asked the question, “How do you define discipleship?” His answer was enlightening. He said there are at least three questions: How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? And how do you make decisions? There’s more to discipleship than this, but there is never less. No one can talk about being a disciple of Jesus without answering those questions: How do you spend your time, your money, and how do you make decisions? Those are great post-Easter questions.
“Follow me.” It’s basic stuff. Paint by numbers.