We live in a world abounding with people throwing shade. That is, people publicly expressing contempt and scalding critique for others. It isn’t just, “I disagree with this person.” It goes into those areas of contempt and bitterness and rage. We see it on the news, on social media, in music, in film. It’s everywhere.
What about instead of “throwing shade,” we began to make shade? A good kind of shade. Shade, like from a tree, on a hot day. That cools you, protects you, shelters you.
As a follower of Jesus, I want to grow in my relationship with Jesus–meaning I want to learn how he lived, how he spoke, and model my life after his. Over the years, I find myself walking through different stages. And, that I often re-enter these stages as God is showing me something new. We can talk about the seed stage—where we are asking questions, having doubts, not sure of what we believe. But there is something there, waiting to sprout. We can talk about the sapling stage: where the small seed of faith begins to emerge from the soil of our lives, and we surround ourselves with the things we need to grow: community, the Word of God, an understanding that we will face pruning and trials, and more.
As we grow, we enter a new stage: When we make shade. Jesus talks about God’s kingdom being like a mustard seed—that grows until the birds make their nests in its shade. The church where I have served the last four years has been in the city of Sacramento for 150 years. Those those years, we have made shade for others—in ministry with an elementary school and a people group in Ethiopia, with college students at nearby Sacramento State, and some more recent partnership with people in Haiti and Jamaica. Our Fremont Nursery School has a longstanding reputation in our community to care for children well. We are making shade for others.
There is a community side to making shade for others.
Yet there is also a personal side to making shade.
This is the stage in which we have grown—have understood that God has given us a story, a journey, and certain experiences in our lives. God has given us gifts, and we find that others are being blessed by our gifts, and our story. People may be gathering in and around us. It may be formal or informal. It may be in having a cup of coffee in your home with a struggling neighbor or friend. It may be in a work setting, or a volunteer setting, where you are finding yourself leading others. But you begin to notice that the gifts that God has given you, the story God has given you is a source of encouragement, hope, rest and comfort for others. Making shade is also challenging others to grow as well. Like the branches of a tree that are growing, reaching out from their center, so too followers of Jesus can grow and reach out from their center of faith to bless others.
I think what we will discover when we look closely that Scripture paints a picture of what God desires for a people who call on His Name. That they would grow—and that when they grow—not in numbers necessarily, but in depth, influence—becoming more like Jesus each and every day—when God’s people grow, they affect others.
Look at Psalm 80.
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
This is the story of Israel. The book of Exodus especially chronicles the part of the story in Psalm 80.
A nation of people who escaped 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God rescued them. God brought them through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness to a Promised Land. After tumultuous times, they enjoyed a golden age of their nation under the reign of King David.
There are also hints to the story of Jesus. In a few weeks, we celebrate his birth believing he was, and is, God come to us in the flesh.
He and his family had to escape to Egypt. When he returned to his homeland, he said, “I am the vine.” We are the branches. If we stay with him, we will bear much fruit. We will be agents of healing and reconciliation, speak good news to others, and proclaim that God is here.
There are even more echoes from Psalm 80:8-11: on a hill called Calvary, Jesus spread out his arms on a tree. The land became dark. Who knew that the shade of that day would bring forgiveness and new life for all who would call upon the name of Jesus?
Israel’s story, and the story of Jesus—is our story.
The Exodus was Israel’s rescue story.
What’s your rescue story? Where has God rescued you?
God cleared the ground and planted Israel.
God has planted you somewhere. Even prepared the conditions for you to thrive and grow.
We’ve been rescued and planted. Planted for a purpose.
I wonder how many of us have lost sight of that purpose? Are you disillusioned with your faith?
Have you tired of the same old routine? Attending church, attending to your own relationship with Christ, trying to supplement with Bible study, prayer, and church events like spiritual multi-vitamins? Hear me: there is nothing wrong with those things. It is how we grow. But eventually we need to understand that our growth has a purpose.
Where are you providing shade for others?
Remember who you are called to be.
God has always intended that His salvation for a people, would make a people. And that that people would extend the reign of God to all peoples.
God brought salvation to a people, to make a people, to bring salvation, to all peoples.
Examples abound in the Bible: God says to Abraham: You will be blessed, to be a blessing for all nations. (Genesis 12)
And in the prophet Isaiah:
“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
[By the same token, it is too small a thing for us to exist for ourselves, or even for the church. This is too small a vision for our lives.]
Jesus says: You shall be my witnesses…even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Go and make disciples of all nations…(Matthew 28:19)
The list above is not exhaustive, but represents a familiar refrain. God brought salvation to a people, to make a people, who would bring salvation to all peoples.
A friend named Oldson Duclos preached at our church a few weeks back, and spoke of “Common people doing uncommon things for the common good.” I love that.
Even though we know these Scriptures, I think we have lost this idea in the evangelical church. Somewhere along the line, we made the gospel into a message of individual salvation. And that the task once we had a knowledge of our salvation was just to “stay saved.” We somewhere lost the message of growing in Christ. And we lost the message of growing together to become a people who bring salvation to all peoples.
But the trajectory we are on, if we can trust the Scriptures, is that there will one day be wholeness, peace, and new creation, and all peoples will bear witness to it.
Hear this from Revelation 7:
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:9-12)
Have you ever wondered: How did that multitude get there? From every nation, all tribes, peoples, languages? Then ask yourself: How did you get to where you are? How did you get to your place of faith? (I’m guessing someone else had something to do with it!)
God brought salvation to a people, to make a people, who would bring salvation to all peoples. We’ve been invited to grow into a people, whose branches will spread out into the world. And as we grow, we’ll be making shade, instead of throwing it.